This is a landmark judgment that enunciates and upholds the equal protection under law. It shows how law takes care of the changing time and upholds the equality of all human beings before law. It establishes a classification on the basis of sex, subject to the scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause.
Law takes care of the changing time and upholds the equality of all human beings before law. The Court in Reed -Versus – Reed had interpreted Sections 15-312 and 15-314 of the Idaho code. Richard Lynn Reed, a minor, died intestate in Ada Country, Idaho, on March 29, 1967. His adoptive parents, Sally Reed, the mother and Cecil Reed, the father, who had separated sometimes prior to his death filed petitions in the Probate Court of Ada County, seeking appointment as administratrix or administrator respectively of their son’s estate. The probate Court held a joint hearing on both the petitions and ordered that the letter of administration be issued to the father, Cecil Reed. The probate Court came to conclusion on the basis Sections 15-312 read with Section 15-314 of the Idaho code. Section 15-312 listed 11 classes of persons who could be issued the letter of administration to administer the estate of a person who dies intestate. One of the 11 classes so enumerated is “the father or mother” of the person dying intestate. But Section 15-312 of the Idaho code laid down that in case of several persons claiming and equally entitled to administer, males must be preferred over females.
The classification of different treatment must be reasonable, and must rest upon some ground of difference having a fair and substantial relation to the object of the legislation.
The case vindicated the mother’s stand Father or Mother would have equal rights
The Court held that The Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth amendment did not give power to States to legislate that different treatment be accorded to persons placed by a statute into different classes. The classification of different treatment must be reasonable, and must rest upon some ground of difference having a fair and substantial relation to the object of the legislation, so that all persons similarly circumstanced shall be treated alike. Therefore, the Court held that the Idaho code, since it gives different treatment to persons on the groun of sex, and since these persons are equally entitled to get the letter of administration in respect of estate of any person who dies intestate, is arbitrary. The code, by providing dissimilar treatment for men and women who are similarly situated is contrary to and violates the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The order of the probate court was reversed. This principal has great relevance in rule of law. The Indian Constitution also envisages the equality before law and equal protection of law as the fundamental right of the Indian citizens. The term ‘equal protection of law’ clearly envisages the law established in Reed Vs. Reed.