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UCC in Uttarakhand

UCC in Uttarakhand

UCC in Uttarakhand

Why in the News?

On February 8, 2024, the Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill, making it the first state in independent India to implement a common rules for all communities — except Scheduled Tribes — on marriage, divorce, inheritances, and live-in relationships, among other things. The UCC drafting committee was led by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai.

Key proposals of Uttarakhand’s UCC:

  • The goal of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is to provide uniform legal guidelines for all people regarding private issues such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and succession.
  • Halala, iddat, and triple talaq among the customs that would be made illegal by the propose UCC Bill in Uttarakhand.
  • The grounds and arguments for filing for divorce will be the same for both partners. Divorce standards that apply to husbands will also apply to wives.
  • Polygamy will be prohibit, thus preventing second marriages while the first spouse alive.
  • Both genders have equal rights to inheritance. Women will have the same rights to inheritance as men.
  • It abolishes the coparcenary system, which exists under Hindu personal law.
  • It will be mandatory to make an official declaration of a live-in relationship. By submitting a “statement of termination,” either party to a live-in relationship may end the arrangement. It is now illegal to register a live-in relationship after one month of dating, and the penalty is up to three months in jail or a fine of no more than Rs 10,000.

Some incorporates code of UCC in Uttarakhand:

  • The Code incorporates a progressive change that involves doing away with the idea of “illegitimate children.” Children born in invalid and voidable marriages, as well as those born in cohabiting relationships, are recognized as lawful by the Uttarakhand UCC. Nevertheless, it ignores the discrimination mothers experience from guardianship laws that treat only fathers as the child’s legal guardians, giving them the authority to make decisions about the child, and mothers as the child’s custodians, reducing them to caretakers.
  • Prohibition of child marriage.
  • The Bill intends to set a uniform marriage age for both genders i.e. 21 years for men and 18 years for women, irrespective of religion.
  • Tribal communities, which constitute 2.9% of the state’s population, are excluded from the UCC Bill’s jurisdiction.
  • Measures for population control, including regulations on the number of children.

What actions has the Code criminalized UCC in Uttarakhand?

  • Failure to register live-in relationships is now a criminal offense.
  • Child marriage and marrying within forbidden degrees of relationship are also criminalized.
  • Ending a marriage through methods other than the judicially prescribed divorce can result in imprisonment and fines.
  • Pressuring, aiding, or persuading someone to meet conditions for remarriage can lead to imprisonment for up to three years.

Criticism

  • The Code’s exclusion of most LGBT individuals represents a missed opportunity to uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, which affirmed that state legislatures have the authority to ensure equality in marriage for all.
  • The option for court-ordered restitution of conjugal rights or resumption of cohabitation remains a matrimonial remedy under the Code. Despite being acknowledged in various Supreme Court rulings, irretrievable breakdown of marriage has not been included as a basis for divorce in the Code.
  • The distribution of matrimonial property is still subject to court discretion, especially regarding property not jointly owned, although pre-nuptial agreements have been acknowledged and may influence property division decisions made by the court.

What are the Concerns Regarding the UCC Draft Report for Uttarakhand?

  • Critics suggest that the UCC bill might violate fundamental rights such as religious freedom and personal liberty, as outlined in the Indian Constitution.
  • Some opponents argue that the UCC bill fails to acknowledge India’s diversity and imposes a uniform code that may not align with the customs and traditions of various communities.
  • The UCC bill may affect the rights and interests of the STs of Uttarakhand. Some activists claim that the UCC bill does not adequately address the issues and aspirations of the STs, and may erode their cultural identity and autonomy.
NOTE:

●      Article 162 of the Indian Constitution states that the executive power of a State extends to matters over which the State Legislature has the authority to make laws. Entry 5 of the Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution covers various aspects related to personal laws, including marriage, divorce, adoption, and succession. Therefore, establishing a Committee to introduce and implement a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is not unconstitutional, as it falls within the jurisdiction of the State’s executive power and aligns with the subjects covered under Entry 5 of the Concurrent List.

●      This implies that the state government of Uttarakhand can enact UCC within its territory.

What is the Uniform Civil Code?
  • About: The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is outlined in Article 44 of the Constitution under the Directive Principles of State Policy, advocating for a unified set of civil laws for all citizens in India.
    • Implementation Discretion
      • While mandated by the Constitution, the decision to implement the UCC is left to the discretion of the government.
    • Goa’s Unique Status
      • Goa stands as the only state in India with a UCC in place, following the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867.
    • Supreme Court of India Stance on UCC
      • Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum Case, 1985: Called for UCC implementation.
      • Jose Paulo Coutinho v. Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira Case, 2019: Praised Goa’s UCC and urged pan-India implementation.
    • Law Commission’s Stance
      • The 21st Law Commission, led by Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan in 2018, suggested that a UCC was not necessary at the time, emphasizing secularism alongside diversity.
      • The 22nd Law Commission, led by Justice (Retd) Rituraj Awasthi in 2022, sought opinions on the UCC, acknowledging the need to address discriminatory practices within existing personal laws.
Need for UCC

Personal laws in India, which cover areas such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance, are based on religious scriptures and traditions. Major religious communities like Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs adhere to their respective personal laws.

  • Hindu personal laws, rooted in ancient texts and customs, are governed by acts such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, ensuring gender equality in inheritance matters.
  • Muslim personal laws, based on Shariah, are regulated by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, overseeing marital, divorce, inheritance, and maintenance affairs among Muslims.
  • Other religious communities such as Christians, Parsis, and Jews follow the Indian Succession Act of 1925, which includes specific provisions for inheritance.
Controversy Surrounding UCC:
  • Religious and Cultural Diversity Concerns: Critics argue that implementing a UCC might jeopardize India’s diverse cultural and religious landscape, potentially encroaching on individuals’ religious freedoms.
  • Protection of Minority Rights: Opponents express apprehension that a UCC could weaken the distinct rights and protections enjoyed by minority communities, impacting their cultural independence.
  • Political Dimensions: The UCC has become a topic of political manoeuvring, with political parties using it for electoral advantage, sometimes overshadowing genuine debates on its ramifications.
  • Gender Equality and Women’s Rights: Advocates view a UCC as a tool to advance gender equality and women’s rights, while detractors contend that existing personal laws can address these issues adequately without necessitating a uniform code.

Conclusion

The passage of the UCC bill in Uttarakhand is a significant development. It remains to be seen how the bill will be implemented and what its impact will be on the state’s citizens.

Source: THE HINDU