Uniform Civil Code Bill Tabled In Uttarakhand Assembly; Check Rules For Live-In & Grounds For Divorce

Dehradun: Pushkar Singh Dhami, the Uttarakhand Chief Minister, introduced the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill in the state Assembly during a special four-day session on Tuesday.

Upon implementation, Uttarakhand will mark a historic milestone as the first state post-Independence to embrace the UCC. The UCC has been in effect in Goa since the era of the Portuguese rule.

As implied by its title, the UCC advocates for standardised civil laws applicable to all communities within the state, regardless of caste or religion. Upon approval, it would establish a legal structure for uniform regulations concerning marriage, divorce, land ownership, property rights, and inheritance laws for the residents of the state.

Once the Uniform Civil Code comes into law, individuals residing in or intending to enter into live-in relationships have to register themselves with district authorities. For those below the age of 21 seeking to cohabit, parental consent is mandatory. Furthermore, mandatory registration also applies to individuals who are residents of Uttarakhand and engaged in a live-in relationship outside the state.

Those who fail to adhere to the rules will face a jail term of up to six months and a fine of Rs 25,000 or both. Those who neglect to register their live-in relationship may face a maximum of six months in jail, a fine of Rs 25,000, or both. Even a delay in registration, even by as little as a month, could lead to imprisonment for up to three months, a fine of Rs 10,000, or both.

Live-in relationships will not be registered in instances deemed “contrary to public policy and morality”, if one partner is already married or involved in another relationship, if one partner is a minor, and if consent of either partner was obtained through “coercion, fraud, or misrepresentation (pertaining to identity)”.

Partners can terminate their live-in relationship by submitting statements to the Registrar and women deserted in a live-in relationship are also entitled to claim maintenance and may approach court.

Preparations are underway for the launch of a website to collect information on live-in relationships. This information will then be authenticated by the District Registrar, who will carry out a “summary inquiry” to ascertain the legitimacy of the relationship. In this process, the Registrar may summon either or both partners, as well as any other relevant individuals, the NDTV quoted a senior official as saying.

It has also spelt the grounds for divorce, allowing both men and women to approach a court over adultery, mental or physical cruelty by spouse, desertion without any reasonable cause, religious conversion by the spouse, unsoundness of mind, venereal diseases etc. Women have special rights to seek divorce if the husband has been found guilty of rape or any other offence related to unnatural sex and if the husband has more than one wife. A couple, however, cannot approach the court for divorce in less than one year of their marriage, except in exceptional cases.

Notably, enactment of this bill was among the significant electoral pledges made by the BJP in the state prior to the Assembly elections in 2022.

Last Sunday, the Uttarakhand Cabinet endorsed the ultimate version of the UCC, aiming to establish consistent civil laws for every community within the state.  Previously, Dhami had tweeted, “With the aim of giving equal rights to the citizens of Devbhoomi Uttarakhand, Uniform Civil Code Bill will be introduced in the Assembly today. It is a moment of pride for all the people of the state that we will be known as the first state in the country to move towards implementing UCC.”

Once put into effect, other states may also consider adopting similar measures.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has previously expressed his intention to implement it in his state. Additionally, it is anticipated that this move may set a precedent for the nationwide implementation of the Uniform Civil Code and may also be adopted in Gujarat.

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