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Is It Possible For Daughters To Inherit Property From Their Father?

Do you want to know if daughters have a legal right to inherit property? Or Are the sons' coparceners in the father's ancestral property the same as the sons' coparceners? In India, daughters' rights to their father's property have long been a source of contention, and even after multiple rulings, the issues remain unresolved, whether in the famous case of Vineeta Sharma or in others. Women have long been treated as second-class citizens, both in terms of inheritance rights and the ability to own property freely, and various limits on both inheritance and women's property rights have been established in our country.

India's succession and inheritance laws have experienced various changes and improvements as a result of amendments and legislation. As a result, daughters now own the same percentage of the property as sons. To be more specific, because of the daughter's access to both coparcenary and self-acquired property, gender is no longer a criterion to be considered. That is to say:
  • A daughter has the same rights to acquire, possess, and dispose of property as any other man
  • Today, a woman's ability to acquire, hold, and dispose of her property is essentially unrestricted.
  • Daughters are entitled to an equal portion of their father's self-acquired and ancestral property.
  • Coparcenary or ancestral property is that which one inherits from one's ancestors from birth, whereas self-acquired property is that which is not inherited from one's ancestors but rather purchased on one's own.
Daughters have become coparceners since the Supreme Court decision in 2005. As a result, they enjoy equal rights to all property, including farmland. Both men and women are capable of owning and managing their own property. Property rights are restricted in the same way for both men and women. As a result, today's daughters have the same property rights as sons.

Role of the judiciary in evaluating a daughter's property rights

Let's take each scenario one at a time. To begin, there is the case of Vineeta Sharma vs. Rakesh Sharma (2020), The question in this case was whether the 2005 change to the 1956 Succession Act had retroactive effect. Section 6 of the Act was changed to grant full coparcenary privileges to daughters, just as they did to sons. The amendment act was signed into law on November 9, 2005. However, this section 6(1(a)) gave girls coparcenary privileges by birth.
  • The court had to decide whether a daughter born before 2005 (before the amendment) would be entitled to coparcenary rights or not.
  • Another dispute was whether both the daughter and the father had to be alive on November 9, 2005 in order for the modified provision to take effect.
These two questions were answered in the Supreme Court's decision in Prakash & Ors. V. Phulavati and Ors. (2015),which held that the amended Section 6 has a prospective effect and that coparcenary rights will be conferred on a living daughter of a living coparcener, requiring both father and daughter to be alive on November 9, 2005.

However, in Danamma @ Suman Surpur & Anr. V. Amar & Ors. (2018), the court held that the daughter has the right to inherit her father's coparcenary property even if the father is not alive on November 9, 2005. As a result, in this example, each of the daughter's, sons, and widows received a fifth part. This decision was in conflict with the law that arose in Phulavati's decision, resulting in a contradiction.

Both of these decisions were made by a divisional bench (2- judges bench). So, in Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma, a three-judge bench was formed to address the issues and give the correct interpretation of section 6 of the amended 2005 Act, which stated that even if the father is not alive on November 9, 2005, or died on or before the date of the amendment, the daughters will be coparceners and have birth right over the coparcenary property.

This decision only applied to coparcenary property, not self-acquired property, therefore the dilemma over the daughter's claim remained. The Supreme Court then decided in Arunachala Gounder (dead) v. Ponnuswamy (2022), that self-acquired property of a Hindu male dying intestate would devolve by inheritance rather than succession, and that a daughter would be entitled to inherit such property, as well as property obtained in the partition of a coparcenary or a family property.

Furthermore, if a female dies intestate, and the ancestral property devolved on her was inherited from her father, the property will devolve upon the father's heirs after she dies issueless (no children) and intestate, and if the property devolved on her from her husband's side, the property will devolve upon the husband's heirs after she dies intestate and issueless.

The Hindu Succession Act's legislative objective

The fundamental goal of the 1956 Act was to achieve complete equality between male and female property rights, and the rights of women were declared absolute, completely eliminating any concepts of a restricted estate.

The court made observations on sections 14 (property of a female Hindu to be her absolute property) and 15 (property of a female Hindu to be her absolute property) of the revised Act of 2005. (general rules of succession in the case of female Hindus).

The legislative intent of enacting Section 14(1), according to the Court, was to address the limitation that a Hindu woman could not claim an absolute interest in the properties she inherited, but only a life interest in the estate so inherited, i.e., her property would be considered her absolute property.

Section 15(1) of the Hindu Succession Act (HSA) states that the property of Hindu females who die intestate passes to their own heirs, as listed in this subsection.

Section 15(2) makes an exception, stating that this provision only applies to property gained by inheritance (ancestral property), and that it is limited to property inherited by a Hindu female from her father or mother, husband or father-in-law, and where she dies without heirs.

A person is free to write a will and can prevent one's offspring (sons and daughters) from receiving their self-acquired property, but girls, like sons, have the right to inherit their father's ancestral or self-acquired property if he dies intestate. Women enjoyed entire ownership of their property under the 1956 Act, but no coparcenary rights over the ancestral property. This legislation discriminated solely on the basis of gender. However, because the 2005 amendment offered females the same rights as sons, it proved to be a significant benefit to daughters.

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