Holding those daughters cannot be deprived of their right of equality, the Supreme Court Tuesday ruled that they will have equal coparcenary rights in joint Hindu family property even if the father died before the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005.
A three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Nazeer, and M R Shah said that daughters enjoy coparcenary rights — the right to inherit father’s property — at birth, and are to be treated at par with sons in this respect.
A coparcener is the one who shares equally in the inheritance of undivided property.
“Once a daughter, always a daughter. A son is a son until he is married. The daughter shall remain a coparcener throughout life, irrespective of whether her father is alive or not," Justice Arun Mishra said as he pronounced the landmark judgment.
With this verdict, the apex court cleared on the issue whether the amendment to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 granting equal rights to daughters to inherit ancestral property would have retrospective effect.
“Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth and her sons protect her in old age; a woman is never fit for independence,” states Manu in Manusmriti(Chapter IX-3).
Undoubtedly these lines from Manusmriti are the mirror of Indian society. Women have always faced this ugly discrimination. Their legal right to inherit property has been restricted from the earliest times. The early legal conceptions relative to the inheritance of women in Hindu law were furnished by the Vedas which represent the first phase in the evolution of Hindu Jurisprudence. One of the fundamental principles of the Hindu law of inheritance has been the general exclusion of the female sex. There is a text of the Vedas which is ample authority for the general exclusion of women from inheritance.
Alright, they were/are not always excluded from inheriting movable or immovable property from ancestral and marital families. But their proportion of the share in the property was far less than that of their male counterparts.
After sweeping over history, it can be clearly noticed that restrictions on Hindu women's property rights have undergone a change, and current laws governing these rights are more liberal than those of ancient Hindu society.
Earlier, women could only ask for sustenance from a joint Hindu family. The only restriction in force after the passage of this amendment was that women could not ask for a share if the property had been alienated or partitioned before December 20, 2004, the date the Bill was introduced.
On September 9, 2005, the landmark amendment to The Hindu Succession Act of 1956, which originally denied women the right to inherit ancestral property ruled that a Hindu woman or a girl will have equal property rights along with her male relatives for any partition made in ancestral property.
However, the recent verdict sets aside the series of previous judgments by the top court that she would have the coparcenary right only if both the father and the daughter were alive as on September 9, 2005, when the amendment was notified.
It held that a daughter, living or dead, as on the date of the amendment, shall be entitled to a share in her father’s property. It means that even if the daughter was not alive on the date of the amendment, her children could claim their rightful portion.
All women should be treated at par with their male counterparts as far as Hindu law is concerned. Daughters, whether married or unmarried, are coparceners in the ancestral (joint) family property. They can inherit through intestate as well as testamentary succession. They are also allowed to hold property in all forms and as males.
Official Writer: Sneha Kumari