Court disposes case after Govt clarifies that Succession Act was never notified

Gangtok, 01 Jul:

The High Court of Sikkim has disposed of the public interest litigation filed by 69 Sikkimese women married to Non-Sikkimese challenging the Sikkim Succession Act, 2008. After the State Government clarified in Court that the Act existed only in paper and that since it was never notified, it was not a law in practice hence the petition was pre-mature, the Court disposed the case with the remark that any order passed by the government relying on the Sikkim Succession Act, 2008 was null and void.

The PIL had challenged the Sikkim Succession Act, 2008 issued by the Law Department, Government of Sikkim dated 24 July, 2008 and also raised a host of other issues like issuance of Certificate of Identification to Sikkimese women married to Non-Sikkimese and also for production of unmarried certificate for accessing rights of all purposes.

Hearing the petition on Monday, the High Court said, "The State Government in its reply has clearly stated that the said Act is on papers only, as it has not yet been notified, as required, to bring the same into force, thus, the Petition is pre-mature."

The petitioners had also challenged the legality and applicability of the Notification No.J(47)/335/GEN/DOP-Pt-II, dated 05th May 2011 of the Department of Personnel, under which the state government has laid down guidelines for compassionate appointment.

Regarding this the court said that this cannot be examined for want of specific facts of individual case and also that cannot be a subject-matter of the Public Interest Litigation.

Speaking to media persons today, Dr Doma T Bhutia, counsel for the petitioners, stated that it was a welcome step on the part of the State Government of not enforcing Sikkim Succession Act, 2008.

“That means all this while Sikkimese women were illegally denied their rights of succession as legal heirs based on the laws which are not in force whether it be the Sikkim Succession Act of the Sikkim Women Property Regulation 1962,” she said.

Dr Bhutia believes that following what has come on record with the current case, Sikkimese women, irrespective of their marital status, are now free to register their ancestral properties in their names, and are free to purchase or sell property in their name.

Not everyone is so convinced though, with a senior advocate who does not wish to be named, pointing out that the rules which don’t allow Sikkimese women married to non-locals from acquiring new property in Sikkim are not sourced from either the Act in question or the regulation of 1962 and are instead based on Land Revenue rules of 1961 and 1969.

Dr Bhutia, however, stated today that “in case of denial of their rights by any government authority they can approach the court and also seek heavy damages for harassment.”

The High Court addresses only the government’s clarification on the Sikkim Succession Act and remarks that the contention against certain rules framed for compassionate appointment cannot be examined for want of specific cases (and even then it would not have been the subject matter of a PIL).

“In such view of the matter, nothing survives for adjudication at this stage. However, the petitioners are at liberty to take recourse to legal forum against any action of the Government, which is de hors the statutory provisions and violative of constitutional philosophy and provisions,” the High Court bench comprising of Chief Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai concludes in its order.