This article is written by Varchaswa Dubey from JECRC University, Jaipur. This article is an exhaustive work concerning the case of Khushi Ram v. Nawal Singh. The article in hand is further concerned with the rights of women in general.
The principles of gender equality, non-discrimination, equal pay for equal work, equal rights in succession and inheritance of property, etc. are all highly phrased terms in Indian laws however the ground reality reflects a contrary perspective. The Indian judiciary has always strived to uphold the rights of women yet the social and cultural barriers are always present to degrade the desire for the judgment of the court.
The rights of women have constantly been debated yet still the condition of women on the ground level continues to degrade due to lack of enforceability and unawareness of laws. Women who raise their voices face the community and family outcasts and a long duration of delay in seeking justice.
The case of Khushi Ram v. Nawal Singh (2021) is concerned with the rights of a woman in the succession of the property after the death of her husband. In the said case the Supreme Court of India held that a Married woman’s heirs on her parental side are not strangers for the purposes of succession under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
Women’s rights in India are suppressed in every way possible be it marriage, divorce, succession and inheritance, adoption, maintenance, etc. but to uphold the dignity of women, the bestowed laws must be enforced with more manners.
Origins of the rights of women
In ancient India, women were given equal status with men and were given equal respect considering all aspects of society. Women enjoyed high status in society and were respected in all ways possible. Women were also only married after attaining mature age and were not bound to select their partner. There was no system of sati and child marriage, neither there was any suppression of the rights and dignity of women.
In Rig Vedic period, women were valued however they face certain discrimination in terms of education and other facilities. The condition further degraded when child marriage, sati, polygamy etc. prevailed in the society. Around 500 B.C. the status of women witnessed a downfall and later the Mughal invasion ceased the rights of women and their dignity in society.
The British rule witnessed the initial women’s rights movement while many renowned personalities like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, etc advocated for the rights of women in the society. All India Women’s Conference was founded in 1927 and registered in 1930 for the upliftment and betterment of women and children. Later the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, was passed to restrain the solemnization of child marriage however the concept of snatching away the rights and dignity were practised to such a large extent that even in contemporary times, historic practices like Sati, child marriage, purdah system, devadasi system are practised in rural areas.
An overview of the case of Khushi Ram v. Nawal Singh (2021)
Facts of the case
In the case of Khushi Ram v. Nawal Singh, Shri Sher Singh, who is the husband of Mrs. Jagno died without any children and by virtue of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, and the wife became the absolute owner of the property which was earlier possessed by her husband.
The plaintiffs in the initial case are the sons of Bali Ram (brother of Shri Sher Singh) who claim that Mrs. Jagno, during a family settlement, settled her land in favour of the sons of her brother, and the same was admitted by Mrs. Jagno. The trial court passed a consent decree in favour of the sons of the brother of Mrs. Jagno. Being aggrieved by this, the applicants filed a case in the Court of Senior Sub-Judge on the grounds that such consent decree was unlawful and invalid however, the judge dismissed the appeal. Later the case went to sessions court where also the court ruled the consent decree in favor of the sons of the brother of Mrs. Jagno. The case ultimately reached the Supreme Court of India after being dismissed by trial courts and later by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.
The 2 main issues that arose in this case were:
- Whether a consent decree requires registration under Section 17 of the Indian Registration Act, 1908, and
- Whether the sons of the brother of the husband of Mrs. Jagno were strangers to her to disable her to enter into any family arrangement?
Judgment of the court
The Supreme Court of India in this case while attending issue 1 emphasized the case of Som Dev & Ors v. Rati Ram & Anr (2006) and Bhoop Singh v. Ram Singh Major and Ors (1995) and ruled that a consent decree was not required to be registered under Section 17(2) (vi) of the Indian registration act and was covered by an exclusionary clause.
Regarding issue no. 2, the court emphasized the case of Kale & Others v. Deputy Director Of Consolidation (1976) and Section 15 of the Hindu succession act. The court further acknowledged that all the subordinate courts were right in dismissing the claim of the plaintiffs-appellants.
Rights of women in respect to the case of Khushi Ram v. Nawal Singh
The Supreme court of India, while ruling in favour of the Hindu’s woman’s nephews upheld certain rights of the Hindu woman, i.e:
- The father’s heirs of a Hindu woman are protected under Section 15(1)(d) of the Hindu Succession Act, and are entitled to an intestate succession of land being possessed by a Hindu woman,
- The Hindu woman’s father’s heirs are not strangers to the Hindu woman and not members of the family,
- Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, entitles every Hindu woman to acquire property as a full owner.
Rights granted to women in India with respect to different provisions
Women in India are equally entitled to all the fundamental rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution of India, the rights are inalienable because they are the fundamental human rights every individual is entitled to, yet women continue to face a violation of fundamental rights in all forms.
Article 15 of the Constitution of India specifically deals with the right against discrimination on the gorunds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, yet still women in India continue to be a constant victim of discrimination in all forms streaching from workplace to the inheritance of the property.
The Indian legislature usually enacts gender-neutral laws however certain sections of special acts are designated to protect the rights of women and grant them equal protection in law. i.e:
- The Family Courts Act, 1954
- The Special Marriage Act, 1954
- The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
- The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, with special emphasis on the 2005 Amendment
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
- The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
- The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976
- The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
- Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994
To uphold the rights of women in society, the legislature has enacted numerous legislations like:
- The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
Yet still, women continue to be a victim of gruesome crimes regularly.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 reserves punishment for rape in Section 376, yet the number of rapes are increasing day by day, Section 509 deals with sexual harassment, Section 354 for molestation, Section 304 B for dowry death, etc yet still women are a victim of such crimes every day.
Other measures for protecting the rights of women
- National Commission for Women: Formed in the year 1992, to protect and promote the rights of women in India. It also provides legal safeguard to women and challenges any law which is contrary to the rights of women in India. It recommends remedial legislative measures, facilitates redressal of grievances, and advises the government on all policy matters affecting women.
The National Commission of Women was itself a big achievement for India, as it was the first statutory body formed to improve the conditions of women in India. The NCW can be credited for the enactment of some significant legislations like, Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats, Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, etc.
- Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women: Formed in the year 1997, the committee aimed at considering the reports submitted by the National Commission for Women, and suggested measures that should be adopted by the union government to improve the conditions of women.
According to a report, the female labor force increased from 30.41% in the year 2005 to 31.79% in the year 2005. Although the pace is slow in nature, yet it is still a remarkable improvement.
- National Policy on the Empowerment of Women, 2001, policy aims at strict enforcement of laws and quick redressal of grievances with special emphasis on violence and atrocities concerning women. It also aimed at reviewing all crimes relating to women at central, state, and district levels.
Cases upholding the rights of women in India
- Vishaka & Ors v. State Of Rajasthan (1997) – a case of a woman who was gang-raped by 5 men when she tried to cease a child marriage. The victim was not only treated inhumanely by the rapists but also by the doctors and police. The case caused limelight when an organization named ‘Vishakha’ filed a case. The Supreme court of India, while relying on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, laid down the landmark “Vishakha guidelines”,
- Joseph Shine v. Union Of India (2018) – a five-judge bench unanimously struck down Section 497 of IPC, which considered women as the property of the husband. The section caused the violation of rights of a woman, especially privacy and the choice of choosing relations outside marriage.
- Danamma @ Suman Surpur v. Amar (2018) – the case held that daughters who were born before the commencement of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 were also entitled to an equal share in the property of their father.
- The State Of Maharashtra And Another v. Madhukar Narayan Mardikar (1990) – the court, in this case, upheld the right of privacy of a woman who was of easy virtue. The court held that even a woman of easy virtue is entitled to privacy and no one can invade her privacy as and when he likes.
- Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v, Union of India & Ors (1994) – a landmark case concerning the rights of rape victims. The Supreme court of India gave broader guidelines to assist the rape victims like victims should be provided with legal representation, such assistance should be provided in the police station with guidance and support of a lawyer, police should inform the victim of her rights, etc.
- Shayara Bano v. Union Of India And Ors (2017) – the landmark case struck down the practice of Triple talaq, which was a personal religious practice of Islam religion. The court in the case believes that such practise violates the rights of women especially those enshrined in Part III of the Constitution of India.
- Ms. Githa Hariharan & Anr v. Reserve Bank Of India & Anr (1999) – the Court, in this case, held that both the parents of a minor Hindu child are the natural guardians of such child and whoever among the mother and father is capable of taking care of the child and is interested in the welfare of the child can be the natural guardian of the child.
International laws concerning the rights of women
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 provides basic human rights to all humans which are considered inalienable and such rights include rights against discrimination, life, and personal liberty, right against slavery, etc and women are equally entitled to such rights.
- Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1954 provides with the rights of women concerning election and rights revolving around election like voting, eligibility for election, etc. The convention aims to equalize the status of men and women in the enjoyment and exercise of political rights.
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: which aims at eradicating all types of discrimination women face in society and to protect the rights of women.
- Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993: The convention aims at eliminating all the violence which occurs against women in general which are violative of fundamental human rights is aimed to be abolished under this convention.
- Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict, 1974: The convention aims at protecting the rights of women and children who are caught in the war zones or other conflicted areas where no or minimum assistance is provided.
- International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, 1966: The convention recognizes the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family are the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.
The protection of the rights of women is becoming a widely discussed topic due to the rise in the cases of violation of rights of women. To prevent violation of the human rights of women, the government must not only enact stringent laws but also enforce the same without any failure, or else the enacted laws are nothing but a piece of paper.
The law and order must be enforced in such a way that it at least protects the rights of women who are considered as a vulnerable part of society.
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