Uttarakhand is on the brink of making history as it prepares to become the first state in India to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). In a move towards legal uniformity and gender equality, the state government is set to convene a special session post-Diwali to clear the UCC Bill, marking a significant departure from the diverse personal laws that currently govern citizens based on their religious affiliations.
The Emphasis on Gender Equality
- The impending UCC implementation in Uttarakhand places a notable emphasis on gender equality and equal rights for daughters in ancestral properties.
- The move is part of a broader effort to create a legal framework that ensures fair treatment and opportunities for all citizens, regardless of their gender, sex, religion, or sexual orientation.
Key Recommendations and Omissions
- A five-member panel, led by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Desai, completed a draft report in June, which is expected to be handed over to the state government in the coming days.
- The report is likely to include strong recommendations on issues such as live-ins, a ban on polygamy and polyandry, and a push for raising the marriage age of girls. However, notably absent is a suggestion to raise the marriageable age of women from 18 to 21.
Article 44 of the Constitution and Directive Principles
- The Uniform Civil Code falls under Article 44 of the Constitution, advocating for a uniform civil code across the country’s territory.
- However, as Article 37 clarifies, directive principles are guiding principles for government policies and are not enforceable by courts.
- The UCC proposal is a significant step toward legal modernization and aligns with the constitutional directive to work towards a uniform civil code for all citizens.
Challenges and Resistance
- While the UCC initiative has gained momentum, it has encountered resistance from orthodox groups within various communities, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and other minority groups.
- These groups argue that their customs, often rooted in traditions dating back to British rule, should remain untouched.
- Uttarakhand’s bold move towards implementing the Uniform Civil Code is expected to set a precedent for other states.
- States like Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam are also gearing up to pass the code, reflecting a broader national trend toward legal reform.
- As of now, Goa stands as the only state with a civil code, introduced during Portuguese rule.
- It’s worth noting that the Kerala Legislative Assembly, in a historic move, passed a resolution unanimously against the UCC in August.
- Terming it “unilateral and hasty,” Kerala became the first state in the country to formally oppose the UCC, showcasing the diversity of opinions and perspectives on this crucial legal reform.