India state passes uniform civil code amid criticism from Muslim community News
Kafaldiary, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
India state passes uniform civil code amid criticism from Muslim community

The Indian State of Uttarakhand passed the first-of-its-kind Uniform Civil Code Wednesday, which imposes common rules for all communities on marriage, divorce, inheritances, land, property and live-in relationships.

The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP)-led state government of Uttarakhand passed the Uniform Civil Code of Uttarakhand, 2024 which outlaws bigamy and polygamy, regulates live-in relationships, including rules for their mandatory registration and sanctions for noncompliance and standardizes the divorce process for both men and women. The code borrows most of its provisions from already-existing secular laws such as the Special Marriage Act, 1954, and The Indian Succession Act, 1925 but repeals any family laws that are inconsistent with the new code. The code excludes the non-heterosexual residents of the state from its application.

Live-in partners in the state will have to register themselves with district officials or face imprisonment under the new Uniform Civil Code. The live-in relationship provision provides that even those residents of Uttarakhand who are in a live-in relationship outside the state must submit a statement to the registrar of the state. The Uniform Civil Code also effectively outlaws bigamy and polygamy by limiting marriage to situations in which “neither party has a spouse living at the time.”

Muslim bodies across the country, including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) have voiced their concerns regarding the Uniform Civil Code as it does not align with the Quran on issues of polygamy and inheritance. The Quran permits polygamous marriage under certain conditions, if men are able to provide for their wives fully and treat all wives equally. The Quran also specifically regulates how much and to whom an estate is to be divided amongst for inheritance purposes.

Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami referred to it as a “historic moment,” stating that the Assembly had become the first legislature in independent India to enact a bill imposing uniform regulations on all communities. He said that the laws would put an end to the centuries-old injustice that women have endured. Dhami claimed that this would no longer be the case in Uttarakhand since the UCC has granted equal rights to everybody.