New Delhi: In a landmark decision, the Uttarakhand assembly on Wednesday passed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Uttarakhand 2024 Bill, making it the first state in India to implement such legislation. This fulfills a key promise made by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the 2022 assembly elections.
The bill, which will become law once approved by the governor, aims to establish a common set of personal laws governing matters like marriage, divorce, and inheritance for all citizens regardless of their religion. This has been a contentious issue in India for decades, with supporters arguing it promotes equality and national unity, while opponents express concerns about religious freedom and minority rights.
Key Features of the UCC Bill:
Compulsory registration of live-in relationships: Couples must register their live-in relationship within a month of starting it.
Minimum age for marriage: 18 for women and 21 for men.
Uniform marriage registration: Mandatory for all religions, unregistered marriages will be invalid.
One-year limit for divorce petitions: Prevents misuse of the legal system.
Equal property rights for women: Ensures fair inheritance across religions.
Religious ceremonies allowed: Marriages can be solemnized based on individual beliefs.
Exemptions: Scheduled Tribes and groups with protected customary rights are excluded.
Reactions to the Bill:
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami hailed the passage of the bill as a “special day” for the state and emphasized its focus on equality and unity. He assured that the law respects the constitution and is not against any particular religion.
However, the opposition Congress party criticized the bill, calling it “divisive” and a “political gimmick” ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Some civil society groups also expressed concerns about the potential impact on minority communities.
The Road Ahead:
The passage of the UCC bill in Uttarakhand is a significant development with national implications. It remains to be seen how the law will be implemented and what challenges it may face. Other BJP-ruled states are likely to watch this development closely, and the debate around a nationwide UCC is sure to continue.