Keeping his poll promise, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Thursday announced to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and said that the state cabinet has unanimously approved that a committee of experts will be formed at the earliest for the same. He said that Uttarakhand will be the first state to implement such a code but quickly added that “perhaps it is already in force in Goa”.
Uniform Civil Code has been one of the main poll plans of the BJP over the past several decades. The saffron party has been a strong advocate of the UCC and its MPs have previously listed Private Member’s Bills, advocating for its implementation.
Addressing the media after his first state cabinet meeting, Dhami said the BJP-led state government will form a committee that will prepare “a draft of the UCC and our government will implement it”. “We have decided to implement the Uniform Civil Code in the state. The state cabinet unanimously approved that a committee (of experts) will be constituted at the earliest and it will be implemented in the state. We also expect other states to follow us,” he said.
“We are a Himalayan state with a distinct cultural and religious heritage. We also share borders with two countries. So, a Uniform Civil Code is necessary. There is a provision for it in Article 44 of the Constitution. Even the Supreme Court has expressed its dissatisfaction in the past on its non-implementation,” he added.
Dhami, who was sworn in as Uttarakhand’s Chief Minister for the second consecutive term on Wednesday, had said that he will provide a transparent government and fulfill the BJP’s all pre-poll commitments, including bringing a Uniform Civil Code in the state.
‘A Significant Step’
On February 12, Dhami had promised that the BJP if re-elected to power in Uttarakhand will constitute a committee to prepare a draft Uniform Civil Code soon after its new government is sworn in. The panel will comprise legal experts, retired people, intellectuals, and other stakeholders, he had announced on the last day of campaigning for the 70 assembly seats in Uttarakhand that went to polls on February 14.
The ambit of the committee will cover issues related to marriage, divorce, landed property and succession, he had said in Hindi in a video statement, adding, “It will be a significant step towards fulfilling the dreams of India’s Constitution makers and will realize the spirit of the Constitution. It will also be an effective step towards Article 44 of the Indian Constitution which presents the concept of equitable law for all citizens of society regardless of their religion.”
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From time to time, the Supreme Court, too, has underscored the need for a Uniform Civil Code and also expressed concern over no steps being taken in this direction, he had said, adding that the BJP government in Uttarakhand will derive inspiration for the decision from Goa which has set an example before the country by implementing a common civil code. A common civil code will promote social amity and gender equality besides strengthening women empowerment, Dhami added.
For the unversed, in 2019, a Supreme Court bench had expressed disappointment over the lack of UCC, saying, “Whereas the founders of the Constitution in Article 44 in Part IV dealing with the Directive Principles of State Policy had hoped and expected that the State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territories of India, till date no action has been taken in this regard.”
What is Uniform Civil Code?
The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) essentially calls for the formulation of one law for India, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc. It comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which lays down that the state shall endeavor to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
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Currently, different laws regulate these aspects in India for adherents of different religions, for example, Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Indian Christian Marriages Act, Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act. However, Muslim personal laws are not codified and are based on their religious texts.
About Goa Civil Code
Goa has been following the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 which is also called Uniform Civil Code. Post its liberation from the Portuguese rule, the code is survived by virtue of Section 5(1) of the Goa, Daman and Diu Administration Act, 1962. Its continuance amounts to the non-enforcement of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Hindu Succession Act, 1956 or Indian Succession Act, 1925 or Shariat (Application) Act, 1937.
(with inputs from PTI)
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