The condition of Hindu women had always been subject to male members of the family, even in accordance with the Dharmashastras. According to Manu, “a wife, son and a slave are declared to have no property and if they happened to acquire it would belong to a male under whom they are in protection.” there is a record of such custom-based inequalities against women at such times, mentioned in the books of Hindu religion. The position of women remains always inferior, they are being treated as incapacitating in every field, therefore they are underestimated and undermined which forced them to be financially dependent. The root cause of these inequalities is the financial dependency at higher levels. Hundreds of thousands of young girls in India die every year because of “invisible discrimination”, according to research published in The Lancet Global Health. when the Hindu Succession Act was enacted in 1956; the legislators didn’t actually felt any need for giving equal rights to daughters in the coparcenary property of the father, due to their belief that the daughter will be a part of another family after her marriage and thus should not have right to inherit anything from her father’s property. Property rights are one of the areas wherein the women were discriminated in India. The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 was approved which differentiate a Hindu women’s property rights in comparison to Hindu man’s property rights. Only in the year 2005, after an amendment to the Hindu Succession Act of 1956
The changing times have analytically brought some new additions and has changed the scenario of this setup, there are few eras that decide the status of women and their standing of rights from ancestral property. Those are starting as below.
- Before the commencement of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956.
- After the Commencement of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956.
- The amendment of 2005 to the Hindu Succession Act of 1956.
Before the commencement of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956
Streedhan means women’s property. According to Smritikars, the streedhan constituted those properties that she received by way of gift from the relations which included mostly movable property such as ornaments, jewelry, and dresses. These items include some gifts excluding proprietary rights (Pratibha Rani V. Suraj Kumar. 1985 AIR 628, 1985, SCR (3) 191). In another case Rashmi Kumar V. Mahesh Kumar Bhada, (1997) 2 SCC 397 the supreme court held that if any member of the family of in-laws of a woman dishonestly misappropriates the streedharan will be faced under criminal breach of trust.
- Women’s Estate –
The following Conditions have to meet property to fall under this Category –
The features of women’s estate are as follows and imply that–
It gives women absolute ownership of property. She has the full rights of its disposal or alienation. She can sell, gift, mortgage, lease, exchange, or if she chooses, she can put it on fire. Her property can be passed on to her own on heirs on her death. as was held in the case of Janaki v. Narayana Swami (1916) 43 I.A.207) Privy Council observed regarding women’s estate as “her right is of the nature of the right of property, her position is that of the owner; her powers in that character are, limited…So long as she is alive, no one has vested interest in succession.”
After the Commencement of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956
These General Rules of Succession were put to an end by the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 Sections 14 (1) abolished the concept of Women’s estate and section 15 of the act prescribed the concept of general rules for succession in case of Hindu female.
Section 15 – General rules of succession in the case of female Hindus-
The property of a female Hindu dying intestate shall devolve according to the rules set out in section 16,—Firstly, upon the sons and daughters (including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) and the husband; secondly, upon the heirs of the husband; thirdly, upon the mother and father; fourthly, upon the heirs of the father; and lastly, upon the heirs of the mother.
Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1),—
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;
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.
Section 16 –
The order of succession among the heirs referred to in section 15 shall be, and the distribution of the intestate’s property among those heirs shall take place, according to the following rules, namely:-
Rule 1- Among the heirs specified in sub-section (1) of section 15, those in one entry shall be preferred to those in any succeeding entry and those including in the same entry shall take simultaneously.
Rule 2- If any son or daughter of the intestate had predeceased, the intestate leaving his or her own children alive at the time of the intestate’s death, the children of such son or daughter shall take between them the share which such son or daughter would have taken if living at the intestate’s death.
Rule 3- The devolution of the property of the interstate on the heirs referred to in clauses (b), (d), and (e) of sub-section (1) and in sub-section (2) of section 15.
The two sections mentioned above are the new law for the succession of a woman’s property
The Amendment of 2005
This was seen as a landmark Amendment as, now married women could inherit their father’s property, which was previously only enjoyed by the male members of the family. The Amendment made to section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act that deals with the Devolution of Coparcenary property have made this possible and women can inherit property as coparceners.
The recent development in this sphere was a long pending issue, which has clearly resolved the chaos from women’s right to ancestral property. There were no such precedents of Supreme Court before these landmark ones;
On 11th August 2020, three-Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in Civil Appeal No. 32601 of 2018 i.e. in the case of Vineeta Sharma V. Rakesh Sharma & Ors, have delivered one important judgment, on the interpretation of Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, as amended by the Amendment Act of 2005. That Bench of the Supreme Court includes Justi Mishra, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, and Justice M.R. Shah.
The question, concerning the interpretation of section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, as amended by Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, has been referred to a Larger Bench, in view of the Conflicting Verdicts, rendered in Two-Division Bench Judgments of this Court, in Prakash & Ors. V. Phulavati & Ors. (2016) 2 SCC 36 and Danamma Suman Surpur & Anr V. Amar & Ors (2018) 3 SCC 343.
A Division-Bench of this Court, in Prakash V. Phulavati, held that Section 6 is not retrospective in operation, and it applies, when both, coparcener and his daughter, were alive on the date of commencement of Amendment Act, i.e. on 9th September 2005. Accordingly, the provisions of Section 6 have been held to be prospective. “The prospective statute operates from the date of its enactment conferring new rights. The retrospective statute operates backward and takes away or impairs vested rights acquired under existing laws. A retroactive statute is one that does not operate retrospectively. It operates in the future. However, its operation is based upon the character or status that arose earlier.
However, in Danamma V. Amar, this Court held that the amended provisions of Section 6 confer full rights upon the daughter coparcener. Any coparcener, including a daughter, can claim a partition in the coparcenary property. In this case, Gurunalingappa, who was a father-coparcener of claimant daughter, died in the year 2001, leaving behind two daughters, two sons, and a widow. Thus, daughter-coparcener’s father was not alive, when the substituted provision of section 6 came into force. Accordingly, the daughters, sons, and the widow were given 1/5th share a piece.
On this background, it was observed by the Supreme Court, in the present case that, when a daughter, who is claiming & demanding a share in the coparcenary, is alive on 09th September 2005, then there is no difficulty of interpretation, irrespective of the fact, whether a Coparcener has died before the commencement of the Amendment Act. The coparcener and the daughter don’t need to be alive, as on the date of the amendment.
If it is to be interpreted that, coparcener and daughter both should be alive, then it will defeat the very purpose and objective of the amended provisions. Earlier, the provisions of Hindu law treated a son as a coparcener by birth; now, daughters are given the same rights since birth. However, in case the partition has been effected by metes and bounds and is adequately proved, then the daughter of coparcenary cannot seek partition of already divided property.
Until the 2005 amendment, only the male members of a Hindu family had coparcenary rights. Moreover, coparcenary property is a right that comes with birth. Now, female members have the same right. It is quite simple. It is a right recognized from the time the daughter is born just as if she were a son. This status, therefore, operates from the time she is born. “Coparcener right is by birth. Thus, it is not at all necessary that the father of the daughter should be living as on the date of the amendment, as she has not been conferred the rights of a coparcener by obstructed heritage.” The Supreme Court said the injustice of inequality “has now been done away with by amending the provisions (of the Hindu Succession Act) in consonance with the spirit of the constitution.”
Indian society is a heterogeneous, coexistence of people with different religions, races, cultures, traditions. The growth and development of any society are having direct upshot of its equal and just nature setup. A society based on unequal and unreasonable rules is an underdeveloped and uncivilized one. Religiously rules, customs, and traditions have marvelous positions in any matter and religions never allow inequality and injustice. Any custom, rule, or practice that contradicts and is teaching inequality due to some superstitious things must be shunned off or struck down with the applications of constitutional law of the land. The women were facing detrimental conditions for their overall growth and development. The financial dependency has been one of the main restraints for women to be empowered. Moreover, the unconcern of not providing ancestral property rights was ultimately the vitiation of natural justice and some basic or fundamental rights of women. This landmark judgment has a greater force to make society equal, just, and balancing. This will help and change the miserable and dependent lives of women for the reason they will be financially independent.
Like the females in Islamic religion gets some share from the ancestral property which balances and gives equality, an upper standing is more about eliminating unjust and inequalities against women. An important aspect of the empowerment of women. People should take and give such pure and basic principles from each other’s religion for the reasons to establish societies based on just, equitable and civilized.
(Author is a student of the penultimate year at School of Law, University of Kashmir)