Uttarakhand first to table UCC Bill; live-ins must register

Dehradun: The Uttarakhand government on Tuesday tabled the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) bill in the state Assembly. The House discussed various provisions of the bill, which, among others, carries provisions to ban polygamy and unregistered live-in relationships as illegal and will likely be passed on Wednesday. The small tribal community of the hill state is exempted from the proposed law.

On Tuesday, the second day of a special session of the Assembly, chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami entered the House with a copy of the original Constitution.

Ruling party members thumped their desks and chanted "Bharat Mata ki Jai", "Vande Mataram" and "Jai Shri Ram" as Mr Dhami tabled the bill.

The original list of business for the day said the bill will be tabled, debated and passed by the House. But Speaker Ritu Khanduri allowed more time after the Opposition members protested, raising slogans in the House. They wanted time to study the bill and then offer their views.

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

The Opposition also protested against the decision of the business advisory committee to suspend the Question Hour to table the UCC.

The bill applies to the whole of Uttarakhand and to people from the state living outside.

The bill titled "The Uniform Civil Code 2024" says that it "governs and regulates the laws relating to marriage and divorce, succession, live-in relations and the matters related thereto." The bill categorically states that a marriage may be solemnised between a man and a woman only if "neither party has a spouse living at the time of marriage." According to the experts, this provision in itself is a ban on polygamy.

As it sets out common provisions, the bill effectively bans halala "without naming it. The bill reads: "The right to remarry under sub-section (1) includes the right to remarry the divorced spouse without any condition, such as marrying a third person before such." And includes the provision for three years' imprisonment or a fine of Rs 1 lakh or both if the complaint of halala comes to light.

On divorce, the bill says that both women and men have equal rights and grounds to nullify the conjugal relationship. However, the bill claimed that a marriage must last at least for a year before a divorce petition is filed in court.

"No petition for divorce shall be presented to the court unless, at the date of the presentation of the petition, one year has elapsed since the date of marriage," reads the bill. Besides, the bill stresses that a couple must undergo a separation period of at least two years before taking judicial recourse to the divorce.

Divorce can also be granted "if the other party had voluntary sexual intercourse with any person other than the petitioner or converted to another religion to which the petitioner belonged."

The bill advocates for making live-in relations legal but punishable for violations of the norms.

The bill states that submitting statements by the partners in a live-in relationship under the given format will be mandatory once the law is enacted. "It shall be obligatory for partners in a live-in relationship within the state, whether they are residents of Uttarakhand or not, to submit a statement of live-in relationship under sub-Section (1) of Section 381 to the registrar."

Following submission of the statement, the registrar will forward it to the nearest police station for keeping the same on record. In case either of the couple is less than 21 years old, it must be informed to the parents. Like the procedure for registration, live-in couples could also terminate it through another statement. If only one partner submits the termination statement, the registrar concerned will have to inform the other partner.

According to the bill, a child born out of a live-in relationship will be a legitimate baby of the couple. The bill stipulates a penalty of up to a month in prison or a fine of `10,000 or both if the partners do not submit a statement on their relationship to the registrar within a month. They will face a higher penalty of up to `2,500 if they submit false information.

Those who fail to submit statements even after one month will be liable for six months of imprisonment along with a fine of `25,000. Interestingly, the legality of live-in relationships will solely lie with the registrar.

The UCC bill favours equal rights in property to the sons and daughters of all classes. No difference was made between the legitimate and illegitimate children.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle with agency inputs )
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