For all the women who are not clear about their rights regarding their father’s property, we list the situations where they can stake a clear claim
Consider a situation where you’ve been married young, without much education or earning potential, and end up being harassed by your husband and his family. To make matters worse, your parents are not very keen to support you and the brothers don’t want to give you a share in the ancestral property. What do you do?
Financial dependence, be it on the father, brothers or husband, has been at the root of much hardship for women over the years. It was with the idea of levelling this playing field that the Hindu Succession Act 1956 was amended in 2005, allowing daughters an equal share in ancestral property. Despite this, can your father deprive you of your share in the property? Find out…
IF PROPERTY IS ANCESTRAL
Under the Hindu law, property is divided into two types: ancestral and self-acquired. Ancestral property is defined as one that is inherited up to four generations of male lineage and should have remained undivided throughout this period. For descendants, be it a daughter or son, an equal share in such a property accrues by birth itself. Before 2005, only sons had a share in such property. So, by law, a father cannot will such property to anyone he wants to, or deprive a daughter of her share in it. By birth, a daughter has a share in the ancestral property.
IF PROPERTY HAS BEEN SELF-ACQUIRED BY FATHER
In the case of a self-acquired property, that is, where a father has bought a piece of land or house with his own money, a daughter is on weaker ground. The father, in this case, has the right to gift the property or will it to anyone he wants, and a daughter will not be able to raise an objection.
IF FATHER DIES INTESTATE
If the father dies intestate, that is, without leaving a will, all legal heirs have an equal right to the property. The Hindu Succession Act categorises a male’s heirs into four classes and the inheritable property goes first to Class I heirs. These include the widow, daughters and sons, among others. Each heir is entitled to one part of the property, which means that as a daughter you have a right to a share in your father’s property.
IF DAUGHTER IS MARRIED
Before 2005, the Hindu Succession Act considered daughters only as members of the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), not coparceners. The latter are the lineal descendants of a common ancestor, with the first four generations having a birth right to ancestral or self-acquired property. However, once the daughter was married, she was no longer considered a member of the HUF. After the 2005 amendment, the daughter has been recognised as a coparcener and her marital status makes no difference to her right over the father’s property.
IF DAUGHTER WAS BORN OR FATHER DIED BEFORE 2005
It does not matter if the daughter was born before or after September 9, 2005, when the amendment to the Act was carried out. She will have the same rights as a son to the father’s property, be it ancestral or self-acquired, irrespective of her date of birth. On the other hand, the father has to have been alive on September 9, 2005 for the daughter to stake a claim over his property. If he had died before 2005, she will have no right over the ancestral property, and self-acquired property will be distributed as per the father’s will.
HOW THE HINDU SUCCESSION ACT CAME INTO BEING
Prior to 1956, Hindus were governed by property laws which varied from region to region and in some cases within the same region, from caste to caste.
The Mitakshara school of succession which was prevalent in most of north India, believed in the exclusive domain of male heirs. In contrast, the Dayabhaga system did not recognise inheritance rights by birth and both sons and daughters did not have rights to the property during their father’s lifetime. At the other extreme was the Marumakkattayam law prevalent in Kerala which traced the lineage of succession through the female line.
Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s administration championed the cause of women’s right to inherit property and despite resistance from orthodox sections of Hindus, the Hindu Succession Act was enacted and came into force on on June 17, 1956.
Many changes were subsequently brought about that gave women greater rights but they were still denied the important coparcenary rights.
The act was eventually amended in 2005, with daughters being recognised as coparceners, giving them an equal share in ancestral property.
(Source: TOI report)