The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice on petitions seeking direction to the Centre to implement gender- and religion- neutral grounds in matters of awarding maintenance and alimony, and uniform grounds for divorce for all citizens, even as it wondered whether the court can enter into the field of personal laws.
“Government is the pulse of people. They can do so. How can we as a Court encroach on personal laws,” Chief Justice S A Bobde, heading a three-judge bench, observed while seeking the Centre’s response on a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said it is issuing the notice “with great caution”.
The CJI asked senior advocates Pinki Anand and Meenakshi Arora, who appeared for the petitioner, whether they were seeking abolition of personal laws. “No,” Anand responded. The CJI said that did not seem to be the case and observed, “You are asking us to encroach upon personal laws and remove the distinction that they create.”
Anand referred to previous instances such as the Shayara Bano case, in which the court ruled against the practice of instant triple talaq, to contend that courts had struck down provisions in personal laws found to be unconstitutional. She added that in the Sarla Mudgal case, the court had underscored the need for a Common Civil Code.
“Did we say in Shayara Bano (case) that the grounds of divorce be same,” the CJI asked, and added that in the instant triple talaq case, Parliament had also passed a legislation. Anand pointed out that the court had previously intervened even in matters where no prior law was made, and should do the same in the present matter as well.
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