Delhi HC refuses to entertain pleas seeking UCC, cites SC observation
The Supreme Court in March observed that issues such as the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) are meant for the Parliament to decide
The Delhi high court on Friday refused to entertain pleas seeking implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), citing the Supreme Court’s observation in March that such issues are meant for the Parliament to decide. It said that the Law Commission of India was considering the matter afresh and that it did not want to interfere with the process.
The UCC refers to a common set of laws for personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and succession for all citizens. Constitution’s Article 44, one of the directive principles of state policy, advocates UCC. But respective religion-based civil codes have governed personal matters since independence. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states such as Uttarakhand have set up panels to explore UCC implementation.
The Supreme Court in March rejected pleas demanding UCC, saying the courts should not be seen directing the legislature to enact a law. “Entertaining these petitions would mean directing the enactment of [a] law and a mandamus [latin word for command] cannot be issued to the Parliament to enact a law,” a Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud-led bench said.
Former Karnataka high court chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi-led 22nd Law Commission India in June sought suggestions on the UCC from the public and recognised religious organizations. The panel decided to consider the issue afresh even as a 2018 consultation paper of the panel said that UCC was neither necessary nor desirable “at this stage”.
A high court bench of acting chief justice Manmohan and justice Mini Pushkarna said the Supreme Court order is clear. “This is a matter where the Supreme Court has spoken. Even the Supreme Court is saying the intervention can be through a legislative process. Can we give a direction against this order? Let them [Law Commission of India] proceed ahead with the process. ...Let them work.” It added the commission was doing a good job. “Do not come to the high court only because the Supreme Court says that it is not intervening,” acting chief justice Manmohan told the petitioner, BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay.
The high court allowed Upadhyay to withdraw the petitions and put forth his suggestions before the commission.
“Please move the Law Commission. They are undertaking the exercise. At times your action may be bonafide. Why do you want to interdict the process?”
Four other petitions also sought directions to the government to constitute a judicial commission or an expert committee to draft UCC within three months by considering the best practices of all religions and sects.
The batch of petitions was earlier listed in April. The court said they appeared to be prima facie unmaintainable.
The government opposed the pleas in an affidavit filed in the high court saying UCC is a matter of policy, which elected representatives of the people have to decide. It argued that no direction can be issued in this regard. The government said it would examine the issue in consultation with the stakeholders after getting the Law Commission of India’s report.
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