Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 16
The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine “with great caution” if there could be uniform grounds for divorce; and uniform maintenance and alimony for all citizens, irrespective of the religion they followed.
A Bench-headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde issued notice the center on two separate PILs filed by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay – one seeking uniform grounds for divorce and the other demanding uniform maintenance and alimony for all citizens across India after senior advocates Pinky Anand and Meenakshi Arora argued that the top court needed to intervene.
“How can we remove discriminatory practices without interfering in personal laws? .. Are you asking us to abolish personal laws?” asked the CJI at the very outset.
“In Shayara Bano (triple talaq case) you did it. Under Article 142 you had said directions given to exist until the law was brought in. You have intervened in the past, Lordships,” Anand pointed out.
As the CJI said the prayer regarding asking the Law Commission to examine it can be considered, Arora said, “For two years we have no one heading the Law Commission. We want a similar relief. If we look at certain provisions of Muslim law, then maintenance can go on only for the period of Biddat. Women are left with nothing. “
“When religious customs violate the fundamental right to equality and non-discrimination, the court must step in to protect women’s rights,” she submitted.
The Bench said, “We are issuing notice with great caution.”
The issue is likely to trigger a fresh debate on uniform civil code that has been one of the core demands of BJP for decades.
Upadhyay’s first PIL sought a direction to the government to take apposite steps to remove anomalies in the grounds of divorce and make them uniform for all citizens without prejudice based on religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Upadhyay said it should be done in the spirit of the articles 14, 15, 21, 44 (right to equality, right to non-discrimination, right to live with human dignity and directive principles of state policy which obliged the state to enact a uniform civil code as also international conventions.
Alternatively, he demanded that being the custodian of the Constitution and protector of fundamental rights, the top court should declare that the discriminatory grounds of divorce violated citizens’ right to equality, right to non-discrimination and right to live with human dignity and go on to frame guidelines for ‘Uniform Grounds of Divorce’ for all citizens.
He said, alternatively, the court should direct the Law Commission to examine the laws relating to divorce and suggest ‘Uniform Grounds of Divorce’ for all citizens in the spirit of Articles 14, 15, 21, 44 of the Constitution in three months while considering the laws of divorce and the best practices of all religions.
In his second PIL, Upadhyay urged the top court to direct the Union Home Ministry and Union Law Ministry to take appropriate steps to remove the prevailing anomalies in the grounds of maintenance and alimony to make them uniform for all citizens without any discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth in the spirit of the Articles 14, 15, 21, 44 and International Conventions.
Alternatively, being the custodian of the Constitution and protector of the fundamental rights, the court should declare that the discriminatory grounds of maintenance and alimony violated Articles 14, 15, 21 of the Constitution and frame gender-neutral, religion-neutral uniform guidelines for maintenance and alimony for all Indian citizens.
Or, Upadhyay said, the top court should direct the Law Commission to examine the domestic and international laws and prepare a report on ‘uniform grounds of maintenance and alimony’ in three months in spirit of the Articles 14, 15, 21 and 44 and international conventions.