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Parsi Intestate Succession: An Equitable Devolution Of Intestate Property

Succession is a process wherein property of a deceased person is devolved on to the persons entitled. The law of succession defines the rules and procedures for such devolution of property. The law of succession is classified as under:
  • intestate succession: provides with regulations of devolution of a deceased person's property, who hadn't formed a valid will for the distribution of his property.
  • testamentary succession:provides regulations in situations where the deceased has died leaving behind a valid will. For the application of testamentary succession, the will has to be valid.
This article would be elucidating on the procedures and requirements of Parsi intestate succession specifically and if it is in consonant with the principles of equality.


Intestate Succession

The term "intestate succession" is used to denote the laws relating to inheritance. The property of a person, on his or her death, in absence of instructions left by him or her with respect to its devolution, devolves in accordance with the law of intestate succession to which the deceased was subject to at the time of his or her death. The law of intestate succussion is concerned with the matters such as who are the persons entitled to share the property?

What would be their respective shares? Would the degree of relations with the deceased be taken into consideration or not? Would it be a preferential distribution? What would be the preferential list? Many such related matters are addressed in the article. To sum it up intestate succession is applicable only when the deceased has left no valid will for the distribution of his property.


The word "Parsi" means a Parsi Zoroastrian.[1] The term Parsi includes the children of a Parsi father by an alien mother, if such children are admitted into the religion of their father and profess Zoroastrian religion;[2] but an alien wife or widow even though admitted to the Zoroastrian religion and married to a Parsi under the Parsi customary law will not be a Parsi. The children of a Parsi mother and an alien father will also not be Parsis.[3]

The laws dealing with intestate succession in India are not uniform. A variety of different laws are vague and their application depends on multiple factors[4]. Parsi Intestate Succession is dealt under the Chapter III Part V of the Indian Succession Act, 1925.[5]

Before the advent of British rule, the major laws of inheritance in India had either their roots in religion or were deeply influenced by personal laws. Thus, owed allegiance to religion and custom. Muslims followed Muslim law, Hindus followed shastra, Christians had their own distinct customs. The Parsis had their own customary law.[6]

The Parsi immigrants came to India to escape religious persecution by the Arab conquerors of Persia. They adopted the customs of the place where they had first taken shelter. A panchayat, i.e., an assembly of elders, administered decisions in civil and criminal matters while personal matters were governed by decisions of the priests.

Due to the existence of a parallel system of administration in the Mofussil and Presidency areas, Parsis in the former areas were governed by their customary laws while those in the latter areas were governed by English laws. In complete contrast to the law of the Mofussil under which women were excluded from inheritance initially and had only a right of maintenance, under the English law, the widow of an intestate had an absolute share to the extent of one-third of deceased's property and his daughter was treated on par with the son.[7]

With a view to simplifying and unifying the innumerable diverse and conflicting succession laws the Britishers enacted the Indian Succession Act in 1865 which was intended to bring people of all religions under one legislature. The diverse scheme followed prior was abolished and all Indian Parsis were subjected to the enactment. It increased the share of a widow and a daughter to a specific absolute ownership rather than a bare claim of maintenance. Thereafter, the said Act was amended and incorporated in sections 50�56 and Schedule II of the Indian Succession Act, 1925.

The provisions were amended in 1937[8] and then in 1991 affecting major changes in the inheritance laws of Parsis making them more equitable and gender just. In 1991, the Act was amended to give absolute gender parity to Parsi women in matters of succession. The shares of the parents and that of the son and daughter were made equal. The Act provided a uniform scheme of succession for Indian Parsis.[9]

Application Of The Indian Succession Act, 1925

The Act deals with the entire succession regulations. Part V of the act deals with intestate succession. The Part V's applicability can be divided into the following essentials:
  1. The intestacy must occur before the 1st of January 1866 the time around when the first Indian Succession Act, 1865 was adopted by India under British Rule.
  2. The deceased person at the time of death was not Hindu, Muhammadan, Buddhist, Sikh or Jaina.

When the person fulfils the required essential the person is deemed to die intestate, in respect of his entire property of which he had not made a testamentary disposition which is capable of taking effect.[10]

General Principals

The devolution of property of intestate succession amongst Parsis is done with respect to certain principles which are:
  1. Children: Children would not only include children which are living but also includes a child at the death of the intestate was in the mother's womb.
  2. No Lineal descendant dying without relatives: when a Lineal Descendent dies without leaving any relatives like his wife, his lineal descendent or their children or their widow or widower, then such lineal descendant would be excluded from the devolution of property.
  3. Widow or widower remarriage: If the widow or widower of the intestate has remarried in the lifetime of the intestate then the widow or widower would also be conspired as non-existing.[11]

Rules Of Distribution And Simultaneous Comparison Of The Rules With Principles Of Gender Equity

The rules of devolution of the property of an intestate differ in accordance with the relatives and the relations of such relatives with the deceased. The devolution procedure is based on the type of relation the concerned person has with the deceased. Earlier through Intestate Succession the right to share of property only devolved to consanguine relatives but now with evolution, the spouse as well has been considered to be a shareholder in the property of an intestate.

There are 2 basic principles followed while carrying out Intestate Succession:
  1. A nearer relative often excludes the rarer one.
  2. The share is decided with respect to the degree of relation the person holds with the predeceased.
The rules of distribution for Parsis are provided from Section 50 to 56 of the Indian Succession act, 1925.Following are all the possible relations that could avail the deceased intestate property and the order of their preference is also specified, in accordance with the Act of 1925.

  1. Children: where all the children of the predeceased are alive.[12]
    1. If the predeceased has left behind only his children, and all of them are alive then the property of the intestate would be distributed equally amongst all of them, irrespective of the gender of the child.
    2. If the predeceased has only left behind all the children and widow or widower of the predeceased, the property of the intestate would be equally distributed amongst all. The widow as well as widower are given equal rights over the property of their spouse.
    3. If the predeceased has left behind all children, widow or widower and parents of the predeceased. The widow or widower and children will get equal property and each of the parents would get half of the share of what a child would get. There isn't a preferential discrimination with respect to gender of parent as is seen in different laws For Eg, in Christian law where if the father of the deceased is present and there are no children of the predeceased irrespective of any other relatives being present the property entirely goes to the father even if the mother being present, she doesn't get a share. The Cristian mother only gets it if the father is not present and not entirely, she has to share it with other relatives of the predeceased.
  2. II. Lineal Descendants: When anyone of the lineal descendant of the person deceased dies during the life time of the person deceased and there are other lineal descendants present or anyone of the lineal descendant of the deceased person, the distribution would be as follows, If the lineal descendant who has died is:[13]
    1. A Son, then it would be presumed that such a son was alive and then the property of the intestate would be distributed, i.e., the property of the intestate would be distributed as it would have been if he was alive at the time of distribution of the property. Then his share would be distributed as per the procedure and rules of the Act.
    2. A daughter, then her share would be equally distributed amongst her children, here her husband doesn't get a right over the property, where in the case a son dies the property which devolves onto him is shared by his wife, children and parents. The widower's rights here seem to be compromised to a certain extent.
  3. Widow or widower: If the predeceased dies leaving behind a widow or widower or widow or widower of lineal descendants and where no lineal descendants are present the property of the intestate would be distributed as follows:[14]
    1. If only the widow or widower of the deceased person living the half of the property would devolve to such widow or widower and the other half would remain as balance property. Here irrespective of the gender equal rights over the property are given.
    2. If only the widow or widower of lineal descendants present, then :
      • i. If one of the widow/widowers of lineal descendants present he/she will be entitled to 1/3rd of the intestate property and the other 2/3rd would remain as balance property.
      • ii. If more than one widow/ widower of lineal descendants present they would be entitled to 2/3rd of share which would be distributed equally amongst them, irrespective of their gender. The other 1/3rd would be balance property.
    3. c) If both, the widow/widower of the predeceased and widow/ widower/s of the lineal descendants are present, widow/widower of deceased would be entitled to 1/3rd, widow/ widower/s of lineal descendants would be entitled to 1/3rd together and 1/3rd would remain as balance property.
  4. IV. When no lineal descendants, no widow/widower, no widow/widower of lineal descendant of the predeceased are present then the deceased's property would be distributed amongst the next of kin, the list as provided under Part II Schedule II of the Indian Succession Act, 1925[16]. Two principles are strictly followed in this case. First, the nearer would exclude the rarer. Second, the distribution would be done based on if they belong to the same degree of relation or different degrees of relations with the predeceased.[17]
  5. V. When there is none of even the next of kin under Part II Schedule II present, then the property can devolve to remote relations but the nearest ones of them the distribution would be done according to the two general principles stated above.[18]
  6. VI. If none of the relatives are there then the property goes to the State, with respect to the principle that a property should never remain unowned.[19]
These are the rules of Distribution taken into consideration while carrying out distribution of the property of a person who dies intestate.

The Parsi intestate succession rules reflect a lot of western culture. The most important aspect of it is the strong rule of equality of gender it follows, which is very evidently reflected in the provisions of the Indian Succession Act , 1925. A lot of other religion are still evolving, developing and struggling to imbibe such an aspect, like the Hindus who have allotted equal membership to daughters in the coparcenary and entitlement of property rights in husband's property to their wives quite recently in around 2005, through the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005[20].

Whereas Parsi Law has been following these principles since 1925 and improving upon them. The Parsi intestate succession, on studying the rules and procedure can be seen to have a decently strong hold on the specifically gender equality principles as these are the principles which have been seen majorly manipulated by the intestate succession laws.

  • Halsbury's Laws of India (Wills and succession) 2nd edn.
  • Dr Poonam Pradhan Saxena: Family Law Lectures
  • Paras Divan 12th edition
  • Dr. Medha Kolatkar: Drafting, Pleading and Conveyancing 2nd edn.
  • Bare Act - Indian Succession Act, 1925 -

  1. Halsbury's Law of India (Wills and Succession, Vol 38) 2nd ed.
  2. Sir Dinshaw Manockji Petit And v. Sir Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy And Ors -
  3. Dr Poonam Pradhan Saxena: Family Law Lectures: Family Law II , 5th Edn.
  5. Dr Poonam Pradhan Saxena: Family Law Lectures: Family Law II , 5th Edn.
  6. Dr Poonam Pradhan Saxena: Family Law Lectures: Family Law II , 5th Edn.
  7. Indian Succession (Amendment) Act - 18 of 1939
  8. Dr Poonam Pradhan Saxena: Family Law Lectures: Family Law II , 5th Edn.
  9. Section 29 & 30 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 - S 29 -, S 30 -
  10. Section 50 of Indian Succession Act, 1925 -
  11. Section 51 if Indian Succession Act, 1925 -
  12. Section 53 of Indian Succession Act,1925 -
  13. Section 54 if Indian Succession Act,1925 -
  14. Schedule II Part I -
  15. Schedule II Part II -
  16. Section 55 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 -
  17. Section 56 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 -
  18. Section 29 of Indian Succession Act,1925.
  19. The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 -

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