Privacy Rights in Peril: Uttarakhand's Civil Code Draws Criticism for Mandating Live-In Relationship Registration

Failure to inform the registrar about the relationship within 30 days could result in convictions with a prison term of up to three months and a fine of up to Rs 10,000.
Privacy Rights in Peril: Uttarakhand's Civil Code Draws Criticism for Mandating Live-In Relationship Registration

Dehradun- The recent Uniform Civil Code tabled by the Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami in the state assembly of Uttarakhand on 6th February brought in a number of controversial measures. One such point is the registration of live-in relationships, which theoretically goes against many fundamental rights such as Right to Privacy.

The proposed bill seeks to regulate live-in relationships within the state of Uttarakhand, requiring partners to submit a statement about their live-in status to the registrar, regardless of their residency status in the state. This means that even individuals with Uttarakhand domicile who are not currently residing in the state must register their live-in relationships.

Failure to inform the registrar within 30 days could result in convictions with a prison term of up to three months and a fine of up to Rs 10,000. Additionally, if partners fail to respond to the registrar's notice, the prison term may be extended to six months with a maximum fine of Rs 25,000.

Section 387(3) outlines the penalties for failing to submit the statement of live-in relationship, stating that partners may face imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of up to Rs 25,000, or both.

Furthermore, the registrar is mandated to inform the police in-charge of the relevant police station. If the partners are under the age of 21, their parents will be informed by the authorities.

Additionally, the proposed law includes provisions for women who are deserted by their live-in partners to claim maintenance, ensuring some form of financial support in such situations. Overall, the bill aims to establish regulatory mechanisms for live-in relationships in Uttarakhand, including registration requirements and penalties for non-compliance, while also addressing concerns related to desertion and maintenance for women in such relationships.

The Mooknayak talked to Ishaan Duggal, who is a Principal Associate at HAS Advocates, New Delhi, in order to understand if this provision violates the fundamental Right to Privacy.

Opening up about the probable intent, the lawyer claimed, “It cannot be denied that a bundle of rights would flow from registration of a live-in relationship under the Uniform Civil Code of Uttarakhand. This seems to be the intent behind introducing these provisions pertaining to live-in relationships.”

“However,” Duggal continued, “the Uniform Civil Code of Uttarakhand provides for imprisonment and/or fine as a consequence for failure to get a live-in relationship registered.” He observed, “This compulsory registration seems to be prima facie violative of the right to privacy, as recognised by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Puttaswamy judgment and the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the Naz Foundation judgment.”

The lawyer suggested, “Perhaps, such registration can be made optional, which would ensure that the proposed rights can flow to the individuals who are willing to opt for such registration.”

In a telephonic conversation with The Mooknayak, Tania, a transgender lawyer representing the community in Uttarakhand, delved deeper into the conservative ideology driving the push for registering live-in relationships. "This reflects a Manuwadi mindset,” remarked Tania “where a woman's identity is solely defined by the men in her life. Even upon reaching adulthood at 18, a woman's relationships come under surveillance. While relationships are scrutinized, laws concerning domestic violence remain inadequately addressed."

According to a report by The New Indian Express, Delhi-based lawyer and columnist, Gyanant Sungh expressed that the proposed bill amounts to moral policing and infringes upon fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, including the right to privacy, liberty, and life. Sungh emphasized that such provisions could potentially lead to the harassment of individuals living together in consensual relationships.

He further stated that the police might unnecessarily target men and women in live-in relationships, highlighting that living together as consenting adults is not a crime. Sungh argued that compelling individuals to report their live-in relationships may violate their desire to maintain the privacy of their personal affairs.

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