The Delhi High Court said on Tuesday the petition by lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking implementation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) was prima facie not maintainable and asked him to place before it the prayers made by him before the Supreme Court in similar matters.
“You file those prayers. We will see. It is prima facie not maintainable. We will first see if it is maintainable,” a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad told Upadhyay.
The court was informed that in March the top court refused to entertain petitions by Upadhyay in respect of gender neutral and religion neutral laws observing that these fell within the legislative domain and that he had even withdrawn a plea from there in relation to UCC in 2015.
The court remarked that a “simpliciter withdrawal” has to be distinguished from a “withdrawal with liberty” to approach a court with the same grievance and directed the petitioner to file the prayers in these matters in four weeks.
Lawyer MR Shamshad, representing the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said 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 Supreme Court which were dismissed….This was his second round,” he said.
Upadhyay said his pleas before the apex court concerned talaq (divorce) under the muslim law and he was awaiting the response of the law commission.
In May 2019, the high court had sought the Centre’s response to Upadhyay’s petition seeking constitution of a judicial commission to draft the UCC in order to promote national integration, gender justice and equality, and dignity of women.
Besides Upadhyay’s petition, there are four others 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).
The petitions have claimed that the UCC, with a common set of rules governing every citizen of the country, will replace the personal laws, which are based on the scriptures and customs of various religious communities.
In response, the Centre has said citizens from different religions and denominations following different property and matrimonial laws is an affront to the nation’s unity and the Uniform Civil Code will result in the integration of India.
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.
The matter will be heard next on August 3.