The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was enacted during the post-independence period, and it was one of the four Acts included in the Hindu Code Bill. This Act outlines the succession plan for Hindus who pass away without creating a Will.
Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 specifies the scheme of succession of Hindu women dying intestate.
According to section 15 of the Act,
"General rules of succession in the case of female Hindus.—
(1) The property of a female Hindu dying intestate shall devolve according to the rules set out in section 16,—
(a) firstly, upon the sons and daughters (including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) and the husband;
(b) secondly, upon the heirs of the husband;
(c) thirdly, upon the mother and father;
(d) fourthly, upon the heirs of the father; and
(e) lastly, upon the heirs of the mother.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1),—
(a) any property inherited by a female Hindu from her father or mother shall devolve, in the absence of any son or daughter of the deceased (including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) not upon the other heirs referred to in sub-section (1) in the order specified therein, but upon the heirs of the father; and
(b) any property inherited by a female Hindu from her husband or from her father-in-law shall devolve, in the absence of any son or daughter of the deceased (including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) not upon the other heirs referred to in sub-section (1) in the order specified therein, but upon the heirs of the husband."
Property owned by Hindu women can be divided into three categories:
The first category includes property inherited from the woman's husband or father-in-law.
The second category includes property inherited from the woman's father or mother.
The third category includes all other property, including self-acquired property, that the woman has received, earned or gifted, and which does not fall under the previous two categories.
The basic rule for all types of property owned by a Hindu woman is that, in the case of her dying intestate, the property will devolve on her descendants, such as children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren and the husband.
If the woman is childless and dies intestate, the origin of her property will be determined.
If the property falls under the first category, meaning it was inherited from her husband or father-in-law, it will devolve upon her husband's heir.
If the property falls under the second category, meaning it was inherited from her father or mother, it will devolve upon her father's heir.
If the property falls under the third category, which includes self-acquired or gifted property, if the woman is a childless widow, it will devolve upon her husband's heir preferably.
Only in the absence of the last heir of the husband, the property will devolve upon the women's mother and father.
Consider a situation, where a childless widow who has worked hard to acquire property but dies intestate. According to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, her property will be inherited by her husband's heir, such as her husband's mother, in the absence of whom, her husband's father and siblings would inherit the property. However, her own parents or siblings would not inherit the property if her husband's parents, siblings, or even distant relatives are still alive.
These inconsistencies in property inheritance under Hindu Succession Act were first highlighted in the case of Om Prakash v. Radhacharan, Civil Appeal No. 3241 of 2009. In this case, after the death of Narayani Devi's husband, she was compelled to leave her marital home and return to her parents, who were her sole financial support. Despite this, she managed to acquire a substantial amount of assets but died childless and intestate. Following her death, her mother and her deceased husband's nephews made competing claims to her assets. The Supreme Court on the basis of a plain reading of the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act awarded all of Narayani's self-acquired property to her late husband's heirs.
In the case of Kamal Anant Khopkar vs Union of India, WP(C) 1517/2018, the issue of inequitable provisions in the Hindu Succession Act concerning the distribution of property to men and women who die Intestate was before the Supreme Court. The Court directed the Solicitor General to provide the government's view on the matter, and appointed advocate Meenakshi Arora as amicus curiae to assist the Court. Arora highlighted inconsistencies in the Act, such as the provision that when a childless married Hindu male dies, his properties go to his parents, while a childless widow's properties (excluding those inherited from her parents) go to her husband's heirs rather than her own parents. The Court acknowledged the need for judicial or legislative action to address this issue. On January 31, 2022, a Division Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant suggested that the matter be heard by a three-judge Bench. The matter is currently pending before the Supreme Court.
For any Family Law related matter, please Post Your Requirement anonymously and get free proposals OR find the Best Family Law Lawyers and book a free appointment directly.
CYBER CRIME AGAINST INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
PROTECTION FROM EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION
ANALYSIS OF CONFLICT BETWEEN TRIPS AND CBD
AN OVERVIEW OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHT ISSUES IN CYBERSPACE
LOK ADALATS- ‘AN ADR MECHANISM’
INTERFACE BETWEEN IBC AND OTHER STATUTES