UCC Bill in Uttarakhand proposes jail and fine if live-in relationships aren’t registered, keeps tribals out of ambit

Treasury benches welcomed the tabling of the UCC bill with thumping of desks and chants of 'Jai Sri Ram' and 'Vande Mataram'.

BySouth First Desk

Published Feb 06, 2024 | 4:42 PMUpdatedFeb 06, 2024 | 4:42 PM

Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami in Assembly

The Uniform Civil Code Bill — which proposes uniform marriage, divorce, land, property and inheritance laws for all citizens in Uttarakhand, irrespective of religion— was tabled in the state assembly on Tuesday, 6 February.

Among several things, the four-volume Bill demands mandatory registration of live-in relationships with the government authorities and proposes punishment for those couples who do not register relationships within the stipulated time.

The Bill also states that if a woman is abandoned by her live-in partner, she has the right to seek financial support.

Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami presented the Bill in the House. In a symbolic gesture, he entered the assembly with an original copy of the Constitution.

Treasury benches welcomed the tabling of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill with thumping of desks and chants of “Jai Sri Ram” and “Vande Mataram”.

The Bill will now be debated in the assembly before being passed.

Once it becomes an act, Uttarakhand will be the first state in the country to adopt the UCC after independence. It has been operational in Goa since the days of Portuguese rule.

The five-member government-appointed panel, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, on Friday, 3 February, submitted the four-volume report running into 749 pages to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Dhami.

Live-in relationships must be registered

The Bill makes it obligatory for partners of a live-in relationship within the state, whether they are residents of Uttarakhand or not, to submit a statement of their relationship under sub-section (1) of section 381 to the Registrar within whose jurisdiction they are living in a prescribed format. It also says any child of a live-in relationship shall be a legitimate child of the couple.

Live-in relationships in which at least one partner is a minor will not be registered. Live-in relationships where the consent of one of the partners was obtained by force, coercion, undue influence, misrepresentation or fraud concerning the identity of the other partner will also not be registered.

The registrar will examine the content of the statement of live-in relationships to ensure that they are not of such a kind as mentioned under section 380.

Anyone staying in a live-in relationship for more than a month without getting it registered will be punishable with imprisonment up to three months or a fine of up to ₹10,000 or both, the Bill says.

A higher fine apart from imprisonment of up to three months can be imposed on any person who provides false information in his or her statement on a live-in relationship to the Registrar.

If a woman in a live-in relationship gets deserted by her partner, she will be entitled to claim maintenance from him for which she may approach a competent court having jurisdiction over the place where they last cohabited.

Also Read: AIADMK says it will oppose the UCC

Scheduled tribes not included

The Bill applies to the whole of Uttarakhand and people from the state who reside outside its territories.

However, the Scheduled Tribes have been excluded from the Bill’s ambit.

“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 Part XXI of the Constitution of India,” the Bill states.

It will come into force from the date it is notified in the gazette.

Also Read: Tribal groups set to oppose UCC, say it will strip indigenous people of their identity, way of life

Protests by Opposition

Before the Bill was tabled, there were protests inside the House by opposition members who said they were not given time to study its provisions.

“It seems the government wants to pass the Bill without a debate in violation of the legislative traditions,” Leader of Opposition Yashpal Arya said.

Slogans were also raised by the opposition members, who were pacified after Speaker Ritu Khanduri assured them they would get enough time to study the Bill.

The ongoing session of the state assembly was convened, especially for the passage of the UCC Bill.

Passing legislation on the UCC will fulfil a major promise made by the BJP to the people of the state in the run-up to the 2022 Assembly polls, which saw the saffron party storm to power with a landslide victory for the second consecutive term.

Several BJP-ruled states, including Gujarat and Assam, have expressed their keenness to follow the Uttarakhand UCC as a model.

Also Read: KCR announces BRS stand on UCC issue; party will oppose the Bill in Parliament

(With PTI inputs)