Inheritance Rights of Daughters under Hindu Law

Inheritance Rights of Daughters under Hindu Law

By: Sanika Kulkarni

Did you know only 65.46% of women are literate as compared to 82.14% of men,  India consist of 48.5% of female population but only 27.4% are in the workforce, women hold only 11% seats in Lok Sabha but 46% in Panchayati raj institutions? Clearly we still live in a society where fundamental rights are served to men on platter whereas women have to give a fight for every one of them. From right to speech and expression to right to education, it was not easy to enjoy them. The 1st every amendment was due to property rights. Like every other right, women were also deprived of property rights. But recently on 12th august 2020, this thrive came to an end.

Relevant provisions:

After looking at Triple talaq judgment, Sabrimala case making provisions in rape laws, education reforms, domestic violence laws, abortion laws we can see India taking a step forward towards gender justice. So, what were the case inheritance rights before the amendment of 2005? Post-independence the farmers of constitution started working on equal rights and the principle of gender equality is enriched in fundamental rights. The Hindu code bill gave birth to Hindu succession act of 1956 which followed the guidelines of Mitakshara school of law According to which the son of the family will acquire an interest in the ancestral property of the joint family. In 2000 the 174th law commission noted that

“even though the right to property is important for the freedom and development of a human being, the framing of all property laws have been exclusive for the benefit of man”

Amendment in law:

Before 2005 women were not a part of the coparcenary and hence couldn`t claim or inherit the property of the father. The law commission filed a report and pushed for a change in law, the report was accepted in 2005 which ended up introducing an amendment in Hindu succession act 1956. The amendment brought following changes, women were recognized as legal heirs or coparceners right from their birth, section 6 of the act was amended, it gave daughter same rights as that of a son, this law was applicable to both ancestral property as well as personal property. Then there was a case of Suman Surpur case. As the amendment stated that the daughter will become coparcener by birth in the same manner as a son, the question came up that right would be conferred only upon the daughters who were born after September 9 2005, i.e when the amendment came into force. The said issue was settled in case of Prakash and Phulvati case wherein the SC said daughters will acquire rights of irrespective when they are born.

Legal rights of married daughter:

What are the rights of a married daughter over any type of property of her parents? the marital status of the daughter is immaterial and a married daughter has the same rights as an unmarried one they will have equal rights, liabilities and duties as sons. Besides these there are some other major rights that a married daughter has:

  • Legal rights on father`s property
  • Legal right to be coparceners
  • Legal rights to maintenance by the husband
  • Legal right to child maintenance
  • Right to streedhan and to residence
  • Right to a committed relationship
  • Right to live with dignity & self-respect

Big question:

After the Prakash and Phulavati case everything was narrowed down to one big question regarding the provisions of inheritance which was solved recently on 11 august 2020. The question was whether the amendment could apply retrospectively or depended upon the fathers being alive in 2005? And SC ruled that Hindu women`s rights to be a joint heir to the ancestral property is by birth and does not depend on whether her father was alive or not when the law was enacted in 2005. Registered settlements before December 2004 will not be entertained for litigation purpose.

“a son is a son until he gets a wife, a daughter is a daughter throughout her life”

Tushar Mehta had unequivocally conveyed that coparcenary was a birthright of daughters. ‘ as the right is by birth and not by inheritance it is irrelevant that a coparcener, whose daughter is conferred with rights, is alive or not’ the bench said.

Significance:  

  • Resolved the confusion of amendment of 2005
  • The verdict corrected the discrimination on the grounds of gender, promoted the right to equality
  • Economic empowerment of daughters.

Case laws:

  • Ganduri Koteshwaramma & Anr. V. Chakiri Yanadi & Anr 2011 9 SCC 788-  in this the court talked about the partition suits.
  • S.R. Batra & Anr. V.Smt. Taruna Batra- SC expounded the definition of shared household under the domestic violence act.
  • The Mary Roy case- the judgment ensured equal rights for Christian women with male siblings in their ancestral property.

Conclusion:

Equality of sexes is a fundamental principle of any modern, progressive society and state. And after this judgment, India has surely taken a leap in gender justice reforms, but still, we have a long way to go in case of equality. There is a need to bring a change in the patriarchal mindset that women have access to the same opportunities as men.

Sources:

  • The Hindu – Seal of justice (editorial)
  • Hindu succession Act 1956.

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