Daughters have equal rights on properties: Supreme Court

Daughters have equal rights on properties: Supreme Court


  • Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that under the Hindu Succession Act (HSA) of 1956, daughters will have equal rights on the properties owned before the enactment of the law.
  • The judgment involved a dispute over the property of a man who died in 1949, leaving behind a daughter, who died in 1967.
  • Earlier the trial court had held that since the woman had died before the commencement of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, and the petitioner and her other sisters had not become heirs on the date of her death and therefore, the share in the property was not entitled to partition. Later the High Court also dismissed the appeal against the lower court.

Share of daughters in inheritance:

  • The Supreme Court ruled that the property of a person who died without a will and had only one daughter, his daughter would have the overall right to the property and not any other family member.
  • Earlier in the year 2020, the Supreme Court, in its decision, has expanded the right of heir and sahadayak (joint legal heir) in ancestral property to Hindu women on the same conditions as male heirs.

Ancient texts and judicial pronouncements:

  • The Supreme Court has referred to various ancient texts (Smriti), commentaries of eminent scholars and even judicial pronouncements, which have recognized the rights of wives and daughters, in the form of several female heirs.
  • Referring to the sources of customary Hindu law on inheritance, the Supreme Court discussed the ‘Mitakshara Law’.
  • SC also perused a digest of Hindu law, ‘Vivasha Chandrika’ by Shyama Charan Sarkar Vidya Bhushan, in which ‘Vrihaspati’ was quoted as saying that ‘wife is declared to be heir to her husband’s property and in his absence In the form of a son, the daughter carries on his lineage.
  • SC also noted that in the book it is stated by Manu that “a man’s son is his heir and daughter is equal to son. Then how can anyone else inherit his property, notwithstanding he is alive” , which is as it is.”

Old Law:

  • The right of a widow or daughter to inherit the self-acquired property or the share received in the division of the coparcenary property of a Hindu male is well recognized under the old customary Hindu law.
  • If the intestate property of a deceased Hindu male is a self-acquired property or a property received in the division of a coparcenary or family property, it shall be transferred by survivorship and not by survivorship, and the daughter of such Hindu male shall be entitled to such He should have priority over others in property.

Property after the death of the woman:

  • The Court also held that if a Hindu woman dies without any heir, the property inherited from her father or mother will go to her father’s heirs, while the property inherited from her husband will go to the father-in-law’s heirs.

Land rights and women in India

  • Related data: Property in India is largely willing to transfer to male heirs. This in turn denies women financial independence and entrepreneurship.
  • According to the National Family Health Survey-5, 43% of female respondents reported that they own a house/land, either singly or jointly, but doubts remain about the actual access to property and controllability of women.
  • In fact, in a 2020 working paper from the University of Manchester, women in rural landowning households have barely 16% of their own land.
  • Patriarchy: In deeply patriarchal customs and rural-agricultural systems, the right to property, seen as the primary source of wealth, is largely passed on to male heirs.

State Law:

  • There is a conflict between central personal laws and state laws in inheritance laws for agricultural land.
  • In this regard, states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and even Delhi have regressive succession provisions.
  • In fact, Haryana twice tried to snatch away the progressive rights given to women through HSA, 1956, whereas in UP, daughters married since 2016 are not considered primary heirs.
  • Protest at the grassroots level: There is also a grassroots protest against the registration of land for women in many North Indian states. Thus women empowerment and right to property remains an incomplete project.

Hindu Succession Act, 1956:

  • The Mitakshara section of the Hindu law was codified as the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the inheritance and succession of property was managed under this Act, which recognized only males as legal heirs.
  • It applies to all those who are not Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion. Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Arya Samaj, followers of Brahmo Samaj are also considered Hindus under this law.
  • In an undivided Hindu family, there may be several joint legal heirs of several generations. The legal heirs jointly look after the property of the family.

Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005:

  • The 1956 Act was amended in September 2005 and from the year 2005, women were recognized as coparceners/coparceners in property division.
  • By amending section 6 of the Act, the daughter of a co-coordinator was also treated as co-coparcener by birth as a son.
  • Under this amendment, the daughter was also given the same rights and liabilities as the son.
  • The law enforces the law of succession in ancestral property and personal property, where the succession is enforced in accordance with law and not through a will.

Laws/Rules relating to Hindu Law

 Mitakshara Law

  • The term Mitakshara is derived from the name of a commentary on Yajnavalkya Smriti written by Vigyaneshwar.
  • Its influence is seen in all parts of India and it is sub-divided into Banaras, Mithila, Maharashtra and Dravidian styles.
  • The son has a share in the ancestral property of the joint family from birth itself.
  • During the entire lifetime of a father, all the members of the family have the right of coparcenary.
  • It does not define the part of the co-operator and cannot be eliminated.
  • The wife cannot demand partition but has the right to share in any division between her husband and sons.

Dayabhaga law

  • The word Dayabhaga is taken from a book of the same name by Jimutavahana.
  • Its effect is seen in Bengal and Assam.
  • The son does not have any ownership/right over the property by birth, but he automatically acquires this right after the death of his father.
  • During the lifetime of the father, the son does not get the right of co-owner.
  • The portion of each co-operator is defined and can be eliminated.
  • Equal rights do not exist for women here because the son cannot demand partition and here the father is the absolute owner.

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