The Hindu Succession Act was enacted on 17 June 1956 by the Parliament of India. It consists of 4 chapters in 31 sections. Hindu Succession Act relates to the succession and inheritance of the property. It discusses the rights of males and females while acquiring property.
Features of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956
- Hindu Succession Act applies to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs.
- The Act incorporates intestate and testamentary succession.
- The Hindu Succession Act shall not apply to the person’s property whose marriage is solemnised under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
- The Act provides for no distinction between male and female heirs. Under the 2005 amendment, the daughter of a coparcener shall become a coparcener in her own right, just like a son.
- Section 4 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, gives the overriding effect to the provision of the Act.
- The Act provides four categories of the heir as given under the Schedule of the Act: Class I heirs, Class II heirs, agnates and cognates.
What Is a Joint Hindu Family?
A Hindu joint family comprises of a common ancestor and all lineal male descendants, which includes their mother, wives, widows and unmarried daughters, as observed in the case of Surjit Lal Chhabda vs Commissioner of Income Tax.
The joint Hindu family is a unit and represented by its Karta in all matters. A married daughter becomes part of her husband’s joint family after marriage.
What Are Coparceners in Hindu Law?
Coparceners are the members of the joint Hindu family who have a right to inherit ancestral property. Coparcenary property is the property that a Hindu man inherits from his father, grandfather or great grandfather. An individual born in a joint Hindu family becomes a coparcener in that joint Hindu family. Both son and daughter are coparceners in a joint Hindu family. Both have equivalent rights and liability over the property.
Succession in Hindu Law
In general, succession means the action or process of inheriting a title, property etc. The law of succession is related to legal principle regarding the distribution of assets. There are two types of succession:
1. Testamentary Succession
When a person makes a will regarding the distribution of the property in favour of anyone, the distribution of the property will be under the provision of the will and not under the law of inheritance. The will should be valid and legally enforceable. This is called testamentary succession.
2. Intestate Succession
Suppose a person dies without making any will, that how a property is to be distributed after his death. In such circumstance, the property will be distributed as per the law of inheritance. This is called intestate succession.
Succession in Case of Male Hindu
Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, prescribes the general rule of succession in the case of a male.
The person who dies intestate his property will devolve (pass down) upon:
The Persons Mentioned Under Class I Heirs:
- The expression ‘son and daughter’ include natural born as well as adopted. Step or illegitimate son or daughter cannot inherit property.
- If there is more than one widow, they shall together take one share, which shall be further divided equally among them.
- The heirs of each predeceased son or predeceased daughter shall take one share as:
- Among the heirs in case of the predeceased son, widow and surviving son and daughter shall get equal part and branch of predeceased son gets the same portion.
- Among the heirs of the predeceased daughter, the surviving sons and daughter, get an equal share.
If No Person Is Present From Class I Heirs; to Class II Heirs:
Here preference will be given to the entries. The first entry will be preferred over the second entry and so on. The persons in one entry are given an equal share in the property. It is to be noted full blood is preferred over half-blood.
According to section 3(1)(a) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, one person is said to be an “agnate” of another if the two are related by blood or adoption wholly through males.
According to section 3(1)(c) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, one person is said to be a “cognate” of another if the two are related by blood or adoption but not wholly through males.
Doctrine of Escheat
When no cognate is present, that is, no legal heir is present of the Hindu intestate, or any heir is present but is disqualified from succeeding the deceased’s property; such property will go to the Government.
Following persons are disqualified from inheriting property:
- Abettor of murder
- Convert’s descendants
Succession in Case of Female Hindu
If a female dies intestate, her property shall devolve upon:
- Son, daughters and husband
- Heirs of husband
- Mother and father
- Heirs of father
- Heirs of mother
- The property can be movable or immovable.
- Female should be the full owner of the property.
- It is to be noted that in the absence of her son or daughter, any property inherited by the female:
- (i) from parents shall devolve on the heirs of the father.
- (ii) from husband or father-in-law shall devolve on the heirs of the husband.
Daughter’s Right in Property
Only three generations of male lineage or sons, grandsons and great-grandsons were recognised as coparceners till 2005. There was no right for a woman to inherit from her father’s side. They could inherit from only their husband’s side. Amendment for Hindu Succession Act was passed in 2005. The amendment abolished the rule of survivorship. Like sons, daughters were also made heirs to property and the need for daughter to seek agreement from the male heirs to demand partition of the property was also removed.
In Prakash vs Phulawati, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the right should pass to the living daughter of the living father coparcener. Father has to be alive on the enforcement date of the amendment act (9 September 2005 enforcement date of Hindu Succession Amendment Act).
In Danamma vs Amar Singh, the apex court held that the father might have died before 2005, yet daughters will get an equal share. Daughters are entitled to his coparcenary property since birth.
In Vineeta Sharma vs Rakesh Sharma, the court disagreed with Prakash vs Phulawati judgement and clarified that the father need not be alive on 9 Sept 2005. It was also held that woman’s right to ancestral property is by birth. Justice Arun Mishra said,
Once a daughter, always a daughter. A son is a son till he is married. The daughter shall remain a coparcener throughout life, irrespective of whether her father is alive or not.