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High Court urges Law Ministry to act for Uniform Civil Code
Satprakash Meena Vs Alka Meena
C.R.P.1/2021 and CM APPL. 332/2021
About/from the judgment:
The High Court underscored the growing necessity to have in place a Uniform Civil Code for the country in view of the rapid transformation of Indian society with the gradual dissipation of traditional barriers of religion, community and caste.
The Judge observed that with the Indian society becoming more homogeneous, youth of India belonging to various communities, tribes, castes or religions should not be forced to grapple with issues arising due to conflicts in various personal laws, especially in relation to marriage and divorce.
"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," the Court said in its judgment.
Hence, the hope expressed in Article 44 of the Constitution that the State shall secure for its citizens Uniform Civil Code should not remain a mere hope, the Court added.
"The hope expressed in Article 44 of the Constitution that the State shall secure for its citizens Uniform Civil Code should not remain a mere hope."
These observations came in a challenge to the Family Court’s order holding that the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA) would not be applicable to the members of the Meena community as it is a notified Scheduled Tribe.
The Petitioner-husband submitted that the marriage was solemnized as per Hindu rites and customs and, therefore, the HMA would be squarely applicable.
It was further argued that if courts hold that the Scheduled Tribe, Meena is not governed by the HMA, it would lead to enormous difficulties for women as bigamy would be recognised and could lead to desertion of women.
On the other hand, the Respondent-wife submitted that judgments from various Courts, including the Supreme Court, clearly stated that even if Hindu customs are being followed, it would not automatically mean that the provisions of the HMA are applicable in the case of members of a notified Scheduled Tribe.
After deliberation on facts and precedent, the Delhi High Court found that in the case of divorce proceedings, if proper tribal customs are not established or the parties admit to following Hindu customs and rites, there is no reason to hold that the provisions of the HMA are not applicable.
Therefore, the Court allowed the appeal and directed the trial court to proceed with divorce proceedings.
Elaborating on the issue of conflicts arising out of personal laws, the Court recalled a judgement of the Supreme Court from 1985 in Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum in which it was held that “a common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies."
The Court also discussed the Supreme Court’s observations in Ms Jordon Diengdeh v. S.S. Chopra, amongst others which stated that “surely the time has now come for a complete reform of the law of marriage and make a uniform law applicable to all people irrespective of religion or caste.”
In Ms Jordon Diengdeh, the Supreme Court had directed that the judgment to be placed before the Ministry of Law for steps to be taken to introduce a Uniform Civil Code.
However, despite three decades having passed, no clear steps have been taken in this regard, the High Court noted.
The Court, therefore, directed that the present judgment be placed before the Law Ministry for appropriate action.
Therefore, she noted, “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.”
Read the Judgment
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