The rights of women were noticed by Supreme Court in a large number of judgments, some important judgments we are referring here-
Githa Hariharan v. Reserve Bank of India [(1999) 2 SCC 228],
In Githa Hariharan v. Reserve Bank of India [(1999) 2 SCC 228], the Court was faced with construing Section 6(a) of Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and Section 19(b) of Guardian and Wards Act, 1890.
The sections were challenged as violative of the equality clause of the Constitution, inasmuch as the mother of the minor is relegated to an inferior position on ground of sex alone since her right, as a natural guardian of the minor, is made cognizable only ‘after’ the father.
The court relied upon the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979 (“CEDAW”) and the Beijing Declaration, which directs all State parties to take appropriate measures to prevent discrimination of ail forms against women is quite clear.
It was held by the court that the domestic courts are under an obligation to give due regard to International Conventions and Norms for construing domestic laws when there is no inconsistency between them.
Air India v. Nergesh Meerza [(1981) 4 SCC 335]
In Air India v. Nergesh Meerza [(1981) 4 SCC 335], the Court was faced with the constitutional validity of Regulation 46(i)(c) of Air India Employees’ Service Regulations, it was provided that the services of the Air Hostesses would stand terminated on first pregnancy. The Court after considering various US Supreme Court judgments regarding pregnant women held that the observations made therein would apply to the domestic cases.
Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Female Workers (Muster Roll) & Anr. [(2000) 3 SCC 224]
In Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Female Workers (Muster Roll) & Anr. [(2000) 3 SCC 224], the short question which was to be decided by this Court was whether having regard to the provisions contained in Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, women engaged on casual basis or on muster roll basis on daily wages and not only those in regular employment were eligible for maternity leave.
The Court while upholding the right of the female workers to get maternity leave relied upon the doctrine of social justice as embodied in Universal Declaration of Human Rights Act, 1948 and Article 11 of the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women held that the provisions of the same must be read into the service contracts of Municipal Corporation.
Madhu Kishwar & Ors. v. State of Bihar & Ors. [(1996) 5 SCC 125]
In Madhu Kishwar & Ors. v. State of Bihar & Ors. [(1996) 5 SCC 125], challenge was made to certain provisions of Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 providing succession to property in the male line in favour of the male on the premise that the provisions are discriminatory and unfair against women and, therefore, ultra vires the equality clause in the Constitution.
The Court while upholding the fundamental right of the Tribal women to the right to livelihood held that the State was under an obligation to enforce the provisions of the Vienna Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) which provided that discrimination against women violated the principles of equality of rights and respects for human dignity.
Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan & Ors. [(1997) 6 SCC 241]
In Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan & Ors. [(1997) 6 SCC 241], the writ petition was filed for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of working women under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India with the aim of finding suitable methods for realization of the true concept of “gender equality”; and preventing sexual harassment of working women in all work places through judicial process to fill the vacuum in existing legislation.
The Court while framing the guidelines and norms to be observed by the employers in work places to ensure the prevention of sexual harassment of women, inter alia, relied on the provisions in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women as also the general recommendations of CEDAW for construing the nature and ambit of constitutional guarantee of gender equality in our Constitution.
Randhir Singh v. Union of India & Ors. [(1982) 1 SCC 618],
In Randhir Singh v. Union of India & Ors. [(1982) 1 SCC 618], the Court while holding that non-observance of the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ for both men and women under Article 39(d) of the Constitution amounted to violation of Article 14 and 16, recognized that the principle was expressly recognized by all socialist systems of law including the Preamble to the Constitution of the International Labour Organization.
Liverpool & London S.P. & I. Association Ltd. v. M.V. Sea Success I & Anr. [(2004) 9 SCC 512]
In Liverpool & London S.P. & I. Association Ltd. v. M.V. Sea Success I & Anr. [(2004) 9 SCC 512], the Court had to interpret the meaning and import of the word ‘necessaries’ used in Section 5 of the Admiralty Court Act, 1861. The Court while importing the meaning of the same through Foreign (American) Court decisions, opined:
“It is true that this Court is not bound by the American decisions. The American decisions have merely a persuasive value but this Court would not hesitate in borrowing the principles if the same is in consonance with the scheme of Indian law keeping in view the changing global scenario. Global changes and outlook in trade and commerce could be a relevant factor. With the change of time, from narrow and pedantic approach, the court may resort to broad and liberal interpretation. What was not considered to be a necessity a century back, may be held to be so now.”