Inheritance rights of Hindu daughters
Updated: Apr 21, 2022
Making Inheritance a level-playing field - Daughters of a Hindu male who dies without a will are entitled to inherit self-acquired and other properties.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court passed a 51-page judgement on January 20, 2022, ruling that daughters of a Hindu man who dies without a will are entitled to inherit self-acquired property or obtained in the partition of a coparcenary or a family property and shall get priority over other collateral members of the family (such as sons/daughters of brothers of deceased father).
The judgement came in as a response to the appeal from Madras High Court for a case which involved a dispute over the property of one Hindu male who died in 1949 leaving behind a daughter who also died issueless in 1967. The suit was instituted by one of the daughters of the brother of the deceased father seeking one-fifth share in the property of the deceased.
There were two major questions before the Supreme Court.
Whether a sole daughter could inherit her father’s separate property dying intestate (without a will)?
And if so, what would be the order of succession after the death of such daughter?
The Plaintiff contended that, the daughter inherited father’s property and after she died issueless, it came to the brother of the deceased father and through him to his five children (one son and four daughters). She also contended that she being one of the heirs of the brother of the deceased father was entitled to one-fifth of the share.
Whereas, the respondent opposed this saying that when the deceased died in 1949, his daughter was not having any right to inherit his property. The only heir available then was the sole son of the brother of the deceased (Appellant’s brother) and from him, the property had come to them, the children claimed.
The two-judge bench went through the ancient Hindu commentaries on inheritance as well as previous decisions by courts and concluded that a daughter was in fact capable of inheriting the father’s separate estate. The judgement also said “right of a widow or daughter to inherit the self-acquired property or share received in partition of a coparcenary property of a Hindu male dying intestate (without a will) is well recognised not only under the old customary Hindu Law”, and added “if a property of a male Hindu dying intestate (without a will) is a self-acquired property or obtained in partition of a coparcenery or a family property, the same would devolve by inheritance and not by survivorship, and a daughter of such a male Hindu would be entitled to inherit such property in preference to other collaterals.”
The court also said that if a female Hindu dies intestate without leaving any issue, then the property inherited by her from her father or mother would go to the heirs of her father whereas the property inherited from her husband or father-in-law would go to the heirs of the husband. In case a female Hindu dies leaving behind her husband or any issue, then Section 15(1)(a) of the Hindu Succession Act will come into operation and the properties left behind including the properties which she inherited from her parents would devolve simultaneously upon her husband and her issues.
Applying this to the facts of the case, the Hon’ble supreme court set aside the judgement and decree passed by the Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court vide its judgment and order by stating that the succession of the suit properties opened in 1967 upon death of the daughter and therefore, the 1956 Act shall apply. Thereby Appellant (daughters of the brother of the deceased father) being Class-I heirs of their father too shall also be heirs and entitled to 1/5th Share in each of the suit properties.