All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) moved Supreme Court against PIL for Uniform Grounds of Maintenance & Alimony, stating the proposed legislation will completely curtail “freedom of choice” of women presently available to seek maintenance.
In its intervention application the law board objected to the plea filed by Adv Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay which has sought “Uniform Grounds of Maintenance & Alimony”, and said,
“it is for the woman to decide as to which legislation/legal remedy is best suited to her grievance. The very nature of the prayer made in the present Writ Petition is to restrict and confine the availability of legal remedies of women to a single legislation irrespective of her nature of grievance in relation to her claim of maintenance and alimony.”
“The proposed legislation will completely curtail freedom of choice of women presently available to seek maintenance. Such claimed uniformity in terms of prayer is neither desirable nor practical,” further stated by the AIMPLB in their intervention application.
It has further submitted by the AIMPLB, “that the expression and ‘Custom and usage’ in Article 13 of the Constitution does not include faith of a religious denomination embedded in personal laws. The Constituent Assembly was aware of the distinction between ‘Personal Law’ and the ‘Custom and Usage’ and chose advisedly to exclude personal law and include custom and usage in Article 13 of the Constitution.”
“Thus, if personal law stands excluded from the definition of ‘laws in force’ in Article 13 then all matters of faith having a direct relationship to a religious denomination being matters of personal law cannot be tested on the anvil of Articles 14,15,21, and 44 of the Constitution of India,”
it further stated.
The present intervention application has been filed in the ‘Public Interest Litigation’ filed by Advocate and BJP Spokesperson Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, which has sought directions to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Women and Child Development to take appropriate steps to remove the prevailing anomalies in the rules and laws of Maintenance and Alimony and make them uniform for all citizens without discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth in the spirit of Articles 14, 15, 21, 44 and international conventions.
On 16 December, 2020, a three-judge bench of the Apex Court headed by the Chief Justice S. A. Bobde and comprising Justices A. S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, had issued notice to the Centre, ministries of Law and Justice and Women and Child Development. Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora appeared for the petitioner in the matter.
The Petitioner has contended that the injury caused to the public is extremely large, because maintenance and alimony is one of the most crucial elements of life and generally comes to a court of law. For many citizens, maintenance and alimony are the only sources of livelihood, hence discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth is a direct attack on the right to life, liberty and dignity, guaranteed under Article 21.
“Even after 73 years of independence and 70 years of India becoming a socialist, democratic republic, laws relating to maintenance and alimony are not only complex and cumbersome, but also against the constitutional mandate of being equal, rational and just. Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 and Hindu Adoption & Maintenance Act 1956. Muslims are dealt with as per their status of a valid marriage and prenuptial agreements and governed under the Muslim Women Act 1986. Christians are governed by the Indian Divorce Act 1869, and Parsis under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act 1936, but none of these laws are gender-neutral. Under the same circumstances, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Parsi spouses get different alimony. Similarly, under the same circumstances, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Parsi parents get different alimony. Likewise, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Parsi children get different alimony,”
said the plea by Upadhyay.
The petitioner submitted that being the custodian of the Constitution and the protector of fundamental rights, the Supreme Court may declare that the discriminatory grounds of Maintenance and Alimony are violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 and international conventions and frame gender-neutral, religion-neutral uniform guideline of maintenance and alimony for all citizens.