PIL seeks uniform grounds of divorce for all Indians

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking ‘Uniform Grounds of Divorce’ for all citizens throughout the territory of India in the spirit of the Constitution and International Conventions.

The plea filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Upadhyay also seeks a direction to declare discriminatory grounds of divorce as violative of Articles 14 (Equality before law), 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth), 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution. It seeks guidelines for ‘Uniform Grounds of Divorce’ for all citizens while considering the laws of divorce and international conventions.

“Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains have to seek divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955. Muslim, Christian & Parsis have their own personal laws. Couple belongs to different religion have to seek divorce under the Special Marriage Act, 1956. If either partner is foreign national then he has to seek divorce under Foreign Marriage Act 1969”, the plea states.

Thus, the petitioner argues that the grounds of divorce are neither gender-neutral nor religion-neutral. For example, adultery is a ground of divorce for Hindus, Christians, and Parsis but not for Muslims.

The plea further states incurable leprosy is a ground of divorce for Hindus and Christians but not for Parsis & Muslims. Impotency is a ground of divorce for Hindus-Muslims but not for Christian-Parsis. It adds that underage marriage is a ground of divorce for Hindus but not for Christians, Parasis and Muslims.

“Similarly, many other grounds of divorce are neither gender-neutral nor religion-neutral, though, equity equality and equal opportunity is the hallmark of a socialist secular democratic republic like ours”, the plea states.

The ongoing distinction is based on patriarchal and stereotypes and has no scientific backing, perpetrates de jure and de facto inequality against women; which is against the global trends.

To buttress his argument, Upadhyay argues that minimum marriage age, grounds of divorce, custody, guardianship, adoption, maintenance, succession and inheritance, are the secular activities.

“It is duty of the State to ensure that men and women have uniform age of marriage, uniform grounds of divorce, uniform maintenance & alimony, uniform succession & inheritance, uniform adoption & guardianship in spirit of Articles 14, 15, 21 and International Conventions”, the plea states.

The plea claims uniformity is essential to secure gender justice, gender equality, and dignity of women but State has not taken steps in this regard.

It goes on to state that the injury caused to the public is large because divorce is among the most traumatic misfortunes for men and women but even after 73 years of independence, divorce procedures are very complex and neither gender-neutral nor religion-neutral.