Uttarakhand Assembly passes UCC bill after 2-day debate, CM Dhami says state scripting history

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami being greeted by BJP leaders after the state Assembly passed the Uniform Civil Code Bill.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami being greeted by BJP leaders after the state Assembly passed the Uniform Civil Code Bill.

Dehradun | The Uttarakhand Assembly on Wednesday passed the Uniform Civil Code bill, which may serve as template for other BJP-run states to enact similar legislation.

The bill was passed by voice vote after a two-day debate in the House which concluded on Wednesday evening. The opposition's proposal for referring the legislation to a select committee of the House on the ground that they did not get enough time to study its provisions was rejected.

The bill will now be sent to the President for her assent after which it will become a law. Several BJP-ruled states like Gujarat and Assam are keen to model their UCCs on the legislation passed by the Uttarakhand Assembly.

Speaking on the bill before its passage, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said it is not an ordinary legislation.

"With its passage, a small state like Uttarakhand will script history," he said.

He said the UCC will create equal laws for men and women across all faiths and will help create a non-partisan and non-discriminatory society. It will especially protect the rights of women and put an end to their exploitation, Dhami said.

The tribals have been exempted from the purview of the bill for the conservation of their traditions, practices and rituals, Dhami said.

He also spoke about wide ranging consultations held by the drafting panel with a cross section of the people of the state including the tribals of the first border village of Mana before framing their recommendations.

Uttarakhand will become the first state after Independence to get a common law on marriage, divorce, land, property and inheritance for all citizens, irrespective of their religion.

The bill also mandates registration of live-in relationships. Children born of live-in relationships will be considered legitimate and deserted women will be entitled to maintenance from their partners.

The bill effectively bans polygamy and 'halala' practised among a section of Muslims. Marriages, though, can be solemnised through separate rituals, like saptapadi, nikah and anand karaj, followed by different communities.

Later, Dhami held a press conference after the passage of the bill in the House and said it should not be interpreted as a move aimed at forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

"It is just the fulfilment of a commitment we had made to the people of Uttarakhand ahead of the 2022 assembly polls. It should not be interpreted in any other way," he said .

He also thanked the people of the state for giving the BJP a massive mandate in the second consecutive polls which had enabled the state assembly to pass the bill.

When asked about the other BJP-ruled states keen to follow the Uttarakhand model on UCC, the chief minister said, "We will give all our support to them."

He said the UCC is not against anyone. It is meant for the welfare and justice to all sections of society, especially women.

Celebrations began outside the state assembly gates the moment the bill was passed in the House. Firecrackers were burst by people in general who also showered the chief minister with flower petals as he came out of the assembly premises and got into his car.

The UCC bill applies to the whole of Uttarakhand and to people from the state living outside.

"Nothing contained in this code shall apply to the members of any Scheduled Tribes... and the persons and group of persons whose customary rights are protected under the Part XXI of the Constitution of India," the bill says.

Like marriages, live-in relationships must be registered. Live-in partners must not be under 18. But if any one of them is under 21, the registrar is bound to inform their parents or guardians.

The bill stipulates a penalty of up to a month in prison or a fine of Rs 10,000, or both, if the partners do not submit a statement on their relationship to the registrar within a month. They will face a higher penalty if they submit false information.

If a woman in a live-in relationship is deserted by her partner, she can approach the court for maintenance from him. There is also a provision to terminate a live-in relationship.

The bill makes it clear that a marriage between a man and a woman can be solemnised if “neither party has a spouse living at the time of marriage”. In effect, this bans polygamy and polyandry.

It also spells out the right to remarry after divorce or the nullification of marriage, provided there is no appeal pending.

And in an apparent reference to ‘halala’, it specifies that this includes “the right to marry the divorced spouse without any condition, such as marrying a third person before such remarriage”.

The bill also deals with the issue of marrying when the spouses are related in some manner.

It gives the nod to marriages when the couple are “not within the degrees of prohibited relationship”. But it makes an exemption to “custom or usage” that permits such marriages, provided they are not against “public policy and morality”.

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