In the placid plains of Uttarakhand, a controversy has swept through the social and political lives of people following the passage of the Uniform Civil Code bill by the Assembly on February 8. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami tells Narendra Sethi that he has fulfilled his 2022 election promise. The measure makes Uttarakhand the first state in the country to have cleared such a move with a majority vote. The UCC will provide a legal framework for uniform marriage, divorce, land, property, and inheritance laws for all citizens, irrespective of their religion. Excerpts:
How do you perceive the implications of the UCC Bill?
It is a moment of pride for all the people of the state that we will be known as the first state in the country to move towards implementing UCC. We promised of such a measure to the residents of ‘Devbhoomi’ during the 2022 elections. On our way to the passage of the Bill, first we passed a resolution to that effect in our inaugural cabinet meeting. Subsequently, an expert committee, tasked with drafting the bill in a span of 20 months, submitted its comprehensive report to us on February 2. Following its presentation in the Assembly on February 6, the bill underwent a thorough deliberation before it was successfully passed on February 8, with nearly all members of the House articulating their support during the discussion on the Bill.
After UCC implementation, what positive social changes do you anticipate will flow from the new law?
As its name implies, UCC is a common law that embodies the principles of equality and harmony for all. The privilege of passing the law has been bestowed upon the Uttarakhand Assembly. The draft presented to enact this law has been meticulously crafted through extensive dialogue with the people of the state. The drafting committee has incorporated 2,33,000 suggestions and 43 programmes, and engaged in 10,000 dialogues to ensure a comprehensive and inclusive approach. We hope that after the implementation of the new law, there will be unprecedented positive changes in the lives of women, the elderly, and children in the state.
The Bill has a special focus on women. What changes can we expect to see in the future vis-à-vis women of the state?
This bill ensures that women of all religions in the state are entitled to a dignified life. They can now feel secure in their rights without any fear of insecurity. They no longer need to navigate the legal system to claim their rightful inheritance. By giving women equal rights in both personal and paternal property along with men, we have fulfilled our commitment to women’s empowerment.
The Opposition has expressed concerns over insecurity among the minorities. What specific issues are causing such concerns?
As this law emphasizes equality from the very first word, no religion or caste or community can ever feel any kind of insecurity. Our government’s main focus is security, equality, and harmony among the residents of the state. With the aim of providing the elderly with a dignified life along with women and children, special provisions have been made in the Bill to remove any feeling of insecurity at any age of their life.
The opposition Congress has raised some objections about bill’s provisions on live-in relationships. What is your opinion?
The Congress was invited by the draft committee for this bill. It is strange that they could not provide their suggestions due to some reasons. I mentioned in the assembly that Mathuradutt Joshi from the Congress had been sent a letter about it, which he did acknowledge. Congress members did not appear before the draft committee, but they fully participated in the assembly proceedings. Our state has a very harmonious atmosphere; political commitments may vary, but everyone in the House has acknowledged from their heart that the UCC law will empower everyone.
Let me reiterate that after independence, the makers of the Constitution gave the right under Article 44 that the states can also introduce the UCC at an appropriate time... People have doubts regarding this. We made the draft as per the constitutional system.