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Uttarakhand Set To Implement Uniform Civil Code: Marvelous Or Lousy

The Uniform Civil Code comes under the ambit of Article 44 of the Indian constitution which refers to the directive principles of State Policy, The UCC is a proposal in India that is aimed at replacing personal laws based on religions, customs, and traditions with one common law for everyone irrespective of religion, caste, creed, sexual orientation, and gender.

The UCC is a concept that talks about the upgradation/generalization of personal laws governing various religious communities in a country, to provide them with a uniform set of rules and regulations irrespective of their religious affiliations. It is widely ratified by the proponents that UCC promotes equality, justice, and social harmony by ensuring uniformity in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption.

However, Implementing UCC is an intricate and sensitive issue, as it involves sailing through diverse religious and cultural norms. More often than not, the debate of UCC is around striking the balance between preserving individual religious practice and fostering an impartial society that would work on the principles of secularism and inclusiveness. [i]

Uttarakhand's Status

Uttarakhand, located in the northern part of India, is a state famous for its natural beauty and spiritual significance considered one of the most beautiful states of our country leaving the seven sisters behind is on the verge of becoming the first state to implement UCC, The state government will be holding a special session of the state assembly post-Diwali to clear the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill which would pave the way for its implementation in the state.

The report is expected to emphasize gender equality and equal rights for daughters in ancestral properties. However, it does not suggest raising the marriageable age of women from 18 to 21.[ii]

UCC`S Expedition To Uttarakhand

A government-appointed committee, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, has sought suggestions from 2.34 lakh people on UCC during the last one-and-a-half years, while directly meeting 20,000 people from different walks of life. The report is expected to be handed over to the state government in the following course of time. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said once the report is handed to the government, there will not be any delay in implementing the UCC.

"The purpose of implementing this code is not to appease any class or to target other classes. This code will apply to the empowerment of all sections. After its implementation, reservation of any class, marital rights, customs, etc will not be affected," Pushkar Singh Dhami said. [iii]

UCC`S Situation In Rest Of The States

Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code in Bhopal in June, there have been speculations that a bill may be introduced in the winter session of the Parliament. However, sources have said that the center will follow an elaborate procedure before introducing a bill.

The BJP, in its 2019 Lok Sabha election manifesto, promised the implementation of UCC if it came to power. Gujarat may also implement the Uniform Civil Code before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Other states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam are also expected to pass the code in some time. As of now, Goa is the only state that has a civil code that was introduced during Portuguese rule.

The Kerala Legislative Assembly earlier in August passed a resolution unanimously against the UCC terming it "unilateral and hasty", becoming the first in the country to do so. The resolution, presented by Chief Minister PinarayiCul Vijayan, expressed concern and dismay at the central government's move to impose a Uniform Civil Code. [iv]

Merits Of Uniform Civil Code [v]
  1. It would produce an egalitarian society: A secular republic where everyone consists of the same civil and personal law irrespective of their religion, caste, gender, etc.
  2. End to the issues of reforming the current personal laws: The basic rule being followed in most of the personal law is principled on patriarchy. Hence the implementation of UCC will strongly oppose all of these patriarchal orthodox people communities.
  3. Promotes Secularism: Implementation of UCC would help in making our country secular as it separates personal law from religious practices, promoting a legal framework that is not influenced by religious affiliations. This ensures that our country does not favor any particular religion.
  4. Gender Equality: Implementing the UCC would deport the gender-based discrimination present in certain personal laws. It would be impartial in framing the divorce rights, inheritance, and marriage age providing an egalitarian rule of law.
  5. Prevention of Forum Shopping: Forum Shopping refers to the choosing of a jurisdiction that is favorable to one's case. UCC stops individuals from selecting a personal law because of the advantages they can seek before them.

Demerits Of Uniform Civil Code [vi]:
  1. Cultural and Religious sensitivity: The first and foremost demerit of UCC is to offend religious sentiments. Personal laws are deeply rooted in religious practices, and any attempt to replace them tends to meet with resistance from various religious communities.
  2. Implementation Challenges: The conversion from existing personal laws to a UCC would be logistically challenging. This process would require basic legal amendments to be implemented, administrative changes, and awareness programs for smooth implementation.
  3. Social Backlash: UCC is itself very liberal and would most probably face resistance from conservative elements within society who perceive the UCC as a threat to traditional values. The resistance could lead to social unrest and a state of internal war.
  4. Gender Equality Concerns: UCC is believed to be liberal and promote gender equality, but there are concerns that the implementation of the UCC would not address existing inequalities. Because certain provisions of personal laws might provide better protection for women, thus UCC should be carefully designed to ensure equal rights for all individuals.
  5. Legal Complexity: Formulating a comprehensive and fair UCC that would need to meet the diverse needs of a multi-religious society would be difficult. The legal implementation should be nuanced enough to address various personal matters while ensuring justice and equality.

Conclusion [vii]
The implementation of the Uniform Civil Code in Uttarakhand would be a great step towards transforming the legal landscape of the state. However, the implementation of UCC holds the promise of fostering uniformity, equality, and modernization in personal laws, this process demands careful consideration of the region's diverse cultural, religious, and social practices.

And as I mentioned before striking the balance between the principles of UCC and the sensitivities of various communities is paramount. A well-drafted dialogue involving all stakeholders, religious leaders, legal experts, and community representatives, and its essential for the proposed code to respect the rich cultural tapestry of Uttarakhand.

The implementation of UCC in Uttarakhand would be successful if the following measures are taken care of, religious freedoms, gender equality, and social harmony. Well if proceeds with careful planning, transparent communication, and a commitment to justice, Uttarakhand has the potential to set a progressive precedent, harmonizing personal laws while upholding the values of diversity and inclusivity

As Uttarakhand is my hometown, I think I have a better understanding of this place making my suggestions stand-worthy, as far as the implementation of UCC is concerned it would be extreme to decide which side to be upon whether to implement or not, but the fact that matters is all the developed countries work on the principles of UCC as it makes their country secular and unified.

Our country should follow the same and the initiative taken by Pushkar Singh Dhami should be upheld, however, the implementation of UCC would face resistance from conservative groups but as for building something great, there have to be sacrifices. Finally, I would like to conclude this with a simple quote "My humanity is bound up to yours, for we can only be human together".

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