All Hindu daughters have equal right on ancestral property: SC
The judgement is a ray of hope for the property rights of women in India.
Ladies, the Supreme Court of India has made a historic judgement, that will set matters straight on the property rights of women in India, once and for all.
The judgement stated that the Hindu Succession Act of 2005, that makes daughters and sons equal inheritors of ancestral property, will also include women who were born before 2005.
SC makes amends for the property rights of women in India
The matter came to light when a plea was filed by two sisters who wanted an equal share in their father's property. Their brothers had refused their share which is why they took matters to court in 2002. However, the trial court, as well as the High court, rejected their plea in 2007. The reason was the fact that they were born before 2005.
The Apex court, however, concluded that the share in the ancestral property could not be denied just because a woman was born before the law was passed. Supreme Court stated that the law was applicable to all property related disputes before 2005.
The judgement was passed by a bench of justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan. The bench added that the daughter would be a “coparcener” (which means that she has an equal inheritance of an undivided property) since birth. A daughter would have the same rights and liabilities as a son, it added.
“The law relating to a joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara law has undergone unprecedented changes. The said changes have been brought forward to address the growing need to merit equal treatment to the nearest female relatives, namely daughters. These changes have been sought… on the touchstone of equality, thus seeking to remove the perceived disability and prejudice to which a daughter was subjected,” said the bench.
The bench thus clarified that the year of birth was not the criterion to decide her rights to an ancestral property.
What the law says
There is only one major property law that talks about ancestral rights of women, section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
It says: "Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner.”
This means that all daughters are owners of their ancestral properties. But the truth is that not many women are aware of their basic rights. In fact, there are many Indian households that still consider a son as the rightful heir to their family properties. But the truth is far from that.
The Hindu Succession Act was further amended in 2005 which now gives a woman joint ownership or coparcenary property. This means that a daughter becomes an owner of the coparcenary (joint heirship) property by birthright in the same manner as a son does.