Daughters, like sons, have an equal birthright to inherit joint Hindu family property. The Supreme Court of India has decided that the amended Hindu Succession Act, which gives daughters equal rights to ancestral property, will be applicable even if the father was deceased before the Amendment was passed in 2005.

Daughters must be given equal rights as sons. Daughter remains a loving daughter throughout life. The daughter shall remain a coparcener throughout life, irrespective of whether her father is alive or not,” Justice Arun Mishra, heading a three-judge Bench, authored the judgment.

Let us decode what this means for women and property rights, who does this apply to and, the retrospective effect of law.

Hindu Succession Act Amendment of 2005

Hindu Succession Act was amended in 2005. Section 6 was amended to include daughters as equal inheritors of property to that of sons in a Hindu Undivided Family. They were equal rights in inheriting assets and abilities. However, this law would be applied to daughters claiming property after 9 September, 2005 i.e the date of the judgement. This is an example of a prospective effect where a law or judgement is applied after the enactment of an Act or judgement.

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This was previously the stand of Delhi High Court in Vineet Sharma vs Rakesh Sharma where they said that the daughter cannot inherit her father’s property because their father passed away in 1999. Hence, the Amendment of 2005, granting equal rights to female to inherit property, could not be applied to them.

Hindu Succession Act Amendment of 2005: Retrospective Effect

A law is said to have a retrospective effect when irrespective of when the law was enacted or judgement was passed, it applies to all cases that are pending and all individuals who are governed by such law. An example of this is Income Tax laws that apply retrospectively.

Vineet Sharma vs Rakesh Sharma and a batch of other appeals with regards to the prospective effect of the Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005 were heard by the Supreme Court. Then the Apex Court passed the judgement that the 2005 Amendment shall also be applied retrospectively. It means:

  • Daughters of fathers and/or head of joint families deceased before 9 September 2005 can claim for equal right of inheritance.
  • The entire class of female inheritors who have been excluded from the law because of its prospective effect can now claim for their share in the property.

Who does this apply to?

Hindu Succession Act applies to:

  • Individuals who are born to Hindu parents or convert to Hinduism.
  • Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are also included in Hindu Law.
  • Individuals who marry under Special Marriage Act, 1954 continue to be governed by the Hindu Succession Act for matters of inheritance.

The judgement passed by the Supreme Court today applies to all Hindu females, irrespective of when they were born or when their father or head of the family were deceased.

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Why It Matters?

This is a welcome step from the Supreme Court of India as it grants equal rights to all Hindu women. A law that partially excludes a class of women is discriminatory in nature and defies the purpose of the Amendment that was passed in 2005. This judgement will lead to a lot of old cases re-opening where Hindu women were not granted their claim to the property. It also means that Hindu women can now come forward and claim their rightful shares which they may have been deprived because of law.

Image Credit: india.com

Priyanka Chakrabarty is an intern at SheThePeople.TV.

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