The landmark judgements of cases that changed the course of women in India

“When the world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful” – Malana Yousafzai

We all know from the past that what was the position of women in our society, but as time is passing many women are coming out as the trailblazers of society. One woman’s voice has its own power. If a woman raises her voice against an issue, she is not only doing it herself but for the other women as well because sometimes one voice is enough to make humanity heard. The verdict of many cases, that were fought to provide justice to one woman, created and continued to bring hope to several women who were facing situations that diminished their dignity and their fundamental right to equality. So, here are the landmark judgements that changed the entire perception of law for women and helped them to achieve the values that treasured in our preamble i.e., justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.

Guidelines that defined Sexual Harassment 

The guidelines that defined sexual harassment were commissioned by The Supreme Court on August 13, 1997, through the case of Vishaka Vs the State of Rajasthan. This case was about Bhanwari Devi, a social worker from Bhateri Rajasthan who worked under a Women’s Development Project run by Government. She took up an issue based on the government’s campaign against child marriage. She was brutally gang-raped by five men for preventing child marriage. She decided to go to court as she was determined to seek justice. It was a shocking decision when the trial court acquitted all five accused. Vishaka was a Group for Women’s Education and Research, which took up the cause of Bhanwari Devi. It also joined forces with four other women’s organisations and filed a petition before the Honourable Supreme Court of India on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. This put the onus on the employers to provide a safe working environment for women.

Online Harassment -

Tamil Nadu Vs Suhas Katti was the case that led to the first conviction under the Information Technology Act, 2000. The accused was a family friend of the victim. The accused wanted to marry the victim but the victim refused and married someone else. The marriage didn’t last and they broke apart. On seeing this as an opportunity the accused asked her for marriage. The victim refused again. On being refused again, the accused posted indecent and defamatory messages about the victim on Yahoo messenger groups harming her reputation and insulting her modesty. The victim began to receive phone calls from unknown people soliciting sex work. This was because the accused forwarded emails received in a fake account that was opened by him in the victim’s name.

The victim filed a complaint in February 2004. Within seven months the accused was convicted. At the time of these merciless trolls and other forms of online harassment, this judgment acted as a tool for the woman to safeguard their dignity.

Banning the sale of acid

The ruling of the ban on the sale of acid took place after the case Laxmi Vs Union of India.  This case led to many rule-like:

  1. dealers can only sell the acid if the buyer has a valid identity proof and states that why does he or she have to purchase it.

  2. It is also mandatory for the dealer to submit the details of the sale that they had within three days to the police.

  3. It is made it illegal to sell acid to a person below 18 years.

In this case, Laxmi, an acid attack survivor, filed a PIL in 2006 seeking measures to regulate the sale of acid and provide adequate compensation to the victim. Laxmi was a minor when she was attacked by the three men on the busy streets of New Delhi when she refused to marry a man called Naeem Khan. She faced a lot of trauma and physical pain due to the attack. Even after many surgeries, she couldn’t get her face back as her upper body had suffered a lot. the culprits were accused under attempt to murder and got convicted by the court of Delhi. The convicted persons by Delhi’s district court later got bail from the High court. This was a surprise to the victim as granting them bail was not appropriate for the pain she had suffered. All this led to the filing of public interest litigation by the victim which targeted the easy availability of acid with no proper provision related to acid attack cases which included the expenses, surgeries and rehabilitation for acid attack survivors. Seeing the increase in the number of cases relating to acid attacks against women, the Supreme Court imposed strict regulations on the sale of acid in 2013. The ruling banned the counter sale of acid.

Equal rights of daughters in inherited or birth right property -

The judgment of Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma (2020) was a landmark as the Supreme Court held that daughters should have equal rights of their inheritance in Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) property. It was also held by the court that these rights have been with them from their birth. So, when a daughter is born, she will also step into the inheritance like that of a son. However, when a daughter is born before, she can claim these rights only with effect from the date of the amendment, i.e., September 9, 2005, with the saving of past transactions as provided in the proviso to Section 6(1) read with Section 6(5). It was further clarified by the court that since the right in coparcenary is by the birth, the father the coparcener doesn’t need to live as on 9.9.2005.

Person Cannot Be Denied as a Legitimate Right Only Because They are A Transgender Person -

In the case of Hina Haneefa v. Union of India a trans woman challenged Section 6 of the National Cadet Corps Act in which it is considered that only males and females are to be eligible for enrolment. It was observed by the Kerala High Court that it was discriminatory and against the state’s transgender policy and said that “a person cannot be denied a legitimate right only because she is a transgender (person).” The court asked the NCC unit of the University College in Thiruvananthapuram to keep the seat vacant until the matter is disposed of. 

Through these landmark judgements, it has been proved that time and again the rights of women will be defended in the court of law. There are still instances where it might be that justice was not prevailed due to societal pressure, misrepresentation or lack of facts etc. but we, society as a whole should always encourage women to stand for their rights, fight for equality and live a life with dignity. We should play a role in making women aware of their rights and working on making justice assessable.

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