Anda di halaman 1dari 27

Inheritance & Succession of a

female under Hindu Law

FAMILY LAW
FACULTY OF LAW
JAMIA MILLIA ISLAMIA

Under the Able Supervision of


Mrs. Kehkasha Danyal
Faculty of Law, JMI

Submitted by:
Farhan Ghazi
B. A. LL.B. (Hons.)
Class: 3rd yr, Sec A

ACKNOWLEDGMENT
I have taken efforts in this project however it would not
have been possible without the kind support and help of
many individuals, websites and books. I would like to
extend my sincere thanks to all of them.
I am highly indebted to Mrs. Kehkasha maam for
guidance

and

constant

supervision

as

well

as

for

providing necessary information regarding the project


and also for her support in completing the project.

Farhan Ghazi
B. A. LL.B. (Hons.)
CLASS: 3rd Yr
BATCH: 2012-17

CONTENTS

1. Background
2. TheHinduSuccessionAct:Before2005Amendment
3. TheHinduSuccessionAct205Amendment:APrologue
4. CaseLaws
5. CriticalAppraisal
6. Conclusion

TheUnitedNation'sReportin1980presentedthat:
"Womenconstitutehalftheworld'spopulation,performnearlytwothirdsofits
hours,receiveonetenthoftheworld'sincomeandlessthanonehundredthofthe
property."
Succession implies the act of succeeding or following, as of events, objects, places
in a series. In the eyes of law however, it holds a different and particular meaning.
It implies the transmission or passing of rights from one to another. In every
system of law provision has to be made for a readjustment of things or goods on
the death of the human beings who owned and enjoyed them.
Succession, in the sense of the partition or redistribution of the property of a
former owner is, in modern systems of law, subject to many rules. Such rules may
be based on the will of a deceased person. However, there are cases in which a
will cannot be expressed and eventually, there needs to be some broadly accepted
rules upon which the property shall devolve upon those succeeding him. There can
be no doubt, however, that these rules primarily are the characteristics of the social
conditions in which that individual lived. They represent the view of society at
large as to what ought to be the normal course of succession in the readjustment of
property after the death of a citizen.
Since time immemorial the framing of all laws have been exclusively for the
benefitofman,andwomanhasbeentreatedassubservient,anddependenton
malesupport.Therighttopropertyisimportantforthefreedomanddevelopment
ofahumanbeing.PriortotheHinduSuccessionAct,1956shastricandcustomary

lawsthatvariedfromregiontoregiongovernedHindusandsometimesitvariedin
thesameregiononacastebasisresultingindiversityinthelaw.Consequentlyin
mattersofsuccessionalso,thereweredifferentschools,likeDayabhagainBengal
and the adjoining areas; Mayukha in Bombay, Konkan and Gujarat and
MarumakkattayamorNambudriinKeralaandMitaksharainotherpartsofIndia
withslightvariationsThemultiplicityofsuccessionlawsinIndia,diverseintheir
nature,owingtotheirvariedoriginmadethepropertylawsevenmerecomplex.
Earlier,womaninajointHindufamily,consistingbothofmanandwoman,hada
righttosustenance,butthecontrolandownershipofpropertydidnotvestinher.
Inapatrilinealsystem,liketheMitaksharaschoolofHindulaw,awoman,was
notgivenabirthrightinthefamilypropertylikeason.
Discriminationagainstwomenissopervasivethatitsometimessurfacesonabare
perusalofthelawmadebythelegislatureitself.Thisisparticularlysoinrelation
tolawsgoverningtheinheritance/successionofpropertyamongstthemembersof
aJointHindufamily.Itseemsthatthisdiscriminationissodeepandsystematic
that it has placed women at the receiving end. Recognizing this the Law
Commission1inpursuanceofitstermsofreference,which,interalia,obligeand
empowerittomakerecommendationsfortheremovalofanomalies,ambiguities
andinequalitiesinthelaw,theydecidedtoundertakeastudyofcertainprovisions
regardingthepropertyrightsofHinduwomenundertheHinduSuccessionAct,
1956.

Background
AwomaninajointHindufamily,consistingbothofmanandwoman,hadaright
tosustenance,butthecontrolandownershipofpropertydidnotvestinher.Ina
patrilinealsystem,liketheMitaksharaschoolofHindulaw,awoman,wasnot
givenabirthrightinthefamilypropertylikeason.UndertheMitaksharalaw,on
birth,thesonacquiresarightandinterestinthefamilyproperty.Accordingtothis
school,ason,grandson andagreatgrandson constituteaclassof coparcenars,
174th Report of Law Commission of India under the Chairmanship of Justice B.P.
Jeevan Reddy, vide D.O. No. 6(3)(59)/99-LC(LS), dated 5th May, 2000.
1

based on birth in the family. No female is a member of the coparcenary in


Mitaksharalaw.UndertheMitaksharasystem,jointfamilypropertydevolvesby
survivorshipwithinthecoparcenary.Thismeansthatwitheverybirthordeathof
a male in the family, the share of every other surviving male either gets
diminishedorenlarged.Ifacoparcenaryconsistsofafatherandhistwosons,
eachwouldownonethirdoftheproperty.Ifanothersonisborninthefamily,
automaticallytheshareofeachmaleisreducedtoonefourth.
The Mitakshara law also recognises inheritance by succession but only to the
propertyseparatelyownedbyanindividual,maleorfemale.Femalesareincluded
asheirstothiskindofpropertybyMitaksharalaw.BeforetheHinduLawof
Inheritance(Amendment)Act1929,theBengal,BenaresandMithilasubschools
ofMitakshararecognisedonlyfivefemalerelationsasbeingentitledtoinherit
namely widow, daughter, mother, paternal grandmother, and paternal great
grandmother2.TheMadrassubschoolrecognisedtheheritablecapacityofalarger
numberoffemalesheirsthatisoftheson'sdaughter,daughter'sdaughterandthe
sister,asheirswhoareexpresslynamedasheirsinHinduLawofInheritance
(Amendment)Act,19293.Theson'sdaughterandthedaughter'sdaughterranked
asbandhusinBombayandMadras.TheBombayschoolwhichismostliberalto
women,recognisedanumberofotherfemaleheirs,includingahalfsister,father's
sister and women married into the family such as stepmother, son's widow,
brother'swidowandalsomanyotherfemalesclassifiedasbandhus.
TheDayabhagaschoolneitheraccordsarightbybirthnorbysurvivorshipthough
ajointfamilyandjointpropertyisrecognized.Itlaysdownonlyonemodeof
successionandthesamerulesofinheritanceapplywhetherthefamilyisdivided
orundividedandwhetherthepropertyisancestralorselfacquired.Neithersons
nordaughtersbecomecoparcenersatbirthnordotheyhaverightsinthefamily
property during their father's life time. However, on his death, they inherit as
tenantsincommon. It is a notable feature of the Dayabhaga School that the
2
3

Mulla, Principles of Hindu Law (1998 17th ed. by SA Desai), p. 168.


Ibid.

daughtersalsogetequalsharesalongwiththeirbrothers.Sincethisownership
arisesonlyontheextinctionofthefather'sownershipnoneofthemcancompel
thefathertopartitionthepropertyinhislifetimeandthelatterisfreetogiveor
sell the property without their consent. Therefore, under the Dayabhaga law,
successionratherthansurvivorshipistherule.Ifoneofthemaleheirsdies,his
heirs,includingfemalessuchashiswifeanddaughterwouldbecomemembersof
the joint property, not in their own right, butrepresenting him. Since females
couldbecoparceners,theycouldalsoactaskartas,andmanagethepropertyon
behalf of the other members in the Dayabhaga School. However, during the
British regime, the country became politically and socially integrated, but the
BritishGovernmentdidnotventuretointerferewiththepersonallawsofHindus
orofothercommunities.Duringthisperiod,however,socialreformmovements
raisedtheissueofameliorationofthewoman'spositioninsociety.
The earliest legislation bringing females into the scheme of inheritance is the
HinduLawofInheritanceAct,1929.ThisAct,conferredinheritancerightson
three female heirs, i.e., son's daughter, daughter's daughter and sister (thereby
creating a limited restriction on the rule of survivorship). Another landmark
legislationconferringownershiprightsonwomanwastheHinduWomen'sRight
toPropertyAct(XVIIIof)1937.
ThisActbroughtaboutrevolutionarychangesintheHinduLawofallschools,
andbroughtchangesnotonlyinthelawofcoparcenarybutalsointhelawof
partition, alienation of property, inheritance and adoption. 4 The Act of 1937
enabledthewidowtosucceedalongwiththesonandtotakeashareequaltothat
of the son. But, the widow did not become a coparcener even though she
possessedarightakintoacoparcenaryinterestinthepropertyandwasamember
ofthejointfamily.Thewidowwasentitledonlytoalimitedestateintheproperty
of the deceased with a right to claim partition 5. A daughter had virtually no
Mayne's, Treatise on Hindu Law & Usage, (1996 14th Edn., edt. by Alladi
Kuppuswami p. 1065.
5
M. Indira Devi, "Woman's Assertion of Legal Rights to Ownership of property" in
Women & Law Contemporary Problems, (1994 edt. by L. Sarkar & B. Sivaramayya)
p. 174; also section 3(3) of Hindu Women's Right to Property Act, 1937.
4

inheritancerights.Despitetheseenactmentshavingbroughtimportantchangesin
thelawofsuccessionbyconferringnewrightsofsuccessiononcertainfemales,
thesewerestillfoundtobeincoherentanddefectiveinmanyrespectsandgave
rise to a number of anomalies and left untouched the basic features of
discriminationagainstwomen.Theseenactmentsnowstandrepealed.
TheframersoftheIndianConstitutiontooknoteoftheadverseanddiscrimnatory
positionofwomeninsocietyandtookspecialcaretoensurethattheStatetook
positivestepstogiveherequalstatus.Articles14,15(2)and(3)and16ofthe
ConstitutionofIndia,thusnotonlyinhibitdiscriminationagainstwomenbutin
appropriatecircumstancesprovideafreehandtotheStatetoprovideprotective
discriminationinfavourofwomen.TheseprovisionsarepartoftheFundamental
RightsguaranteedbytheConstitution.PartIVoftheConstitutioncontainsthe
DirectivePrincipleswhicharenolessfundamentalinthegovernanceoftheState
andinteraliaalsoprovidethattheStateshallendeavortoensureequalitybetween
manandwoman.Notwithstandingtheseconstitutionalmandates/directivesgiven
morethanfiftyyearsago,awomanisstillneglectedinherownnatalfamilyas
wellasinthefamilyshemarriesintobecauseofblatantdisregardandunjustified
violation of these provisions by some of the personal laws. Pandit Jawaharlal
Nehru,thethenPrimeMinisterofIndiaexpressedhisunequivocalcommitmentto
carry out reforms to remove the disparities and disabilities suffered by Hindu
women.Asaconsequence,despitetheresistanceoftheorthodoxsectionofthe
Hindus,theHinduSuccessionAct,1956wasenactedandcameintoforceon17th
June,1956.ItappliestoalltheHindusincludingBuddhists,JainsandSikhs.It
lays down a uniform and comprehensiye system of inheritance and applies to
thosegovernedbothbytheMitaksharaandtheDayabahagaSchoolsandalsoto
those in South India governed by the the Murumakkattayam, Aliyasantana,
NambudriandothersystemsofHinduLaw.

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 : Gender Position Before 2005


Amendment

TheverypreambleoftheActsignifiesthatanActtoamendandcodifytlaw
relating to intestate succession among Hindus. The Act aims to lay down an
uniform law of succession whereas attempt has been made to ensure equality
inheritancerightsbetweensonsanddaughters.ItappliestoallHindusincluding
Budhists,JainsandSikhs.Itlaysdownanuniformandcomprehensivesystemof
inheritanceand.appliestothosegovernedbytheMitaksharaandDayabhaschools
aswellasother6schools.TheHinduSuccessionActreformedtheHindupersonal
law and gave women greater property rights, allowing her f ownership rights
insteadoflimitedrightsinproperty.
The daughters were also granted property rights in their father's estate. In the
matterofsuccessionofpropertyofaHindumaledyingintestate,theActlays,
downasetofgeneralrulesinsections8to13.Sections15and16oftheact
contain separate general rules affecting succession to the property of a fem
intestate. Under section 8 of the Act three Classes 7 of heirs recognized by
MitaksharaLawandthreeClasses8ofheirsrecognisedbyDayabhagaLawcease
existincaseofdevolutiontakingplaceaftercomingintoforceoftheAct.The
heirs

are

divided

into

instead,

four

Classes

viz:

(i)HeirsinClassIoftheSchedule
(ii)HeirsinClassIIoftheSchedule
(iii)Agnates,and
(iv)Cognates.
Ofcoursemother,widow,sonanddaughterareprimaryheirs.Intheabsenceof
ClassIheirs,thepropertydevolvesonClassIIheirsandintheirabsencefirston
agnatesandthenoncognates.StillsomesectionsoftheActcameundercriticism
evokingcontroversyasbeingfavourabletocontinueinequalityonthebasisof

Murumakkattayam, Aliyasantans and Nambudri.


Gotraja, Sapindas, Samanodlakas and Bandhus
8
Sapindas, Sakulyas and Bandhus
6
7

gender.Onesuchprovisionhasbeentheretentionofmitaksharacoparcenarywith
onlymalesascoparceners9.
AspertheLawCommissionReport,coparcenaryconstitutesanarrowerbodyof
personswithinajointfamilyandconsistsoffather,son,son'ssonandson'sson's
son. Thus ancestral property continues to be governed by a wholly patrilineal
regime,whereinpropertydescendsonlythroughthemalelineasonlythemale
membersofaJointHinduFamilyhaveaninterestbybirthinthecoparcenary
property,incontradictionwiththeabsoluteorseparatepropertyofanindividual
coparcener,devolveuponsurvivingcoparcenersinthefamily,accordingtothe
ruleofdevolutionbysurvivorship.Sinceawomancouldnotbeacoparcener,she
wasnotentitledtoashareintheancestralpropertybybirth.Section6oftheAct,
althoughitdoesnotinterferewiththespecialrightsofIthosewhoaremembersof
amitaksltaracoparcenary,recognises,withoutabolishingjointfamilyproperty,
therightupondeathofacoparcener,ofcertainmembersofhispreferentialheirs
to claim an interest in the property that would have been allotted to such
coparcener if aparititon10 of the joint family property had in fact taken place
immediatelybeforehisdeath.
Thussection6oftheAct,whilerecognisingtheruleofdevolutionbysurvivorship
amongthemembersofthecoparcenary,makesanexceptiontotheruleinthe
proviso. According to theproviso, if the deceased hasleft a surviving female
relativespecifiedinClassIoftheScheduleIoramalerelativespecifiedinthat
Class who claims through such female relation, the interest of a deceased in
mitakshara coparcenary property shall devolve by testamentary of intestate
succession under the Act and not as survivorship 11. Thus nonconclusion of
womenascoparcenersinthejointfamilypropertyunderthemitaksharasystemas
reflectedinsection6oftheActrelatingtodevolutionofinterestincoparcenary
property,hasbeenundercriticismforbeingviolativeoftheequalrightsofwomen
guaranteedundertheConstitutioninrelationtopropertyrights.Thismeansthat
7th Report of Parliamentary Standing Committee dated 13th May, 2005.
Notional partition.
11
7th Report of Parliamentary Standing Committee
9

10

10

females cannot inherit ancestral property as males do. If a joint family gets
divided,eachmalecoparcenertakeshisshareandfemalesgetnothing.Onlywhen
oneofthecoparcenersdies,afemalegetsshareofhisinterestasanheirtothe
deceased.Furtheraspertheprovisotosection6oftheAct,theinterestofthe
deceased male in the mitakshara coparcenary devolve by intestate succession
firstlyupontheheirsspecifiedinClassIofScheduleI.UnderthisSchedulethere
areonlyfourprimaryheirs,namelyson,daughter,widowandmother.Forthe
remainingeight,theprincipleofrepresentationgoesuptotwodegreesinthemale
lineofdescent.Butinthefemalelineofdescent,itgoesonlyuptoonedegree.
Thustheson'sson'ssonandtheson'sson'sdaughtergetasharebutadaughter's
daughter'ssonanddaughter'sdaughter'sdaughterdonotgetanything.
Again as per section 23 of the Act married daughter is denied the right to
residenceintheparentalhomeunlesswidowed,desertedorseparatedfromher
husbandandfemaleheirhasbeendisentitledtoaskforpartitioninrespectof
dwellinghousewhollyoccupiedbymembersofjointfamilyuntilthemaleheirs
choose to divide their respective shares therein. These provisions have been
identified as major sources of disabilities thrust by law on woman. Another
controversyistheestablishmentoftherighttowilltheproperty.Amanhasfull
testamentarypoweroverhispropertyincludinghisinterestinthecoparcenary.
OnthewholetheHinduSuccessionAct 12 gaveaweapontoamantodeprivea
womanoftherightssheearlierhadundercertainschoolsofHinduLaw.Thelegal
rightofHindustobequeathpropertybywayofwillwasconferredbytheIndian
SuccessionAct,1925.

The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 A Prologue:


This amending Act of 2005 is an attempt to remove the discrimination as
containedintheamendedsection6oftheHinduSuccessionAct,1956bygiving
equalrightstodaughtersintheHindumitaksharacoparcenarypropertyastosons
have.Simultaneouslysection23oftheActasdisentitlesthefemaleheirtoaskfor
12

Before amendment of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 in 2005

11

partitioninrespectofdwellinghousewhollyoccupiedbyaJointFamilyuntil
maleheirschoosetodividetheirrespectivesharestherein,wasomittedbythis
AmendingAct.Asaresultthedisabilitiesoffemaleheirswereremoved.?Thisis
agreatstepofthegovernmentsofartheHinduCodeisconcerned.
Thisistheproductof174thReportoftheLawCommissionofIndiaon"Property
RightsofWomen:ProposedReformundertheHinduLaw".First,the2005act,by
deletingamajorgenderdiscriminatoryclauseSection4(2)ofthe1956HSA
hasmadewomen'sinheritancerightsinagriculturallandequaltomen's.Section
4(2)excludedfromthepurviewoftheHSAsignificantinterestsinagricultural
land,theinheritanceofwhichwassubjecttothesuccessionrulesspecifiedin
stateleveltenuriallaws.Especiallyinthenorthwesternstates,theselawswere
highlygenderunequalandgaveprimacytomalelinealdescendantsinthemale
lineofdescent.Womencameverylowinthesuccessionorderandgotonlya
limitedestate.Thenewlegislationbringsmaleandfemalerightsinagricultural
land on par for all states, overriding any inconsistent state laws. This can
potentially benefit millions of women dependent on agriculture for survival.
Second,the2005actmakesalldaughters,includingmarriedones,coparcenersin
jointfamilyproperty.The1956HSAdistinguishedbetweenseparatepropertyand
jointfamilyproperty.
Theseparatepropertyofa(nonmatrilineal)Hindumaledyingintestate(without
leavingawill)wentequallytohisclassIheirs,viz,son,daughter,widowand
mother(andspecifiedheirsofpredeceasedchildren).Onjointfamilyproperty,
thosepreviouslygovernedby`Mitakshara'(prevailinginmostofIndia)differed
fromthosegovernedby`Dayabhaga'(prevailinginBengalandAssam).Forthe
latter,jointfamilypropertydevolvedlikeseparateproperty.ButinMitakshara
jointfamilyproperty,whilethedeceasedman's"notional"sharewentintestateto
all class I heirs (including females) in equal parts; sons, as coparceners,
additionally had a direct birthright to an independent share. Sons could also
demandpartitionofthejointfamilyproperty;daughterscouldnot.The2005act
does not touch separate property. But it makes daughters coparceners in the
12

Mitaksharajointfamilyproperty,withthesamebirthrightsassonstosharesand
toseekpartition.Inaddition,theactmakestheheirsofpredeceasedsonsand
daughtersmoreequal.Third,the2005actbydeletingSection23ofthe1956HSA
givesalldaughters(includingthosemarried)thesamerightsassonstoresideinor
seek partition of the parental dwelling house. Section 23 disallowed married
daughters(unlessseparated,desertedorwidowed)evenresidencerightsinthe
parentalhome,andunmarrieddaughtershadrightsofresidencebutnotpartition.
Fourth, the legislation removes a discriminatory section which barred certain
widowsfrominheritingthedeceased'sproperty,iftheyhadremarried.
AccordingtotheamendingActof2005,inaJointHinduFamilygovernedbythe
mitakshara Law, the daughter of a coparcener shall, also by birth become a
coparcenerinherownrightinthesamemannerasthesonheir.Sheshallhavethe
samerightsinthecoparcenarypropertyasshewouldhavehadifshehadbeena
son.Sheshallbesubjecttothesameliabilitiesanddisabilitiesinrespectofthe
saidcoparcenarypropertyasthatofasonandanyreferencetoaHindumitakshara
coparencershallbedeemedtoincludeareferencetoadaughter.Butthisprovision
shallnot applytoadaughter marriedbeforethecommencementoftheHindu
Succession(Amendment)Actof2005.
Thisprovisionshallnotaffectorinvalidateanydispositionoralienationincluding
partition or testamentary disposition of property which had taken place before
20th December, 2004.Further any property to which female Hindu becomes
entitledbyvirtueofaboveprovisionshallbeheldbyherwiththeincidentsof
coparcenary ownership and shall be regarded, as property capable of being
disposedofbyherbywillandothertestamentarydisposition.Theprovisionwas
also made that where a Hindu dies after the commencement of the Hindu
Succession(Amendment)Actof2005,hisinterestinthepropertyofaJointHindu
Family governed by the Mitakshara Law, shall devolve by testamentary or
intestatesuccessionundertheActandnotbysurvivorship,andthecoparcenary
propertyshallbedeemedtohavebeendividedasifapartitionhadtakenplace.

13

Further the daughter is allotted the same share as is allotted to a son. The
provisionwasalsomadethattheshareofthepredeceasedsonorapredeceased
daughterastheywouldhavegot,hadtheybeenaliveatthetimeofpartition,shall
beallottedtothesurvivingchildofsuchpredeceasedsonorofsuchpredeceased
daughter.
Further the share of the predeceased child of a predeceased son or of a pre
deceaseddaughterassuchchildwouldhavegot,hadheorshebeenaliveatthe
timeofthepartition,shallbeallottedtothechildofsuchpredeceasedchildofthe
predeceasedsonorapredeceaseddaughter.Themostimportantfactisthatthe
interestofaHindumitaksharacoparcenershallbedeemedtobetheshareinthe
propertythatwouldhavebeenallottedtohimifapartitionofthepropertybad
takenplaceimmediatelybeforehisdeath,irrespectiveofwhetherhewasentitled
toclaimpartitionornot.ThisamendingActof2005hasalsoclearprovisionthat,
aftercommencementoftheAmendingActof2005,nocourtshallrecogniseany
righttoproceedagainstason,grandsonorgreatgrandsonfortherecoveryofany
debtduefromhisfather,grandfatherorgreatgrandfather(onthegroundofthe
piousobligationundertheHinduLaw),ofsuchson,grandsonorgreatgrandsonto
dischargeanysuchdebt.Butifanydebtcontractedbeforethecommencementthis
AmendingActof2005therightofanycreditor,toproceedagainstson,grandson
orgreatgrandson,shallnotaffectoranyalienationrelatingtoanysuchdebtor
rightshallbeenforceableundertheruleofpiousobligationinthesamemanner
andtothesameextentasitwouldhavebeen.enforceableasifHinduSuccession
AmendingActof2005hadnotbeenenacted.
Further for the purpose of creditors right stated above the expression son,
grandsonorgreatgrandsonshallbedeemedtorefertotheson,grandsonorgreat
grandsonwhowasbornoradoptedpriortothecommencement(9thSeptember,
2005)oftheAmendingActof2005.Suchprovisionsshallnotapplytoapartition
whichhasbeendonebefore20thDecember,2004.Sections23and24omitted.
Likewisespecialprovisionsrelatingtorightsinrespectofdwellinghouseandthe
disentitlementrightsofwidow'sremarrying,respectivelyomittedfromtheAct.
14

TheAmendingActalsointheScheduleoftheHinduSuccessionAct,1956added
newheirsviz,sonofapredeceaseddaughterofapredeceaseddaughterofapre
deceased daughterdaughterofapredeceaseddaughter, sonofapredeceased
daughter,daughterofapredeceasedson.
Thus the amendment of Hindu Succession Act of 1956 in 2005 is a total
commitment for the women empowerment and protection of women's right to
property.ThisAmendingActinapartrilinealsystem,likemitaksharaSchoolof
HinduLawopenedthedoorforthewomen,tohavethebirthrightinthefamily
propertyliketheson.Thewomenwerevestedtherightofcontrolandownership
ofpropertybeyondtheirrighttosustenance.

Amendments To The Hindu Succession Act And Gender Equality


TherecentlegislativeproposalsamendingtheHinduSuccessionActareimportant
stepstowardsgenderequalityandabolitionofthepatrilinealsystemofinheritance
prevailingamongHindus.Theseproposalsarebasedonthe174thReportofthe
LawCommissionpublishedin2000andseektogiveHinduwomenequalrightsin
theMitaksharaJointFamilyProperty.TheproposedBillalsoseekstodoaway
withSection23oftheHinduSuccessionActwhichdeniesawomantherightto
seek partition of an inherited ?dwelling? unit / house if other male heirs are
residinginitandfurtherrestrictsherrighttoresideintheinheritedresidence
unlesssheisawidoworhasbeenseparatedfromordesertedbyherhusband.
However,theproposedchangesarenotcomprehensiveenoughandwomenwill
stillbesubjectedtounequalpropertyrightsinagriculturallandasSection4(2)of
the Hindu Succession Act allows for special State laws to address the issue
offragmentation of agricultural holdings,fixation of ceilinganddevolution of
tenancyrightsintheseholdings.Thus,StatelawsexistinDelhi,U.P,Madhya
Pradesh, Punjab& Haryana, whichdeny womenequalrightsofsuccessionin
tenancy rights. Further, certain other Sections of the Hindu Succession Act
discriminateagainstwomenthroughthediscriminatoryorderofsuccessionfor
male&femaleheirs.TheproposedAmendmentstotheMitaksharaJointFamily
15

Propertylawsmakingwomenequalcoparcenersaresoughttobemadeapplicable
onlytowomenwhoarenotmarriedatthetimethelawispassedandisthus
patentlyunjustalso.
WhentheHinduSuccessionActwaspassedin1956,theMitaksharacoparcenery
systemwasretainedandthethenGovernmentrefusedtoabolishthissystemof
JointfamilyinspiteofcontraryrecommendationsbytheSelectCommitteeand
protestbyAIWC.UndertheMitakshraSystemofJointFamily,whichprevailsin
allpartsofIndiaapartfromBengalonlymalesaremembers(coparceners)ofthe
JointFamilyandtherighttoinheritancewasbywayofsurvivorshipandnotby
wayofsuccession.ThesonacquiredarightandinterestinJointFamilyProperty
onbirthwhileawomanfamilymemberonlyhadarighttomaintenance.
HowevertheHinduSuccessionActgaveasharetothefirstclassfemaleheirs
(daughters and wives) in the share of the father /husband in thejointfamily
propertywhodiedintestate(withoutmakingawill).Howeverthissharewasnot
equal to the share, which a son inherited, since the son was deemed to be
coparcener (member of the joint family) by birth. For e.g. in a joint family
consistingofafather,asonandadaughter,boththefatherandtheson,according
totheMitaksharacoparcenarysystem,wouldbeequalownersoftheproperty.
Thuswhenthefatherdied,afterthe1956Act,hissharewoulddevolveequallyon
boththesonanddaughter.Howeverthedaughterinthisparticularcasewould
onlyget1/4thshareofthepropertywhereasthebrotherwhowasalreadyaco
ownerwouldhavehishalfshareplus1/4thshareoftheproperty.TheAmendment
clearedbytheUnionCabinetproposestomakethedaughteralsoacoparcenerin
the Joint Family Property. It is pertinent to point out that some states like
Karnataka,AndhraPradesh,MaharashtraandTamilnaduhavealreadypassedlaws
makingthedaughteramember(coparcener)ofthejointfamilywhileotherstates
likeKeralahavecompletelyabolishedthejointfamilysystem.
ThiscouldbedoneaslawsofsuccessionfallinEntry5oftheconcurrentlistof
theVIIIthScheduletotheConstitution.ItisrelevanttonotethattheHinduCode

16

Bill, as originally framed by the B.N.Rao committee and piloted by Dr


B.R.Ambedkar,hadrecommendedabolishingtheMitaksharacoparcenerywithits
conceptofsurvivorshipandtheson?srightbybirthinajointfamilysystemand
substituteitwithaprincipleofinheritancebysuccession.Infact,AIDWAhad
also during the Dowry Prohibition Act amendments in early 1980s, asked for
abolitionoftheJointfamilySystem.InthissensetheAmendmentdoesn'tgofar
away.TheotherAmendment,whichwasclearedbytheCabinet,wastoabolish
Section23oftheHinduSuccessionAct1956.Thisprovisiondeniesamarried
daughter the right to residence in an inherited parental home unless she is
widowed,desertedorseparatedfromherhusband.Thesectionfurtherdeniesthe
daughter,whohasinheritedahousealongwithamalememberofafamilyfrom
askingforhershareofthepropertyifanymemberofthefamilyresidesinthe
inheritedhouse,untilthemaleheirsalsoagreed.However,nosuchrestrictionhas
beenplacedbytheSection23onamaleheir.
Apartfromthistheproposedamendmentseekstomakethenewlawapplicable
onlytothosewomenwhoarenotmarriedatthedateoftheamendment.This
provision is based on the Maharashtra Law and is said to be made on the
presumptionthatwomen,whoaremarriedhavealreadyreceivedtheirshareof
propertyetc.asdowry/giftduringtheirmarriage.Thisispatentlyunfairnotonly
becausemanywomenmaynothavereceiveddowrybutalsobecausetheamount
ofdowryreceivedcanhardlybeequatedtoequalrightsinproperty.Inrealitythis
isadevisetorestrictthenumberofwomen,whoinheritandtomaintainstatusquo
asfaraspossible.
Apart from the obvious discrimination in Section 6 and Section 23 discussed
above,certainothersectionsofHinduSuccessionActalsoblatantlydiscriminate
againstwomenandrequireamendment.Themostimportantsection,whichhas
beenusedtodenypropertyrightstowomeninagriculturalland,isSection4(2)of
theHinduSuccessionAct,whichallowsforStatelegislationtoprevailoverthe
HinduSuccessionAct.ThisSectionstatesthattheActshallnotapplytolaws?
providing for the prevention of fragmentation of agricultural holdings or for
17

fixation of ceilings or for the devolution of tenancy rights in respect of such


holdings?.JudgmentsunderthisSectionhaveupheldlawsunderSection4(2)of
the Hindu Succession Act and have mostly denied women equal rights in
agriculturalland.WhilesomecourtshaveheldthattheHinduSuccessionActwill
applytoagriculturalholding,thiscanonlybeintheabsenceofStatelawsforthe
purposes mentioned in Section 4 (2) or if the States laws under Section 4(2)
themselvesapplytheHinduSuccessionActorpersonallawsto?devolutionof
tenancy rights?. Courts have upheld the State Land Reform Acts, relating to
devolutionoftenancyrightseventhoughthesedonotallowwomentoinherit
thesetenancies.Some courtshave further interpretedthe term?devolution?of
tenancyrightsbroadly/comprehensivelytoincludedevolutionoftenureholder's
rightandhavethusalsodeniedwomenownershiprightsoveragriculturalland.
Thusevenlawsmeantforlandreformandtoenforceceilinghaveresultedin
denying to women equal rights over land and a chance to improve her
disempoweredstatus.Section30oftheHinduSuccessionActallowsanyHinduto
disposeoffhispropertyincludinghisshareintheJointFamilyPropertybywill.
Ashasbeenpointedbywomen'sorganizations/groupsandactiviststhisSection
canandhasbeenusedtodisinheritwomen.Ithasbeenrecommendedbymany
thatalimitationshouldbeplacedontherighttowill.Suchaprovisionexistsin
MuslimlawwhereaMuslimcanonlyWillawayuptoamaximumof1/3rdof
hisproperty.
Section15oftheHinduSuccessionActwhichspecifieshowthepropertyofa
female Hindu will devolve also contains certain discriminatory provisions. It
statesthatintheabsenceofclassIheirs(son,daughters&husband)theproperty
ofafemaleHinduwillgotoherhusband'sheirsandonlyiftheseheirsarenot
then will the property devolve upon her mother and father. However, in the
absenceofthemotherandfather,thepropertywillagaindevolveupontheheirsof
thefatherandonlyiftherearenoheirsoffatherwillthepropertydevolveupon
theheirsofthemother.

18

TheprovisotoSection6ofHinduSuccessionActcontainsanotherinstanceof
genderbias.TheprovisostatesthatthepropertyofthedeceasedintheMitakshara
Coparcenaryshalldevolvebyintestatesuccessionifthedeceasedhadafemale
heiroramaleheirwhoclaimsthroughsuchfemalerelative.Inordertoappreciate
thegenderbiasitisnecessarytoseetherulesofdevolutionofinterestunder
section8oftheHinduSuccessionAct.Inthissectionthereareonlyfourprimary
heirsintheScheduletoclassI,namely,mother,widow,sonanddaughter.If,
however,forexamplethesonordaughterhasalreadydied,theirchildrencan
inherittheproperty.Theprincipleofrepresentationgoesuptotwodegreeinthe
male line of descent; but in the female line of descent it goes only upto one
degree.Accordingly,thedeceasedson'sson'ssonandson'sson'sdaughtergeta
sharebutadeceaseddaughter'sdaughter'ssonanddaughter'sdaughter'sdaughter
donotgetanything.Afurtherinfirmityisthatawidowofapredeceasedsonand
grandson are classIheirs, but the husbands of a deceased daughter or grand
daughterarenotheirs.

CASE LAWS
In Anar Devi and Ors. Vs. Parmeshwari Devi and Ors.13sthe Supreme Court held
that
Thus we hold that according to Section 6 of the Act when a coparcener dies
leaving behind any female relative specified in Class I of the Schedule to the Act
or male relative specified in that class claiming through such female relative, his
undivided interest in the Mitakshara coparcenary property would not devolve
upon the surviving coparcener, by survivorship but upon his heirs by intestate
succession. Explanation 1 to Section 6 of the Act provides a mechanism under
13

AIR 2006 SC

19

which undivided interest of a deceased coparcener can be ascertained and, i.e.,


that the interest of a Hindu Mitakshara coparcener shall be deemed to be the share
in the property that would have been allotted to him if a partition of the property
had taken place immediately before his death, irrespective of whether he was
entitled to claim partition or not. It means for the purposes of finding out
undivided interest of a deceased coparcener, a notional partition has to be
assumed immediately before his death and the same shall devolve upon his heirs
by succession which would obviously include the surviving coparcener who,
apart from the devolution of the undivided interest of the deceased upon him by
succession, would also be entitled to claim his undivided interest in the
coparcenary property which he could have got in notional partition. In the case on
hand, notional partition of the suit properties between Nagarmal and his adopted
son Nemi Chand has to be assumed immediately before the death of Nagarmal
and that being so Nagar Mal's undivided interest in the suit property, which was
half, devolved on his death upon his three children, i.e., the adopted son Nemi
Chand and the two daughters who are plaintiffs in equal proportion. Nemi Chand,
the adopted son, would get half of the entire property which right he acquired on
the date of adoption and one third of the remaining half which devolved upon him
by succession as stated above. This being the position, each of the two plaintiffs
was not entitled to one-third share in the suit property, but one-sixth and the
remaining properties would go to the adopted son, Nemi Chand.
The suit properties in the hands of Nagar Mal were ancestral one in which his son
Nemi Chand got interest equal to Nagar Mal after his adoption and from the date
of adoption, a coparcenary was constituted between the father and the adopted
son. Upon the death of Nagar Mal, the property being ancestral, the half
undivided interest of Nagar Mal therein devolved by rule of succession upon his
three heirs, including Nemi Chand. This being the position each of the daughters
would be entitled to one-sixth share in the suit properties and the remaining
would go to the heirs of Nemi Chand, since deceased.

20

The Supreme Court in R. Mahalakshmi Vs. A.V. Anantharaman and Ors. 14 held
that:
Perusal of the aforesaid provision of law makes it abundantly clear that the
daughters who have got married prior to 1989 may not have equal share as that of
a son but the daughters who got married after 1989 would have equal share as
that of a son. In other words, daughters who got married after 1989 would be
treated at par with son having the same share in the property.
The Madras High Court, in Smt. Bagirathi and Ors. vs. S. Manivanan and
Anr., 15 opined that:
a careful reading of Section 6(1) read with 6(3) of the Hindu Succession
(Amendment) Act clearly indicates that a daughter can be considered as a
coparcener only if her father was a coparcener at the time of coming into force of
the amended provision. It is of course true that for the purpose of considering
whether the father is a coparcener or not, the restricted meaning of the expression
"partition" as given in the explanation is to be attributed. In the present case,
admittedly the father of the present petitioners had expired in 1975.
Section 6(1) of the Act is prospective in the sense that a daughter is being treated
as coparcener on and from the commencement of the Hindu Succession
(Amendment) Act, 2005. If such provision is read along with Section 6(3), it
becomes clear that if a Hindu dies after commencement of the Hindu Succession
(Amendment) Act, 2005, his interest in the property shall devolve not by
survivorship but by intestate succession as contemplated in the Act.

Critical Appraisal Of Amendments To The Hindu Succession Act


The recent amendment to the Hindu Succession Act has made the daughter a
memberofthecoparcenary.Italsogivesdaughtersanequalshareinagricultural
property.Thesearesignificantadvancementstowardsgenderequality.TheHindu
Succession (Amendment) Bill 2004, passed unanimously by the Lok Sabha,
comesafteralonggap:theHinduSuccessionActwaspassedin1956.Thepresent
debateaboutremovingdiscriminationagainstwomentoalargeextentremains
14
15

(2009) 9 SCC
2008 Mad 250

21

confinedtotheexperts.Thelaw,obtuseatthebestoftimes,takesonaneven
moretediouscharacterwhenitcomestoinheritancelaws.
ForalmosthalfacenturysincethepassingoftheHinduSuccessionAct,1956,
therehasbeenthewidespreadbeliefthatunderHindupersonallawdaughtersare
equaltosons.ThisbeliefwasbasedonSection10oftheActdealingwiththe
distributionofpropertyofaHinduwhohasdiedwithoutmakingawill,referredto
as?intestate?inlaw.Theprovisionunequivocallydeclaresthatpropertyistobe
distributedequallyamongClassIheirs,asspecifiedintheschedule.Theschedule
clearlylaysdowndaughters,mothersandwidowsasClassIheirsentitledtoa
shareequaltothatofsons.This,thoughseeminglyahugestepinfavourofgender
justice,wasinfactmoreasleightofhand.
The mischief lay in customary Hindu law and the concept ofmitakshara
coparcenaryproperty.AHindujointfamilyconsistsofacommonancestorandall
his lineal male descendants, together with wives or widows and unmarried
daughters.Theexistenceofacommonancestor,necessarytobringajointHindu
familyintoexistence,continuesevenafterthedeathoftheancestor.Upperlinks
areremovedandloweronesareadded;thejointfamilycancontinueindefinitely.
Exceptinthecaseofadoption,nooutsidersarepermittedandmembershiptothe
jointfamilyisbybirthormarriagetoamalemember.AHindujointfamilyisa
unitandisrepresentedbythekartaorhead.
TheHinduSuccessionActretainedthecoparcenary.Infact,Section6specifically
declaresthat,ondeath,theinterestofamaleHinduinmitaksharacoparcenary
propertyshalldevolvebysurvivorshiptoothermembersofthecoparcenaryand
notbysuccessionundertheAct.However,itlaiddownthattheseparateshareof
thedeceased,computedthroughthedeviceofadeemedpartitionjustbeforehis
death,woulddevolveaccordingtotheSuccessionAct.
TheActdidnotclearlyspellouttheimplicationsofexclusionfrommembership
tothecoparcenaryinrespectofinheritanceofproperty.Thus,ifawidowedHindu

22

malediedleavingasonand adaughter,then, accordingtotheexplanationin


Section6oftheAct,therewillbedeemedtobeapartitionjustbeforethedeathof
theperson.Inthisdeemedor?notional?partition,thefatherandsonshareequally
andeachgetshalftheproperty.Thefather'shalfwillbesharedequallybyhisson
anddaughterasClassIheirs.Ineffect,therefore,thedaughtergetsonefourthof
the property, while the son gets his own half from the deemed partition as a
coparcenerandanadditionalhalffromtheshareofhisfather.Togetherthatwould
bethreefourthsoftheproperty.Itisthisinequitybetweensonanddaughterthat
hasnowbeenremovedbytheamendment.
Thepreferentialrightbybirthofsonsinjointfamilyproperty,withtheoffering
ofshradhaforthespiritualbenefitandsolaceofancestors,haveforcenturiesbeen
considered sacred and inviolate. It has also played amajor role in the blatant
preferenceforsonsinIndiansociety.Thisamendment,inonefellswoop,has
madethedaughteramemberofthecoparcenaryandisasignificantadvancement
towardsgenderequality.
Aftertheamendment,daughterswillnowgetashareequaltothatofsonsatthe
timeofthenotionalpartition,justbeforethedeathofthefather,andanequal
shareofthefather'sseparateshare.However,thepositionofthemothervisavis
thecoparcenarystaysthesame.She,notbeingamemberofthecoparcenary,will
notgetashareatthetimeofthenotionalpartition.Themotherwillbeentitledto
anequalsharewithotherClassIheirsonlyfromtheseparateshareofthefather
computedatthetimeofthenotionalpartition.Ineffect,theactualshareofthe
motherwillgodown,astheseparateshareofthefatherwillbelessastheproperty
willnowbeequallydividedbetweenfather,sonsanddaughtersinthenotional
partition.
Theoriginalbill,introducedin2004,exemptedagriculturallandfromthepurview
oftheamendment.Aconsiderablesectionofsocietyistotallyagainstequalshares
todaughterswithrespecttoagriculturalland.Theinclusionofagriculturallandin
the amendment, giving equal shares to daughters and overriding statelevel

23

discriminatorytenuriallaws,isagreatcredittoparliament.Effectivelobbyingby
women'sgroupsmustalsobegivenduecredit.
Theequalsharingofthefather'spropertyappliesincaseswherehediesintestate
that is, without making a will. Given the bias and preference for sons and
notionsoflineage,discriminationagainstdaughtersininheritancethroughwillsis
bound to remain. In most cases, the terms of the will would favour the son.
Perhapstheshareofpropertythatcanbewilledbyapersoncouldberestricted,as
asteptowardsgreatergenderequality.Forexample,Islamicjurisprudencelays
downthatapersoncanonlywillonethirdofhisproperty.Provisionstocheckthe
prevalentpracticeofpersuadingdaughterstogiveuptheirshareinjointfamily
propertyisanotherareathatrequiresattention.Thisisanopportunetimetokeep
up the momentum for further reforms to reduce gender inequities and move
towardsamoreequalsociety.
Theamendmentwillonlybenefitthosewomenwhoarebornintofamiliesthat
haveancestralproperty.Thereisnoprecisedefinitionofancestralproperty.Given
thefactthatfamilieshavelongsincebeenfragmentedandthefactthatthejoint
familysystemisonthedecline,itisnotatallclearwhomthislawwillbenefit.It
cannotapplytoselfacquiredproperty.Nopersonbybirthwillacquireanyrights
inselfacquiredproperty.Intoday'scontext,mostpropertyisselfacquiredand
thatpropertymustfollowprinciplesofsuccessionunderthedifferentsuccession
laws.Moreover,itsownercandisposeoffsuchpropertyduringhislifetimeby
gift.Itcanbebequeathbywilltoanyoneofhischoice.Theproposedamendment
notwithstanding,aHindufathercandisinherithiswifeordaughterbywill,inhis
selfacquiredproperty.Theamendmentthereforebyitselfcannotoffermuchto
Hindu women. Whatismore,under thelawsofcertainstates, itwillactually
disadvantagewidows,astheshareofthedaughterwillincreaseincomparisonto
thewidow.Theamendmentisnotatallwellthoughtoutandcanplaywomen
againsteachother.Thereisnoequityinthat.Thus,thoughseeminglyprogressive,
itdoesnothingmorethanmakeapoliticalpoint,thatthestateiscommittedto

24

abolishingdiscriminationagainstwomen,butonlyHinduwomen.Thepositionof
womenmarriedintothejointfamilywillactuallybecomeworse.
Theproposedamendmentonlymakesthepositionofthefemalemembersofthe
jointfamilyworse.Withadaughteralongwiththesonsacquiringabirthright,
whichshecanpresumablypartitionatanytime,therightsofothermembersofthe
joint family get correspondingly diminished. While the reforms of the 1950s
disadvantagedadivorcedwife,thereformsofthepresenttimeswilldisadvantage
marriedwomenaswell.Untilnow,theonlyprotectionwomenhadinthemarital
home was the status of being married, which carried with it the right to be
maintained,notonlybythehusband,butbythejointfamilyanditsassetsasa
whole.ThusmarriedwomenwholivedinajointHindufamilyhadtheprotection
ofthefamilyhome.Thisprotectionwillnowstanderoded,totheextentthatthe
total divisible amount gets reduced. Something similar will happen to Hindu
widows. Daughters will acquire a birthright in Hindu joint family property,
mothersstandtoloseaportionofthecake,asaninheritance.SinceHindulaw
doesnotgrantanyrightstowivesinmaritalproperty,theironlychanceofgetting
anythingwasonaninheritance,asequalsharewiththesonsanddaughters,ifthe
marriagewassubsistingonthedeathofthehusband.Ondivorce,ofcourse,even
thatrighttoinheritancedisappears.ItisbirthrightinHindulawthatistherootof
theproblem.Birthrightbydefinitionisaconservativeinstitution,belongingtothe
era of feudalism, coupled as it was with the rule of primogeniture and the
inalienability of land. When property becomes disposable and selfacquired,
differentrulesofsuccessionhavetoapply.Itisinthemakingofthoserulesthat
gender justice has to be located. What the proposed amendment does is to
reinforcethebirthrightwithoutworkingoutitsconsequencesforallwomen.
Justicecannotbesecuredforonecategoryofwomenattheexpenseofanother.It
isimpossibletodealwithsuccessionlawsinisolation.Onehastosimultaneously
lookatlawsofmatrimonialproperty,divorceandsuccessiontoensureagender
justregimeoflaws.Thepresentbilldoesnothingofthekind.Theexerciseshould
beabandonedintoto.
25

Conclusion
Empowerment of women, leading to an equal social status in society hinges,
among other things, on their right to hold and inherit property. Several legal

26

reformshavetakenplacesinceindependenceinIndia,includingonequalshareof
daughterstoproperty.Yetequalstatusremainsillusive.Establishmentoflawsand
bringingpracticesinconformitytheretoisnecessarilyalongdrawnoutprocess.
Thegovernment,thelegislature,thejudiciary,themediaandcivilsocietyhasto
performtheirroles,eachintheirownareasofcompetenceandinaconcerted
mannerfortheprocesstobespeedyandeffective.
These amendments can empower women both economically and socially. and
have farreaching benefits for the family and society. Independent access to
agriculturallandcanreduceawomanandherfamily'sriskofpoverty,improve
her livelihood options, and enhance prospects of child survival, education and
health.Womenowninglandorahousealsofacelessriskofspousalviolence.
Andlandinwomen'snamescanincreaseproductivitybyimprovingcreditand
inputaccessfornumerousdefactofemalehouseholdheads.
Makingalldaughterscoparcenerslikewisehasfarreachingimplications.Itgives
womenbirthrightsinjointfamilypropertythatcannotbewilledaway.Rightsin
coparcenarypropertyandthedwellinghousewillalsoprovidesocialprotectionto
womenfacingspousalviolenceormaritalbreakdown,bygivingthemapotential
shelter.Millionsofwomenaswidowsanddaughtersandtheirfamiliesthus
standtogainbytheseamendments.

27