May,18,2015: ‘A woman has her own identity and is not a proxy for her husband’
Highlighting that a woman is not a proxy for her husband and enjoys her own identity, the Supreme Court has held that a woman’s character cannot be judged merely on the basis of her husband’s criminal past.
The verdict by a three-judge Bench, led by Justice T.S. Thakur, came on a petition filed by Manyata Devi, who runs a construction firm.
She had moved the Supreme Court against a decision of the District Magistrate at Basti in Uttar Pradesh to deny her a character certificate. The Allahabad High Court had refused to intervene in the case.
The certificate was required to renew her firm’s registration as a contractor for the State Irrigation Department.
The District Magistrate was swayed by the fact that her husband had faced several criminal cases, though he was acquitted in all of them.
“It is difficult to appreciate how criminal cases registered against the husband of the appellant [Manyata Devi] could possibly deny her a certificate of good moral character,” the judgment on May 15 said.
In the apex court, the Uttar Pradesh government said a ‘contract mafia’ was operating in the State. In Ms. Devi’s case, she would be used as a front for her husband to run the operations. The State said she had no experience whatsoever in the construction business.
The State quoted the law that “registration is granted only to people who have no criminal background.” This was to ensure that only genuine contractors win government contract works.
The Bench observed that the grant of character certificate had nothing to do with her professional inexperience or her husband’s criminal background, and asked the DM to reconsider her case.