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Uniform Civil Code? SC agrees to hear plea seeking ‘Uniform Divorce Law’, issues notices to Centre

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The petitioner had told Supreme Court that the government was pressed to bring in the Uniform Civil Code, but it’s yet to happen

In an important judgement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday, while expressing “great caution”, agreed to examine the possibility of “gender-neutral religion-neutral uniform guidelines” for maintenance and alimony.

Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices V Ramasubramanian and A S Bopanna issued notices to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Law and Justice and the Ministry of Women and Child Development in this matter.

 

The notice was issued on the plea filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. Senior advocates Pinky Anand and Meenakshi Arora argued for the PILs filed by Ashwini Upadhyay. Hearing the matter, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde said, “We are entertaining the PILs with great caution.”

CJI Bobde however was unconvinced over the arguments advanced by Anand. “You want the abolishment of Personal Laws?” CJI asked to which she had replied in the negative. “You are not saying it doesn’t mean that’s not the reality. You are asking us to encroach upon personal laws and remove the distinction that they create.” CJI continued, reported Livelaw.com

The petitioner had told Supreme Court that the government was pressed to bring in the Uniform Civil Code, but it’s yet to happen. The Supreme Court bench headed by CJI S A Bobde was initially reluctant to entertain the petition saying it is for the government to act on the issue.

On this, Pinky Anand and Meenakshi Arora argued, “Religions may be treating women differently as per the personal law sanctions but when religious customs violate the fundamental right to equality and non-discrimination, the court must step in to protect women’s rights.”

Presently, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists have to seek divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, while Muslims, Parsis and Christians have their own personal religious laws. Couple from different religions can apply for divorce under the Special Marriage Act, 1956. Furthermore, if either partner is not an Indian national, then he or she has to seek divorce under the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.

The petition further said that many other grounds of divorce are neither gender neutral nor religion neutral, though equity, equality and equal opportunity are the hallmarks of a socialist, secular, democratic republic like India.
“The ongoing distinction is based on a patriarchal mindset and stereotypes and has no scientific backing, perpetrates de jure and de facto inequality against women and goes against the global trends,” the plea stated.