SC notice on twin PILs seeking uniform divorce rules, maintenance and alimony for all women

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices with “great caution” on twin PILs seeking uniform grounds of divorce and payment of maintenance and alimony to women across all religions. The PILs were filed by advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay.

A bench led by CJI S.A. Bobde issued notices to the central government’s law ministry seeking its formal response on the pleas made in the petition. The twin pleas were argued by senior advocates Pinky Anand and Meenakshi Arora.

The CJI was wary of the omnibus prayers made in the petition, wondering aloud if the court could step into this area without treading on personal laws of different communities, he eventually issued notices on the pleas.

The petitions sought removal of anomalies in all existing divorce, maintenance and alimony laws and make them uniform for all citizens without any discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

“How can we remove discriminatory practices without interfering in personal laws,” the CJI initially wondered. Senior advocate Pinky Anand pointed out earlier such instances in which the court had intervened to strike down triple talaq.

Arora on her part argued that maintenance in case of Muslim women was restricted only till the biddat period. “Women are left with nothing,” she said. She argued for uniform provisions for women across religions. The CJI said that he was issuing notice with great caution.

Personal laws are a politically sensitive issue in the country. Currently, the grounds on which women can divorce and be divorced vary from religion to religion as they are governed by personal laws governing their own religions.

The country’s only secular law which recognises marriages and divorces across religions and castes, the Special Marriage Act, has few takers as the more equitable Indian Succession Act applies to all marriages registered under the Act.

Though there has been a clamour for a uniform civil code for all religions and several court judgements have in fact suggested that Parliament enact a law to this effect, there has only been incremental progression towards this goal. Politically though it remains a cherished goal of the ruling BJP at the centre. In the triple talaq case too, the central government had backed the stand that triple talaq should be struck down. The government had also passed a similar law in Parliament.

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