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Meghalaya Tribal Council opposes Uniform Civil Code (UCC)

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    30th Jun, 2023

Context

A tribal council in Meghalaya has unanimously passed a resolution to oppose the implementation of the proposed Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in areas within its jurisdiction.

  • The UCC seeks to envisage a common set of personal laws on marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, and succession that would be applicable to all citizens irrespective of religious affiliations.

What is UCC?

  • The idea behind a UCC is to have a common set of laws governing personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption for all citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliations.
  • India, being a diverse country with multiple religions and religious laws, currently has different personal laws for different religious communities.
  • Constitutional Provisions: The Constitution of India, under Article 44, one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, states that the state shall endeavor to secure a Uniform Civil Code for its citizens

Tribal communities and UCC:

  • In 2016, when the Law Commission of India sought the opinion of people on UCC, the Rashtriya Adivasi Ekta Parishad, a group that claims to represent 11 indigenous communities across India, filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking its intervention to protect the customary rights of Adivasis.
  • It said that such a move would have an adverse impact on 6,743 castes across the country.
  • It referred to the existing polygamy practice among Naga tribes, the Baiga, the Lushai and the Gond, among others.
  • Besides, their petition notes, polyandry is prevalent among several communities like the Tiyan, the Toda, the Ladhaki Bota, the Rota and the Khasa—stretching through the Himalayan belt- from Kashmir to Assam.

Presently, the rights of polygamy and polyandry come from the inapplicability of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 among the Adivasis.

  • Section 2(2) of the Act excludes Scheduled Tribes (ST) from its ambit.

About Meghalaya’s Tribal councils:

  • The three Autonomous District Councils (ADC) of Meghalaya have urged the National Commission for Scheduled Tribe to direct the State government not to interfere into their affairs.
  • The councils are namely for the three major tribal groups of the state i.e. the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia.
  • The House (council) unanimously resolved to urge the Centre not to implement the UCC in areas within the jurisdiction of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council is an autonomous district council (KHADC) in order to safeguard and protect the interests of the Khasis as provided under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • The Khasis are a matrilineal community where the youngest daughter becomes the custodian of the family property and a child is given the surname of her or his mother.
  • The community dominates the areas governed by the KHADC.

Tribal Councils and their jurisdiction:

  • The District Council and the Regional Council under the Sixth Schedule have real power to make laws, possibility on the various legislative subjects, receiving grants-in-aid from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet the costs of schemes for development, health care, education, roads and regulatory powers to state control.
  • The mandate towards devolution, deconcentration and divestment determines the protection of their customs, better economic development and most importantly ethnic security.

Arguments in support of UCC for tribes:

  • Tribal Women and Inheritance Rights:
  • As Schedule Tribes (ST) in India are excluded from Hindu succession Act, the women in Tribal communities like Santhals are not entitled to inherit their father’s property.
  • So, women in Tribal communities are seen as vulnerable and can be benefitted for Uniform civil code.

Concerns associated:

  • The socio-cultural contexts of tribes in the northeast are very unique and peculiar to each tribe.
  • Even the gradual introduction of the general laws of the land has not disrupted the existing system.
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