Marriage doesn’t change status of daughter; word ‘servicemen’ should be changed to ‘service personnel’: Karnataka High Court

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The Karnataka High Court recently held that exclusion of a married daughter for grant of an identity card (I-card) to dependents of ex-servicemen is violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution [Priyanka Patil v Kendriya Sainik Board].

Single-judge Justice M Nagaprasanna underscored that marriage of a woman does not change her status as a daughter and, therefore, struck down the words “till married” in the guidelines for grant of I-card.

“If the son remains a son, married or unmarried; a daughter shall remain a daughter, married or unmarried. If the act of marriage does not change the status of the son; the act of marriage cannot and shall not change the status of a daughter,” the Court observed.

It, therefore, directed Karnataka Examination Authority to consider the petitioner’s case under the ex-servicemen quota for the post of assistant professor, in terms of the notification dated August 26, 2021.

“I hold that exclusion of married daughter for grant of an I-card in terms of guideline 5(c) of the guidelines issuance of I-cards to dependants of ex-servicemen to be violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and accordingly, I strike down and annihilate the words “till married” in the aforesaid guideline.”

Pertinently, the Court said the word ‘men’ in the title part of word ex-servicemen, would “demonstrate a misogynous posture of an age old masculine culture” and hence the title, wherever it reads as ex-servicemen in the annals of policy making of the government, should be made ‘ex-service personnel’.

“Since it is in the realm of rule making or a policy making which is the domain of the Union Government or the State Government as the case would be, it is for the Union Government or the State Government to address this imperative need of change of nomenclature wherever it depicts to be ‘ex-servicemen’ to that of ‘ex-service personnel’ which would be in tune with ever evolving, dynamic tenets, of Article 14 of the Constitution of India,” the Court ordered.

The judgment was delivered on a plea by one Priyanka Patil, a married daughter of an ex-serviceman

She moved the Court against Karnataka Examination Authority for issuance of identity-card as her father’s dependent.

The Karnataka government had on August 26, 2021 called for application to fill up the vacant posts of Assistant Professors in the Government First Grade colleges across the State.

The notification provided for reservation to ex-servicemen or the ward of ex-servicemen.

The counsel appearing for Priyanka contended that the guideline permits issuance of identity- card both to the daughter or son of an ex-serviceman. But the rider was that with respect to daughters, it would be issued only till the daughter gets married.

This criteria, it was contended, is arbitrary, discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

He further said that but for the fact that the petitioner was married, she would have been entitled to issuance of the card which would depict her to be the ward of an ex-serviceman and it would have thus, made her eligible for reservation.

On the other hand, Deputy Solicitor General H Shanthi Bhushan refuted the submissions by petitioner, arguing that the moment the daughter gets married, she loses the status of being a dependent.

Further, it was pointed out that the guidelines lay down a cap of 25 years of age, both for the daughter and the son and no person is given the card for any benefit or even participation in any recruitment process after such person has attained 25 years of age.

Therefore, it was submitted that there is no discrimination between sons or daughters once they reach the age of 25.

The bench noted that the issue in the present case did not concern a statute, but was regarding a policy in the form of a guideline.

It is therefore, on a lower pedestal than that of a statute, the Court said.

If statutes can be held to be violative of the tenets of Article 14 for the reason that it is discriminatory resulting in gender bias, a policy in the form of a guideline would pale into insignificance, if it portrays such discrimination even remotely, the Court said.

Further, the Court noted that the guideline after the age of 25 years was applicable uniformly for both sons and daughters.

But if the daughter is less than 25 years and gets married, then she loses the benefit of being a ward of an ex-serviceman for the purposes of issuance of an I-card, the Court observed.

This suggests that she has to remain unmarried, if she has to get the benefit of issuance of an I-card in her favour, which by itself would generate certain benefits to the wards of the ex-servicemen.

These are not the times where women have no role to play at all, the Court said.

It, therefore, opined that, there has to be a change in the mindset of the rule making authority or the policy makers and it is only then there can be recognition of commitment of the values of the Constitution, as equality should not remain a mere idle incantation, but has to be a vibrant living reality.

“It must be remembered that extension of women’s right is the basic principle of all social progress,” the Court added.

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