After a preliminary meeting this week, the expert committee formed for the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in Uttarakhand will start talking to stakeholders for a study of cases where existing laws have been “exploited” by people for their own benefit.
The views of the stakeholders, essentially religious leaders from Hindu and Muslim communities, will be taken into account for framing a draft of the UCC.
On July 4, the UCC committee held its first meeting at Uttarakhand Sadan in the national capital, under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Desai. Talking to the media later, Desai said it was a preliminary meeting and that they would meet next on July 14 or 15. Sources said that at the first meeting, the members were essentially introduced to one another and talked about the framework for a draft.
“The main priority now is talking to stakeholders like religious leaders and community heads. This is because the main topic under the UCC is marriage and divorce laws, adoption laws, and distribution of property laws. I personally believe that everything about the UCC is very pro-gender. In absence of this, there is exploitation (of women) in any religion. There are thousands of cases where people exploit existing laws for their own benefit. We are thus studying such cases to understand the loopholes,” a source told The Sunday Express.
Adding that responsibilities of the committee are tremendous and that they didn’t want any mistakes, “even of punctuation”, the source said that being perhaps the first state to implement the UCC, Uttarakhand hopes to set an example. “This (UCC) is the biggest need of the 21st century and this will be a very progressive step… I am pretty sure that we will get the support of most Muslim leaders as they too want a UCC. Only the highly fanatic ones might oppose,” said the source.
Besides chairperson Justice Desai, the UCC committee includes ex-Sikkim High Court Chief Justice Permod Kohli, social activist Manu Gaur, former Uttarakhand chief secretary Shatrughan Singh, and Doon University vice-chancellor Surekha Dangwal.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had promised to bring in the UCC on the last day of campaigning for the Assembly elections earlier this year, in which he returned to power. “The security of cultural and religious heritage of Uttarakhand, security of its environment, and security of its borders are important not just for the state but the entire country. Soon after the oath-taking ceremony, the BJP government will form a committee of those with knowledge of the legal system, retired employees, prominent people from society, and other stakeholders to prepare a draft of the UCC,” Dhami had said.
He had gone on to announce the committee, in the very first Cabinet meeting of the new government, in May, with the brief to check all the relevant laws controlling personal matters for residents of the state.
Announcing the committee, Dhami said bringing in the UCC would “fulfill the dream of our Constitution’s creators, and solidify the spirit of the Constitution” and that this was a major electoral promise of the BJP.