The Bombay High Court has struck down a discriminatory state policy that prevented “married daughters“ from seeking transfer of a retail licence previously held by a deceased family member. A division bench of Justices A S Oka and A S Chandurkar said that the explanation provided by the state government for continuing with the policy had no logic and that the rule was against certain articles of the Constitution.
A woman had moved the court after her retail licence to run a kerosene supply shop was cancelled by the government following a complaint by her brother. The married woman, Ranjana Anerao, had in 2007 applied for transfer of a licence owned by her deceased mother. The request initially was granted and the permit was transferred in her name. However, her brother challenged the decision, saying Anerao was not eligible for the licence as she was married. Officials withdrew the permit in 2009.
The policy, amended in 2004, recognised “widow/ widower of the licence holder, major son/ major unmarried daughter, daughter-in-law, legal heir, adopted son, divorced wife dependent on the head of the family and dependent parents“ as members of a family. It did not count “married daughters“ as part of the family. Anerao called this clause discriminatory, but the state government's advocate argued that she had married and left her parents' house, and was now part of a different family. Justices Oka and Chandurkar, however, didn't find any merit in the argument and struck down the policy at a hearing earlier this week.
They observed that the said policy was against Article 14 (equality before law), Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and Article 19(1)(g) (practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business) of the Constitution.
Justices Oka and Chandurkar relied on previous judgements of the High Court that dealt with similar issues. In one such case, a married woman had applied for a government job on compassionate grounds after the demise of one of her parents, a former government employee. In another case, a woman had sought government benefits after the death of a relative who was a freedom fighter.