Legal rights for LGBTQ couples unlikely in Uttarakhand's UCC draft bill

Panel says same-sex marriage not part of institution of marriage, live-in couples have rights under domestic violence Act

Published: 28th June 2023 09:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th June 2023 09:10 AM   |  A+A-

LGBT, Third Gender, Rainbow

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Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Uttarakhand’s draft bill on Uniform Civil Code (UCC) may not consider giving legal rights to LGBTQ and live-in couples, according to a member of the expert committee looking into the implementation of UCC in the state.

Other key recommendations of the panel include raising the marriageable age of women to 21 years, inheritance rights for Muslim women, a ban on polygamy and polyandry, and reforming marriage practices such as ‘nikah halala’.

Contesting reports that the committee has proposed population control policies such as the two-child norm, the member said that it doesn’t fall in its ambit. “There is no proposal on population control measures,” the member said.

The UCC panel led by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Desai will submit its report in one or two months. “Gender equality is the soul of our draft law. Our key suggestion is to protect women and children. Certain personal laws are inhuman, undermining the dignity of women,” said the member.

“We are against same-sex marriages as they cannot be part of the institution of marriage. We are not bringing them into the purview of marriage. Regarding couples in live-in relationships, the Supreme Court has interpreted it under the Domestic Violence Act. They have rights under the act, not under the institution of marriage,” said the member.

The Pushkar Singh Dhami government had, in May 2022, set up a five-member panel to discuss a ‘common law for all’ in the hill state.

In 2018, the 21st Law Commission, which prepared a working paper on UCC after extensive discussions with various stakeholders across the country, suggested that Muslim personal laws will have to be codified before embarking on drafting laws for the UCC.

However, one of the panel members said that the majority of the Muslims, especially women, were on the same page with the committee. Muslims constitute about 14 per cent of the state’s population.

“Codifying Muslim personal laws calls for a wider debate. Some argue that Muslim laws are already codified, while a majority of people feel it is not. But a majority of Muslims, especially women, were on the same page with the panel’s recommendations, which is thrust on gender parity,” he said.

Uttarakhand is the first state to constitute an expert panel to draft UCC. Other members of the panel are retired Delhi high court judge Pramod Kohli, social activist Manu Gaur, ex-bureaucrat Shatrughan Singh and Doon University vice-chancellor Surekha Dangwal.

The panel had got responses from more than 2.5 lakh people. “We held extensive consultations with all communities and community heads including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Hindus and tribal groups. There were many challenges but we tried to negotiate it amicably,” he said.

On the 22nd Law Commission seeking views of religious organisations and the public on the issue of a UCC early this month, the member said the Law Commission will take a call on whether to replicate the Uttarakhand UCC model on a national level or not. “The Law Commission chairman met us recently. We are working independently and we haven’t sought any feedback from them. There may be many common elements,” he said.

What Uttarakhand panel holds

  • Raising the marriageable age of women to 21 years
  • Inheritance rights for Muslim women
  • Ban on polygamy and polyandry
  • Reforming marriage practices such as ‘nikah halala’
  • No policy on population control as it is out of panel’s ambit
  • Same-sex marriage not part of the institution of marriage
  • Live-in couples have rights under Domestic Violence Act

Larger projection
An Uttarakhand UCC panel member said the 22nd Law Commission will take a call on whether to replicate its model on a national level. “We are working independently... There may be common elements,” he said.

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