All fair-minded Indian citizens have occasion to be grateful to the judiciary today it has done its job well of reading the law right and settling all ambiguities whether intentional or wishful concerning the landmark 2005 amendment to the 1956 Hindu Succession Act.
Clearcut in nature, the amendment had nevertheless seen several challenges involving its interpretation especially with respect to whether the karta or head of the family was alive on the date it had been passed in the present case, the Court settled seven special leave petitions alongside the main matter involving siblings Vineeta and Rakesh Sharma’s share of family property.
The Hindu Succession Act lays down a uniform system of inheritance that applies to persons governed by Hinduism’s Mitakshara (northern India) Dayabhaga (West Bengal, Assam), Murumakkattayam, Aliyasantana and Nambudri (southern India) laws. The amendment expands women’s rights within this law.
According to its Section 6, which, the Court pointed out, applies retroactively, rather than retrospectively, daughters are equal coparceners in a Hindu undivided family property irrespective of their date of birth or, alternatively, the date of death of the father, provided there has been no parting/partition/or devolution of the property in question before December 20, 2004.
This judgment thus ensures that a woman can no longer be denied her share on the ground that she is born prior to the enactment of the law on September 9, 2005, or that her father was not alive on that date.
The judgment is a reminder of another progressive judgment in the same context on December 22, 2015, the Delhi high court ruled that the eldest female member of a Hindu undivided family can be its karta.
However, another critical issue still lies open regarding this very law. It is to do with the daughter’s progeny and lineal descendants.
Do they have the same rights as the son’s descendants? Section 15 of the law pertains to the circumstances of a woman dying intestate.
It does not give her parental and marital heirs equal rights of inheritance to her property, scrutinising it and returning it to its originator and his heirs, as if she has added no value to it on her part. A reform, thereby, is the need of the hour....