A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking “gender and religion neutral" uniform grounds of maintenance and alimony for all citizens keeping with the spirit of the Constitution and international conventions. The plea filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeks directions to the Union home and law ministries to take appropriate steps to remove the prevailing anomalies in the grounds of maintenance and alimony and make them uniform for all citizens without discrimination on the basis of religion, race, cast, sex or place of birth.
The petition, filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, said that despite the eloquent provisions in the Constitution, the central government has totally failed to provide even gender-neutral, religion-neutral uniform grounds of maintenance and alimony for all citizens. Maintenance and alimony is the only source of livelihood hence discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth is a direct attack on the right to life, liberty and dignity, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, it said.
“Even after 73 years of Independence and 70 years of India becoming a socialist secular democratic republic, laws relating to maintenance and alimony are not only complex and cumbersome but also against the constitutional mandate of being equal, rational and just," it said. “Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 and the Hindu Adoption & Maintenance Act 1956. Muslims are dealt as per status of valid marriage & prenuptial agreement and governed under the Muslim Women Act 1986. Christians are governed under the Indian Divorce Act 1869 and Parsis under the Parsi Marriage & Divorce Act 1936, but none of these laws are gender neutral," it said.
The PIL stated that discriminatory maintenance and alimony reinforce patriarchal and stereotypical notions about women and thus any provision that perpetrates or reinforces discriminatory stereotypes against women is manifestly arbitrary. The plea has sought directions to declare that the discriminatory grounds of maintenance and alimony are violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 of the Constitution.
It has also sought directions to the Law Commission to examine domestic and international laws and prepare a report on “uniform grounds of maintenance and alimony" within three months.