The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a PIL seeking direction to parliament to enact a Uniform Civil Code to end alleged discrimination being faced by Muslim women. It told the petitioner to approach parliament and not waste the court’s time.
The public interest petition (PIL) was filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, an advocate and spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi unit.
Former law minister M. Veerapa Moily hailed the court judgment while Bharatiya Janata Party MP Hukmdev Narayan Yadav said the government should seriously think about enacting a law for Uniform Civil Code.
The issue also figured during the special sitting of parliament as part of the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of B.R. Ambedkar, with Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot suggesting its implementation.
A bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice R. Banumathi observed it is for parliament to take a call on the issue and not in the realm of the apex court to issue a direction to parliament on this.
Chief Justice Thakur, in a disapproving note, told senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the petitioner, that if such petitions were filed without regard to the law, the court will come down very heavily.
Pointing out that the legal position on the issue was “very well settled”, the court told the petitioner advocate that he was “wasting the court’s time”.
The court asked why none of those who are being allegedly discriminated against have come forward for redressal. “Why is it that none of the people from the community have come,” asked Chief Justice Thakur.
If an aggrieved woman comes to the court, we may still consider examining it, the court said, questioning the locus standi of the petitioner to raise the issue before the court.
Asking Upadhyay to approach parliament for such a legislation, the bench said: “What you cannot do directly, you are trying to do it indirectly?”
The petitioner sought direction to the government to take steps for the enactment of the Uniform Civil Code in fulfilment of its obligation under the Directive Principles of the State Policy in the Constitution. Article 44, under the principles, says: “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India.”
Moily said that Supreme Court was right that it was for parliament to decide on the issue.
“Uniform Civil Code is one of the Directive Principles but it is not necessary that all Directive Principles are enacted (into law). It is a direction in which parliament may proceed,” Moily told IANS.
He said India was a land with huge diversity and there were many personal laws.
The former law minister said it was not only an issue between Hindus, Muslims and Christians but within the Hindu community also which has several systems such as patriarchal, matriarchal apart from tribal customs.
He said a government can proceed only on the basis of consensus on issue like Uniform Civil Code, otherwise “we will be dividing the country”.
Hukmdev Narain Yadav, a BJP MP from Madhubani in Bihar, said the government must seriously contemplate a legislation to enact Uniform Civil Code, noting socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia was also in its favour.
“Talking about any religion in the context of Uniform Civil Code is talking against the constitution,” Yadav said.
He, however, said a government can go for a strong step only if there is public support. “If people want it (Uniform Civil Code), there should be a movement (for it).”