From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Merger of Sikkim
Mains level : Read the attached story
The Supreme Court in a judgment, held that exclusion of Sikkimese women who marry non-Sikkimese men after April 1, 2008 from exemptions under the Income Tax Act is unconstitutional and amounts to gender discrimination.
What is the news?
- The top court’s verdict came on appeal filed by the Association of Old Settlers of Sikkim and others seeking striking down of Section 10(26AAA) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
- More particularly, the definition of “Sikkimese” in Section 10 (26AAA) to the extent it excludes Indians who have settled in Sikkim prior to the merger of Sikkim with India on April 26, 1975.
The story of Sikkim
- Sikkim witnessed 333 years monarchical rule of Namgyal dynasty under whose reign there many invasions, foreign interference, accession and annexation.
- On 28th March, 1861 Sikkim became a formal protectorate of the British Government and on 16th May, 1975 it became the 22nd state of the Indian Union.
- In erstwhile Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim, no legal rights were conferred to Sikkimese women.
- However, after Sikkim’s merger with India such Regulations relating to Sikkim citizenship have become futile and non-operational.
How women rights in Sikkim are different from that of mainstream India?
The status of rights conferred to Sikkimese women is different from that of women in India. Certain conditionality were imposed upon their property or inheritance right such as the following:
- Immovable property inherited, gifted or purchased by women married to non-locals cannot be transferred and registered in their names.
- Immovable property of a Sikkimese woman cannot be transferred or registered to her legal heirs if her husband is non-Sikkimese.
- Mandatory requirement for Sikkimese women to submit an “unmarried certificate in all government procedures”.
- Identity of women is to be based on the identity of not one, but two men. A Sikkimese woman will be considered Sikkimese only if both, her father and husband are also Sikkimese
Issues with such regulations
- Unconstitutional: The discrimination is based on gender, which is wholly violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.
- Gendered bias: It is to be noted that there is no disqualification for a Sikkim man, who marries a non-Sikkimese after April 1, 2008.
- Associating identity to marriage: A woman is not a chattel and has an identity of her own, and the mere factum of being married ought not to take away that identity,” Justice Shah wrote.
- No legal basis: Sikkim has become a part of India and all Sikkim Subjects and all Sikkimese domiciled in the territory of Sikkim have become Indian citizens.
Note: Article 14 relates to equality before law, while Article 15 forbids discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and Article 21 provides for right to life and personal liberty.
- Legal reforms: The centre shall make an amendment to Explanation to Section 10 (26AAA) of IT Act, 1961, so as to suitably include a clause to extend the exemption from payment of income tax to all Indian citizens domiciled in Sikkim on or before April 26, 1975.
- Ensure parity: The reason for such a direction is to save the explanation from unconstitutionality and to ensure parity in the facts and circumstances of the case.
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