Delhi HC Bats for Uniform Civil Code, Says Can't Remain Mere Hope
The Delhi High Court said courts have been repeatedly confronted with the conflicts that arise in personal laws.
The Delhi High Court on Friday, 9 July, said there is a need for the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) to become a reality so that the youth of modern India belonging to various communities, tribes, castes or religions who solemnise their marriages ought not to be forced to struggle with issues arising due to conflicts in various personal laws.
The court said that the hope expressed in Article 44 of the Constitution that the state shall secure for its citizens Uniform Civil Code "ought not to remain a mere hope".
A single Bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh said, the need for a Uniform Civil Code as envisioned under Article 44, has been reiterated from time to time by the Supreme Court.
"The need for such a code — 'common to all', which would enable uniform principles being applied in respect of aspects such as marriage, divorce, succession etc., so that settled principles, safeguards, and procedures can be laid down and citizens are not made to struggle due to the conflicts and contradictions in various personal laws," the Bench added.
She said courts have been repeatedly confronted with the conflicts that arise in personal laws, and persons belonging to various communities, castes and religions, who forge marital bonds, struggle with such conflicts.
She cited that the top court in its 1985 judgment, expressing hope of bringing uniformity and to eliminate these struggles and conflicts, had said, "It is also a matter of regret that Article 44 of our Constitution has remained a dead letter." It provides that, "The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India."
The court noted that no community is likely to bell the cat by making gratuitous concessions on this issue. It is the State that is charged with the duty of securing a uniform civil code for the citizens of the country and, unquestionably, it has the legislative competence to do so.
The court emphasised that in modern Indian society, which is gradually becoming homogenous, the traditional barriers of religion, community, and caste are slowly dissipating. "The youth of India belonging to various communities, tribes, castes or religions who solemnise their marriages ought not to be forced to struggle with issues arising due to conflicts in various personal laws, especially in relation to marriage and divorce", it added.
Citing the top court 1985 judgment, the court said more than three decades have passed since then and it is unclear as to what steps have been taken for implementation of UCC.
"Accordingly, let the copy of the present judgment be communicated to the Secretary, Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India, for necessary action as deemed appropriate", said the court.
The high court passed the judgment setting aside a trial court's order, which dismissed a divorce petition filed by a man on his wife's assertion that both of them belonged to 'Meena' community, which is a notified Scheduled Tribe and the Hindu Marriage Act would not apply to them.
The court said in this case, the marriage had taken place as per Hindu customs and rites.
"If members of a tribe voluntarily choose to follow Hindu customs, traditions and rites they cannot be kept out of the purview of the provisions of the HMA (Hindu Marriage Act), 1955," said the Bench.
The court noted in divorce proceedings, if proper tribal customs are not established or the following of Hindu customs or rites is admitted by the parties, there is no reason to hold that the provisions of the HMA, 1955 would not apply.
"Codified statutes and laws provide for various protections to parties against any unregulated practices from being adopted. In this day and age, relegating parties to customary courts when they themselves admit that they are following Hindu customs and traditions would be antithetical to the purpose behind enacting a statute like the HMA, 1955," it added.
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