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Plea In SC Seeks Religion-Neutral, Gender-Neutral Grounds Of Maintenance, Alimony

Mehal Jain
3 Oct 2020 11:31 AM GMT
Plea In SC Seeks Religion-Neutral, Gender-Neutral Grounds Of Maintenance, Alimony
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The Supreme Court has been moved in a PIL seeking a direction to the Centre to take steps to remove the prevailing anomalies in the grounds of maintenance and alimony and to make them uniform for all citizens without discrimination on the basis of religion, race, cast, sex or place of birth in spirit of the Articles 14, 15, 21, 44 and the International Conventions;The petition by Ashwini...

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The Supreme Court has been moved in a PIL seeking a direction to the Centre to take steps to remove the prevailing anomalies in the grounds of maintenance and alimony and to make them uniform for all citizens without discrimination on the basis of religion, race, cast, sex or place of birth in spirit of the Articles 14, 15, 21, 44 and the International Conventions;

The petition by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, Supreme Court advocate and BJP leader, avers that the constituting cause of action accrued on 13.09.2019 and when the top court in Jose Paulo Coutinho's Case once again reiterated the need of uniform civil code by citing the shining example of Goa. "But the Centre has not taken any step to even provide uniform grounds of maintenance and alimony for all Indian citizens", it is contended.
The plea argues that despite the eloquent provisions in the Constitution itself, the Centre has totally failed to provide even 'Gender Neutral Religion Neutral Uniform Grounds of Maintenance & Alimony' for all citizens.
"The injury caused to the public is extremely large because 'maintenance and alimony' is one of the most crucial elements of life and generally comes in Court of law. For many citizens, Maintenance & alimony is the only source of livelihood hence discrimination on the basis of religion race caste sex or place of birth is direct attack on right to life liberty & dignity, guaranteed under Article 21", it is advanced.
It is lamented that even after 73 years of independence and 70 years of India becoming a socialist secular democratic republic, laws relating to maintenance & alimony are not only complex and cumbersome but also against the constitutional mandate of being equal, rational and just.
"Hindus Buddhists Sikhs Jains are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 and Hindu Adoption & Maintenance Act 1956. Muslims are dealt as per status of valid marriage & prenuptial agreement and governed under Muslim Women Act 1986. Christians are governed under Indian Divorce Act 1869 and Parsis under Parsi Marriage & Divorce Act 1936 but none of these laws are gender neutral", it is pointed out.
The plea submits that under the same circumstances, Hindu Muslim Christian & Parsi spouses get different alimony. Similarly, under the same circumstances, Hindu Muslim Christian and Parasi parents get different maintenance. Likewise, Hindu Muslim Christian & Parasi children get different maintenance.
"Initially all affairs viz. crime, trade, procedure, contract, commerce were governed by religious law but with the rise of civilization, religious domination on affairs started contracting and pieces of legislation took its place. In developed countries, personal law is only confined to rituals of marriage, but in India, secular acts like maintenance, alimony guardianship, adoption, succession and inheritance are still governed by personal laws, which are against constitutional ethos and various directions of this Hon'ble Court", the petition urges.
It is suggested that maintenance and alimony are related to right to life, liberty, dignity and livelihood and directly affect mental & psychological wellbeing and any discrimination aggravates vulnerability, and therefore, there is a dire need to have gender-neutral, religion-neutral uniform grounds of maintenance and alimony.
Alternatively, it is prayed that, being the custodian of the Constitution and protector of the fundamental rights, the Court declare that the discriminatory grounds of maintenance and alimony are violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 of the Constitution and frame gender neutral religion neutral uniform guidelines for maintenance and alimony for all Indian citizens;
The petitioner has suggested that the Court may even consider directing the Law Commission of India to examine the domestic and international laws and prepare a report on 'uniform grounds of maintenance and alimony' within 3 months in spirit of the Articles 14, 15, 21 & 44 and the international conventions.
Mr. Upadhyay has recently also approached the apex court with PILs for uniformity in grounds of succession and inheritance, and of divorce.

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