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Lawfully Yours: By Retd Justice K Chandru

Enactment of women-centric legislations have made a difference

Lawfully Yours: By Retd Justice K Chandru

Yet another Women’s Day has passed, but with no letdown in reported crimes against women, be it cruelty by husband or his relatives, assault with intent to outrage modesty, kidnapping and abduction, and rape. While the law and the justice system are broadly supportive of women, the police are not. Women police stations too have not succeeded in bringing about a noticeable change to women’s plight in the State. Only if there is a case of murder attempt, suicide, or dowry death do they file a case. Also, the cases take a very long time to conclude, that too with a low conviction rate. With the offenders not facing any social stigma, can individual voices make any change in their plight?

— Vennila, Ambattur

There is a widespread belief that police do not register cases against persons who commit crimes against women especially if it is not a felony. But the enactment of special legislations like the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act and Harassment of Women in Public Places Act have changed things considerably. Even if the police do not register an FIR these legislations have also made provisions for the victim to approach the courts directly. Even otherwise, you can get relief from the High Courts with suitable directions to the police, who are indifferent.

Father being natural guardian need not be the rule

When will the world see Muslim women celebrating women’s day? The guardianship (hizanat) law still does not regard Muslim women as natural guardians of their children. While they can retain custody when the child is a minor, the ultimate hizanat lies with the father who is deemed responsible for the child’s welfare. The same is the case with Muslim inheritance laws. Can we ever do away with these patriarchal ideologies that also violate fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution?

— Fatima Rehana, Tondiarpet

Not only in Muslim law, but even under Hindu law (of guardianship) the situation is not much different. However, the Supreme Court in Githa Hariharan’s case (1999(2)SCC 228) held that the father being status as a natural guardian need not be the rule and there are circumstances the mother can also become the guardian. I have applied a similar principle in Mohammedan law and held that mother can also be appointed as the guardian. (See: Kuthb unnisa vs SA Jabar(2010(1)MLJ 1185). Courts are increasingly applying the international law by which guardianships are granted by applying the principle as to what is “in the best interest of the child”.

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