Mary Roy Case: Court Gives Key Verdict

Mary Roy Case: Court Gives Key Verdict
Over a quarter century after the Supreme Court issued orders ensuring equal rights in family property for women of Syrian-Christan community of Kerala along with their male siblings, a sub-court here executed the decree, over-ruling all the legal hurdles that delayed its implementation.

In what has been famously known as "Mary Roy case" in Indian legal history, named after the woman who waged the legal battle, the apex court had in 1986 ordered that women members of the community had equal right in property of their father.

Educator-cum-rights campaigner and the mother of noted writer Arundhati Roy, Mary Roy had approached the apex court seeking gender justice in inheritance.

Mary sought an end to the centuries old practice of Keralaite Syrian Christian community, which bequeathed only a minor portion of the family property to women members, under the Travancore Syrian Christian Succession Act, 1916 and Cochin Succession Act 1921.

The apex court over-ruled the two Acts and upheld the supremacy of the Indian Succession Act of 1925.

On obtaining the verdict, hailed as a turning point not only in legal history but in Indian women's struggle for justice, Roy approached the Sub-court here seeking implementation of the order but it got delayed with her brothers raising legal objections.

The case also ran into other legal tangles like her mother's right to enjoy one-third of the property without alienating it. But after her mother's death, Roy approached the Kerala High Court and secured a judgement clearing the hurdles on her way.

After over-ruling objections, the Principal Sub Judge here ordered execution of the verdict yesterday and sent the court officials to carry it out.

"I am relieved that my long struggle for justice has yielded result. My battle was not for a piece of property alone but to ensure that women in this country enjoy the rights guaranteed by the Constitution", the septuagenarian Roy told PTI.

"This was a fight that I began 50 years ago. When my father died in 1960, I was staying in a small cottage owned by the family in Ootty (Udhagamandalam) with my two small children.I was asked to vacate the cottage after his death", Roy said.

"It was this bitter experience that prompted me to begin the struggle to ensure justice for women and the rights and privileges guaranteed under the law," she added.
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