The Supreme Court Wednesday sought response from the Centre on a PIL seeking to remove anomalies in succession and inheritance laws and make them uniform for all citizens. The petition said gender and religion-neutral laws in succession and inheritance is necessary to secure justice, equality and dignity of women, and alleged that the central government has not taken any steps in this regard till date.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notices to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Women and Child Development.
The bench tagged the matter with a pending plea seeking uniform grounds of divorce and also allowed a plea seeking intervention in the matter.
The plea, filed through advocate Ashwini Kumar Dubey, has also sought directions to the Law Commission to examine the laws relating to succession and inheritance of the developed countries and international conventions in this regard and prepare a report on ''uniform grounds of succession and inheritance'' for all citizens within three months.
"The injury caused to the citizens is extremely large because gender-biased and religion biased personal laws relating to succession and inheritance are not only against the constitutional ethos of gender justice & gender equality, guaranteed under articles 14-15, but also against the dignity of women, which is an important element of right life to life & liberty, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution," the plea said.
"However even after 73 years of independence and 70 years of becoming sovereign socialist secular democratic republic; the Centre has failed to provide gender-neutral and religion-neutral uniform grounds of succession & inheritance in the spirit of the Articles 14, 15, 21, 44 and international conventions," it said.
The PIL stated that existing personal laws being very "complex and cumbersome" are against the goals of preamble.
It said that Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains are governed by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and Christians, Parsis and Jews are governed by the Indian Succession Act, 1925.
"Similarly, Muslims are governed by the Shariat Act, in which the share of a female heir is half of the male heirs. Moreover, existing personal laws relating to succession and inheritance are not only against the constitutional ethos of gender justice, gender equality & dignity of women but also brazenly offend Articles 14, 15, 21 of the Constitution and international conventions," the plea said.
The PIL contended that succession and inheritance is the most crucial and pivotal issue and directly affects the right to life, liberty and dignity, guaranteed under Article 21.
"Discriminatory grounds of succession & inheritance not only reinforce patriarchal stereotypical notions but also contravene principles of gender justice, gender equality and dignity of women guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution," it said.
The plea has also sought to declare that the discriminatory grounds of succession and inheritance are violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 of the Constitution and frame gender-neutral, religion-neutral, uniform guidelines of succession and inheritance for all citizens.