The Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill on February 7, 2024, aiming to create uniform laws on marriage, divorce etc. for all residents

The Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill on February 7, 2024, aiming to create uniform laws on marriage, divorce, inheritance, and related matters for all residents irrespective of their religious backgrounds.


For many years now, personal laws have existed in every nook and corner of our country. Personal laws are those laws which apply to individuals belonging to specific religious groups or sects within such religions. The secular identity of India proliferated personal laws and their applicability towards many different aspects of society such as marriage/divorce, adoption, succession, inheritance of properties and other related components.

Personal Laws allow each religion to abide by the customs and traditions that have been followed by their predecessors since time immemorial, but they lead also, to the construction of an irregular, asymmetric and contrasting legal regime especially on the matters for which personal laws have been drafted and are being enforced. Examples of Personal Laws include the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 etc.

There is however, a veil of controversy surrounding the enactment of a Uniform Civil Code in India and this owes to its secular character, which is deemed to be threatened through the enactment of such laws. While advocates argue that a Uniform Civil Code would foster national integration, and gender justice and pertinently bring about a uniform set of codified laws, critics suggest that it has the potential to infringe/restrict religious freedoms and cultural diversity.

The debate surrounding the UCC reflects the complex interplay between secularism, social reform and minority rights in Indian society.

Overview and Analysis of the Uttarakhand Uniform Civil Code, 2024

As per Section 1 of the Code which determines the extent of the Code applicability, this Uniform Civil Code (hereinafter referred to as UCC or the Code) applies to the entirety of Uttarakhand, its residents and also to its residents that no longer reside within the territorial boundaries of Uttarakhand.

Section 2 of the Code states that none of the provisions of law contained within it apply to Scheduled Tribes as defined under Article 366(25) r.w. Article 342 of the Indian Constitution will also not apply to individuals belonging to any category of persons whose customary rights are protected under Chapter XXI of the Indian Constitution.

A. Marriage and Divorce.

Under Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Code, Sections 4 and 5 of the Code shed light on the conditions for marriage and the ceremonies involved respectively. According to Section 4, neither party to the marriage shall have a living spouse at the time of marriage, be of unsound mind or otherwise incapable of giving valid consent, or fall under the degrees of a prohibited relationship. In addition to this, the man must have attained the age of 21 years and the woman must have attained the age of 18 years.

Section 5 of the Code states that the ceremonies to be performed in the event of a marriage shall include, but not be limited to the ceremonies (Saptapadi, Ashirvad, Nikah, Holy Union, Anand Karaj) prescribed under the Anand Marriage Act, 1909, the Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Arya Marriage Validation Act, 1937.

Sections 6 to 9 of the Code deal with the registration of marriages after the commencement of the Code; also of those that took place before, and also of all the divorces that took place already, and all those that may take place post the commencement of the Code. An important observation would include highlighting the use of the word ‘compulsory’ in Section 6, implying that any marriages taking place in Uttarakhand after the commencement of the Code -

have to be compulsorily registered within 60 days from the date of the marriage by preparing and signing a memorandum (in the manner and form as prescribed by SG) and further submitting it to the Sub-Registrar. (Section 10(1)).

Section 7(1) of the Code, states that in respect of marriages that have taken place before the commencement of the Code which are to be duly registered, it may be noted that the Uttarakhand Legislature has placed a temporal limit whereby only marriages that took place between 26.03.2010 and the date of the commencement of the Code are required to be registered. This is a step towards ensuring that data/records are intact, while also preventing a pile-up of paperwork and strain on concerned authorities.

For all of the said marriages, the deadline for parties to have their marriage duly registered by the Sub-Registrar of their jurisdiction is 6 months (according to Section 10(2)). Moreover, for all marriages that took place before the date of 26.03.2010, the temporal limit remains the same (6 months), however, there are certain conditions enlisted u/s 7(2) which are required to be fulfilled before marriages of such nature may be registered.

On the other hand, Section 8(1) states that any decree of divorce or nullity of marriage passed by a Court in the state, after the commencement of the Code, would have to be duly registered as per the procedure established by law u/s 11(1) which also places a 60 days time limit upon parties to do so.

Further, as per Section 8(2), in any case wherein the decree of divorce or nullity of marriage is passed by a Court outside the constraints of the State, and where one of the parties still resides in Uttarakhand, the said decree for divorce or nullity of marriage shall be registered before the Sub-Registrar as per the procedure established by law u/s 11(2).

In terms of divorce or nullity of marriage, finally, Sections 11 (3) and (4) state that in any case wherein a decree of divorce or nullity of marriage was passed by a Court either within or outside the constraints of the State (in which case at least one party continues to reside in Uttarakhand) the parties or party shall prepare and sign a memorandum as per the prescribed form and manner and duly submit it to the Sub-Registrar within 6 months.

However, the proviso to Section 11 the Sub-Registrar may entertain a memorandum submitted to it, after the lapse of the deadline for the present case at hand, if it is satisfied that there were sufficient grounds for the delay of the registration of the document.

Section 20 of the Code states that no marriage shall be invalidated solely based because it was not duly registered as per the procedure established by Law under the Code, or that the memorandum was not received by the Sub-Registrar or that the details contained within it were defective, irregular or incorrect.

Concurrently however, Section 17(1) of the Code states that in any case where a party fails to or willfully neglects or omits submitting a memorandum of registration before the Sub-Registrar shall be punishable with a fine of Rs. 10,000 as a penalty.

Additionally, Section 17(2) states that in any case where an individual furnishes or makes a statement within the memorandum which he knows to be false or delivers or forged or fabricated document, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine not exceeding twenty-five thousand rupees, or with both.

Moving on, Section 23 states that a marriage taking place after the commencement of this Code would be declared void and rightfully so if it is observed to be in contravention to Section 4 (i), (ii), (iv) and (v). Section 24 sheds light on the various situations which would render a marriage voidable.

Section 25 lays down the grounds on which a party to a marriage may approach a Court of Law with a petition to dissolve the marriage. The grounds are

(i) that the other party engaged in an act of sexual intercourse with a third party, after the marriage between the original two was solemnized/contracted, or

(ii) that the other party has treated them with cruelty

(iii) that the other party has deserted them for a continuous period of not less than 2 years immediately before such a petition is being filed.

Section 27 of the Code also provides for divorce through mutual consent of both parties.

Section 28 however, restricts the right of the parties to seek divorce within one year of marriage.

Section 30 of the Code confers the right of remarriage to parties who have been divorced or whose marriage has been declared as a nullity.

Section 35 of the Code deals with the custody of children between parties.

Section 44 of the Code elaborates on the forms of relief available to the respondent in divorce and other proceedings.

B. Wills and Codicils (Succession)

A very striking aspect of the said Code introduced in the State of Uttarakhand is that it brings the concept of Wills and Codicils, the manner of their construction and their execution under one bracket. Where how wills worked across different religions varied dramatically, it is evident that the present UCC treads a path of strict codification and consolidation of laws implying that wills made by any person, irrespective of their religion, would have to be made in the manner now prescribed by law.

The Bill seeks to secure property rights for sons and daughters while also including illegitimate/adopted children and those born through surrogacy. It also marks the demise of the coparcenary system governing ancestral property as per the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 and in cases of intestate succession, where no registered will exists, the Bill provides for an equivalent distribution of property amongst the spouse, children and parents, which is a stark difference compared to older personal laws, which attributed a fixed. specified share of the property to different classes of legal heirs.

In terms of intestate succession, where the person holding the ancestral property dies without leaving behind a will of any sort, or does not bequeath his property to anyone else, Sections 49 to 53 of the Code deal with the Classes of Heirs, the general manner of succession and thereafter, the distribution of the estate amongst the different classes of heirs.

C. Live in Relationship

Section 378 of the Code asserts that any partners in a live-in relationship are to submit a statement/declaration stating the same whether or not they are residents of Uttarakhand under the procedure established by law through Section 381(1). And for all the residents of Uttarakhand not residing within the territorial limits of the state, they are to do the same (submit a declaration/statement of live-in relationship) before the Registrar under whose jurisdiction they are residing as per the procedure entailed u/s 381(1). However, Section 382 expressly states that such a registration is only for the purposes of record.

As per Section 379 (what amounts to an invalid live-in relationship) of the Code, the children of partners in a live-in relationship shall be deemed legitimate children. As per Section 380, partners shall not register a live-in relationship when/if:

(i) where the partners are within the degrees of a prohibited relationship,

(ii) where one of the persons is already married or is already in a live-in relationship

(iii) where one of the persons is a minor

(iv) where one of the parties' consent was obtained through fraud, coercion, undue influence or misrepresentation of his/her identity or any relevant material facts. Section 384 also calls for the submission of a declaration/statement for the termination of a live-in relationship.


On a concluding note, the Legislative Assembly of the State of Uttarakhand being the first one to introduce such legislation, is bound to have the spotlight for the coming weeks. Critics will attempt to pinpoint areas of economic, societal and political distress and trace it back to the introduction and implementation of the UCC.

Although it may be viewed as a subject that can be used to stifle turmoil in society, I believe it can be a factor of great unity and strength since the Government is striving to bring about a change for the better. The introduction of the UCC furthers the interests of equality before law and uniformity in law thereby aiding the legal framework of the nation. Only time can tell whether it will be rejoiced or frowned upon.


[1] Uttarakhand Assembly passes controversial Uniform Civil Code Bill, Available Here

[2] Uttarakhand becomes first state to pass landmark Uniform Civil Code bill, Available Here

[3] Uttarakhand Assembly passes Uniform Civil Code Bill, Available Here

[4] The Uniform Civil Code of Uttarakhand, 2024, Available Here

Aryan Udani

Aryan Udani

Aryan's key areas of interest are Environmental Law, Intellectual Property Law and Mergers & Acquisitions Law. Institution: Christ University

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