Underlining “total confusion” owing to personal laws governing religious practices, the Supreme Court sought to know from the government Monday whether it is willing to bring the Uniform Civil Code in the country. It asked the Solicitor General to seek the government’s view and posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks.
A bench of Justices Vikramjit Sen and Shiva Kirti Singh questioned the government about its mandate on framing the Uniform Civil Code so that unvarying standards are ushered in and all religions are regulated by the same yardsticks in matters of law.
“There is total confusion… we should work on the Uniform Civil Code. What happened to it? If you (government) want to do it, then you should do it. Why don’t you frame and implement it,” the bench asked the counsel appearing for the Centre.
The bench was hearing a petition, challenging the legal provision that compels Christian couples to wait for at least two years for divorce, whereas this period of separation is one year for other religions.
In previous hearings, the bench had been apprised by the government that it had agreed to consider amending Section 10A (1) of the Divorce Act and the Law Ministry had also initiated a proposal.
Christians file for divorce under Section 10A (1) which states that a petition for dissolution of marriage by mutual consent can be presented before a court only after a judicial separation of two years. However, the period of separation is one year in other statutes such as the Special Marriage Act, the Hindu Marriage Act and the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act.
During the hearing Monday, the bench was displeased that even three months after the last date, the provision had not been amended. “What happened? Why this cannot be done? You should tell us if you want to do it,” the bench said as the government counsel sought some more time.
Dissatisfied with the counsel’s response, the bench then sought assistance of Solicitor General of India Ranjit Kumar who was present in court to attend some other matter. It asked Kumar about the government’s position with respect to bringing uniformity in the divorce laws across religions.
Kumar said he was not aware of the case and would require some time to go through the papers for properly assisting the bench on the issue as well as to get instructions from the authority concerned regarding the amendment in law. The bench asked the Solicitor General to also seek the government’s views on the Uniform Civil Code and posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks.
In the last hearing, the court said Section 10A (1) lacked rationale and asked the government why it did not amend the law even after some high courts held it to be violative of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty).
While hearing a separate matter in February, a bench led by Justice Sen had asserted: “We have to stamp out religion from civil laws. It is very necessary. There are already too many problems.”
The bench was then hearing a PIL by advocate Clarence Pais who wanted the apex court to put its stamp of approval on the decrees of divorce and other such decrees issued by an ecclesiastical court or tribunal. An ecclesiastical court, set up under the Canon Law, is an institution for Catholic Christians.
“This cannot be accepted, otherwise every religion will say it has a right to decide various issues as a matter of its personal law. We don’t agree with this at all. It has to be done though a decree of a court,” the court had observed.