UCC guarantees equal rights in marriage and divorce, bans polygamy

| Updated: 07 February, 2024 5:19 pm IST

NEW DELHI: Uttarakhand’s draft Uniform Civil Code (UCC) has set forth a comprehensive framework proposing equal rights for men and women in various facets of familial and marital affairs. The draft, which is currently under consideration, aims to standardise personal laws across communities while introducing significant reforms in marriage, divorce, alimony, and ancestral property rights.

Outlined in the draft are provisions advocating for gender equality, including the abolition of polygamy and the establishment of a uniform marriageable age of 18 for women and 21 for men. Notably, the UCC extends its jurisdiction to all communities within Uttarakhand, with the exception of individuals belonging to the Scheduled Tribes residing in the state.

READ MORE: Uttarakhand Civil Code: Key highlights of live-in relationships and divorce grounds

Diverging from existing laws, the proposed code delineates prohibited relationships and defines various familial connections such as half-blood, uterine blood, full blood, adoption, surrogacy, assisted reproductive technology, and illegitimate child.

The regulation prohibits polygamy, indicating that neither men nor women should have a spouse alive at the time of marriage. It also emphasises the importance of mental competence for both parties. The draft also includes clauses to protect traditional practices, specifying that these customs must align with public policy and morality.

Furthermore, the draft legislation mandates the registration of marriages solemnised in Uttarakhand, with penalties imposed for non-compliance. Any marriage conducted in the state between March 26, 2010, and the enactment of the code, involving at least one party who was or is a resident of the state at the time, must be registered under the new legislation. The sole exception to this requirement is if the marriage has already been registered under the Uttarakhand Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2010.

All marriages need to be registered within the duration of 60 days. It provides for a three-month jail term and a fine of Rs 25,000 for wrong information during the registration and a Rs 10,000 fine for not registering the marriage.

In terms of marital dissolution, the draft UCC emphasises the requirement for court intervention, imposing penalties for violations. Marriages cannot be terminated without a court decree, and failing to adhere to this requirement may result in imprisonment for up to three years. Violating the specified conditions for marriage carries a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000. Both spouses are entitled to alimony and maintenance, with provisions for appeals in higher courts.

The code also delineates criteria for residency and eligibility for benefits under government schemes.

Expressing enthusiasm for the proposed legislation, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami attributed its inception to the government’s commitment to fulfilling promises made during the 2022 Assembly elections. He emphasised the UCC’s alignment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a unified and prosperous India.

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