Supreme Court Criticizes UP Government Over Gender-Biased Regulation

The Supreme Court on Monday sharply criticized the Uttar Pradesh government for a controversial rule requiring the wife of the District Magistrate (DM) of Bulandshahr to automatically serve as president of all registered societies in the district. The justices, Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan, labeled the requirement as “atrocious” and “humiliating for all women in the state.”

During the hearing, the bench highlighted the absurdity of the rule which mandates that leadership roles within important societal organizations, such as the Red Cross Society and child welfare societies, are assigned based on marital status rather than merit or capability. “It appears to us that the state is trying to monopolize everything,” remarked the bench, questioning the underlying assumption that a DM would always be male.

The court also raised concerns about situations where the DM does not have a wife, noting that the rule permits the DM to appoint any other woman as president, which further compounds the issue.

In defense, the UP government’s counsel argued that the rule aims to safeguard nazul lands (government land leased to societies) from private encroachment. However, this rationale was dismissed by the justices as insufficient. “There are numerous ways to protect government interests without resorting to such discriminatory practices,” the court countered.

The bench has now placed the state’s Department of Women and Child Development on notice, demanding an affidavit within two weeks to justify the legality and propriety of the disputed regulation.

The regulation, which dates back to 1950, was challenged by the Zila Mahila Samiti of Bulandshahr, a society working for the welfare of widows, orphans, and other marginalized women. The society had attempted to amend its bye-laws in 2022 to shift the DM’s wife’s role from president to patron, but these changes were invalidated by the deputy registrar. This decision was upheld by the Allahabad High Court, leading to the appeal to the Supreme Court.

Punit Mishra, deputy director of the Women and Child Development department, mentioned that there was no such regulation for constituting such committees elsewhere in the state, indicating that the rule might be a local anomaly.

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