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Analysis Of Disparity In Intestate Succession Of Women Under Hindu Succession Act, 1956

"Just as a bird couldn't fly with one wing only, a nation would not march forward if the women are left behind" -- Swami Vivekananda

The property rights of Indian women are determined depending on which religion and religious belief she follows, whether she's wedded or unmarried, which part of India she comes from if she's a tribal or nontribal, and so forth. Ironically, what unifies Indian women is the fact that across all these divisions, the property rights of Indian women are vulnerable to the protection of the Constitution.

Despite the Indigenous assurance of equality for all, the colorful property rights may still be discriminatory and arbitrary, as they are in colorful ways. Hindu women's property rights are severely weakened due to several causes that are unrelated to religion or geography that were previously discussed.

Hindu women's property rights also differ depending on their position in the family and their marital status, including whether they are daughters, wives, mothers, widows, or divorcees. It also depends on the kind of property one is looking at whether the property is heritable/ ancestral or self-acquired, land or dwelling house or nuptial property.

India is a secular State, each person has the right to follow their religion in their way as mentioned in Article 25 of the Indian Constitution1. As the property right has specified in their religion, each people permitted to follow their particular law and the same has included in the Concurrent List. The Indian Succession Act, 1925, and Muslim Law handed right to women also but Hindu Law hadn't handed property right to Hindu women before 1956.

Thus, on applying the principle elevated in Article 14 of the constitution and Article 15 of the constitution, the Hindu Succession Act, of 1956, surfaced as the first regulation in India, it handed property right to Hindu women also. The disparity that the son alone becomes eligible to acquire property right by birth in respect of coparcenary property has been removed by way of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 by giving birth right to the daughters and invalidation of pious obligation which was available to the son alone.

The property acquired by a male Hindu under Section of the Act alone is retained as coparcenary property along with other properties by way of applying the principles of blending. The properties acquired from the ancestral nucleus is also ancestral property. Once the property is put into common hotchpots of ancestral property, then it will lose the nature of separate property and it also has to be construed as ancestral property.

But the same principle does not apply in respect of considering 'inherited property for deciding the applicability of Section 15 (2) of the Act. If the nature of the property inherited has been changed, then it will lose the character of inherited property and it will not continue as inherited property like ancestral property in respect of male property.6

Act 39 Of 2005

Though Act 39 of 2005 is a significant advancement towards gender equality and economic security of daughters in Hindu Law, other females such as mothers and widows have not been given recognition as coparceners. In the absence of such recognition, the property acquired by a female Hindu cannot be construed as coparcenary property in respect of her child because, in such circumstances, her status became a mother. Section 15 (2) (a) of the Act also causes disparity relying upon sex by providing the right to the father and denying the right to the mother even in respect of property acquired from the mother.

Section 15 (1) denied any inheritance right to the mother in the presence of the heirs of the husband. Consequently, by uplifting the share of daughters injustice is caused to mother and widow. Justice and equality cannot be secured for one category of women at the expense of another. Therefore, the law must be changed to confer an equal property right to all Hindu women in ancestral as well as separate property.

Before Hindu Succession Act,1956

Before the Hindu Succession Act, of 1956, was codified, women only possessed life estate when it came to inherited property; otherwise, they had unlimited rights regarding stridhan property. The stridhan earned while a woman was a maiden and the gift given at the time of her marriage will go to her blood relatives, including her mother and father, but for other stridhan solely, in the absence of children, it will go to the husband, and then to the husband's heirs.

The properties that were bought using stridhana's income source took on the same nature as stridhana and will eventually descend into stridhana. After a woman's death, the inherited property in her name will pass to the same male or female heirs. According to Section 14 of the Act, any property held by a Hindu female must be held by her as the complete owner and not only a limited owner, whether it was obtained before or after the commencement of this Act.

After her demise, this property will become subject to Section 15 of the Act. The property will pass to the husband and children by this clause. Only the mother and father would be the husband's heirs in their absence.

Rights Over Sulka Property

Her father or mother or their heirs do not have any claim to her property while the heirs of her husband are present due to S.15 (1) (b) of the Act. All property, whether acquired during maiden or acquired as Sulkha, will pass to children and husband and, in their absence, to heirs of husband. The property acquired with the proceeds from Stridhan property devolved similarly.

According to Section 15 (2) (a) of the Act, the property inherited from a father or mother would pass to his heirs in the absence of children or grandchildren. However, if the nature of the inherited property is altered or changed, or if another property was purchased using this income, the above provision does not apply but it will devolve to the heirs of the husband only.

In addition, the aforementioned special rule of succession does not apply to property inherited from anyone else, including siblings and brothers, or received as a gift, bequest, release, or in any other way from a mother or a father. Because of this, it is necessary to amend the law governing the distribution of property to female Hindus.

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, was codified to grant women property rights, but denying fathers and mothers any successor rights that may have existed before 1956, it has generated unfairness and undermined the Act's goals.

Succession Under Hindu Law

In addition, the special rule of succession does not apply to property inherited from anyone else, including siblings and brothers, or received as a gift, bequest, release, or in any other way from a mother or a father. Because of this, it is necessary to amend the law governing the distribution of property to female Hindus. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, was codified to grant women property rights, but denying fathers and mothers any successor rights that may have existed before 1956, it has generated unfairness and undermined the Act's goals.

In the distribution of a woman's self-acquired property, Section 15 of the Act gives the husband's family precedence over her parents and siblings. Additionally, the husband's family has a stronger claim to any property that a woman gets from any relatives who are not her parents. For instance, if a lady has a brother and a sister and inherits land from her deceased brother, her sister won't inherit that property upon her death; instead, it will pass to her husband's family.

Every piece of property he inherits will always go to his family by Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act. the relatives of the dead who were related to him through male relatives have a stronger claim than those connected through female relatives. So, for instance, if a man passes away, his paternal aunt and uncle, who are related to his father, have a stronger claim to his property than his maternal aunt and uncle, who are related to his mother.

The provision's discriminatory nature has caused a lot of harm in the past to women's birth families. This clause and other Act provisions like it may have evolved from the antiquated belief that women cannot acquire and own property on their own and can only inherit it from deceased relatives.

Section 8 of the HSA governs the devolution plan for men. It stipulates that his mother, wife, and lineal descendants, who belong to the Class I heirs, are first in line to inherit his property. If no class I heirs are still alive, the class II heirs-his father, siblings, lineal descendants of his siblings, and his parents' siblings-have a claim. A thorough list of the heirs in each class and subclass is provided in the Act's schedule.

According to this plan, all of the man's property devolves, largely keeping all of the man's property within his natal family. Different devolution rules apply to a woman's property. Any property that the lady acquired from her husband, her husband's family, or her parents is covered by Section 15 (2).

If a widow passes away without having children, Section 15 (2) (a) states that whatever property she inherited from her husband or his family belongs to the husband's heirs. The list of heirs provided in Section 8 is referred to as the "heirs of the spouse." A broad devolution mechanism is provided in Section 15 (1) and applies to all other properties. A woman's spouse and children have the first claim to her property under Section 15 (1).

Property Rights On Female Property

If a widow passes away without having children, Section 15 (1) states that the husband's heirs have a stronger claim than the widow's parents and siblings to all her property not be given by her parents. This covers all personal property, gifts, bequests made through wills, and property inherited from parents, grandparents, siblings, and other family members.

It is crucial to consider the source from which a girl inherits the property because it will determine how it devolves. The devolution of the scheme for the property of the male deceased is not reciprocally provided for. Additionally, even though she receives an inheritance from her mother if a childless widow obtains property from either her father or her mother, the devolution may be upon the "heirs of the father" in each case.

Object Of Section 15(2) HAS

The legislature's goal in incorporating Section 15 (2) (a) of the Act is to ensure that only the descendants of the parents' family inherit the property that originally belonged to the deceased female Hindu; the property will not pass to the husband or his heirs unless the deceased left behind a son or daughter.

In Bhagat Ram v. Teja Singh, the Supreme Court of India ruled that the source from which Teja Singh inherits the property is always significant in determining the circumstances. Without it, people who are not even slightly related to the person who originally held the property would be given the right to inherit it. The intention and goal of Section 15(2), which provides a special succession pattern, would be defeated in this situation.

The court held in the case of Emana Veeraraghavamma v. Gudiseva Subbarao that the special rule of succession under Section 15 (2) (a) of the Act only applies when the property that a female Hindu inherited from her father or mother was still available at the time of her death. The court held in the case of Dasari Sainath vs. MareddyBujanga Bhushanam that once inherited properties were divided by partition, they lost their status as "inherited property," and as a result, Section 15 (1) (a) of the Act came into effect, giving her husband the right to inherit the property and her father's heirs no claim to it.

In O.M. Meyyappa Chattier v. Kannappa Chattier, Pushpa v N. Venkatesh, Ayi Ammal v SubramaniaAsari, Pamulapati Venkata Subbamma vs GogineniVeeraiah, BobballapatiKameswararao v. KavuriVasudevarao, Komalavalli Ammal v. T.A.S. Krishnamachari, V.Nagalingam v. N. Venkatesh, The courts determined that any assets obtained through a gift, a will, or any other legal maneuver from her parents, siblings, or any other person devolved upon her husband's heirs under Section 15 (1) and not her parents, siblings, or other family members under Section 15 (2).

The property possessed by the brother in the Balasaheb Anant Rao v. Jaimala SanajiRaje case does not fall under the category of property inherited from the father or mother; as a result, it passes to the husband's heirs under Section 15(1)(b) rather than the brother.

The actual goal and purpose of the insertion of Section 15(2) of the Act are not fulfilled by the straightforward interpretation of Section 15 of the Act.

Discrepancies Vested Under HSA

The contradictions in the devolutionary provisions of the Hindu Succession Act were made clear in Om Prakash v. Radhacharan. In one instance, after her husband passed away, a Hindu woman was compelled to leave her marital home and go back to her parent's house. She accumulated substantial fortunes while receiving financial support from her parents there before dying intestate and without children.

Upon a straightforward reading of Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, the supreme court determined that all of the properties are her self-acquired property and will pass to her husband's heirs and not to her mother. The idea that the parties' otherwise unambiguous rights shouldn't be decided solely based on sentiment or sympathy is a well-established legal principle.

According to this opinion, a woman's self-acquired property is her absolute property, not the property she inherited from her parents. As a result, her property was transferred to her husband's family members rather than to her blood relatives. According to this stringent interpretation, a woman has less autonomy because the estates of men and women are seen through distinct lenses. The legislation must be changed to allow parents or blood relations of a female intestate to inherit her self-acquired properties to prevent such situations.

Post Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005

The Hindu Succession Amendment Act, of 2005 provided that a woman would now be able to inherit money from both her husband's and her parents' sides. It is appropriate to give her parents' heirs the same right to inherit as those on her husband's side if she dies intestate and leaves behind self-acquired property. Women must also be treated equally in both the social and economic realms, according to social justice principles.

In the case of Omprakash v. Radhacharan, the court stated that since women have the right to inherit property from both their husbands' and parents' sides, it would be entirely justified to grant her paternal heirs the same right to inherit her property. In its report, the Law Commission of India proposed amending Section 15(2) of the Act. Equal rights should be granted to her paternal Heirs and the heirs on her husband's side if a woman passes away without producing any children and leaves behind the self-acquired property.

The situation is different right now. In this regard, necessary revisions must be made. The distant relatives of the deceased woman's husband would defeat any Hindu woman who would have otherwise hoped to inherit the estate of another Hindu woman. In the case of separate property, giving preference to the husband's heirs may be somewhat justified because, after marriage, she becomes a member of his family.

However, giving them priority over her parents regarding self-acquired property is not justified, especially since she may not have acquired the property with the help of her husband or a member of his family.

Article 14 Of The Constitution Of India

Equal treatment under the law is guaranteed by Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, while Article 15 (1) expressly forbids the state from discriminating against its inhabitants based on their religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. This means that, unless there are special circumstances, the state cannot pass laws that treat its individuals differently based only on the distinctions outlined above.

In Mamta Dinesh Vakil v Bansi S. Wadhwa, a single judge-bench of the Bombay High Court held that Section 15 of the HSA was unreasonable as discriminatory and, therefore, unconstitutional and ultra vires as being violative of Article 15 of the Constitution of India. The court, however, referred the questions of constitutionality to a larger bench, which has yet to be constituted. While the question of constitutionality may not be settled, judgments such as Om Prakash v. Radhacharan highlight the fact that discrimination under HSA is, in the least, extremely unfair to women.

Judicial Activism
This question has just come back into prominence in an ongoing case of Kamal Anant Khopkar v Union of India, wherein the discriminatory nature of Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act is pending before the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India. The bench highlighted how long this discrimination has been codified in the law. The court added that the only way to fix it is by judicial or legislative intervention. Numerous Hindu women have suffered significantly as a result of the discriminatory HSA provision.

Legislative Approach On Succession

According to Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, Section 20 (3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956, and Section 4 of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act of 2007, every child must take care of his or her parents as they age. However, the Act's Section 15 (1) makes no mention of the mother's succession or inheritance. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Section 6(1)(c), states that the daughter bears the same obligations as the son.

Old Shastri Law and Mitakshara law states that the son must maintain her mother from ancestral property. Now the daughter also becomes a coparcener like a son, therefore, she also must maintain her mother and father. In the absence of any right in property, it is impossible to enforce such duty against their property. In old age, the mother is exclusive dependence on children, she has to be provided with equal and adequate rights by making appropriate amendments to the personal law of Hindu Succession.

Critical Analysis
It is advised that the following actions be taken to protect women's property rights: As a result of establishing standard laws of inheritance for both Hindu males and females dying intestate, socioeconomic changes call for equivalent legislative modifications. It is possible to make the succession rules for males apply to girls as well.

The separate succession plans for males and females who pass away intestate should end. Similar to how the Personal Laws (Amendment) Act of 2010 amends the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 by establishing uniform rules for both male and female Hindus about their capacity for adoption,

similar amendments could be made to establish uniform succession rules for both genders, thereby adhering to the Constitution's mandate. According to Hindu Law, there should be a single intestate succession plan for both men and women. The HSA's Sections 8 and 15 (as well as associated clauses and schedules) can be changed to treat men and women equally when it comes to devolution. 'Mother and Father' should be inserted before the 'heirs of the husband' in Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act so that the blood relations of a girl dying intestate might inherit her separate property along with her in-laws.

The properties received from all sources blossom as absolute property by Section 14 (1) of the Act. In certain cases, the inclusion of discrimination based on property acquisition will damage the goal of this Act regarding the provision of uniforms rule of succession to the properties of females. Section 8 read with Class I heirs recognized wife and his mother are successors in respect of properties inherited by a male Hindu from any sources including from his parents as well as his wife also.

Therefore, if the same rule is followed in respect of female Hindus, then it will not cause discrimination based on the source of property or status of a female that is childless or not. If the parents of female Hindus are also included in the first category of devolution like class I heirs and restrict the second category in respect of parents-in-law alone, then the discrimination in the inheritance of female property.

The scheme of devolution under the HSA discriminates against women. This discrimination is likely in violation of Article 15(1) of the Indian constitution. While the unconstitutionality of the discrimination may not be incontrovertibly established through the courts, the discrimination is at least extremely unfair.

The discrimination against women is against India�s treaty obligations as a signatory to the CEDAW. The law as it stands is incompatible with the socio-economic status of women in modern India. The discriminatory scheme of devolution is even harder to justify given that devolution under other Indian legislation such as the GSSNIP and ISA - one of which precedes the HSA by several decades - is far more gender-equitable. We can learn from these two pieces of legislation and succession laws in first-world countries to design a scheme of devolution that does not discriminate based on gender.

  1. Article 15 The Constitution of India, Bare Act
  2. Entry 5 in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India
  3. Article 14 The Constitution of India, Bare Act
  4. Article 15 The Constitution of India, Bare Act
  5. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956
  6. EmanaVeeraraghavamma v Gudiseva Subbarao, AIR 1976 AP 337
  7. Sir DinshawFardunj Mulla, Mulla Hindu Law, p.226, 23rd edition, 2017.
  8. Sham Koer v Dab Koer (1902) 29 cal 664, 29 IA 132; Mohim Chunder v Kashi Kant (1897) 2 CWN 161; Sheon Singh v Ramchandra Bai AIR 1957 MB 138
  9. Ram Kheleram v. Lakshmi, AIR 1950 Pat. 194
  10. Section 15 (1) (a) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956
  11. Section 15 (1) (b) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956
  12. Bhagat Singh v Teja Singh, AIR 2002 SC 1
  13. 2002 (1) SCC 210
  14. (1975) 88 L.W. 743: AIR 1976 MAD 154
  15. (2018) 3 LW 249
  16. (1966) 79 LW 192: AIR 1966 Mad 369
  17. 2003 (2) ALT 4
  18. AIR 1972 Andhra Pradesh 189
  19. 1990 (2) LW 598: (1990) 106 MLW 598
  20. LNIND 2012 Bom 748
  21. 2009 (15) SCC 66
  22. WP(C). 1517/2018

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