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SC favours introduction of Uniform Civil Code
Onkar Singh in New Delhi |
July 23, 2003 12:16 IST
Last Updated: July 23, 2003 17:40 IST
In a major development, the Supreme Court on Wednesday regretted the non-implementation of a Uniform Civil Code while hearing a petition pertaining to the Indian Succession Act.
Delivering its verdict, a three-judge bench regretted that Article 44 of the Constitution had not been given effect to even after over 50 years of independence.
[Article 44, under the Directive Principles of State Policy, says - The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.]
The bench, comprising Chief Justice V N Khare, Justice S B Sinha and Justice Dr A R Lakshmanan, was hearing a petition challenging section 118 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, which prevents Christians from bequeathing property for religious and charitable purposes.
The petition was moved by John Vallamattom, a Christian priest, and one other person in 1997.
"Section 118 of the Act imposes a restriction only on Indian Christians. The said restriction is not applicable to citizens of other religions, including Parsis," the petitioner said.
He also pointed out that if anyone wanted to donate property for religious and charitable purposes, the person's 'will' would have to be on record at least 12 months prior to his/her death.
Else, the 'will' was considered invalid.
"We find that section 118 of the Act being unreasonable is arbitrary and discriminatory and, therefore, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution," Justice Khare said.
[Article 14: Equality before law - The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.]
"We would like to state that Article 44 provides that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India," Justice Khare said.
"It is a matter of regret that Article 44 of the Constitution has not been given effect to. Parliament is still to step in and frame a common civil code in the country. A common civil code will help the cause of national integration by removing the contradictions based on ideologies."
"For the reasons aforementioned, this writ is allowed and Section 118 of the Indian Succession Act is declared unconstitutional being violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India," Justice Khare said.
Justice S B Sinha and Justice A R Lakshmanan also passed separate orders agreeing with Chief Justice V N Khare.
Justice Sinha said that the provision in question was enacted to prevent persons from making an ill-considered deathbed bequest.
"The objective behind the said legislation was, therefore, to protect the section of illiterate or semi literate persons who used to blindly follow the preachers of religion."
"Such a purpose has lost all significance with the passage of time," he wrote in his order.