Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Supreme Court rejects pleas seeking uniform civil laws, says matter comes under legislative domain

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The Supreme Court dismissed a batch of petitions on Wednesday that sought uniform laws for all citizens relating to divorce, adoption, guardianship, succession/inheritance and maintenance.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, Justice P.S. Narasimha and Justice J.B. Pardiwala refused to hear the pleas, stating that the court was not inclined to entertain them under Article 32.

It observed that granting relief in the petitions seeking enactment of gender-neutral and religion-neutral legislation in matters governing divorce, adoption, guardianship, succession/inheritance and maintenance would necessitate direction to legislate law, which came under the domain of legislature. 

Stating that a mandamus could not be issued to legislate, the Apex Court noted that the direction sought to the Law Commission would also come under the legislative domain.

However, the Bench granted liberty to the parties to point out the matter from the 17 petitions listed before the Court, having different prayers. 

It further noted the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Union government and contended that such an intervention could only be through a legislative process. 

The Court delinked the plea filed by journalist Banazeer Hina, which challenged ‘Talaq-e-Hasan’ and other forms of ‘unilateral extra-judicial talaq’.

One of the petitions filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay contended that divorce procedure was very complex and neither gender-neutral nor religion-neutral. While Hindus were governed under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Muslims, Parsis and Christians had their own personal laws. 

He said couples belonging to different religions had to seek divorce under the Special Marriage Act, 1956. Similarly, if either partner was a foreign national, then one had to seek divorce under the Foreign Marriage Act 1969. 

He pointed out that this distinction promoted inequality against women and offended Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

The petitioner demanded uniform grounds for divorce regardless of religion, race, caste or sex throughout the territory of India. 

He further sought uniform succession law, stating that discriminatory grounds of succession and inheritance not only reinforced patriarchal stereotypical notions, but also contravened with the principles of gender justice, equality and dignity of women guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution. 

In other petitions, Advocate Upadhyay sought gender-neutral, religion-neutral and uniform laws for maintenance, alimony and adoption.

Earlier, the Apex Court had observed that the matters came under the domain of the legislature. The Central government had filed an affidavit opposing the petitions on the ground of maintainability. The affidavit filed by the Union of India had contended that a Writ of Mandamus cannot be issued to the Legislature to enact a particular piece of legislation.

(Case title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India)

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