Uttarakhand 1st state to bring uniform code bill

Dehradun: Uttarakhand became the first state in the country to take a first step towards a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), with chief minister, Puskhar Singh Dhami on Tuesday introducing the state Uniform Civil Code Bill 2024 in the state assembly amid chants of “Jai Shri Ram” .

The bill, which seeks to standardise laws governing marriage, divorce, inheritance and maintenance, will subsume customary laws across faiths and tribes, and has been a long-standing objective of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and may serve as a template for other states.
“Our government, taking all sections of the society along with full responsibility, has presented the Uniform Civil Code Bill in the assembly. The historic moment is near for Devbhoomi when Uttarakhand will become a strong pillar of respected Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat’(One India, Great India),” Dhami said in a statement.
The bill, with 392 sections divided into four parts and seven chapters provides for equal rights to women in marriage, divorce, alimony and inheritance of property, proscribes certain kinds of relationships, bans polygamy, sets the marriageable age for men and women (21 years and 18 years respectively), and makes registration of marriages mandatory. The bill will not apply to the notified scheduled tribes of Uttarakhand.
The bill allows marriages under Nikah (Muslim marriage), Saptpadi (Hindi marriage), Anand Karaj (Sikh marriage) or any other religious form not otherwise prohibited under the proposed law. However, its provisions override Muslim personal law that allows marriage of anyone who has attained puberty.
The bill also aims to regulate live-in relationships making it mandatory for couples to register themselves with a registering authority. The bill also provides legal rights to children born out of live-in relationship.Not registering live-in relationship could result in jail of up to three months and fine of ₹10,000 or both.
The bill also provides for significant changes in existing inheritance laws.
For sharing of property, where there no registered will, the bill provides for equal share of the property among immediate family members.

Sons and daughters will have equal share of the property according to the bill, which also has a special provision protecting the concept of Hindu United Family (HUF) .
While Hindu women ( under the Hindu Succession Act of 1956) have equal rights to inherit property from their parents and have the same entitlement as Hindu men, Muslim women, under Muslim Personal Law, are entitled to a share of their husband’s property, which is either 1/8th or 1/4th, depending on the presence of children. In the case of Muslim daughters, their share is half that of sons.
Abdul Matin Siddiqui, A Muslim leader based in Kumaon said the state did not need UCC at this time.
“At present, unemployed, farmers and people are troubled by inflation. There is a need to find solutions to these problems first”, he said

Political analyst SMA Kazmi said as Uttarakhand has over 13% Muslim population, the provision of Prohibited relationships in marriages will hit the Muslim community. “The UCC ignores the fact that most of the issues related to marriage, divorce, re-marriage adoption and succession are already covered by separate personal laws of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews. So the change has been made mainly for Muslims, where marriages also happen among relations. Muslims would also be affected in succession, marriage and remarriage as the UCC infringes upon their personal laws. This clearly shows that it is only aimed at targeting minorities. The logic of uniformity stands defeated in the very second sentence of the bill which keeps the Schedule Tribes out of the purview of the Bill. If the provisions of the bill are good for all then why STs have been kept out? It was only because the BJP doesn’t want to antagonise the vast ST population in the country on the eve of the general elections”, he said

The bill was tabled just days after a five-member committee formed to draft a UCC submitted its report . In the Constitution, it is a part of the non-justiciable directive principles of state policy. In the run-up to the state assembly elections in February 2022, Dhami had announced that implementation of UCC would be the first decision of the BJP-led government if voted to power.
A UCC, in theory, will implement homogenous rules for marriage, divorce, inheritance, financial compensation and adoption, among others, for all communities.
“We welcome it,” senior BJP leader and Union minister Meenakshi Lekhi told a press conference at the party headquarters in Delhi.
She said the Uttarakhand government has tabled the bill in the state assembly to fulfil its “constitutional duty”.

“Makers of the Constitution had discussed the matter (UCC) several times before putting in a provision for this. Dhami ji, our government and party leaders are fulfilling the promise of our ancestors under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi ji,” Lekhi said.
The bill is likely to be a template for some states such as Gujarat and Assam that have already declared their intent to bring UCC. Last month, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa told reporters that he was waiting to study the Uttarakhand draft of the law before bringing a similar law in his state.
Yashpal Arya, leader of the Opposition, and other Congress leaders said the government did not give them adequate time to examine the bill. “This is a 172-page bill and two hours is not enough to examine it. We need more time so that we can give our suggestions or raise issues that need to be looked into,” he said.

Uttarakhand state parliamentary affairs minister Premchand Aggarwal said that “contrary to Congress’s claims that they didn’t get time to examine the Bill, many Congress leaders have already started commenting on it.”