Country’s First UCC Bill Tabled: To Live-In Or Not To Live-In? Understanding Its Constitutional Challenge

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) Bill was introduced in the Uttarakhand Assembly on Tuesday, which has raised concerns about privacy and personal liberty. The Bill looks to equate heterosexual live-in relationships to the status of marriage. The proposed Code defines live-in relationships as a “relationship between a man and a woman” who “cohabit in a shared household through a relationship like marriage, provided that such relations are not prohibited.”

The Bill requires partners to notify the “Registrar” within a month of entering into a live-in relationship or terminating one. A jail term of up to three months is prescribed for not registering a live-in relationship. In case of failing to produce a certificate of live-in relationship, a term of six months is prescribed on conviction.

The Bill also provides for maintenance for women “deserted” by their partner, similar to a married like 388 states: “If a woman gets deserted by her live-in partner, she shall be entitled to claim maintenance from her live-in partner, for which she may approach the competent Court having jurisdiction over the place where they last cohabited, and, in such a case, the provisions contained in chapter 5, Part 1 of the Code shall mutatis mutandis apply.”

The proposed law will apply to those living in Uttarakhand as well as residents of Uttarakhand living elsewhere in India.

The Registrar is empowered to conduct a “summary inquiry”, summoning the live-in partners or “any other persons” for verification. The Registrar will forward the record to the police station concerned and, in case either partner is less than 21 years of age, inform the parents or guardians.

Many experts have raised concerns that compulsory registration takes away the freedom to choose not to be married and intrudes into the domain of privacy, which is recognised as a fundamental right in the Puttaswamy ruling.