State Government’s power to form a committee on UCC cannot per se be challenged: SC

SC refuses to interfere in plea challenging formation of Uttarakhand committee on UCC

Updated - January 10, 2023 12:38 am IST

Published - January 09, 2023 04:53 pm IST - New Delhi

Supreme Court of India. File

Supreme Court of India. File | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

The Supreme Court on Monday held that a State government’s authority under the Constitution to form a committee to examine the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) cannot per se be challenged.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud found no merit in the argument by petitioner-in-person Anoop Baranwal that only the Centre could set up a Committee for the implementation of the UCC.

The petition had challenged the Uttarakhand government’s move to set up a Committee on UCC. The Uttarakhand committee on UCC is headed by former apex court judge, Justice Ranjana P. Desai.

“Article 162 of the Constitution indicates that the executive power of a State extends to matters with respect to which the Legislature of the State has power to make laws. In view of the provisions of Entry 5 of the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule, the constitution of a Committee per se cannot be challenged as ultra vires,” the Supreme Court said in the order on Monday.

Entry 5 of the Concurrent List deals with “marriage and divorce; infants and minors; adoption; wills, intestacy and succession; joint family and partition; all matters in respect of which parties in judicial proceedings were immediately before the commencement of this Constitution subject to their personal law”.

The apex court’s refusal to interfere in the case of BJP-ruled Uttarakhand and its recorded observation in a judicial order that a State government did indeed have the power to take steps towards implementing the UCC would prove decisive and encourage other State governments to take similar measures.

Gujarat too has decided to form its committee for the implementation of the UCC.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami’s decision to form a committee to prepare a UCC draft for the State had raised questions about whether an individual State could bring its own family law code and the impact it may have in a pluralist society with personal laws based on the customs of religious communities.

Goa’s Portuguese Civil Code of 1867 is an example of a common family law prevalent in a State.

The promulgation of the UCC emerges as a positive obligation and not duty of the State under Article 44 of the Constitution in the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP).

The DPSP urges “the State shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India”.

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