Uttarakhand Uniform Civil Code Bill: A Brief Insight

Uttarakhand became the first state in the nation to adopt a Uniform Civil Code, which offers common law for marriage, divorce, property inheritance, and other matters, after receiving approval from the House.

TNI Bureau: The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill which was earlier proposed by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, was passed by the state Assembly on Wednesday. Uttarakhand became the first state in the nation to adopt a Uniform Civil Code, which offers common law for marriage, divorce, property inheritance, and other matters, after receiving approval from the House.

Under the direction of former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana P. Desai, a high-level committee constituted by the Uttarakhand government produced a draft of the UCC Bill, which will now become an Act.

Uttarakhand is putting the Uniform Civil Code into effect months before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. According to sources, BJP-ruled states like Assam and Gujarat are in the process of enacting UCC laws, and the Union Government is seeking to introduce a similar legislation at the federal level.

Coming just two months away from the Lok Sabha election, the Uttarakhand UCC bill ticks off an important item on the BJP’s plan of action.

Aside from the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and the repeal of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the Uniform Civil Code has been the fundamental item of the BJP’s 2024 agenda.

What is UCC Bill?

The UCC bill suggests giving all religions the equal laws pertaining to matters like inheritance, divorce, and marriage.

The Uniform Civil Code Bill is one of the many proposals that requires live-in relationships to be registered with the government.

“Live-in relationships” will need to register with the law within a month of the “date of entering into the relationship” once the proposed UCC Bill is implemented.

In addition, adults will need parental permission and consent before entering into a live-in relationship.

The bill also establishes a consistent divorce procedure and outright prohibits underage marriage. It gives women of all religions similar rights over their inherited property.

The UCC Bill states that in every community, a person must be 21 years old for males and 18 for women to be married. People from all religion need marriage registration; marriages that are not registered will be void.

No divorce petition will be allowed to be filed after one year of marriage.

The proposed UCC Bill highlighted the marriage ceremonies, pointing out that under the Anand Marriage Act of 1909, as well as under the Special Marriage Act of 1954 and the Arya Marriage Validation Act of 1937, marriage may be solemnised or contracted between a man and a woman in accordance with religious beliefs, practices, customary rites and ceremonies, including but not limited to “Saptapadt”, “Ashirvad”, “Nikah”, “Holy Union,” and “Anand Karaj.”

How Will It Affect The Hindu Succession Rights?

Hindu law accepts the idea of joint families and makes a distinction between property that is inherited and property that is gained on one’s own.

A coparcenary, or male and female lineal descendants up to the third generation, is a core group in a joint family. They inherit a right in the joint family property, also known as ancestral property, upon birth. When a coparcener passes away, their heirs inherit the shares that belong to them as independent property.

Daughters became coparceners in 2005 with the passage of an amendment to the HSA.

One important aspect of coparcenary property is that none of the coparceners, including the father, may sell it or otherwise dispose of it in a will. This helps to guarantee daughters’ part of coparcenary property.

All current laws that conflict with the Uttarakhand UCC Bill are repealed, and everyone is subject to the same succession plan regardless of faith.

There is no mention of coparcenary rights in the Bill. For Hindus, this means that the same succession plan will now govern both self-acquired and ancestoral property. There won’t be the minimal protection that the coparcenary system provides.

Another key change is that the father and the mother are both equal heirs in the property of their children under the UCC Bill.

How Muslim Community will be affected by the provisions of the bill?

For Muslims, testamentary succession is determined by the Shariat. A person’s will can only be used to leave behind one-third of their possessions. The remaining property is distributed according to the established order of succession. This restriction on testamentary succession is not included in the UCC Bill.

In general, the restriction guards against heirs being dispossessed, and its repeal might put disadvantaged populations—such as women and LGBTQ people—at risk of losing their inheritance due to their gender identity and sexual orientation.

The Quran specifies certain shares for Class I heirs, which for Muslims now include the mother, grandmother, husband, wives, son’s daughter, etc. The remainder is distributed to other heirs in accordance with carefully outlined guidelines.

One such regulation states that female heirs who are positioned similarly to their male relatives will receive half of their share. As a result, the daughter receives half of what the son is owed.

The UCC Bill, which provides for equal inheritance for both of these parties, modifies this.

Tribals to remain out of purview

The Uniform Civil Code brings a common law for marriage, divorce, inheritance of property, etc., which were earlier governed by personal laws of every religion. The common code bars bigamy (marrying one person while still legally married to another) and polygamy (having multiple spouses simultaneously).

However, nothing in the proposed UCC Bill will apply to individuals or groups whose customary rights are safeguarded by Part XXI of the Indian Constitution, or to members of any Scheduled Tribes as defined by clause (25) of Article 366 read with Article 342 of the Indian Constitution.

UCC BillUniform Civil CodeUttarakhand