The law of succession defines the rules of devolution of property in case a
person dies without making a will; these rules provide category of persons and
percentage of property that will devolve on each of such persons. Section 8 to
14 and Section 15 to 17 deals with the rules of succession when a male Hindu and
female Hindu dies intestate, however even after these rules being there for
females, since a very long time the rights of a woman have been curtailed in
almost all aspects of her life, from the very basic right which is to possess a
property was not enjoyed by a woman in the past. This article tries to explain
how the succession laws gave women some rights in the aspects by diluting the
existing Hindu laws in the country and also will look after the rules of male
Category of Hindu Succession
Hindu male dying intestate:
- Section 8
- Sec. 8 groups the legal heirs of male and guides through how a property
devolves in absence of a will.
- The property of a male Hindu dying intestate shall devolve according to
the provisions of the Chapter II-firstly Class I heir, if not Class I heir
then to Class II heir, if not Class II heir then Agnates, if not Agnates,
- Section 9
- Sec. 9 points out the order of succession of the Class I and the Class
- All the Class I heirs succeed simultaneously and there is no question of
any preference or any priority among them. However, when there is no Class I
heir, the property devolves upon the Class II heirs enumerated in the
Schedule in the nine Entries.
- In Class II heirs those in the first entry shall be preferred to those
in the second entry; those in the second entry shall be preferred to those
in the third entry and so on.
- Section 10
- Sec. 10 mentions the heirs specified under Class I heirs.
- Rules for the property of an intestate to be divided among the heirs
under Class I heir are as follows:
Rule 1- The intestate's widow or widows all together shall only receive one
Rule2- The surviving son and daughters and the mother of the intestate shall get
one share each.
Rule3- The heirs in the branch of each pre-deceased son which are the widow or
widows, surviving sons and daughters gets the share in equal proportion and in
the branch of pre-deceased daughter, her sons and daughters shall get the share
in equal proportion.
- Section 11
- Sec. 11 specifies about the distribution of property among the Class II
heirs of the Schedule.
- The property of an intestate shall be divided between the heirs
specified in the first entry of the Class II heirs and then the succeeding
ones mentioned after the first entry.
- Section 12
- Sec. 12 specifies about the order of succession among Agnates and
- Agnates and Cognates shall be determined in accordance with the rules of
preference laid down hereunder:
Rule 1- Of two heirs, the one who has fewer or no degrees of ascent is
Rule 2- Where the number of degrees of ascent is the same or none, that heir is
preferred who has fewer or no degrees of descent.
Rule 3- Where neither heir is entitled to be preferred to the other under Rule 1
or Rule 2 they take simultaneously. Thus, Where the heirs are equal in the
descent in the same line they take simultaneously.
- Section 13
- Sec. 13 lays down the rules for computation of relationship between the
intestate and his agnate and cognate heirs.
- This relationship is traced from the intestate to the heir in terms of
degrees of relationship with the intestate as the starting point. There is
no discrimination or preference between male and female heirs.
- Section 14
- Sec. 14 specifies about the property of a female Hindu to be her
absolute property (full owner of the property) and not a limited owner of
Hindu female dying Intestate:
- Section 15 (1)
- Sec. 15 specifies about the general rules of succession in case of
The property of a female Hindu dying intestate shall devolve according to
- Upon the sons and daughters (including the children of any pre-deceased
son or daughter) and the husband;
- Upon the heirs of the husband;
- Upon the mother and father;
- Upon the heirs of the father; and
- Upon the heirs of the mother.
- Section 15 (2)
- The general order of succession laid down in entries (a) to (e) in
sub-Section applies to all property of a female intestate however acquired
except in case of property inherited by her from her father, mother, husband
- In case of a female intestate leaving a son or a daughter or a child of
a predeceased son or of a predeceased daughter, that is leaving any issue,
all her property, howsoever acquired, devolves on such issue regardless of
the source of acquisition of the property and such issue takes the property
simultaneously; and if the husband of the intestate is alive they take
simultaneously with him in accordance with entry (a). In such a case,
sub-Section (2) does not apply.
- In case of a female intestate dying without issue but leaving her
husband, the husband will take her property, except property inherited by
her from her father or mother which will revert to the heirs of the father
in existence at the time of her death.
- In case of female intestate dying without issue property inherited by
her from her husband or father-in-law (the husband being dead), will go the
heirs of the husband and not in accordance with the general order of
succession laid in sub-Section (1).
- In case of a female intestate dying without issue property inherited by
her from her father or mother will revert to the heirs of the father in
existence at the time of her death and not in accordance with the general
order of succession laid down in sub-Section (1).
- Section 16.
- Sec. 16 specifies about the order of succession and manner of
distribution among heirs of a female Hindu.- The order of succession among
the heirs referred to in Section 15 shall be and the distribution of the
intestate's property among those heirs shall take place according, to the
following rules, namely:
Rule 1- Among the heirs specified in sub-Section (1) of Section 15, those in
one entry shall be preferred to those in any succeeding entry and those
including in the same entry shall take simultaneously.
Rule 2- If any son or daughter of the intestate had predeceased the intestate
leaving his or her own children alive at the time of the intestate's death, the
children of such son or daughter shall take between them the share which such
son or daughter would have taken if living at the intestate's death.
Rule 3- The
devolution of the property of the intestate on the heirs referred to in clauses
(b), (d) and (e) of sub-Section (1) and in sub-Section (2) to Section 15 shall
be in the same order and according to the same rules as would have applied if
the property would have been the father's, the mother's or the husband's as the
case maybe, and such person had died intestate in respect thereof immediately
after the intestate's death.
- Section 17
Clauses (a) to (e) of sub-section (1) under section 15, the following had
- Upon the sons and daughters (including the children of any predeceased
son or daughter) and the mother;
- Upon the father and the husband;
- Upon the heirs of the mother;
- Upon the heirs of the father; and
- Upon the heirs of the husband.
- Rule 1-Explicitly declares that among the heirs enumerated in entries
(a) to (e) of Section 15, those heirs referred to in prior entry are to be
preferred to those in any subsequent entry and those included in the same
entry are to succeed simultaneously.
- Rule 2- states that in case of the children of a predeceased son or
daughter, they shall not take per capita with the son and daughter of the
intestate but shall take per stripes i.e. the children and the predeceased
son or daughter shall succeed to the property of the intestate as if the
predeceased son or daughter was alive at the time of inheritance.
- Rule 3- is applicable only when succession is in terms of entry (b), (d)
or (e) of Section 15(1). This rule 3 is to be invoked when under rule 1 the
heirs of the husband or the father or the mother are to be ascertained for
purpose of distribution of property.
- Disqualification of heirs
No person shall be disqualified from succeeding to any property on the
ground of any disease, defect or deformity, or save as provided in this Act,
on any other ground whatsoever. However there are some conditions under
which the heirs are disqualified from inheriting any property which are
Socioeconomic changes warrant corresponding legislative changes by laying down
uniform rules of succession for both Hindu males and females dying intestate.
The rules applying for succession from males could be made to apply to females
also. There is no reason to continue the different schemes of succession for
males and females dying intestate.
As the Personal Laws (Amendment) Act 2010
amends Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956 by making uniform rules for both
male and female Hindus with respect to their capacity for adoption, similarly
amendments could be brought to lay down uniform rules of succession for both
males and females, thereby complying with the mandate of the Constitution.
Laying down uniform rules of succession for both males and females would remove
the discrimination faced by women in regard to the devolution of their property
and also the source of its acquisition. Under the HSA 1956, a father inherits as
Class II heir to the separate property of a male dying intestate.
As independent India relies heavily on legislation to bring in social reform and
ensure removal of inequality and discrimination, the necessity is to review the
present succession laws and to bring the position of women at par with men.