Personal laws cannot come in the way of an individual’s decision to adopt a child under the juvenile justice act, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday, adding the special law was a “small step” towards a uniform civil code.
The judgment was delivered on activist Shabnam Hashmi’s petition, requesting the court to declare the right to adopt and to be adopted a fundamental right. She had also sought optional guidelines enabling adoption irrespective of religion, caste, creed etc.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam didn’t accept Hashmi’s plea to declare right to adopt a fundamental right. However, it clarified that the juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act (JJA) allowed people belonging to any religion and also any person who does not submit to a personal law to adopt a child.
Rejecting the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s (AIMPLB) opposition to the PIL, it said, “Personal beliefs and faiths, though must be honoured, cannot dictate the operation of the provisions of an enabling statute.” AIMPLB had contested Hashmi’s plea.
A prospective parent, the court said, was free to adopt under JJA or not to do so following on the person’s understanding of the dictates of the personal law applicable to him.
The JJA, the court held, did not make it mandatory for a prospective parent to access the provisions of the law.
“Conflicting view points prevailing between different communities as on date, on the subject, make the vision contemplated by Article 44 of the Constitution i.e. a uniform civil code a goal yet to be fully reached…,” the court said. It was necessary to maintain restraint as it was the legislature’s job, it said.
JJA would continue to allow adoption to any person submitting to the provisions of the optional legislation until a uniform civil code was achieved, the court held.
“The legislature which is better equipped to comprehend the mental preparedness of the entire citizenry to think united on the issue has expressed its view, for the present, by the enactment of the JJ Act 2000 and the same must receive due respect,” the court said.
The uniform code was only possible through a collective effort of the generation(s) “to sink conflicting faiths and beliefs that are still,” the bench said.