The Uttarakhand government will convene a special session of its Legislative Assembly in the week immediately after Diwali to discuss and pass the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill, sources in the know of discussions told The Indian Express.
The report, it is learnt, has placed emphasis on gender equality and equal rights for daughters in ancestral properties. It does not, however, suggest raising the marriageable age of women to 21. The committee’s recommendation says the marriageable age for women should be retained as 18.
“It is to formulate one law that is applicable to all religions in matters related to marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption,” said the source. Accordingly, the Bill’s broader focus is on uniformity in personal laws such as marriage registration, divorce, property rights, inter-state property rights, maintenance, custody of children, etc, the sources said.
The proposed legislation would, however, neither touch upon any religious customs for marriages nor dwell upon other rituals.
Registration of live-in relationships will also be mandatory.
The five-member committee, led by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, is expected to hand over its report to the government soon, the sources said.
It is expected that the Union government is expected to use it as a template for drafting its own UCC Bill, which is expected to come up later.
The Uttarakhand government had on May 27, 2022, set up the expert committee for the implementation of the UCC and to check all relevant laws that control personal citizen matters for people living in the state. The UCC was one of the major poll promises of the BJP in the run-up to the state Assembly elections last year. The committee was announced after the first Cabinet meeting of the newly-formed Uttarakhand government.
The committee’s tenure was extended for the third time in September this year by another four months. Earlier on June 30, Justice Desai had informed the media the drafting of the proposed UCC Bill was complete and the report along with the draft will be printed and submitted to the government soon. The report and draft are expected to be submitted over the next 3-4 days, the sources said.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had earlier said the UCC would be implemented as soon as the committee submitted its report. “As soon as the committee compiles its report and submits it to us, we will take it forward as per the constitutional process and try to implement it as soon as possible,” Dhami had said.
Besides Justice Desai, other members of the committee include retired Delhi High Court judge Pramod Kohli, social activist Manu Gaur, ex-chief secretary and IAS officer Shatrughan Singh, and Doon University Vice-Chancellor Surekha Dangwal.
Although the committee had received an “overwhelming suggestion” from a wide range of stakeholders that there should be uniformity in the number of children for a couple, the committee has not given a recommendation on this, instead just mentioned that there has been strong demands for a law on population control at the national level.
At least two other BJP-ruled states — Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat — have appointed committees to initiate the process of implementing UCC. At the national level, the Law Commission of India too has begun consultation on UCC.
BJP MP Sushil Kumar Modi, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law had raised questions about the feasibility of a UCC in tribal areas, including those in the North East, since their customs, traditions and rituals are different from other communities and the Constitution grants them protection. There has been a note of caution from the Sangh Parivar as well on this aspect. The RSS-affiliate Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which works among the tribals, had welcomed suggestions that tribals be kept out of the purview of the law.
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