The Supreme Court on March 10 issued notice on a plea seeking uniform laws to govern succession and inheritance matters. The bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde has sought a reply from the Centre and tagged the matter with another plea filed by the same advocate on uniform laws for divorce and maintenance.
In his plea, advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay submits that neutrality and uniformity in succession and inheritance is not only necessary to ensure gender justice, gender equality and dignity of women but also essential to promote fraternity, unity and national integration.
"The absence of these tenets has led to the blatant continuation of prejudice on the basis of religion and gender," the plea read.
Upadhyay has essentially sought to replace personal law matters with uniform laws. Currently, matters pertaining to marriage, divorce, inheritance, maintenance are governed by personal laws which in turn are led by religious scriptures.
"Our constitution has been amended 125 Times and the judgements of the Supreme Court have been nullified 5 times. However due to appeasement politics, successive governments failed to implement Article 44 (Uniform Civil Code) which is the soul of our constitution," Upadhyay said speaking to BOOM.
The ruling dispensation led by the Bharatiya Janata Party has also backed the replacement of personal laws with a uniform civil code.
Discrimination in laws reinforce patriarchal stereotype: Plea in SC
Succession and inheritance laws are crucial and pivotal affairs directly affecting fundamental rights to life, liberty and dignity. "Discriminatory grounds of succession and inheritance not only reinforce patriarchal notions but also contravene principles of gender justice, equality and dignity of women, the plea read.
"Gender gap in property ownership is [one of] the most important reasons for gender inequity," the plea read. "There is no logic to providing separate succession and inheritance schemes on the basis of gender and religion, the plea added.
All personal laws relating to succession and inheritance hold a primitive concept and need to be rationalized and codified in spirit if fundamental rights of equality and international conventions India is a party too.
The desirability of a uniform civil code can hardly be doubted: SC
Upadhyay has filed at least five pleas in the Supreme Court seeking to replace personal laws with gender-neutral laws. His plea seeking the Uniform Civil Code is also pending in the Delhi High Court.
Upadhyay has referred to a catena of judgments – Shah Bano, Sarla Mudgal, Jose Paulo Coutinho, among others where the top court has reiterated the need for uniform civil code (UCC). Upadhyay has also quoted the Lily Thomas judgment where the top court observed that "the desirability of uniform civil code can hardly be doubted."
There have been many instances where the top court has directed the Law Commission to prepare law reports on the feasibility of the same, Upadhyay's plea said.
"Successive governments have been wholly remiss in their duty to implementing the constitutional mandate under Article 44 (directive principle where the State shall endevour to provide for UCC)," Upadhyay submitted quoting the top court's observation directing the government to file an affidavit indicating steps taken to implement the UCC in another unrelated petition.
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