A bill on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) introduced in the Uttarakhand assembly on Tuesday seeks to make mandatory registration of live-in relationships with the state administration, and failure or even delay in initiating the proceedings would invite a jail term of a maximum of six months as well as a fine of ₹25,000.

The couples planning to or already in live-in relationships will have to get themselves registered with district officials if the UCC becomes law. For those below the age of 21, wanting to get into that kind of relationship, they will have to get parental consent before applying for registration, as per the UCC bill, which seeks to bring a uniform law applicable to all citizens, irrespective of their religion, of the state to deal with marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, and other personal matters.

The BJP government introduced the bill to fulfil its Uttarakhand assembly poll promise.

The legislation

It also said that married or minor individuals are not eligible to get their live-in relationship registered. The breach of laid-down provisions for registration of live-in relationships, right from a delay of one month in registration to the furnishing of false information, would also attract a jail term.

According to the legislation, children born out of live-in relationships “shall be a legitimate child of the couple,” which would entitle them to all the rights and benefits that offspring from legally wedded parents enjoy.

Voices against UCC

Senior Supreme Court advocate Sidharth Luthra told businessline that he was opposed to the UCC bill making it mandatory for couples to register their live-in relationships with the authorities and said it should be left to the individuals to decide whether to make it formal.

Besides that, the former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) stated that penalising individuals for not registering it was “inappropriate.”

“I have not read the bill, but personally, I think the UCC is a good way of ridding division in the society. It will also help women in domestic violence instances. But whether to register a live-in relationship or not should be voluntary and definitely not have a penalty clause inbuilt into it,” Luthra commented.

Gyanant Kumar Singh, a Supreme Court advocate, contended that “such a provision has to be tested under the touchstone of fundamental and other rights to see whether it tantamounts to moral policing if two consenting adults agree to live together, even though the objective may be to provide justice to females after the breakdown of such relationships.”

Women especially suffer to provide proof of a ‘live-in relationship in the nature of marriage’ if it has had a horrible ending. In such cases, registration may help them, Singh stated. He too was of the view that registration of a live-in relationship should be voluntary because, one of the reasons the couple does not opt for a legal wedding is that they want to keep their relationship private.

Another senior advocate and former ASG Indira Jaising said she would not like to comment on the issue unless she goes through the UCC bill.