Division of property has been one of the most controversial topics in Indian society since time immemorial. Families who are all “sugar, spice, and everything nice” become utterly toxic and eager to part ways once the talks about inheritance begin. Batwaara (division of property) is in fact, one of the most favorite plot points for TV serials and Indian movies. And why not? It’s as dramatic as it sounds and is also one of the many examples of gender discrimination. Until 2005, women did not have any right over their ancestral property and it moved down the generations through the bitter patriarchial line. The scenario has changed for the good after an amendment that was passed in 2005.
Parents often spend hefty amounts on the wedding and dowry of their daughters. Most families consider this as a valid justification as to why their daughters shouldn’t get an equal share when it comes to inheritance. Sadly, most of the women who are married off by putting a price on them don’t get to keep a single penny for themselves. Moreover, their in-laws never loosen their grip on the key to the vault. Ultimately, these women become financially dependent on their spouse or other family members which makes them dependent on many other aspects. But a lot of these unjust laws have been cleaned up in the past decades, re-affirming our faith in the judicial system of the country. If you want to understand the laws regarding inheritance in India, read on.
There are different types of inheritance laws in India. We’re so sure most of you aren’t even aware of them. Which is why we think that it’s the need of the hour to educate everybody, about these laws. The testamentary/ testate inheritance is when the inheritance takes place according to the will of the deceased. On the other hand, when a person dies before he/she writes their will, it is called non-testamentary/ intestate inheritance. The laws concerning intestate inheritance are different from different communities in our country. For example, the Hindu Succession Act applies to the Hindus and the Shariat Law is relevant to the Muslims. The testate succession or inheritance for all the communities except the Muslim community is governed by the Indian Succession Act,1925.
In this article, we will be dealing with both testate and intestate inheritance laws that concern the Hindu community.
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956
This Act was passed by the Parliament of India in order to lawfully codify the division of a Hindu male’s property among the successive generations. The law applies to all Hindus including the Sikhs, Jains, and the Buddhists but it doesn’t apply to those who married a non-Hindu under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. Before we get into the division of property, it’s important to understand the two types of properties there are.
Ancestral property is something that was inherited by the male from his ancestors. It should be something that was passed on for at least four generations and should have stayed undivided throughout the different male lineages. Self-acquired property is what the person has bought with his own money and it doesn’t include the assets he has owned from his forefathers.
If a person entitled to inherit the property or a part of the property changes his religion, the person still holds the right over it. Until the amendment of 2005, only the male heirs had the claim to the property under this Act. Let’s take a look at why this amendment was made and the drastic change it brought into the whole system.
The Amendment Of 2005
What was the amendment? Earlier, according to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the daughters were not given any right over their ancestral property but were only limited to the inheritance of sustenance of their father’s. To remedy this inequality, the amendment of 2005 made it compulsory for the father to distribute and divide the property equally amongst his children, irrespective of their gender. As we discussed earlier, the financial dependency of women is the root cause of the economic troubles that they face. This amendment was introduced to bring equality in terms of inheritance so that women don’t suffer due to financial dependence. Today, female heirs have equal rights in their ancestral property and they can also demand a partition whenever they want to. If the other heirs are against the partition, one can raise a legal objection.
When Can The Daughter Stake Claim To Her Father’s Property?
All legal heirs have equal rights to the ancestral property and the father cannot pose an objection in this case. A daughter, married or unmarried has equal rights to the ancestral property as much as a son. However, in the case of self-acquired property, the father has the right to decide who he wants to give the property to and how much of it needs to be given. In case the father dies without a will, all his property including ancestral and self-acquired property will get divided equally among his heirs. The heirs include the widow and children of the father. If the property belongs to the mother, her widower and children become the heirs.
All across the world, women don’t get equal opportunities in the most basic things like education and career even though the law says that they are entitled to it. Often, women sacrifice or are “convinced” to sacrifice their share of the property for their male siblings without opting for a legal battle. After all, the law can only write down the rights and duties, but who is to change the mindsets of the people? What is your opinion about equal property inheritance? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.