VINEETA SHARMA V. RAKESH SHARMA – UPHOLDING WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Introduction

For years, women have been denied basic human rights. The right to education, the right to equality, the right to be heard, etc., were only associated with men. They were denied basic human rights and forced to live in a state of subjugation and deprivation. In earlier times, the Ancient Greeks had great power in society. In Athens, the most influential groups often disregarded women. They were excluded from society and had no political or personal rights. Today, the situation for women may not be as bad as it was earlier. However, women in our society still face discrimination and inequality. Being denied equal pay, the right to be heard, the right to equal opportunity, etc. still exists. Slowly but steadily, the world is overcoming the evil of inequality. We are learning to value each individual for who they are rather than their gender. Various initiatives are being initiated as we realize the fact that women’s equality and empowerment play a very important role in today’s world.

Provisions for women’s equality are as follows
  • Article 14 of the Indian Constitution talks about equality before the law. Individuals cannot be denied equality or equal protection based on their gender, race, caste, or place of birth.
  • Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the same grounds.
  • Article 16 guarantees equal opportunities for women in State Offices.
  • Article 42 lays down the provisions for providing just and humane working conditions for women.
  • Articles 325, 243D(3), 243T(3), include the political rights available to women.

Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act: The act was amended in the year 2005. The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 states that daughters have an equal right to property irrespective of the living status of the person who owns the property. Just as the rights of a son, a daughter, too, is entitled to coparcenary rights.

Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma: A coparcener shares equal rights in a property or is a joint heir. According to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, a Hindu becomes a coparcener and has equal rights to ancestral property by birth. The Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case of Vineeta Sharma vs. Rakesh Sharma that women are entitled to coparcenary rights from the moment they are born. It was also held that the father’s death would not affect the coparcenary rights of the appellant. This judgment overruled the earlier judgments of Prakash v. Phulavati and Mangammal v. T.B. Raju.

Facts of the case

The appellant, Vineeta Sharma, filed a case against her family members, including brother Rakesh Sharma, for a share in the family’s ancestral property. Their father, Mr. Dev Dutt Sharma, had passed away before September 9, 2005. The High Court of Delhi held that the appellant could not claim the property as per the 2005 amendment to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Later, an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court.

Facts in issue

  • Whether a daughter can claim coparcenary rights according to the 2005 amendment when the father is not alive.
  • Whether the amendment to Section 6 is retrospective, prospective, or retroactive.

Judgment

The SC held that the amendment to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act was retrospective in nature. It was also held that the daughter had an equal right to the property by birth. Earlier, only sons were entitled to this right. The judgment puts the daughter on par with the son. Regardless of whether the father is alive or dead, the daughter is privileged in her own right.

Analysis

The judgment of the SC has helped clear the air around Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act. The question of the nature of the act will help women acquire the rights they deserve. It was reiterated that gender cannot be used as a basis for discrimination. Women’s equality has great importance and cannot be taken lightly. The judgment is a step forward for women’s empowerment and has also paved the way for future judgments.

Similar Cases

  • Prakash v. Phulavati: Daughters were entitled to coparcenary rights by birth. However, in this judgment, it was held that the Hindu Succession Act was not prospective in nature. The Amendment Act of 2005 cannot be applied to the case. It was concluded that only if the death of the coparcener occurred after September 9, 2005, could the daughter claim equal property rights.
  • Mangamal @ Thulasi and Anr. T.B.Raju and Ors: In a similar vein to the case of Prakash vs. Phulavati, it was held that the amendment to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act was not retrospective. The appellant, whose father had passed away in 1999, could not claim her coparcenary rights.
Other cases related to women’s equality
  • Anuj Garg v. Hotel Assn of India: Women were refused work in places that served intoxicants. The Supreme Court believed that this practice victimized women and violated Article 15 of the Constitution.
  • S. Nakara and Ors. v. Union of India: In the above case, it was held that women have the right to an adequate means of livelihood and equal pay for equal work under Article 39 of the Constitution.

Conclusion

India is a country of great diversity. The traditions and cultural practices have existed for a long time. Is it right to deny women their rights just because of age-old practices? As a woman, I strongly disagree with this scathing practice. Women’s contributions to society are beyond imaginable. We consider her to be someone’s “sister,” “mother,” or “daughter.” However, we tend to forget that she is ‘someone’ in herself. She has every right to live her life freely. In a country where women are worshipped, such acts of inequality and discrimination are demeaning. Violation of rights is not the only issue here. It is also a matter of a woman’s self-respect and dignity in the society she lives in. The bold and vehement judgment of the SC establishes supremacy over various customs and traditions of the country. Constitutional morality overrides all the other practices. We should celebrate such judgments and foster them in our societies.

Author(s) Name : Angel Jimmy George (Institute of Law, Nirma University)

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