Derecognise church courts, Christian body pleads SC

December 28, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Delhi, December 28, 2016: Joining the chorus for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), a Christian body has approached the Supreme Court with a demand to derecognise ‘church courts’, terming that any privilege that allows a particular religion to have its own legal system is “divisive” for a secular India.

Raising its voice against the existence and prevalence of Ecclesiastical Courts, the validity of which is under challenge before the apex court, the body called “Joint Christian Council” (JCC) was of the view that such religious courts that adjudicate personal laws of a particular religion are “anachronistic” in a modern democratic state.

A Bench, headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, issued notice to the Centre on the application drafted by advocate Santosh Paul and allowed the body to intervene in a pending petition by a lawyer, Clarence Pais. Seeking recognition of all decisions taken by Ecclesiastical Courts, Pais contended that several Catholic men had remarried after their first marriage was annulled by these courts.

She further contended that if these decisions were to be set aside by the apex court, thousands of Catholic men will be arrested for bigamy under the Indian Penal Code.

The application holds significance as the apex court has already asked the Centre whether it wanted to implement Article 44 of the Constitution, which talks of a Uniform Civil Code. At the same time, another bench of the Supreme Court is dealing with the validity of Sharia laws that form the code of law for marriage and divorce among Muslims.

The Kerala-based Joint Christian Council in its application said, “It is dangerously divisive for secular India to give special privilege to a particular faith in the form of Ecclesiastical Courts…it would be no solution to try to give multiple religions multiple legal system. There are simply too many different faiths and beliefs and it would be chaotic legal systems if such prayers are granted.”

The application said Ecclesiastical Courts are peculiar to English jurisprudence which has a State religion. These courts were controlled by the Church but by the 19th century many of the clauses dealt with by the over 365 Ecclesiastical Courts were either abolished or stood transferred to civil courts.

Finding no relevance of such courts in a secular, democratic society like India, the application suggested, “It is unfair and divisive for organised religion to have a privileged formal role in the constitution of a modern democratic state.” Moreover, the Council argued that within the Christian population in the country, there exists a diversity of beliefs and practices. Hence, it is “manifestly wrong” to recognise a common court for all Christian denominations.

– daily pioneer

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