John Vallamattom & Another vs Union Of India

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 21 July, 2003

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: A R. Lakshmanan

REFERENCE: Writ Petition (civil) of 242

PARTIES

Petitioner: John Vallamattom & Another

Respondent: Union of India.

SUBJECT: The case of Roman Catholic Priest, John Vallamattom v. Union of India, AIR 2003 relates to enactment of Uniform Civil Code.

FACTS:

Kerala pastor John Valamatton requested a writ petition in 1997 stating that section 118 of the Indian Succession Act discriminated against Christians due to unreasonable restrictions on donating property for religious or charitable purposes by will.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:
  • Constitution of India
  • Article 14: equality before the Law
  • Article 15: prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
  • Article 32: remedies for enforcement of rights conferred
  • The Indian Succession Act, 1925

1) Section 118: Bequest to religious or charitable uses.

ISSUES:

1) Whether section 118 of The Indian Succession Act, 1925 violates Article 14 and Article 15 of the constitution of India?

JUDGEMENT:
  • In his ruling, Judge of the Supreme Court of India V.N. Hare first looked at the history of the law, indicating that it was connected with 18th-century British law, which had been repealed for a long time. He said the constitution had clearly repealed all previous laws that was inconsistent with it’s Provisions. Thus, the question is whether the law is unconstitutional, but it only prevents continuity or further application after amendments.
  • He pointed out that s. 118 of the Act imposes a restriction only on Indian Christians.
  • “It is difficult to appreciate as to why a testator would, although, be entitled to bequeath his property by way of charitable and religious disposition if he has a wife but he would be precluded from doing so in the event that he has a nephew or a niece.”
  • In addition, he considers that the rights granted by Article 15 are personal and do not extend to the group, therefore they are not relevant to the present case. Finally, the judge unanimously approved that the Indian Succession Act’s section 118 is unconstitutional and in violation of article 14 of the Constitution.

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