Sunday, October 4, 2009

Supreme Court: Illegitimate Children and Discrimination

"The Supreme Court has ruled a controversial Civil Code provision that grants only half the inheritance from a deceased person's estate to children born out of wedlock constitutional.

"The ruling came as the top court's Second Petty Bench dismissed a special appeal filed by four illegitimate children. Three out of the four justices ruled that the Civil Code provision does not violate Article 14 of the Constitution that provides for equality under the law.

"The four plaintiffs, from Okinawa Prefecture, had sought equal shares of their father's estate after he died in 2000, while their legitimate counterpart demanded a split based on Civil Code provisions. The Nago branch of the Naha Family Court and the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court both ruled in favor of the latter party.

"On Wednesday, Isao Imai was the only justice to uphold the plaintiffs' claim. "It is the source of the inheritance who is responsible for the birth of his children, and his out-of-wedlock children are not to blame. The (Civil Code) provision is unconstitutional," he said.

"Justice Yukio Takeuchi, who ruled the provision constitutional, added a supporting opinion. "It was constitutional when the legacy was inherited, but the social circumstances have changed and there are now extremely strong suspicions that the provision is unconstitutional," he said.

"Discrimination against out-of-wedlock children over inheritances has long been a controversial issue in Japan. In 1995, the Supreme Court's Grand Bench ruled the Civil Code provision constitutional for the first time, with five out of the 15 judges ruling against. Three other rulings handed down by the top court's petty bench between 2003 and 2004 showed a narrow margin between the pros and cons of the provision, with three out of the five judges ruling it constitutional in each case.

"In 1996, the Justice Ministry's Legislative Council endorsed a bill to revise the Civil Code with the aim of eradicating discrimination over inheritances. However, the bill met strong opposition from some lawmakers and has yet to make its way into the Diet.

"The birth ratio of children born out of wedlock in Japan jumped from 1.63 percent in 2000 to 2.11 percent in 2006, while many countries abroad allow equal shares of estates among legitimate and illegitimate children.

"With these trends in mind, Justice Takeuchi urged the Diet revise the Civil Code provision, while Justice Imai said, "We have come to a point where we are not allowed to just wait for a law to be enacted."

"Newly appointed Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, meanwhile, has shown her willingness to submit a bill to revise the Civil Code provision to the Diet at an early date."

By Mainichi Shimbun (10/3/2009), Link to article (last visited 10/4/2009)

1 comment:

peter said...

In my point of view a son can bear with equanimity the loss of his father, but the loss of his inheritance. car dealer fraud lawyer