Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami before tabling the UCC Bill in the legislative Assembly in Tuesday (left). A representative image of a couple (right)
Uttarakhand is on the precipice of creating history as the state may become the first in Independent India to adopt the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). There is only one state in India that already has a Uniform Civil Code -- the state of Goa, India's smallest state, which had adopted the Portuguese Civil Code at the time of Independence, which contained a provision of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
The Uniform Civil Code, a legal framework, has been part of India's constitutional vision ever since its adoption in 1950. Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, which lists the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), says 'the State shall endeavour to secure for citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India'.
The code is aimed at formulating a uniform set of personal laws for citizens regardless of gender or religion.
A Uniform Civil Code Draft Bill was placed before the Uttarakhand Assembly on Tuesday (February 6) by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. The State is likely to pass the Bill.
The biggest headline coming out of the Draft Bill is its attempt to regulate 'live-in relationships'.
The Bill makes it 'obligatory' for partners in live-in relationships to register with the State. The registration will have to be made under subsection (1) of section 381 to the Registrar within whose jurisdiction they are so living.
Couples in live-in relationships will submit a statement of live-in relationship to the Registrar. The Registrar will then conduct a 'summary inquiry' to ensure the relationship does not fall under barred sections of Section 380, such as if at least one of the persons is a minor or if one of the persons is married.
Couples who are in live-in relationships for more than a month and have not submitted the statement, they may be liable for punishment including a prison sentence of up to three months and a fine of up to Rs 10,000. If the couple seeks to break up, a declaration of termination will have to be made before the Registrar.
Children born out of a live-in relationship will be deemed 'legitimate'.
Further, if a woman is 'deserted by her live-in partner', she shall be entitled to claim maintenance from her live-in partner.
Uttarakhand's Uniform Civil Code Bill disallows bigamy or polygamy and lists five conditions for marriage. The first condition is 'neither party has a spouse living at the time of marriage'. Other conditions include that the man is at least 21 years of age and woman at least 18 years of age, and the marriage is not prohibited under any law in force.
Laws prohibiting polygamy will not apply to tribal communities.
The Uniform Civil Code Bill states that 'no petition for divorce shall be presented to the Court unless at the date of presentation, one year has elapsed since the date of marriage'. There is, however, exception to this.
The Court may agree, upon application, to hear a petition of divorce on grounds of 'extreme hardship' being faced by the petitioner.