Mary Roy vs. State of Kerala

Published On: 1 October, 2023

Authored By: Jeeya Kumari
New Law College Bharti Vidyapeeth, Pune

Mary Roy vs. State of Kerala

Case Name: Mary Roy vs. State of Kerala (Citation: AIR 1986, SC 1011)

Decision Date: July 11, 1986

Parties Involved: Mary Roy (Appellant), State of Kerala (Respondent)

Procedural History: The case originated from a civil suit filed by Mary Roy in the Kerala High Court. The Case was then appealed to the Supreme Court of India.

Bench: A bench led by Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice R.S. Pathak, heard the case and delivered the judgment.

Facts: Mary Roy, a Christian woman from Kerala, challenged the Travancore Succession Act of 1916, as the Act gave only male members of the family the right to inherit property, while female members were only entitled to a life interest.

Mary Roy argued that the Act violated her fundamental right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Roy and struck down the Act, declaring it unconstitutional. This landmark decision gave women equal rights to inherit property under the law.

This case was a major victory for gender equality in India. It set a precedent for other cases challenging discriminatory inheritance laws, and it helped to ensure that women have the same rights to property as men.

Issue(s): The primary issue before the court was whether the discriminatory inheritance law was based on the Marumakkathayam system which violated the fundamental rights of Mary Roy under Article 14 (Right to Equality) and 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

Holding: The Supreme Court ruled that the Marumakkathayam System of inheritance, which deprived the female member of the family of inheriting the property was unconstitutional and also violates the fundamental rights of equality and non-discrimination guaranteed under Articles 14 and 15 of the constitution of India. The ruling was made in favor of Mary Roy, guaranteeing her an equal share while inheriting the ancestral property.

Mary Roy’s case was a landmark decision given by the SC of India which struck down the discriminatory inheritance law that was bigotry towards women. The court also ruled that the Constitution of India takes precedence over personal laws and that women have the same right to inheritance as men. This decision was seen as a major victory for gender equality in India and has had a significant impact on women’s lives across the country.

Reasoning: The court reasoned that the discriminatory provision of the Marumakkathayam System was inconsistent with the principles of equality enshrined in the Constitution. The gender-based classification of the system resulted in the unfair treatment of women solely based on their sex, which ran contrary to the ethos of a modern and egalitarian society. The court cited various precedents that upheld the importance of equality before the law and non-discrimination based on gender.

Rationale: The Supreme Court’s decision in Mary Roy vs. State of Kerala was a landmark ruling that advanced gender equality in India. The Court struck down the Marumakkathayam system, which discriminated against women in inheritance rights. This decision was based on the constitutional goal of achieving gender justice and equality. It also established a precedent for challenging discriminatory practices based on sex in other areas of law.


The Court’s ruling was a significant milestone in the fight for gender equality in India. It recognized the inherent injustice of gender-based discrimination in inheritance laws and set a precedent for challenging other discriminatory practices. This case underscores the transformative power of the Indian Constitution in upholding fundamental rights and ensuring justice for marginalized groups.

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