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Hindu women’s inheritance rights

  • IASbaba
  • August 13, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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SOCIETY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 1 and 2

  • Social empowerment 
  • Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections 

Hindu women’s inheritance rights

Context: The Supreme Court expanded on a Hindu woman’s right to be a joint legal heir and inherit ancestral property on terms equal to male heirs. 

Coparcener is a person who has a birthright to parental property. 

What is the The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005? 

  • The Mitakshara school of Hindu law codified as the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 governed succession and inheritance of property  
  • The original act only recognised males as legal heirs. 
  • The law applied to everyone who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion.  
  • Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and followers of Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj are also considered Hindus for the purposes of this law. 
  • Section 6 of the Act was amended in 2005 to make a daughter of a coparcener also a coparcener by birth “in her own right in the same manner as the son” 
  • The law applies to ancestral property and to intestate succession in personal property — where succession happens as per law and not through a will 

Do you know? 

  • The 174th Law Commission Report had also recommended this reform in Hindu succession law.  
  • Even before the 2005 amendment, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu had made this change in the law, 

How did the case come about? 

  • While the 2005 law granted equal rights to women, questions were raised in multiple cases on whether the law applied retrospectively 
  • Also, there were questions if the rights of women depended on the living status of the father through whom they would inherit 
  • Additionally, there were different verdicts by two-judge Supreme Court Benches 
  • In Prakash v Phulwati (2015), a two-judge Bench headed by Justice A K Goel held that the benefit of the 2005 amendment could be granted only to “living daughters of living coparceners” as on September 9, 2005 (the date when the amendment came into force). 
  • In Danamma @ Suman Surpur vs. Amar (2018), contrary to the 2015 ruling, a two-judge SC Bench held that the share of a father who died in 2001 will also pass to his daughters as coparceners as per 2005 law 
  • These conflicting views by Benches of equal strength led to a reference to a three-judge Bench in the current case. The ruling now overrules the earlier verdicts. 

What is the ruling? 

  • A three Judge SC bench ruled that a Hindu woman’s right 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. 
  • The court decided that the amended Hindu Succession Act, which gives daughters equal rights to ancestral property, will have a retrospective effect. 
  • It also clarified that an unregistered oral partition, without any contemporaneous public document, cannot be accepted as the statutory recognised mode of partition. 
  • The bench also clarified that if the property had already been written in the name of an heir before the amendment came into effect, the woman would not be able to claim a share. 

Significance of the Judgement 

  • Resolves Legal Confusion: The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 thus gives Hindu women the right to be coparceners or joint legal heirs in the same way a male heir does. 
  • Right to Equality: The verdict corrected the discrimination on the ground of gender and upheld the fundamental right of equality guaranteed by the Constitution 
  • Economic Empowerment of Daughters: The daughters cannot be deprived of their right of equality conferred upon them by Section 6 
  • Codification of Norms: The concept of uncodified Hindu law of unobstructed heritage has been given a concrete shape under the provisions of Section 6(1)(a) and 6(1) of the act 

Connecting the dots:

  • Instant triple talaq became a cognizable offence a year ago on August 1, 2019. 
  • Codification of Personal Laws 

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