New Delhi/Dehradun: Complete inheritance rights for Muslim women, registration of talaq and live-in relationships, a ban on polygamy and polyandry, and reverse inheritance to ensure parents have rights over their children’s properties are among the many suggestions received by the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) committee set up by the Uttarakhand government, ThePrint has learnt.
The five-member committee, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, was constituted by the Pushkar Singh Dhami government in May to prepare a Uniform Civil Code for implementation in the hill state. It also includes retired high court judge Permod Kohli, social activist Manu Gaur, former chief secretary Shatrughan Singh and Doon University vice-chancellor Surekha Dangwal.
“The Committee has received lakhs of public suggestions on its portal, through mails and emails, and people in person have also submitted their suggestions. The suggestions cannot be elaborated in public at this stage as the process is still on but there are several highly-meritorious suggestions that are worthy enough and deserve public attention,” Shatrughan Singh said.
Online suggestions have advocated mandatory registration of live-in relationships and same marriage age for both the genders. Those sending these suggestions felt that though there is currently no law governing live-in relationships, it is also not illegal and couples continue to live together but almost in ‘hiding”.
“If it is sanctioned in the law, couples may not have to live in hiding and they will be more comfortable in interacting with neighbors and others which they currently don’t do for fear of being reprimanded by others. They feel this is an unhealthy practice. They also said that if live-in relationships are registered, it will allow both the partners to be more accountable too,” said an official aware of the developments.
Sources told ThePrint that during several public interactions carried out by the committee in different parts of the state and as per the online suggestions received by them, several Muslim organisations and individuals have demanded that the proposed UCC must include registration of divorces in the larger interest of women.
“Muslims have also demanded incorporation of the complete inheritance rights for their daughters in the draft UCC. Many have pointed out that Muslim girls too have a right to inheritance over properties of their parents, akin to the Hindus. They argued that Muslim girls are left to fend for themselves in case of death of their parents and in the case of married women, they have to rely on their husbands. They stressed on the need to ensure they have their own resources of sustenance,” said the official mentioned above.
Some queries raised on implementation
Most of the suggestions, the source said, are in favour of the UCC though some have raised questions on its implementation. Several public interactions took place in the tribal belts, and rural and hilly areas where suggestions have been made for a complete ban on polygamy and polyandry.
“During the public dialogue programme, people expressed strong reservations regarding these practices and in most cases, women pointed out that such practices should not be tolerated. Some people also raised questions about how exactly the UCC will be implemented as it is a complex exercise. We are not looking at the issue from the religious prism but gender equality,” a member of the UCC panel said.
Committee sources also said that during direct public interactions, several suggestions came from senior citizens advocating reverse inheritance of their properties handed out to the children as well as demands for parents’ rights on the properties and wealth of the children.
Parents have demanded that they should be given the right to take back the properties given to their children in case of need. It was reasoned that in many cases parents are often left stranded and deprived of a better living once they legally hand over their properties to the children. They must have the right to reverse the decision, even if partially, when they feel insecure.
Elderly Muslims have told the Committee that they invest their whole life and earnings in grooming children and deserve reciprocal care in old age.
They have demanded a legal mandate requiring their wards to look after them and also ownership of their properties in certain circumstances. They said that at present, parents have no legal rights over the wealth and properties of their sons in case of death, which go to their wives, who often part ways with their in-laws. It has been argued that many parents, particularly those dependent on their sons, are left in the lurch when their daughters-in-law inherit the properties of the sons.
The Committee was mandated to examine the relevant laws regulating personal civil matters in the state and prepare a draft law or suggest changes in existing laws on the subjects of marriage, divorce, property rights, succession or inheritance, adoption, maintenance, custody and guardianship.
Subsequently, the panel invited public suggestions through its portal, email and postal messages and direct to the office in person. So far, it has received nearly 4.4 lakh suggestions. This includes nearly 3.5 lakh letters submitted in the office by hand, 61,000 posts in the portal and around 24,000 suggestions through emails.
In addition, panel members have had 16 public interactions in Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Udham Singh Nagar, Champawat, Pithoragarh and Haridwar districts. “So far, only half of the public interactions have been done even as the deadline for giving suggestions is over and extrapolation of the suggestions is still on. Another round of public interactions will be held after 9 November. We want to cover all the targeted high hill areas in November before winter gets severe,” said Shatrughan Singh.
(Edited by V.S.Chandrasekar)