Hindu Women’s Inheritance Rights – Explained

Supreme Court, in its recent ruling, expanded the Hindu Woman’s right to be a Coparcener (or Joint Legal Heir) to inherit the ancestral property.

“A son is a son till he gets married, a daughter is a daughter throughout her life.” A three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah ruled that daughters, like sons, have an equal birthright to inherit ancestral property.

The SC bench stated in its verdict that a Hindu woman’s right to be a coparcener or joint heir to the parental property is by birth and does not depend on whether her father is alive or not. Coparcenary (joint-heirship) is by birth, so it is not necessary that the father should be living as on 9 September 2005, when the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act was enacted.

Here are more details on Hindu Women’s Inheritance Rights.

Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 grounded on the Mitakshara School of Hindu Law, governed the succession and inheritance of property recognizing only sons as the legal heirs of ancestral property. This law was applied to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and followers of Arya Samaj and Brahmo Samaj.

In September 2005, the 1956 Act was amended and recognized women as coparceners (joint-heir) for the partitioning of the parental property. Section 6 of the 2005 Act makes daughter a coparcener by birth in her own right in the same manner as the son. The law also gave daughter the equal rights and liabilities in the coparcenary property as that of a son. Coparcener is a person who can claim a legal right to parental property by birth.

The law applies to ancestral and personal property, where inheritance is governed by law and not through the will.

SC Recent Ruling

After hearing a bunch of pleas, SC ruled in their landmark judgment that the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, which gave daughters equal rights to inherit ancestral property will have a retrospective effect. The verdict states that the law is applicable for daughters who were alive when the law was brought in, irrespective of whether their father was alive or not when the Amendment Act came into force on 9 September, 2005.

This ruling also overrules the previous verdicts of the court in the Prakash v Phulwati case (2015) and another case in April 2018 that stated that the benefit of 2005 Amendment Act could be granted only to the “living daughters of living coparceners” to inherit ancestral property.

The recent SC ruling settles and expands on the intention of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 to remove the discrimination contained in Section 6 of the 1956 Act by giving equal rights to daughters in the coparcenary property same as the sons.

The bench also directed that disputes pending in various courts related to this matter should be decided within the next six months.

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