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Delhi High Court closes hearing on drafting and implementation of Uniform Civil Code
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday closed all the proceedings on a batch of petitions that sought direction from the Centre and the Law Commission to draft and timely implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the country and observed that the Law Commission is already working on this topic and seized of the matter.
The bench of Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna, after noting down the submissions, decided to dispose of the matter and said the Law Commission of India is already dealing with the issue and we cannot direct the legislature to enact a particular law.
Earlier, the Centre Government stated in its reply that it is for the legislature to enact or not to enact a piece of legislation; this is a matter of policy for the elected representatives of the people to decide and no direction in this regard can be issued by the Court.
In Delhi High Court, the Centre government, through the Ministry of Law and Justice, has filed an affidavit and opposed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and other petitions seeking the drafting of a UCC to secure gender justice, equality and dignity for women.
The centre's reply further stated that the reliefs prayed by the petitioners in the petitions are not sustainable either in law or on facts and hence are liable to be dismissed in limine as not maintainable.
The centre's affidavit further stated that in the petition, it is submitted that only a person acting bona fide and having sufficient interest in proceedings of public interest litigation will alone have locus and may approach courts for the poor and needy suffering from violations of their statutory rights. In the present petition, there is nothing to suggest that the affected person has taken up any cause and approached the court. Hence, the present petition is not maintainable.
The affidavit also stated that the petitioner, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, has cited the Shah Bano Case, in which the Supreme Court has observed in favour of framing UCC. The said case does not apply to the present case on the ground that the court cannot direct the executive to enact a particular piece of legislation.
The Delhi HC was examining several similar petitions in which the court had sought the Centre's response.
Petitions sought direction for the Law Commission to draft the UCC within three months by including the uniform minimum age of marriage; grounds of divorce, maintenance and alimony; adoption and guardianship; and succession and inheritance within three months and publish it on the website for wider public deliberation.
The petitions said that the country-wide application of UCC would end multiple personal laws promoting tolerance among various groups across the nation.
The first petition was filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay in 2018 seeking the framing of a UCC to promote national integration and gender justice, equality and dignity for women.
Besides the five pleas, the court had earlier issued a notice to Upadhyay and the Centre on an application by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) seeking to be impleaded as a party in the petition filed by the BJP leader.
After Upadhyay, lawyer Abhinav Beri moved a similar plea for direction to the Centre to constitute a judicial commission or a high-level committee to draft the UCC.
A third petition was filed by Firoz Bakht Ahmed, the chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University and grandnephew of first education minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, in October last year.
The fourth PIL was moved by Amber Zaidi, who claims in her plea to be a social activist and media personality. Zaidi has contended that India "urgently needs a UCC or Indian Civil Code, in the spirit of Article 44 read with Article 14" of the Constitution.
She has claimed she moved the plea with the "sole purpose of securing gender justice, gender equability and the dignity of women."
The fifth petition was filed by Nighat Abbass, who claims to be a social activist, media panellist and political analyst.
The five petitions have sought directions from the Centre to constitute a judicial commission or a high-level expert committee to draft the UCC within three months while considering the best practises of all religions and sects, the civil laws of developed countries and international conventions.
All the petitioners have contended that India "urgently needs a uniform civil code" to promote national integration as well as gender justice, equality and the dignity of women.
The petitioners have contended that gender justice and gender equality, guaranteed under Articles 14-15 of the Constitution and the dignity of women, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, cannot be secured without implementing Article 44 (the State shall endeavour to secure for citizens a UCC throughout the territory of India).
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.