by Dhananjay Mahapatra
Publication: The Times Of India Mumbai; Date: Feb 9, 2011; Section: Front Page; Page: 1
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Centre again over its failure to overhaul the personal laws of the minority communities, saying it was a reflection of its secular credentials.
It said the government’s attempts to reform personal laws didn’t go beyond Hindus. “The Hindu community has been tolerant of these statutory interventions. But there appears (to be) a lack of secular commitment as it has not happened for other religions,” it said.
The SC made the observation while hearing petitions filed by the national women’s panel and its Delhi chapter seeking a uniform marriageable age. They complained that different stipulations in different statutes had created confusion.
Explaining the differences in age limits provided in the statutes, additional solicitor general Indira Jaising said they were meant to achieve diverse social objectives.
“Though the government feels that girls above 16 years should be said to have attained the age of consent to sexual relations and hence could marry, the formal age of marriage will stay at 18,” the additional solicitor general said.
FAITH & LAW
SC says govt has reformed only Hindu law, failed to overhaul personal law of minority communities
National Commission for Women sought formulation of uniform marriageable age for girls, saying different age limits in different statutes created confusion
Additional solicitorgeneral Indira Jaising says differences meant to achieve diverse social objectives
Says Hindu Marriage Act needs changes to conform to age limit in Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 ‘Tough to have uniform marriage age’
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday took the government to task over the overhaul of personal laws of the minority communities. Questioned by the SC and Aparna Bhat—the counsel for the National Commission for Women, which had filed a plea seeking a uniform age for marriage–about the glaring discrepancies in different laws and how the government planned to reconcile them, additional solicitor general Indira Jaising said, “Hindu law 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 could 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 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 and 18 years are voidable. In the last two decades, SC has repeatedly stressed the importance of enacting a uniform civil code (UCC) as advised by the Constitution. Between the Shah Bano judgment in 1985, Sarla Mudgal ruling (1995) and the John Vallamatom verdict in 2003, the court had thrice stressed the need to enact a UCC, saying it would help forge national integration and remove dissimilarities.
The provision for a UCC is incorporated in Article 44 under the Directive Principles chapter of the Constitution. TNN