The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 marked a new era in the history of social
legislation in India. A vigorous attempt has been made by this act to bring in
some reforms of far-reaching consequences in the system of inheritance and
succession. The law in this respect needed some revolutionizing changes as to
recognize the long felt right of inheritance of Hindu females at par with males.
The above-mentioned act has been passed to meet the needs of the
progressive society. It removes inequalities between men and women with respect
to rights in property and it evolves a list of heirs entitled to succeed on
intestacy based on natural love and affection rather than on religious efficacy.
This law has been passed to codify and amend the Hindu Law regarding succession.
The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 has effected a change of far-reaching
importance in the concept of Mitakshara coparcenary. By this amending act,
daughter of a Mitakshara coparcener has made a coparcener in Mitakshara joint
family with same rights and obligations that a male coparcener has and she is
now entitled to dispose of her interest in Mitakshara coparcenary property by
The devolution of interest of a Mitakshara coparcener in the joint Hindu
family property has been done away with this amending act. Moreover, Sections
4(2), 23 and 24 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 have been omitted by the
Succession to the property of a male dying intestate
- Widow of predeceased son
- Son of predeceased son
- Daughter of predeceased son
- Widow of predeceased son of a predeceased son
- Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased son
- Son of a predeceased son of a predeceased son
- Daughter of a predeceased daughter
- Son of a predeceased daughter
- Son of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter
- Daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter
- Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased daughter
- Daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased son
Son, Son's Son and Son's Son's Son:-Son means a legitimate son which could
be an aurasa or dattaka. The dattaka takes an equal share with the
aurasa. An illegitimate child is not entitled to inherit.
A posthumous son under section 20 also has the same right of inheritance as
if he was already born when the male died. Under the Act, the sons born
after the partition and the divided sons inherit with the other sons.
A stepson is not included.
A son born out of a voidable marriage is legitimate and has right to inherit
but a son born out of void marriage or annulled voidable marriage has rights
of inheritance only from the father.
Daughter, Son's Daughter, Son's Son's Daughter:-Just as the son, daughter
also means legitimate and natural or adopted. Natural and adopted daughters
inherit equally. An illegitimate daughter cannot inherit.
A daughter also includes a posthumous daughter but not a
stepdaughter. The position of the stepdaughters under void and voidable
marriage is same as that of sons.
Daughter's son and Daughter's daughter:-Both natural born and adopted
children of a predeceased daughter are included. Section 3(j) says
illegitimate children shall be deemed to be related to their mother and one
another which means that illegitimate daughters and sons are also included.
Merely because the daughter was given a gift at the time of the
marriage, her claim to her father's estate cannot be defeated.
Widow, Son's Widow, Son's Son's Widow:-If a male dies leaving behind only
his widow after coming into force of the act, she would be the sole heir and
would inherit absolutely.
If the marriage was void, then the said wife won't be considered as
the deceased husband's widow and hence, won't have the right of inheritance.
Same goes to an annulled voidable marriage. A divorce wife will also not be
An unchaste widow can inherit. However, if she remarries, she
will not have the right to inherit from the deceased. A son's son's widow
who has remarried also cannot inherit.
Mother:-Mother will always have the right to inherit even if she has been
divorced, unchaste or remarried. It is also immaterial if the mother's
marriage was void or voidable. Stepmother is not included in the definition
Class II heirs are divided into 9 categories and the
heir in an earlier category excludes the heirs in latter categories.
Father is the only nearest heir who has found a place in Category I.
- Son's daughter's son
- Son's daughter's daughter
Brother and sister include full-blood and half-blood. The rule is that when
there are any siblings by full-blood, the siblings by half-blood are excluded
and when there are no siblings by full-blood, then half-blood inherits.
Siblings related by uterine-blood are excluded. If the deceased and his
siblings are illegitimate children of their mother, such siblings are heirs to
him. All heirs in this category inherit per capita.
- Daughter's son's son
- Daughter's son's daughter
- Daughter's daughter's son
- Daughter's daughter's daughter
All heirs in this category inherit per capita.
- Brother's son
- Brother's daughter
- Sister's son
- Sister's daughter
Under this category, the children of siblings can be full-blood or half-blood
however, uterine-blood is excluded. Children of siblings by full-blood are
preferred over half-blood.
- Father's father
- Father's mother
These do not include step-grandfather or step-grandmother. If they are adoptive
parents of father they will be included.
- Father's widow
- Brother's widow
Father's widow means stepmother. She is the only step relation included among
the heirs. Even if she remarried, she will still inherit. However, a brother's
widow cannot succeed if she had remarried.
- Father's brother
- Father's sister
Father's brother and father's sister may be full-blood or half-blood, but,
full-blood is given the preference over half-blood. Uterine-blood is excluded
and adoption is included.
- Mother's father
- Mother's mother
Here, both the parties take per capita.
- Mother's brother
- Mother's sister
They can be by natural birth or by adoption and both take per capita.
Descendent agnates:-S,SS,SSS,SSSD,SSSS of a person are descendent agnates. S, SS
and SSS are in class I and rest are in class II
Ascendent agnates:-FFM and FFF are the nearest agnate descendants after F and
Collateral agnates:-Collaterals are descendants in parallel lines, either on
maternal or paternal sides.
They are classified similarly as agnates as descendant
cognates, ascendant cognates and collateral cognates. The uterine brother and
uterine sister are nearest collateral cognates.
The government takes the property if male dies without any
Succession to the property of a Hindu female dying intestate
Entry(a): In entry a there are the following heirs:
Sons and daughters:
- Son and daughter of a predeceased son
- Son and daughter of a predeceased daughter
These include sons and daughters by natural birth,
legitimate or illegitimate, as well as adopted children. Children of void
and voidable marriages are also included. However, stepchildren are not
included in entry (a).
These include legitimate grandchildren only, either natural born
or adopted. Children of a son whose marriage is void or annulled are not
included. This is because Section 16(3) of the Hindu Marriage act provides that
these children can inherit property of their parents alone.
Husband means the husband who was lawfully wedded at the time of the
female's death. Thus, a divorced husband is not included. A husband of a void or
voidable annulled marriage is also not included.
Shares of heirs in entry(a):
The heirs of Entry (a) inherit the property simultaneously. From Section 16,
Rule I and Rule II we may deduce the following:
- Son, daughter and husband each take one share.
- Among the heirs of branches of predeceased son and predeceased daughter,
the doctrine of representation applies, i.e., the children of predeceased
daughter and predeceased son take the same share which the daughter or son
would have taken had she or he been alive.
- Among heirs of a branch, they take per capita.
On the failures in entry (a), the property will devolve on the heirs of entry
(b) which runs as under Upon the heirs of husband
, this means that
the property will devolve as if it is the property of the husband. Since the
property is deemed to be that of her husband, the inheritance will be determined
by the scheme laid down in the Act relating to succession to the property of a
In simple words, the order of succession will be first to
Class-I heirs--- Class-II heirs---agnates---cognates---entry(c); in that
In this entry there are only two heirs, i.e., father and mother. This
includes natural or adopted parents but not stepfather or stepmother. Both take
The devolution of property here will take place assuming that the
property is of the father.
The devolution of property here will take place assuming that the
property is of the mother.
Property Inherited from parents:
Sons, Daughters, children of predeceased children.
In this category, the husband is not an heir.
Category-II:-Upon heirs of father. In this, the property devolves upon the
heirs of the father. Where property was inherited by the deceased female Hindu
from her mother in the absence of her own children, it would devolve on her
sister and not brother of her predeceased husband.
Property inherited from husband or father in law:-In this case, property falls
into two categories.
Sons, daughters, children of predeceased children.
Upon the heirs of husband, i.e., Hindu male
Just as in case of a Hindu male, if the female dies leaving no
relation, the government takes her property. It is essential that she should not
have any heir under both sub-sections of Section 15.
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was enacted when woman hardly went out to work
and the society was more patriarchal than what it is today. But, in the past few
years there has been a vast change and women have made progress in various
spheres of life. While enacting the act, the legislators probably did not
foresee the fact that one day women might earn their own property with their own
Accordingly, section 15(1) of the act should be modified to ensure
that the general order of succession does not place a woman's husband's heir
above those who belong to her natal family, like her father, mother, siblings,
etc. When a man dies, his wife's family is not even in the order of succession
despite the manner in which he may have acquired property. Hence, I believe that
the rules of succession for the female should be same as the men and furthermore
it would create less confusion also will be easier to understand.
Finally, I would just like to conclude by saying that the laws and
rules of succession and inheritance for both male and female should be equal and
similar to both and keeping different laws would also violate article 14 and 15
as there cannot be any reasonable classification amongst a man and a woman in
today's world. This is a progressive society and transformative
constitutionalism should be applied in this aspect and some of the provisions of
the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 should be amended in such a way that it brings
about equality, equity and justice amongst all classes of men and women in the
Written By: Sumedh Patil
- Natural born.
- Daddo v. Raghunath-AIR-1979-Bom-176.
- Section 16 of Hindu-Marriage-Act-1955, Laxmibai v.
Limbabai-AIR-1983-Bom-222; Rameshwari Devi v. State of Bihar-AIR-2000-SC-735;
Smt. Nagarathaurai v. Venkatalasshmamman-AIR-2000-Kant-181.
- Vithal Bhai v. Bhana Bai-AIR-1994-SC-481
- Meenakshamma v. M.C. Nandjunappa-AIR-1993-Kant-12.
- Sadhu Singh v. Gurudwara Sahib Narike-AIR-2006-SC-3282
- Jayalakshmi v. Ganevesa-(1972)-2-MLJ-50.
- Gurudul Singh v. Darshan Singh-AIR-1973-P&H-362
- Satyanarain v. Rameshwar-AIR-1982-Pat-44.
- Waman Govind v. Gopal Baburao-AIR-1984-Bom-208-(FB)
- K. Raj v. Muthumma-AIR-2001-SC-1720
- Kumara v. Kunjulakshmi-AIR-1972-Ker-66
- T. Naicker v. Kappamma-AIR-1973-Mad-274
- Gurbachan v. Khichar Singh-AIR-1971-Punj-240; Narayani v.
- Malappa v. Shivappa-AIR-1962-Mys-122; Namdeo v. State of
- Amer Kaur v. Raman Kumari-AIR-1985-P&H-86; Roshan Lal v. Dalipa AIR 1985 HP
- Krishna v, Nisamani AIR-1987-Ori-105
- Raghuwan v. Janki Prasad-AIR-1987-MP-39
- Mahadevappa v. Gauraman-AIR-1973-Mys-142
- Bhagat Ram v. Teja Singh-AIR-2002-SC-1
- Baiya v. Gopikabai-AIR-1978-SC-793
- State of Punjab v. Balwant Singh-AIR-1991-SC-1581
Student of MITWPU Faculty of Law