India’s first Uniform Civil Code gets nod in U’khand house
The Uttarakhand assembly has passed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill, becoming the first state in India to do so. The bill, which overrides several national laws, will be sent to the President for approval before implementation. The UCC aims to provide a common legal framework for marriage and property inheritance, ensuring equal rights for women and banning polygamy. The Congress party has called for further discussion on the bill before its passage.
The Uttarakhand assembly on Wednesday passed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill, 2024 by voice vote after a debate spanning two days to become the first state in India to pass such a law, with chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami terming it a “historic moment” for the country.
After the bill was passed, Dhami told reporters that the bill would be sent to President Droupadi Murmu for consent. The proposed law overrides several national laws on marriage and property inheritance.
“After we get approval from the President, we will start the process for its implementation in the state,” he said.
Officials said that once the bill is approved by the President and notified, the state government will frame the rules for its implementation. They, however, refused to give a time frame for implementation, saying drafting of the rules will start only after President approves the bill.
Dhami said with the passage of the bill they have fulfilled the promise made to the people before the 2022 assembly elections. In his address to the house before the passage of the bill, Dhami said it was a “historic opportunity” to frame such a law that provides a “common legal framework” for all.
“I hope other states will also table the UCC bill. Every person in the state must be feeling proud today… This bill will strengthen our age-old slogan of unity in diversity,” he said.
Dhami said the panel that framed the bill held 43 public consultations and nearly 10% of households in the state participated in the interactions. He said 232,000 people gave suggestions,
He said this bill will herald in several changes in peoples’ lives.
“Today the time has come for us to rise above vote-bank politics and build a society in which there is equality at every level. The same equality, the ideal of which is the supreme being, Lord Shri Ram…we are talking about the truth which has been suppressed till now despite it being in Article 44 of the Constitution. This is the same truth, which was not accepted even after the Shah Bano case of 1985”.
Article 44 of the Constitution says “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”
Taking a dig at the Congress without naming it, Dhami asked why the bill was not brought in by previous governments. “This was not done due to appeasement politics. This is just the start. We will be working on various fronts,” he said. “After all, why did the people who ruled for more than 60 years after Independence not even think of implementing UCC? Forgetting national policy, they continued to pursue appeasement politics.”
The Congress took a nuanced stand on the bill. Congress MLAs in the state assembly said they are not opposed to a UCC, but they want the bill to be sent to a select committee first for further discussion, which should submit a report on it within a month, after which it can be passed. Yashpal Arya, leader of the Opposition, said there are many issues and ambiguities that need to be looked into. Arya and BSP MLA Shahzad had moved an amendment in this regard, which was not considered by the House.
The bill has provisions for equal rights for women in inheritance in ancestral properties, equal rights to adopt, divorce and a ban on polygamy, mandatory registration/self-declaration for live-in relationships, mandatory registration of marriage and divorce, and a common marriageable age (18 for women and 21 for men). The bill has also provided an exemption to notified Scheduled Tribes from its ambit. Uttarakhand has 2.89% Scheduled Tribe population.
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