August 18th, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed
The Supreme court, through a judgment, has once again reiterated to executive authorities to protect the rights of inheritance of females.
In a verdict authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa noted that depriving women of inheritance restricts their opportunities to excel in life.
“Denying females their inheritance also undermines their economic independence, prevents a rise in their standard of living and concentrates wealth in male descendants”, the court said.
Referring to Article 34 of the constitution, the order also noted that economic deprivation of women prevents their full participation ‘in all spheres of life.’
Article 34 states that steps shall be taken to ensure the full participation of women in all spheres of national life.
Facts of the Case
The verdict was passed by a two-member bench comprising of Justice Isa and Justice Yahya Afridi in a case of inherence dispute that started in the year 2008. The present petition was filed by two brothers against their sisters. The Lahore High Court had already decided the matter in favour of the sisters.
According to the brothers’ plea, their father had passed away on 28 May 1999 and before his death, he had gifted the property to his son (petitioners) on 27 July 1986. However, the sisters disputed these claims and contended that their father died on 15 May 1986 and he had never gifted his property to the petitioners in his lifetime.
The sisters also presented a death certificate of their father on which mentioned 15 May 1986. The petitioner failed to produce a contrary death certificate.
The bench dismissed the petition and directed the concerned department to promptly prepare the inheritance mutation of the late Muhammad Yar (father) and record the rights of his legal heirs in accordance with Muslim personal law and deliver possession to them as per their respective shares without further loss of time as the sisters have already been deprived of her inheritance for far too long and indisputably been made to suffer. The court also directed the petitioners (brothers) to pay costs to the respondent.
“In this case, a sister’s right to inheritance would have been safeguarded if the revenue authorities had exercised due care and caution, but this was not done. Either the revenue officials were inept and negligent or else complicit and corrupt, in either eventuality the system permitted the exploitation of the weak”, the court noted.
Depriving women of inheritance all too common
The verdict also regretted the that although the apex court has passed many judgments to protect women’s right to inherence and property, male heirs continue to deprive female heirs of their inheritance by resorting to different tactics and by employing dubious devices.
“This Court has repeatedly castigated attempts to deprive female heirs of their right to inheritance. In the case of Atta Muhammad v Mst. Munir Sultan this Court noted that depriving female heirs of their inheritance has become ‘all too common’ and directed the revenue authorities to be extra vigilant,” the order read.
“We sadly note that despite our repeatedly pointing out that effective measures must be put in place to protect the rights of inheritance of females, this has still not been done. Those few ladies who have the independence, determination and resources to take their brothers to court are left embroiled in slow grind litigation, as in the present case, which started in the year 2008 and took 13 years to culminate, having seen its way through four courts,”
The judgment said that the principles of policy enshrined in the constitution from article 29 to article 40 especially protect the underprivileged and aim at ameliorating the condition of the vulnerable and establish the well-being of the powerless. “Therefore, non-adherence to the principles affects those who are most in need of protection, those at the mercy of predators.”
The court lamented that the president and governors are required to annually submit a report on the observance and implementation of the principles of policy but they are not doing so.
“When the required reports are not submitted by the President and the Governors respectively to the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies, then these legislative bodies may not possess information which would help them to legislate where there are weaknesses and disparities. It is expected that the President and the Governors shall fulfill their constitutional duty, in this regard, under Article 29(3) of the Constitution”, the order said.