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Delhi HC posts for Dec 1 petitions on Uniform Civil Code


New Delhi, Nov 21
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday posted a series of petitions seeking a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), for December 1 while observing that it cannot do anything if the Supreme Court has already decided the issue.

A Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna observed that an apex court Bench, in March this year, had declined a plea for gender and religion-neutral laws.

The Bench said, “The Supreme Court has already decided the matter… If the matter is covered by the Supreme Court, then we cannot do anything.”

The court noted that none appeared for the petitioners during the proceedings and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay (one of the petitioners) has to place on record his prayers in the petition before the top court.

The Bench then deferred hearing the petitions. In April, the high court had said that implementation of a UCC was prima facie not maintainable and asked the petitioner to present any prayers he had previously made to the Supreme Court with analogous issues.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad, dealing with a plea by Upadhyay, had said, "You file those prayers. We will see. It is prima facie not maintainable. We will first see if it is maintainable."

The court was apprised that the top court declined to hear Upadhyay's petitions in March, noting that these petitions related to gender-neutral and religion-neutral laws belonged to the legislative branch and that he had even withdrawn a UCC-related petition from there in 2015.

It had directed the petitioner to submit the prayers in these matters within four weeks after remarking that a "simpliciter withdrawal" must be separated from a "withdrawal with liberty" to approach a court with the same complaint.

Representing the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, lawyer MR Shamshad had said that he was the intervenor in the case and the Supreme Court has rejected Upadhyay's petitions on the same subject matter.

"He filed four petitions in the Supreme Court which were dismissed. This was his second round," he had said.

Upadhyay stated that divorce under Muslim law was the subject of his petitions to the Supreme Court and that he was awaiting the Law Commission's response.

In order to advance national integration, gender justice and equality, and the dignity of women, Upadhyay had petitioned for the creation of a judicial commission to draft the UCC.

The High Court had requested the Centre's response to this plea in May 2019. Besides Upadhyay's petition, there are four other petitions as well which have contended that India "urgently needs a Uniform Civil Code".

The petitioners have contended that 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 Article 44 (the State shall endeavour to secure for citizens a UCC throughout the territory of India).

According to the petitions, the personal laws, which are based on the scriptures and traditions of many religious communities, will be replaced by the UCC, which will have a uniform set of regulations controlling every citizen of the nation.

In response, the Centre claimed that citizens of various religions and denominations adhering to various property and matrimonial laws is an insult to the unity of the country and that India will become more integrated as a result of the Uniform Civil Code.

It has, however, stated that a petition is not maintainable for formulation of the UCC as it is a "matter of policy", which has to be decided by the elected representatives of the people and no direction can be issued in this regard.

The Centre has asserted it will examine in consultation with stakeholders the issue of formulating the Code after it receives the report of the Law Commission.