Sunday, December 25, 2011

A challengable question to Christian Women Property Rights.

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a review of a 24-year-old judgment that gave Mary Roy and other Syrian Catholic women as much share as their male siblings in their patriarchal property.

The Supreme Court had on February 24, 1986, held that the Indian Succession Act, 1925, which recognises equal succession rights for daughters and sons, would apply to Christians in Travancore and Cochin, also. The erstwhile states of Travancore and Cochin included areas that now stretch across southern and central Kerala.

Before that, the Christian community of these areas was governed by the Travancore Christian Succession Act and the Cochin Christian Succession Act.

Under the Travancore act, a widow or mother shall only have life interest terminable at death or remarriage. A daughter cannot inherit property intestate (when the holder dies without leaving behind a will or a trust) as much as a son can. The daughter will be entitled to only one fourth the value of the share of the son or Rs 5,000, whichever was less. Even this amount she would not get on intestacy, if stridhanom (dowry) was provided or promised to her by the intestate.

In 1986, not only did the Supreme Court rule that the Indian Succession Act would apply to the community, it also clarified that the provisions would apply to earlier property settlements.

Mary Roy, mother of writer Arundhati Roy and a Syrian Christian from Tranvancore, had challenged certain provisions of the Travancore Christian Succession Act as violative of Articles 14 and 15(1) of the Constitution.

Her father had died intestate in November 1959. Roy went to court for a share of his property. She had a married sister and two brothers.

Now, 24 years later, a Syrian Catholic man has filed a review petition against the judgment.

He claims that though, under the customary law, his father gave a huge stridhanom to his sisters when they got married in 1978, they were seeking a share of his father’s property after his death in 1995.

C.J. Simon, 65, from Kottayam district in Kerala, said the Supreme Court ruling did not apply to all Christians in India, although it is generally believed so.

Even in Kerala, the Vaniya Christians of Chittoor taluk of the erstwhile Cochin state are still governed by their customary law, the Hindu Mitakshara law.

The members of the Anglo-Indian community and the Parangi communities of Cochin are also outside the Indian Succession Act.

Similarly, the Marumakkathayam Christians of Neyyattinkara taluk are not governed by their customary laws in matters of succession.

He sought a similar exemption for the Christians of Travancore and Cochin.

Simon said his family had been following the customary law prevailing in the Syrian Catholic community of Kerala where daughters are entitled to stridhanom as a customary right at the time of their marriage.

Hence, he and his community should be exempted from the purview of the Indian Succession Act.

He also objected to the retrospective operation of the Supreme Court judgment in the Mary Roy case. “This has and will unsettle certain intestate succession of properties among the Christians in these former states and the subsequent transactions of such properties during the period beginning April 1, 1951, to the date of the judgment i.e. 24 February, 1986,” he said in the petition.

For more information:
TEAM Daniel & Boaz
Chennai Law Firm
Helpline:- 9840802218

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