August 23, 2020

AIDWA Hails SC Judgement on Equal Coparcenary Rights for Women

THE All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) in a statement issued on August 10, has expressed its agreement with the latest three bench Supreme Court judgement which clarifies the law relating to a daughter’s right under Section 6 of the amended Hindu Succession Act (HSA) in 2005. The amendments in the HSA in 2005 made the daughter an equal coparcener (member) in the joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara law and removed the restriction on her from asking for partition of a joint family property. It also, most importantly, scrapped a provision which allowed inequitable and discriminatory agricultural land laws to exist in the name of land reform and land ceiling laws.

The judgement makes it clear that even a daughter who was born prior to the amendment can claim her rights in the joint family and will be subject to all its liabilities provided the property has not been disposed of or alienated or partitioned before December 20, 2004. It further specifies that the amendment will apply even if the father is not alive at the time of the amendment.The court reasoned that the right to be a member/coparcener of a joint family accrues at the time of the birth of the daughter or son and the joint family continues to be in existence till it is partitioned regardless of deaths and births.

The amendment in 2005 in Section 6(5) had also specified that the amendment would not have an effect if a partition of the property by a written deed or through the court takes place before December 2004. However the court diluted this provision slightly to say that a plea of oral partition when it is supported by public documents can be allowed in exceptional cases.
AIDWA had campaigned for and supported these amendments to the HSA to ensure that women got equal property rights and discriminatory provisions were removed in the Hindu Succession Act. It had, however, suggested that doing away with the Mitakshara joint family law and giving equal succession rights to women, as had been done in Kerala, would be preferable. However, the government preferred to retain an ancient, inherently inequitable system for reasons of political expediency.

AIDWA Demands Dissolution of Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws

THE All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) has raised objections to the constitution and functioning of the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws. In a letter to home minister Amit Shah on August 15, it urged him to dissolve the committee as it lacked representation of the marginalised groups. It raised concerns over the undue haste with which the committee is functioning and said that it gives the impression that the committee has an agenda for bringing in certain laws which might favour the authorities.

AIDWA, in its letter to the home minister said that the committee which has ostensibly been set up to overhaul the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and the Indian Evidence Act, would require more time to look at our entire criminal justice system and make recommendations to the government on Substantive Law, Procedural Law and the Law of Evidence.

The women’s organisation pointed out that when the entire country is trying to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, any meaningful participation in this exercise by people from marginalised groups, like women and children, SC/STs, minorities, LGBTQ and people with disabilities, is impossible. It added that widespread public participation is impossible at this time since no one can directly approach this committee and air their concerns and grievances about how the criminal justice system, the police and the courts have been treating the common citizens.

“We fail to see the urgency in setting up this committee in the middle of the pandemic when only certain experts and others who register with the committee can communicate with it. Even they, we are informed, have to give their answers to questionnaires in not more than 200 words. The questionnaires are ill-thought out and arbitrary. Just to illustrate: why selectively ask on laws regarding women such as on Sec 498A and not mention important issues such as marital rape? This itself shows a bias,” AIDWA wrote.

AIDWA also raised objections to the committee being made to function within such a brief time limit in such undue haste on such important issues that will have far-reaching consequences on the criminal justice system in our country. It stressed that it is imperative that the widest possible consultations with all groups should take place.

AIDWA also strongly objected to the composition of the committee which consists of only five members who are academicians and lawyers. “It does not have any woman representative. Neither are any representatives belonging to SC/ST or any minority or marginalised group members of this committee. These groups are the ones who have been most impacted by the criminal justice delivery system,” the association said.

AIDWA said that it was “shocking and inexplicable” that the committee did not have a single woman member and reminded the minister that women’s groups and organisations have fought long and hard to enhance women’s rights in the criminal justice sphere, to change or introduce laws and amendments such as anti-dowry laws, laws against sexual assault and harassment and even laws like those in S125 CrPC apart from many woman-sensitive provisions in the CrPC.

AIDWA also said that the committee should have clearly indicated the changes it wants to bring about through a background note. Apart from vaguely specifying certain areas it has left its intentions opaque, it said.

AIDWA urged the minister to dissolve this committee till a proper committee can be constituted and to take steps at an appropriate time to constitute a committee with proper representation from all sections, with sufficient time for wide consultations so that it can do justice to its mandate of changing criminal laws for the benefit of the citizens of this country.