The right to inheritance of a property is vested by an individual from the
birth under the Mitakshara school of Hindu law. For a considerable period of
time, women were deprived of any such entitlement because of the prominent idea
of patriarchy. It is a well adhered fact that the bias and unjust portrayed over
the course of time cannot be undone, and therefore, the judiciary and the
legislature are always keen to enact a progressive stance to help the
legislations evolve to be gender just and neutral. Under the classical Hindu
law, the women were not deemed to be coparceners and therefore were deprived of
rights which were in general enjoyed by the males of the family.
was not only limited to the fact that they could not demand a share in the
partition, but it also included the obliviousness from the doctrine of
Survivorship whereby the general succession through devolution was only limited
to the coparceners (the males). The coparcenary under the classical law is
defined to include the legitimate sons where the domain is three generations
excluding the last holder of the property. The women were merely considered to
be the part of the Hindu Joint Family and had no allocations in the shares.
There however existed few exceptions, for instance, the father's wife, a widowed
mother, and a paternal grandmother had the entitlement to a share if there
happens to be a partition. The aforementioned could not obviously demand a
partition but they could progress a share if the partition happened. The
partition too had few requisites, precisely for the father's wife and the
widowed mother, namely, the partition should be executed through metes and
bounds; the share should be determined in proportion to the received stridhan.
Comparably, the paternal grandmother is entitled to a share equivalent to the
share of a grandson provided that her own son is deceased, and the partition
takes place between the grandsons.
The very reality that there exists a cliche?
notion of differentiation between the genders where the males are provided with
all the benefits merely because of being an XY chromosome is discriminatory and
portrays bias on the part of the personal laws. The aforementioned is in
violation of the fundamental right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of
the Constitution of India.
The demand for a legislation that portrayed an equitable and just notion was
needed because there exists empirical data which suggests that the females with
diluted economic standi were mistreated especially in the rural areas of the
country. The statistics and fact sheets by the National Family Health Survey
suggest that the women with an acquired land or a self- worth had a better
autonomy in the natal as well as the marital family. Quite upsettingly, a woman
with no entitlement had to deal with numerous prejudices and there were observed
instances where the woman was even thrown out of the marital home after being
associated with a bad omen and considered to be a burden as expressly observed
in the case of Omprakash &Ors vs Radhacharan .
Figure 1: Official report of NFHS portraying instances of Domestic Violence
against dependant females.
Adhering to the data observed on numerous occasions, it was a need of the hour
to bring in subsequent changes for the upliftment of the females who were
mistreated for no great cause. There are numerous enactments and amendments so
as to curb the blatant misfortune. This research paper will chronologically
answer all the favourable enactments and the subsequent changes over the
Firstly, under the uncodified Mitakshara law, a widow was entitled to residence
and maintenance from the common pool or the joint family property if her husband
dies as an undivided member; however, as soon as she remarries, she is deemed to
be dead to the deceased husband's family and can no longer be entitled to
maintenance and residence. The very fact that the property which her husband was
entitled to moves back into the common pool was considered to be unfair to the
widow as she received no shares.
Hence, enactment of the act Hindu Women's Right
to Property Act 1937 was observed which expressly provided that the widow will
step into the shoes of the deceased husband for the purpose of devolution
barring the other coparceners from inheriting the property through Survivorship
provided there exists no male descendant of the deceased and that she has not
remarried. The essence of the aforementioned act was however demeaned when there
happened to an amendment where the widows were excluded from any interest in the
agricultural land . Additionally, the aforesaid act provided with limited
ownership of the property and not absolute; after the death of the concerned
female, the property will revert back to the reversioners.
It was only in the year 1956 when such instances of usufructuary ownership were
curbed and an absolute authority was promised subsequent to the enactment of the
Hindu Succession Act 1956 (hereinafter referred to as HSA). The act also
dissolved the differences between the Mitakshara and Dayabhaga school of
Inheritance and Succession along with providing a uniform law for the intestate
succession of both the ancestral as well as self- acquired property.
the said enactment was although a step forward but was yet not sufficient as it
failed to impart gender equality as the male child was still being considered
prominent in comparison to a daughter. The daughters were entitled to the
succession of the father's separate property but had no right towards the
ancestral property. The primary heirs for the notional partition excluded the
daughters and the members who were not the coparceners with few exceptions as
Furthermore, the HSA still has traces of difference as it provided a different
scheme of succession to the women. The explanation is quite disputed because it
sees women as having no permanent home, a woman moves out of the natal family
after marriage and the fear that the female will take a substantial share along
with herself to the husband's family is the rationale behind such a scheme. This
is done in order to protect the property of a Hindu man and has no substantial
relation to the female herself. A woman's property scheme differs on her marital
status, whether she has children or not, the source of the property et cetera.
The S. 15 and 16 of the HSA can be interpreted as a mechanism to withhold the
natal property into the natal family only; the property should revert back to
the natal family on her death and not the husband and his heirs if she dies
childless and vice versa. The aforesaid sections have proven to be
discriminatory in their approach on numerous occasions. Why? The term ‘property'
for the purpose of the S. 15, and 16 include the self-acquired property too.
As observed in the case of Omprakash vs Radhacharan , the widow was thrown out of
the marital home being accused of being responsible for the death of her husband
with no concrete justification. The heirs never bothered to investigate about
the 15-year-old widow for her well- being until her death in the year 1966 where
the heirs of the husband demanded the property acquired by the lady to devolve
onto them. The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India held that the law is to function
keeping the statutes intact and emotions away.
The property was successfully
devolved onto the heirs of the husband. The judgement is quite disputed not
because of its legal standi but because of its moral standi. The interpretation
should not only define the entitlement of a property rather it should also
discuss about the individuals who should be disentitled to a property. The
purpose of the judiciary is not to merely deliver judgements, but it is to
deliver judgements that seem, and is fair as well, from the perspective of a
normal prudent individual.
The law commission's report likely presumed such an
incident, and for the purpose to overthrow such incidents, it proposed a report
for the amendment of the S. 15 of the HSA to include the parental heirs on equal
footing as to the husband's heir. The reasoning presented was that if the woman
can be made entitled to inherit the property from either of the sources through
amendments then it should be a fair deal if the self-acquired property is
devolved equally to both the heirs (parental, and husband's) in order to
overlook any misfortune where a person could die intestate. The report is
submitted and is forwarded to the legislative department; the status however is
Subsequent to the enactment of the HSA 1956, few states including Karnataka,
Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu did state amendment to the HSA in order to include
the daughters for the purpose of entitlement and to portrays a progressive
stance. The state of Kerala at the same time abolished the Joint Hindu Family
System (hereinafter referred to as JHF). The aforementioned laws were however
deemed to be incompetent over the course of time. Why? The reasons were the
combination of incompetence, constitutional validity, and jurisdictional issues.
Firstly, the amendments in the state of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu
lauded widely because they conferred the coparcenary rights to the daughters for
the first time along with including the children of the daughter for the purpose
of partition if the daughter/s is/were predeceased. However, the aforesaid
legislations were criticized for the ambiguity they portrayed through their
ambiguous language and structure. For instance, the statute failed to make it
clear if the law was applicable to all the Hindus residing in that particular
state irrespective of their original domicile or only to the Hindus domiciled in
that respective state irrespective of the place of residence. The law was even
questioned for its constitutional validity for the fact that they disentitled
all the daughters married before the enactment of the acts.
Secondly, the verity
that Kerala overthrew the concept JHF exemplified a situation of disentitlement,
where a person deliberately willed their property to the sons making the
daughters progress no share. This way, the daughters were ousted from the share
as well as the right to maintenance, because there existed no JHF.
having multiple legislations was a point of conflict for its enforceability. For
instance, a dispute between the natal family and the marital family could not be
resolved amicably if one of them resided in a state with a separate amendment
because the governing legislation had different foundations.
stood incompetent and the law could not justify the superimposition of one
legislation over the other and therefore it was established that there should be
one law relating to coparcenary throughout India, as it would help resolve the
conflicts in a more fruitful manner along with a clear applicability and
enactment of rules. The state amendments however were not repealed per se
because they were not in direct conflict with the Central legislation.
to the clash was answered through the Constitution which expressly provided that
if a state legislation is inconsistent with the Central legislation then the
Centre would prevail to the extent of the inconsistency. This addressed the
issue where the precedents could not be applied to a case happening in a state
with separate legislation. In other words, the precedents regained their
Empirically, the status of a Hindu woman is anyways dependent on the male
members of the family as stated in the Dharma sastras. This is one of the
reasons why the inheritance & succession laws fail to include women especially
daughters for the purpose of inheritance of the property received through
forefathers. But adhering to the modern notion, the society is evolving daily,
and the laws should be competent to meet and provide justice according to the
progressive stance; for this purpose, the legislature introduced an amendment to
the HSA named Hindu Succession Amendment Act in the year 2005 to further improve
the conditions of the woman on the recommendation of the 174th law commission's
The major attribute of the act was, that it introduced coparcenary to
the daughter making them eligible to demand a share in the coparcenary property
along with abolishing the doctrine of Survivorship. The other substantial
changes include the omission of the S. 4 (2) of the HSA which barred the women
from getting any entitlement into the agricultural lands. The aforesaid ensured
the women's interest in the agricultural land coequal to the males.
Additionally, it also omitted S. 23 which barred the women from demanding a
partition of the dwelling house owned by the JHF, and subsequently quashed S. 24
which curbed the inheritance rights of a widow after remarriage. Lastly, the
doctrine of pious obligation was abolished, and four new entries were added to
the Class I heirs (male intestate) including great granddaughters and great
Subsequent to any amendment, the actual interpretation and implementation have
to deal with a number of backlashes, for instance, the Court's started
interpreting the amendments in consonance with previously known legislation.
There happened to be a number of flawed judgements either fully or partially
before the sound verdict was pronounced in the case of Vineeta Sharma vs Rakesh
The Hon'ble Supreme Court in the said case established that a daughter
is a coparcener by birth, and it is irrelevant whether her father was alive or
dead at the day the amendment came into force. However, prior to the Vineeta
Sharma verdict, the matter of property rights was addressed in other major
judgements. The comparative analysis is being performed so as to establish the
validity of the current interpretation.
In Prakash & Others vs Phulvati &
Others, the Hon'ble Supreme Court relied on two major reasonings, firstly, a
daughter cannot reopen a partition that took place prior to 20th December 2004,
and secondly, that the amendment of the section would apply to the daughter only
if her father was alive at the day the amendment came into force, that is, 9th
September 2005. The said judgement was overruled in the sense that it failed to
comply with the fact that a daughter has a right from her birth and therefore
she had an existent right when her father died. Another major judgement was the
Uttam vs Saubhag Singh , the Hon'ble Supreme Court was flawed in its reasoning
because it considered the entire property vested by an individual as its
It established a principle that upon the death of a
coparcener, the undivided interest of the individual will become his separate
property and would subsequently devolve through the rules of succession. The
very fact that it treated the coparcenary property as the Karta's exclusive
property is invalid because it is in distortion of the S. 6 of the HSA in
consonance with the classical Hindu law.
Lastly, another major judgement was the Danamma & Others vs Amar & Others , the Hon'ble Supreme Court applied the
amended section for the purpose of partition because the suit was in pendency
till 2005 and the final decree was awarded in the year 2007. The reasoning was
partially flawed because they failed to consider the retroactive effect of the
amendment and abided by the amended section merely because the judgement was
pronounced after the amendment.
The same was then partially overruled by the Vineeta vs Rakesh where the reiterated the principle that a daughter is a
coparcener by birth and hence the amendment is retroactive in nature and not
An empirical data suggests that the 2005 amendment has brought in positive
changes whereby a woman is now having better education, an equal say and
representation in the household, plus a greater possibility where a daughter
could inherit a piece of land . However, the law is still inefficient to address
numerous other atrocities including the bias between the agnates and the
cognates where an agnate is preferred, along with the fact that a half blood is
recognized whereas a uterine blood is not recognized.
The aforesaid argument is
practiced yet just in the name of male lineage and blood line, we are yet to
observe few subsequent changes for the legislation to bring in a perfect notion
of equality. It is the time that will answer the subsequent expectations,
whether the latest interpretation laid a foundation stone for more progressive
ideas or will the essence dilute and fade gradually.
- Danamma & Others vs Amar & Others (2018) 3 SCC 343
- Omprakash vs. Radhacharan (2009) 15 SCC
- Prakash & Others vs Phulvati & Others Civil Appeal No. 7217 of 2013
- Uttam vs Saubhag Singh (2016) 4 SCC 68
- Vineeta Sharma vs Rakesh Sharma MANU/SC/0582/2020
- Hindu Marriage Act 1955
- Hindu Succession Act 1956
- Hindu Succession (Andhra Pradesh Amendment) Act 1986 Hindu Succession
(Karnataka Amendment) Act 1994 Hindu Succession (Maharashtra Amendment) Act
1994 Hindu Succession (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act 1989 Indian Succession Act
- Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act 1937
- The Indian Constitution 1950
- The Kerala Joint Hindu Family (Abolition) Act 1975
- Dhananjay Mahapatra, Supreme Court Gives Equal Inheritance Right to
Daughters from 1956: India News - Times of India (The Times of India August
12, 2020) accessed October 29, 2020
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Legislation (Oxford University Press1959)
accessed October 25, 2020
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HC (The Hindu October 1, 2015)
accessed November 3, 2020
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THE HINDU SUCCESSION ACT, 1956 (Jstor2003)
accessed November 22, 2020
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accessed November 24, 2020
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accessed November 19, 2020
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Vipul Vedant,
- Denotes a male offspring (heterogametic sex).
- NFHS Survey Report, 2015-16.
- (2009) 15 SCC 66.
- Hindu Women's Right to Property Amendment Act, 1938
- Omprakash (n 2).
- Law Commission, Proposal to amend Section 15 of the Hindu Succession
Act, 1956 in case a female dies intestate leaving herself acquired property
with no heirs (207, 2008) 6.
- The Constitution of India, Art. 254 (1).
- Law Commission, Property Rights of Women: Proposed Reforms Under the
Hindu Law (174, 2000).
- Hindu Succession Amendment Act, S. 6.
- Hindu Succession Act, S. 8.
- Civil Appeal No. 7217 of 2013.
- (2016) 4 SCC 68.
- (2018) 3 SCC 343.
- Vineeta (n 10).
- Sapkal R, From Mother to Daughter: Do Equal Inheritance Property Laws
Reform Improve Female Labour Supply, Educational Attainments in India? .
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from India's Hindu Succession Act.
LLB - Jindal Global Law School
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