More than a quarter of a century after Mary Roy began her legal battle for equality in property rights for Syrian Christian women with their male siblings of the family, the very property that is the basis of the case has finally come into her hands as the principal sub-court here ordered execution of the final decree in her property suit on Wednesday.
“It has been 26 years since I had started my fight for justice. I am happy that our share of the property has finally come into our hands, mine and my sisters,” said Ms. Roy from her residence on the Pallikkudom campus near here.
George Isaac, Ms. Roy's brother, against whom she had filed the property suit, would now move to another house. In fact, he had already sold out his share of the property in Kottayam town to a private chit company.
It was in 1986 that Ms. Roy had obtained a landmark judgment from the Supreme Court entitling Syrian Christian women to an equal share in their father's property. Till then, the Syrian Christian community followed the provisions of the Travancore Succession Act, 1916 and Cochin Succession Act, 1921 even as members of the community in other parts of the country were governed by the provisions of the Indian Succession Act, 1925. As per the Travancore and the Cochin Acts, daughters were eligible for one quarter of the sons' share or Rs.5,000, which ever was less, if the father died intestate.
Another legal tangle
The Supreme Court judgment triggered another legal tangle to the whole story as Ms. Roy approached the Kottayam sub-court in 1988 praying for her share of the property left by her father, P.V. Isaac, who had died in 1960. As per the provisions of the Indian Succession Act, her mother, Susie Isaac, was entitled to enjoy one-third of the property until her death, but without the right to alienate it. The remaining two-thirds were to be shared among her, her sister, Molly Joseph, and two brothers, Ms. Roy said in her prayer.
Though the lower court rejected her prayer, accepting the contention of the respondents, who maintained that they had transferred their shares in another property, held by their father P.V. Isaac, in Ooty in lieu of her share in his Kottayam property, which was spread over two locales, one in Kottayam town and another at Nattakom grama panchayat. However, Ms. Roy, approached the Kerala High Court in 1994 and got the judgment of the lower court overruled.
Later, after her mother's death in 2000, she approached the Kottayam sub-court praying for the final decree. The case went on for eight long years until the final decree was pronounced in December 2008. Following this, Ms. Roy filed the execution petition in January 2009, which was finally ordered on Wednesday.
- Landmark apex court verdict came in 1986
- Equal property rights for Syrian Christian women