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Equal Property Rights to Daughter – SC

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A daughter always remains a loving daughter. A son is a son until he gets a wife. A daughter is a daughter throughout her life,” Justice Arun Mishra, heading a three-judge Bench, authored the judgment.

In the landmark judgment of Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma and Others1, the Supreme Court of India held that daughters will have equal rights on parental property like son, irrespective of the fact that whether his father was alive or not on 9 September 2005. The Supreme court amended the Hindu Succession Act and said the daughter will be a coparcener since birth and has equal rights in the property of her ancestors. The act has a retrospective effect.

Meaning of Coparcener

A coparcener must be a member of the family who shares equal rights like others in inheritance of undivided property.

Hindu Succession Act, 1956

This act deals with the inheritance and succession of the property. This act is applicable to every Hindu, Buddhist, Sikhs, and Jains and not on other communities like Muslim. According to this act, the property is of 2 types one is ancestral and the other is self-acquired. The simple meaning of ancestral property is that which you received from your grandfather or father on the other hand self-acquired property is the property that you made yourself. As per this, the coparceners are those members of the family who fall under 4 degrees in linen descendants from the common male ancestor. Only the male linen descendants can claim right on their ancestral property. Females have no right on Hindu Undivided property. Daughters and sons share different rights in the property. A daughter enjoys her right only till her marriage but the son has complete right on the father’s property.  And this is the main problem of this act. Because of this only the 2005 amendment took place and changes were made in the context of the property of Hindu undivided family.

Hindu Succession (Amendment Act) 2005

On 9 September 2005, Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act which governs the distribution of property was substituted, according to both son and daughter are equal and will be having an equal share in their ancestral property. Key points for the same are – 

  • Both son and daughter have an equal right to their ancestor’s property since birth. They are equal on property irrespective of their gender.
  •  The daughter will share the same rights and liabilities as her son.
  • The daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter can demand her share in the property the same as a male coparcener.
  • The act does not have a retrospective effect, as it means that it is only applicable to the daughters whose fathers were alive on the date on amendment 9 September 2005.

Previous Judgment relating to the conflict.

In the case of Prakash v. Phulvati 20152, the two – judge bench headed by Justice A.K Goyal held that as per the amendment made in 2005 the daughters are not entitled to get his share in father’s property if the father had passed away prior to the date of an amendment that is 9 September 2015.

However, in February 2018 a contrary judgment given by two judged bench justice Ashok Bhushan and justice A.k Sikri in the case of Danamma V. Amar 20183 held that even if the father had died in 2002, the daughter is still entitled to get his share in his father’s property as an amendment made in 2005.

In both the judgement section 6 was interpreted differently as in the 2015 case it was held that section 6 has a prospective effect while in 2018 case it was held that section 6 has a retrospective effect.

After these two conflicting judgments passed it became necessary for the court to clear this confusion. In November 2018 three-judge benches decided to settle the law. The court widened the scope of the 2005 amendment by giving the same rights to daughter and son. 

Judgement of Leading case

To clear the confusion related to the amendment of 2005, the case was referred to three – judge bench named Justice Arun Mishra, Justice M. R Shah and Justice S.Abdul Nazeer who passed the verdict with the reference to issue raised relating to the amendment that Whether the amendment has a retrospective effect or not. The court upheld the judgment of the 2015 case that it was Prakash V. Phulvati and passed the judgment of 121 pages. The key points of the judgment are as follows –

  • As according to Hindu succession act, all the Hindu woman has an equal share in the Hindu undivided family irrespective of the fact that whether his father was alive or not as on 9 September 2005.  
  • This act made daughter coparcener by birth as like son irrespective of a father living on the date of the amendment.
  • The daughter also is subject to the same liabilities in the coparcenary property as like son.
  • The act becomes retrospective in nature.
  •  The justice also quoted that a son is a son until he gets his wife but the daughter is a daughter throughout her life.
  • There were many cases pending in a different court in this same issue which already got delayed due to legal imbroglio caused by conflicting judgment. A Daughter should not be deprived of their right to equality as per section 6 and hence request was made to the courts to decide all the matters relating to the same issue as far as possible, within six months.

Importance of the Judgment

The First step towards gender equality in Hindu inheritance of property took place in the 2005 amendment. According to the traditional Mitakshara system of inheritance which was governed as per the Hindu Succession act 1956 only the male was the coparcener of Hindu undivided property. After 2005 the amendment women were also given rights on their ancestral property. Both daughter and son become equal. But still, there was a confusion regarding the date of an amendment that is 9 September 2005 which was clear by the Supreme court in the landmark judgment by saying that all daughter be the coparcener by birth, and father need not be alive when the amendment was passed for daughter inherit her share in the ancestral property. The main aim of the judgment is to give equal rights to daughters and sons as per the Right to equality Article 14 of the constitution. It is important to uplift the weaker section of society. For ages, women are considered helpless and dependent on men. Somehow, it will give a benefit to a woman who has lack of economic resources and often feel disempowered by the male members of their family. This judgment will prove to be helpful in making women self –  sufficient as now they can demand their share in their father’s property and will be considered powerful as male members of the family. Also as per the constitution, every person is equal in the eyes of law and there shall be no discrimination done on the basis of gender or birth of any person. So the court provides equal coparcenary rights to daughters in the spirit of Article 14 of the constitution.

Also, there was a conflicting judgment given in 2015 and 2018 so it becomes important for the court to clear the confusion and make the law clear in the eyes of people. The Court cleared the amendment by granting equal rights to the daughter by birth in ancestral property. Now the amendment has a retrospective effect and there is no confusion regarding it.

Conclusion

The judgment is a progressing step in ensuring gender equality and makes a behavioural change in the functioning of society. Legal rights are given to women so that they can also feel as powerful as men. The aim of judgment is to establish the Right to equality that is Article 14 of the Constitution of India which states equality before the law and equal protection of law within the territory of India. Also, there shall be no discrimination made on the grounds of sex, gender, caste, birth, etc. Daughters are special and now they are equal to in the eyes of law. This judgment proves to be a big win for women of the Hindu undivided family. There were a lot of cases that came in the court regarding the same issue but no clear judgment was made and some of them are even today in court waiting for justice.  As a result, the supreme court made clear in the judgement to decide the matter relating to the same issue as far as possible within 6 months.  For so long women are deprived of their rights and also are not aware of their rights which are given to them by the constitution of India. Court has taken 15 years to clear the confusion regarding the amendment. In between this period, there are a lot of cases that come in court which require fast disposal. Also, it is necessary to change the patriarchal mindset of society and ensure equal rights for women in every field like education, sports, business, workplace, etc. 

Endnotes

1.  SLP (C) NOS.1766­1767 OF 2020

2.  SLP (C) 15560 of 2015

3.  (2018) 3 SCC 343

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Avni Mehra

Student, ICFAI University, Dehradun

Avni Mehra is a passionate law student who is ready to learn and face new challenges. As an avid reader and researcher, her interest areas include business law, criminal law and family law. She is enthusiastic, knowledge seeker and a hard worker. For any clarification, suggestion or advice you can reach her at avnimehra38@gmail.com

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