Who Cannot Inherit Property Under Hindu Succession Law?
When a Hindu male dies intestate, that is without leaving a will, the devolution of his property upon his heirs is done by the rules specified under the Hindu Succession Act 1956. An amendment was made to this Act in 2005, prior to which women did not have right as coparceners on their ancestral property post their marriage.
In 2017, the Supreme Court reiterated that all assets in a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) would be presumed to be joint property belonging to all members equally.
Yet, the law mentions conditions wherein a person is disqualified from inheriting the property, or he or she may not be the first preference, as the case may be.
MakaaniQ tells you more.
If the nature of the relation is the same in every other aspect, the person who is the biological child of an intestate is preferred to half-blood - where persons share a common parent and either the father or the mother might have remarried. That is, the person who is of a biological descent (born of the previous wife) acquires the first right over the property.
In case of simultaneous deaths
Inheritance is based on a presumption in cases when two persons have died in circumstances which makes it uncertain as to which of them survived the other. Then for all purposes affecting succession to property, it is presumed that the younger survived the elder until it is proved to be contrary.
According to the amendment, a daughter becomes a coparcener in her own right in the same manner as a son. However, if the Karta (eldest surviving male member) of the HUF dies intestate, survived by both sons and daughters, and if his property includes a dwelling house - may or may not be wholly occupied by either of these heirs, then the daughter’s right to the property will arise only after the sons choose to segregate their share. However, she has the right to live in the house till then if she is unmarried, separated, deserted or a widow.
The widow of a predeceased son or a widow of a brother cannot inherit the property if they have remarried by the time the succession takes place.
Section 25 of the law says that a legal heir is disqualified from inheriting the property of the person murdered, if he or she is found guilty of murder or abetment of murder.
Converts cannot be disqualified from ancestral or father's acquired property. But, as per Section 26 of the law, a convert’s descendants and the children born to such descendants are disqualified from inheriting the property of any of their Hindu relatives. However, the rule does not apply if they are Hindus at the time when the succession opens.
If a person is disqualified from inheriting the property, as per the law, it is considered as if the person had expired before the intestate. The father or the disqualified heir may not inherit his share but his son or class I heirs are entitled to their share in the property. Thus, distribution of property will take place among class I heirs in a Hindu Undivided Family per the rules stated.
Note: The law states that “No person shall be disqualified from succeeding to any property on the ground of any disease, defect or deformity or save as provided in this Act, on any other ground whatsoever.” In the absence of any legal heir, such property is transferred to the government.
Anomalies in the Hindu Succession Act (HSA)
Although the HSA is sacrosanct, there could be issues arising due to certain anomalies in the succession system. The 204th report of the Law Commission was presented to the Supreme Court judge, Dr Hans Raj Bhardwaj. The motive was to point out certain problems that could come in the way of succession.
For example, four categories of heirs that were initially Class II heirs, that is, a) son’s daughter’s daughter b) daughter’s son’s daughter c) daughter’s daughter’s son and d) daughter’s daughter’s daughter were moved up as Class I heirs. However, these entries were not deleted from the list of Class II heirs thereby creating confusion. Also, by this equation, a) son’s daughter’s son and b) daughter’s son’s son should also find a place among Class I heirs which is presently among Class II heirs.
This was not all. While the mother was part of Class I heir, quite surprisingly a father was placed as Class II heirs. The Commission had suggested that both parents ought to be Class I heirs to avoid the confusion and should take one share in their son’s (who has died intestate) property.
Thirdly, while ‘mother’ is part of Class I heirs, the entry of ‘father’s widow’, which again refers to one’s mother is placed among Class II heirs. Could ‘father’s widow’ then refer to a stepmother? This needs to be clarified.
Fourthly, while grandchildren through a predeceased son or daughter are added as Class I heirs, a brother or a sister finds a mention in Class II heirs among some remote relations.
With inputs from Sneha Sharon Mammen