No Indian law is above the Constitution of India
The Court, by reaffirming the right to privacy as part of the right to shelter, prohibits the denial of housing by co-operative societies on moral or arbitrary grounds.
The right to shelter/housing includes the right to be let alone, and does not allow discrimination based on the
private life of an individual. The judgment is links the right to housing, an economic, social and cultural right, with
the right to privacy, a civil and political right – thus reinforcing the indivisibility of human rights approach. The
judgment also upholds the right to dispose property, as per will.
St. Anthony’s Co-operative Society v. The Secretary (Co-operation and Textile Department)
The Court noted that co-operative societies provide an essential amenity to citizens – namely the facility
of housing. The Court recognized that the right to housing is itself read into Article 21. Since membership to
the society has bearing upon the ownership, use, or enjoyment of property, restricting membership restricts
full enjoyment of property.
However, it also stated that the “right may be regulated, as rights in property can generally speaking be regulated, but save and except in the face of a statutory indication, an interpretation which would interpose a bar upon the full enjoyment of the right ought not to be countenanced by the Court.
The human right to adequate housing addresses rights not just limited to the ownership of property and of property owners but also guarantees the right of everyone, including non-owners, to a safe and secure place to live in peace
Security of tenure is an essential element of the human right to adequate housing, as elaborated in General Comment 4 of CESCR. It includes rental accommodation, cooperative housing, leased housing, emergency housing, and informal settlements.
These judgments are significant in light of the numerous instances of discrimination in access to housing on grounds of caste, gender, religion, sexuality, and marital status, among others.