Does The Inheritance Law Deprive Women Of Their Fair Share?
Although successive governments have tried to bridge the gender inequality gap by introducing several laws, property ownership among women in India remains dismal to this day.
At present, there is no uniform civil code on property inheritance and different religions follow different sets of rules. While property inheritance among Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs is governed by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Muslims have their own personal law. Property inheritance among Christians and Parsis is governed by the Indian Succession Act, 1925.
Daughter's right in ancestral property
Through an amendment to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, in 2005, equal rights were awarded to daughters in their fathers' ancestral property. However, this law applies only to the ancestral property, and not to a person's self-acquired property.
In case of a self-acquired property, a person can give it to anyone through a will. In case the owner dies before firming up a will, the property is passed on to Class-1 heirs (spouse, children and mother). In case of the absence of Class-1 heirs, the property goes to Class-2 heirs (father, grandchildren and siblings).
However, the Supreme Court has held that those daughters whose fathers passed away before the law was amended are not entitled to a share in their fathers' ancestral property.
Section 19 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, states that if two people get married under the provisions of the said law, the Hindu will cease to be part of the Hindu undivided family, and hence his “severance from such family”.
The Act also says that succession to a property of any Hindu who marries a non-Hindu will be regulated by the Indian Succession Act, and not by the Hindu Succession Act. This means that ancestral property which is an heir's right under the Hindu Succession Act (unlike in the Indian Succession Act) ceases to be a right once the heir marries a non-Hindu.
Transfer of property for childless widows
Under the Hindu Succession Act, a woman's property is divided into three categories:
- Property inherited from parents
- Property inherited from husband or in-laws
- Self-acquired property or property received as gift
Now, if a woman who is a childless widow dies without providing a valid will, the property owned by her goes back to the source it came from. The self-acquired properties, however, is transferred to her in-laws.
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