India's Uttarakhand State Approves Uniform Civil Code Legislation

Thursday February 08, 2024 - 18:01:57
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Staff Reporter
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India (diplomat.so) — In a groundbreaking move, Uttarakhand state in India has passed legislation approving a uniform civil code for marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance across religious communities, including Hindus and Muslims. The legislation, passed by lawmakers on Wednesday, mandates that couples living together must register with the government or face punishment.
The legislation, expected to be approved by the state governor and the Indian president, is considered a formality before it becomes law. However, it has sparked controversy, with Muslim leaders and others opposing the Uniform Civil Code, initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu Nationalist party, citing interference with their own laws and customs.

The new law, which bans polygamy and establishes a uniform marriage age of 21 for men and 18 for women across religions, aims to bring uniformity to Indian society, according to Pushkar Singh Dhami, the top elected official in Uttarakhand state.

Critics argue that the legislation infringes upon religious freedom and diversity. Asaduddin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, criticized the bill, calling it a Hindu code imposed on all citizens. Similarly, S.Q.R. Ilyas, the spokesperson for the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, labeled the bill unnecessary and targeted primarily at Muslims.

A significant provision of the bill requires the registration of live-in relationships, with penalties of up to six months in prison or a fine for non-compliance. Manoj Singh Tamta, a state government official, emphasized that children born from such relationships will be considered legitimate offspring with full legal rights.

The legislation reflects the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) longstanding agenda for uniform civil laws, despite opposition from minority groups. Sanjay Agnihotri, a resident affected by the new law, expressed concerns about potential police scrutiny due to the mandatory registration of live-in relationships.

Uttarakhand's adoption of this legislation marks a significant milestone, aligning with the BJP's agenda for uniform civil laws dating back to the state's independence in 1947. The move sets a precedent for other states governed by the BJP, with potential implications for national legislation if the party succeeds in upcoming elections.

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