Government changed only Hindu laws : Supreme Court
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has again pulled up the government for its failure to overhaul personal laws of the minority communities, saying that it was a reflection on their secular credentials.The court also said on Tuesday that government’s attempts to reform personal laws don’t go beyond Hindus who have been more tolerant of such initiatives.”The Hindu community has been tolerant to these statutory interventions. But there appears a lack of secular commitment as it has not happened for other religions.”Justices Dalveer Bhandari and A K Ganguly made the observation while hearing petitions filed by the National Commission for Women and its Delhi chapter.
The petitioners have sought formulation of a uniform marriageable age and complained that different stipulations in as many statutes had created confusion. Additional solicitor general Indira Jaising explained the differences in age limits provided in statutes, saying that these were meant to achieve diverse social objectives. “Hence, there could not be a uniform age.
Though the government feels that girls above 16 years should be said to have attained the age of consent to sexual relation and hence could marry, the formal age of marriage would stay at 18 years,” argued the ASG. When asked by the bench and NCW counsel Aparna Bhat about the glaring discrepancies between different laws and how government plans to reconcile them, Jaising said: “Hindu laws is one of the finest laws, a saying that has to be taken with a pinch of salt. It provides for all oppression and also the escape route. The problem with the Hindu law is that legislators have tried to chip away little by little but there is no overhauling of it.”Jaising argued that though there can be no uniform marriage age, other laws,including the Hindu Marriage Act, needed amendments to make them conform to the age of marriage provided under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act,2006.She said under the 2006 law, marriages in which the girls are below 16 years are void and those in which they are between 16-18 years are voidable.
In the last two decades, the Supreme Court had stressed time and again the importance of enacting a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) as advised by the Constitution. Between the Shah Bano judgment in 1985, Sarla Mudgal judgment (1995) and John Vallamatom verdict in 2003, the court had thrice stressed the need for enacting a UCC, saying it would help forge national integration and remove dissimilarities.Provision for UCC is incorporated in Article 44 under the Directive Principles chapter of the Constitution, which says, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”The Directive Principles, despite being termed by the Constitution itself as ‘fundamental in the governance of the country’ and that ‘it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws’, are not enforceable in a court of law.
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