Plea In Delhi High Court Seeks Panel For Drafting Uniform Civil Code
A fresh tug of war is on the cards in the Delhi High Court between the supporters of Uniform Civil Code and those opposing it as a new public interest litigation was filed on Monday seeking that a high-level panel be set up for drafting the UCC.
The PIL was tagged with a similar pending petition which has been opposed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said it will hear both the petitions on Tuesday.
The first petition, filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, has sought direction to draft a UCC to promote unity, fraternity and national integration.
The fresh petition, filed by advocate Abhinav Beri, was mentioned by Upadhyay before the bench and both the petitions have been tagged together for hearing on Tuesday.
The fresh plea has sought a direction to the Centre to constitute a judicial commission or a high level expert committee to draft a UCC for securing gender justice, equality and dignity of women.
It said gender justice and gender equality, guaranteed under Articles 14-15 of the Constitution and dignity of women, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, cannot be secured without implementing the Article 44 (the State shall endeavour to secure for citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India).
The AIMPLB has sought to be impleaded as a party in Upadhyay's petition, claiming that the plea was not maintainable in law and ought not to be entertained.
The BJP, in its manifesto before the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, had mentioned the UCC saying that Article 44 of the Constitution lists it as one of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
BJP believes that there cannot be gender equality till such time India adopts a UCC, which protects the rights of all women, and reiterates its stand to draft UCC, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonising them with the modern times, the manifesto said.
Upadhyay claimed that the issue of UCC is there in the BJP's manifesto since the time of Jan Sangh in 1952.
He contended that the Centre has "failed" to put in place a UCC as provided under Article 44 of the Constitution.
The lawyers who have filed the petitions have claimed that a UCC would replace the personal laws, based on the scriptures and customs of various religious communities, with a common set of rules governing every citizen of the country.
Beri's petition also sought that a direction be given to the Law Commission to draft a UCC within three months taking into account the best practices of all religions and sects, civil laws of developed countries and international conventions and publish that on its website for at least 90 days for wide public debate and feedback.
It said the nature and purpose of the Article 44 is to introduce a common civil code for all, which is essential to promote fraternity, unity and national integration.
"It proceeds on the assumption that there is no connection between religion and personal laws in a civilised society.
"While the Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and of religion, it seeks to divest religion from personal law and social relations and from laws governing inheritance, succession and marriage, just as it has been done even in the Muslim countries like Turkey and Egypt etc. The object of Article 44 is not to encroach upon religious liberties," the plea said.
The need of the hour for national integration is a draft copy of UCC, it added.
In last 70 years, the Constitution has been amended 125 times and judgment of the Supreme Court has been nullified five times but the executive has not taken serious steps to implement Uniform Civil Code, the plea said.
The high court had on May 31 issued notice to the Centre seeking its response to Upadhyay's PIL.
In December 2015, the Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice of India TS Thakur had declined to hear Upadhyay's petition in which he had sought to bring the civil code which brings all religious personal laws under one umbrella. He had then withdrawn the petition.
On Oct. 12, 2015, while dealing with a divorce case under the Christian Divorce Act, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Vikramajit Sen had asked the government to take a quick decision on the UCC to end the confusion over personal community laws.
On July 23, 2003, an apex court bench led by the then CJI VN Khare had said that Article 44 was based on the premise that there was no necessary connection between religious and personal law in a civilised society.
The apex court was hearing a petition challenging section 118 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, which prevents Christians from bequeathing property for religious and charitable purposes.
The simmering debate over the UCC hit the headlines in 1985 after the Supreme Court awarded maintenance to a 60-year-old divorced Muslim woman, Shah Bano.
A common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to law which having conflicting ideologies, CJI YV Chandrachud had said then. But the then Congress government reversed the verdict after pushback from the clergy and Muslim Personal Law Board.