The most crucial recommendations it is likely to make are equal property rights for women, including Muslims, raising the marriage age for women to 21, disallowing polygamy and polyandry, uniform child adoption laws across religions, ending coparcenary rights for male heirs in the Hindu joint family and pushing for registration of live-in relationships.
A radical new proposal for ensuring ‘reverse inheritance/maintenance’, making it incumbent on the daughters-in-law as well as sons-in-law to ensure the economic well-being of dependent parents-in-law, will figure prominently in the Uttarakhand report, people in the know confirmed to ET.
An ‘order of preference’ based reverse inheritance/maintenance format is being drawn out by the panel to address the destitute parents. The hill state’s UCC report is also pitching for ‘visitation rights’ for both paternal/maternal grandparents in case of divorce/separation/death of one spouse.
The five-member panel, chaired by retired Justice Ranjana Desai is learnt to have nearly readied its key recommendations for submission to the government this week, ET has learnt.
Following the 2005 Supreme Court order, Hindu women, who practically had no parental property rights earlier, now have equal claim on parental property as men. The UCC panel intends to extend equal property share in parental property to Muslim women as well. Current Muslim personal laws allow the son to inherit double the share compared to the daughter. A 50% share is now set to be pitched for women across all religions by the state panel.
Both polygamy and polyandry, permitted to Muslims under certain conditions and in tribal populations respectively, are set to be rejected by the panel. Both issues are likely to meet resistance from the state’s Muslim community, especially the older generation.
The third issue has been raising the age of marriage of women from 18 years to 21 years, just like men. While some Muslim bodies have opposed all three UCC proposals, those part of the deliberations across the state point to support from the younger Muslim population for these reforms.
ADOPTION OF CHILDREN
Only the Hindu personal law allows for legal adoption of a child and vests legal and inheritance rights in the child equivalent to a biological child. People from other religions such as Muslims, Parsis, Jews can adopt/foster under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, as well as the more recent Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000. However, these do not grant the same legal status/rights to the adopted child. The Uttarakhand UCC panel is set to recommend the same legal adoption rights for parents and the adopted child across all religions.
The Hindu Male
For Hindus, the coparcenary rights (ancestral property rights by birth) allowed to Hindu male heirs of a joint family is set to get the axe under the proposed UCC.
The Supreme Court order of 2005 already gives Hindu women equal rights on ancestral and agricultural property. It is felt by the panel that in the spirit of the order, it is only proper to do away with exclusive male coparcenary rights altogether for gender equality.