The expert committee constituted by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami-led government to examine various issues relating to the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in Uttarakhand has invited suggestions from the residents and state-based organisations, including government agencies, non-government organisations, social groups and communities, religious bodies and political parties.
Justice (Retd.) Ranjana Prakash Desai, the committee’s chairperson, also launched a web portal (www.ucc.uk.gov.in) through which the residents of Uttarakhand and other stakeholders can directly upload their suggestions.
Launching the portal at a brief function organised at the Raj Bhavan auditorium in Dehradun, Justice (Retd.) Desai outlined the contours of the work that the state government has assigned to the five-member committee.
Besides preparing a report on implementing a UCC in Uttarakhand, the committee will also examine the relevant laws regulating personal civil matters such as marriage, divorce, property rights, succession, inheritance, adoption, maintenance, custody and guardianship for the state residents.
The committee will also prepare draft laws or suggest changes in the existing laws on civil matters.
“The committee is aware it is working on a subject that not only impinges on each and every resident of Uttarakhand but is also highly sensitive. Presently, the committee is examining the relevant statutes that are quite diverse and differentiated in their approach,” Justice (Retd.) Desai said.
“In addition, there are community-based customs and usage that need careful consideration. To the extent possible, the committee would endeavor to bring gender equality in personal civil matters,” she added.
Justice (Retd.) Desai exhorted and appealed to the residents of Uttarakhand and various government as well as non-government organisations to come forward and put forth their views, suggestions and opinion to “help the committee understand and appreciate the various dimensions and facets of issues” that are relevant.
She stated that the committee values such inputs and would encourage the people to freely contribute to the efforts of the committee.
Justice (Retd.) Desai informed that with a view to reaching out to all the residents of the state, nearly one crore SMS and WhatsApp messages have been sent Friday requesting inputs.
On the web portal, the committee has appealed to the residents of Uttarakhand and other stakeholders to forward their opinion, views, suggestions and representations within a period of 30 days i.e., on or before October 7 this year.
The suggestions could be sent along with documentary proof of an individual’s residence or an organisation’s location in Uttarakhand.
Earlier, the committee members called on Uttarakhand Governor Lieutenant General (Retd.) Gurmit Singh and apprised him of the work being done.
The committee members also called on the Chief Minister to understand his perspective on the subject.
After his meeting with the committee members, Dhami appreciated the works done so far and expressed confidence that the committee would form a valuable draft for the UCC after getting suggestions from the people of the state.
The Chief Minister said that the UCC brought by Uttarakhand will act as a template for other states too. He added that the response of the residents on the UCC has been very positive so far.
Besides Justice (Retd.) 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.
After a preliminary meeting earlier, it was informed that the expert committee would soon start talking to the stakeholders for a study of the cases where existing laws have been “exploited” by the people for their own benefits. The views of the stakeholders, essentially religious leaders from Hindu and Muslim communities, are also to be taken into account for framing a draft.
On July 4, the UCC committee held its first meeting at Uttarakhand Sadan in the national capital under the chairmanship of Justice (Retd.) Desai.
The Chief Minister 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.
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 will “fulfill the dream of our Constitution’s creators, and solidify the spirit of the Constitution”, adding that this was a major electoral promise of the BJP.