Uttarakhand set to exempt tribals from UCC

The proposed Uttarakhand Uniform Civil Code, to be introduced in the state assembly next week, is set to exempt the state tribal population fully from its provisions, ET has learnt.

The Uniform Civil Code, Uttarakhand Bill is likely to come with a clear exception for notified Scheduled Tribes. Tribals constitute about 2.9% of Uttarakhand’s population with the Jaunsari, Bhotiyas, Tharu, Raji and Buksa among the prominent ones.

Polyandry and polygamy are also prevalent customs among a few tribes in the hill state.

The Uttarakhand UCC committee had also held talks with these communities on a uniform code. In fact, these discussions had initially indicated considerable support among the Uttarakhand tribal population for the ‘reforms‘ proposed, sources in the know had earlier shared with ET.

The younger tribal population had also given feedback then that while polyandry/polygamy and other practices were in vogue in earlier generations, they are hardly in practice now and hence the reform was welcome.

However, tribal and ethnic communities across states, especially the northeast, have openly expressed their opposition to the imposition of any civil code that could impact their customs and age-old ways of life.

Union ministers had also last year sought to assure tribals that the UCC will not impact them. Chairperson of the parliamentary panel on law and justice, Sushil Modi had also advocated keeping tribals out of the UCC ambit.

The political underpinnings of such an exemption in the Uttarakhand UCC are, therefore, significant given that Lok Sabha elections are just days away and the tribal populations are an important electoral constituency across several states.

More so, when the Uttarakhand UCC is expected to serve as the BJP template for similar bills being lined up in Assam and Gujarat — both states have considerable tribal population.

Assam CM had recently underlined its UCC will be based on Uttarakhand’s but will not be applicable for tribals. There is, however, no exemption regime for other segments or communities.

Halala, Iddat and Khula options on divorce and remarriage for Muslims will be illegal under the new code which will call for divorce and remarriage only by way of legal proceedings in courts of law.

The hill state’s code will mandate compulsory registration of live-in relationships and seek full succession rights for children born out of such unions.

The five-member panel chaired by retired SC Judge Ranjana Desai will submit its report and the draft Bill/Code to the state government on February 2 and the latter is expected take it to the Assembly on February 5.

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Roy Walsh

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