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Property Rights and the Indian Woman

The development and progress that characterises post-Independence India has also given rise to a breakthrough in the Indian woman’s fight for justice and equality. Such hopes were formerly denied to them by religion, tradition and society as a whole.

Once Independence was achieved, there was a need construct a secular law-a common civil code, which did not discriminate between men and women. Thus, the Constitution of India guaranteed the following:

1) Equality before Law: i.e. Prohibition of discrimination on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Art. 14)

2) Freedom of religion 25.1, subject to public order, morality and health. According to these provisions, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and enjoy the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion.

It is interesting to note that it is because this article that women are deprived of certain rights, namely,

1) Equal rights to property;

(2) Equal rights within the family;

(3) some women have even been deprived to right to adopt a child.

The constitution does not see Patriarchy as a problem. In fact, it perceives it as natural while easily accepting the fact of a male-dominated society. Empowerment of women, leading to their equal social status, hinges among other things on their right to hold and inherit property. Several legal reforms have been made in order to allow an equal share of property to the daughters as well. Yet, equal status for women still remains elusive.

In India, the property rights of women are governed by the Hindu Succession Act 1956, Indian Succession Act 1925, and other personal laws relating to different communities. On January 18th 2005, a delegation of national organizations of women met the Union Law minister and made an appeal for comprehensive reforms to ensure equal property rights for women. Presently, the union government proposes to amend the Hindu Succession Act to give a married daughter the right to share in her father”s property if he died intestate. The amendment will also give a widowed daughter the right to ancestral property even if she is remarried. The bill has already been tabled on the current session of the Parliament. This is an important and progressive development when one considers the fact that the multiplicity of succession laws in India, so diverse in nature, made the property laws even mere complex.

It must be noted that the Act of 1956 gave the right of coparcener only to a male born in an HUF (Hindu Undivided Family). Let us also understand concept of coparcenary: A coparcenary is a legal institution consisting of 3 generation of male heirs in a family. The son born within 3 generations of an HUF had an equal right in the property. Women were absolutely excluded from the coparcenary.

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An attempt to give women an equal right to property had been made earlier by four states, namely Andhra Pradesh in 1985, Tamil Nadu in 1990, Maharashtra and Karnataka in 1994.All these Acts had the same effect on the Common Civil Code, except for the arrangement of the sections. But were effective partially i.e in four states only. And hence failed to achieve the following.

1. Effect on Uniform Civil Code (Art.44 of the Constitution) as far as Hindus are concerned –

The four state laws governing Hindus in 1955-56 brought into existence common law for Hindus. But only four states were covered: Karnataka by this affected over enthusiastic attempt of these 4 states effect of the common civil code was lost, as the amendment effects the 4 states only. Apart from the utility or necessity of introducing a female to coparcenary, the other important issue that arises- Isn”t this piecemeal legislation destructive to the unity and integrity of Hindu law that governs all Hindus in the country on the subject of succession?

Kerala has totally abolished the coparcenary system, whereas the other states have modified it. The question becomes pertinent because the consequence of several states modifying or altering or abolishing the Hindu law in different ways would be destructive to the unity of Hindu law- the objective of the Hindu code. Again Hindus will be governed by different sets of laws within the same country, which is dangerous to national interests.

2. Migration of Hindus from one state to another-

The amendments made by these four states created a complicated question of migration of families and the law applicable to a family in case of migration from one state to another.

3. Other discriminations-

In its attempt to abolish the inequality between a son and a daughter and in an attempt to achieve the constitutional mandate of equality on the ground of sex, the amending acts have given birth to new discriminations as follows:

i) Discrimination between a married daughter and an unmarried daughter

ii) Discrimination between a daughter and a wife in the same family

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iii) Discrimination between natural daughters and adopted daughters

iv) The amended Acts do not address the distinction in the Mitakshara and Dayabhaga schools of Hindu law and position of daughters under both these schools.

v) Discrimination between adoptive daughters and natural daughters.

Merits of the New Amendments

The Amendment Bill is based on recommendations by the 15th Law Commission under the leadership of Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy. Certain positive aspects of the suggested amendments are outlined below:

•There should be no discrimination between daughters who are married before the new Act comes into force and those who are married after. At present this discrimination exists in Andhra Act.
•The share of a dead son or daughter shall automatically be allotted to the surviving child. The provision further clarifies that when a female Hindu, having interest in a property, dies after the commencement of the new Act, her interest in the property shall devolve upon the surviving members of the coparcenary and not in accordance with the new Act. Under the proposed amendment, if the eldest child happens to be a daughter, she will be entitled to act as a ”Karta” (eldest and responsible member in a family) of her parental family. She will be responsible for discharging obligations like paying off debts, marrying off unmarried younger brothers and sisters. These responsibilities were earlier the prerogative of the eldest male members of the family. It is opined by the former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court J. Leila Seth, ” Maintaining the change would discourage the practice of dowry since the girl will be the equal inheritor of ancestral property, the in-laws may not insist on dowry.” However, one must consider that there is a great probability that in-laws may want to marry daughters-in-laws for their share in the property. They may well insist on a partition and harass the daughters-in-law as well as their parents.
Demerits of the proposed amendments

The proposed amendments attempt to make daughters coparceners at birth in ancestral property. Thus, the amendment will benefit only those women who are born in families that have ancestral property. There is no precise definition of ancestral property. This confusion is magnified by the fact that families have been fragmented and the joint family system is on a decline. The law cannot apply to self-acquired property. In today”s context, most property is self-acquired and that property must follow principles of succession under the different succession laws. Moreover, the owner can dispose off such property during his lifetime by gift. Notwithstanding the amendment, a Hindu father can disinherit his wife or daughter by will, in his self-acquired property. In some states, the shares of the daughters will increase as compared to that of widows. This would eventually lead to feuds between the female members of the family.

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The proposed amendments to the Hindu Succession Act once again raise the question; Do only Hindu women need reforms? When we speak of equality on the grounds of religion, it becomes clear that equal rights should be given to women of all religions.

The question of succession arises only after the death of a person. Almost all laws permit a person to make a will in favor of any person he desires. However, the Muslim personal law places a restriction on the extent of property that can be given away by will. It says that only 1/3rd of a man”s property can be distributed by will; 2/3rd will devolve on Koranic heirs, which include children and parents in varying shares. Female heirs inherit half that of male heirs.

In Christian law, intestate succession (when there is no will) to all property is determined by the Indian Succession Act. Thus, a man’s widow and children (male/female) inherit equally. However, a man may, by will, bequeath his property to anyone, totally disinheriting his heirs. Here, we would do well to consider Mary Roy”s case, where Mary Roy challenged the Travancore Christian Succession Act 1916. This states that in case of intestate property, the daughter was entitled to 1/4th of son”s share of estate or Rs.5000 whichever was less. This law applied to intestate succession of Christians, but excluded Protestants and Catholics living in some districts of South India, where the daughters got an equal share as that of sons. The Supreme Court of India did away with this anomaly of law and the judgment was given in Ms. Roy”s favour.

In conclusion, it must be noted that reforms should be made for all women, irrespective for their caste, creed and religion. An attempt should be made to achieve the objective laid in Art.44 and the rights, guaranteed in Arts 14 and 15. It is only then can we claim that we have fulfilled the pledge of liberty and equality that we had made fifty five years ago.

56 thoughts on “Property Rights and the Indian Woman

  1. I am 34 years old and I have each boy and girl childrens along with
    my husband. My father not willing to
    give his property of 750 sq,ft. in Chennai and it is worth about 15 Lacs.Kindly guide me to get the same.

  2. I am 34 years old and I have both boy
    and girl children at 3 and 8 respectively along with my husband 39. My father is having 750 sq.ft.vacant land in Chennai and it is worth about Rs.15 Lacs, and he is not willing to give . So, what I should to get the same.

    Kindly your guide , Please

  3. Hello,

    I would like to know about the rights in property(land, house) for daughters. i am a resident of tamilnadu i have sisters so should i give equal shares to my sisters?

    The land was purchased by my forefather. please let me know!

    Vishnu Kumar

  4. Dear sir,

    We r three bothers and five sisters.

    We r catholic christians from Tamil nadu.

    Our father bought a land in 1960. And he died 0n 1966.

    My brother’s divided it into three.

    Now we all sister’s want to have share.

    Is it possible to file a suit for 1/8 partition.

    What law gives christian woman to get share.

  5. Please refer this Judgment.

    Succession to the property in the Indian Christians.

    Indian Christian women has right to Property and equal rights, if Father has not left any WILL, as its his Property not ancestor Property.

  6. My Grandpa bought a land in 1960.
    He demised on 1966.
    He got three sons and five daughters.
    After that as an elder son my father paid taxes until 1998 .
    He bought his one of his brother share 1/3 in 1994.
    He demissed on 1998.
    After his demissal , another uncle took separate patta for his 1/3 share.
    Remaining we r paying taxes.
    We partioned and given share to our elder son also.
    I.e for my father’s grand son also.

    Recently our aunt ( grandpa’s daughter) sending notices to all of us . i.e My grandpa ( her father) intestate and he didn’t divided the property . so give me my 1/6 th share.
    All other aunts (3) supporting us.
    What to do.
    Is there any law there to share property to christian woman.

    Advise me.

  7. If grandfather named all of his children in said patta then all his children get share in said Property.

    If its already divided between brothers and no name left then its difficult to claim now,as of now those who own property and his children also get share in said property,and share to sisters will be less after long legal battle.

    Please refer Articles / Judgments on this here

  8. Dear Sir,

    This is in regards to a family property ( Residential Apartment ) which is on My grand fathers name. the family is of 4 members ( 3 Brothers and 1 Sister thats my Mother who is married and doest stay with them ). Currently three Brother’s are staying in that apartment which is going in re-development. Legally what is the sisters right in that property. Can she be the part of the Sale or the redevelopment agreement.

    Awaiting a kind reply at the earliest

    Thanks and Regards,

    Ankur tripathi

  9. Hi,
    My father in law died 8 mnths back and has not left any will and the flat which was in his name was under redevelopment.The nominee on redevelopement documents issued by builder has my husbands name as nominee.But my brother in law and mother are trying to take the entire property without givin us any share can u let us know wat can be done for our share

  10. Dear Sir,
    My grand father died in 1970 without stating any will. My father and his brother distrubuted the land equally in the year 2002. Again my father distrubuted it equally to my two brothers leaving his two daughters in 2004. Is there any possibility to me and my sister to get a share in that ancestral property. My brothers denying us. Please help.

    // is your Father still alive ?

  11. Yes sir, my father is still alive.

    // Instead fighting long legal battle why dont you ask him to divide equaly among you 4; otherwise also if he is not ready to give, you can ask for your share in court. — eDitor

  12. Yes sir, my father is still alive. i am a bc ‘c’ christian.

  13. Sir,
    I am eldest daughter of family & i am from tamilnadu. I have mother, 1 younger sister, 3 younger brothers. After passing sslc, we sisters were denied further education and we brought up our younger brothers, one brother became Doctor, 2 other brothers became s/w engineers. I got married in 1982 Father expired in 1995 leaving unregistered document one house for mother, a very big property for 3 brothers (all ancestors property). I was requesting to recognise my contribution to family without getting education. But after giving certain amount to my sister, 3 brothers have constructed houseses in the ancestor’s property without giving any thing to me and without my release deed. Sir, as per recent Hindu Succeession Amendment Act of 2005, being daughter and having sacrificed for the welfare of my brothers, whether i am eligible for equal share in ancestor’s property. Whether is there any provision for getting compensation for denying education to a daughter like me .
    Thanks and awaiting your kind reply.

    // You cannt sue anyone for not giving Education but you have equal rights in Fathers Property. You can approch Legal Service. –eDitor for more details please post your query here

  14. Hello Sir,
    My father had two brothers and my grand father partitioned his property between the three, and a partition deed was registered in the year 1970. Now in our family we are two sons and two daughters. My brother gave me a release deed for his property. My father has written a will in my name for the balance property. My father is alive. My sisters are asking share in this property. I am looking after my father all these years. My mother recently died. In the will my father mentioned that after his life the entire property goes to my mother till her life and after her life, for me. According to christian law, I want to know whether the daughters has the right to claim the share. I am from Tamil Nadu.
    Thanking you and waiting for your reply soon.

  15. Sir,

    I am Hindu Nair.My mother died when i was minor and my father re married and have 1 son and 1 daughter. I am the daughter of his 1st marriage and I married in the year 1995. My father made will upon his ancestoral property to his second marriage childrens.Do I am able to claim for his property? My father is alive and he already took injection against me for my mothers property as she died intestate.Please help.

    // if its ancestoral property then Daughter have equal rights as much as others.
    you can file suite to claim your share.

    There are other documnets here for more details. — eDitor

  16. I am eldest daughter married in 1982 from tamil nadu. Father expired in 1992. I have mother, 1 sister, 3 brothers. There are 2 ancestor’s properties. As per Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005, whether I am eligible for equal share of ancestor’s properties. Pl clarify.


  17. My grandfather had 6 children – 3 sons and 3 daughters and he had bought 5 acres of land. My grandfather left a written document on how the land needs to be distributed made in the prescence of my uncle and cousin. This has not been registered. Now one of my aunts disputes the distribuition and is demanding an equal share using the SC ruling.Is this ruling applicable for Chrisitans and is equal share applicable in this case?

    // If its not ancestor Land then Gampa has right to distribute equally or donate, Children get equal rights if its ancestor land only.

  18. I am from a nair family.My mother’s mother’s mother had a property which she left unwilled.Then it was a joint family. She died in 1952. Her eldest daughter also passed away the same year leaving three children. My great grandmother had three children . The property was partitioned in 1978 .But it was made 4 share for grandfather (grandmas husband).I want to know could these children of her died daughter get an equal share. Uncle is saying that marumakkathayam act was abolished in 1958 so what he did is correct. Please give me an advise.

  19. Iam from a nair family. My fater in law died with out will.Does his property belongs equally to his wife and his 3 children. Pl reply.

    Also my mother in law in case makes a will owing all her anstreal property to her son alone. In that case can the daughter put a case against him
    pl expalin

    //You are talking about same property(FIL/MIL) or different ?

    FIL property is ancestor property ?

    As you are NAIR please refer these articles.

  20. I am eldest daughter married in 1982 living in tamil nadu. Father expired many years back leaving 2 houses with unregistered will mentioning 1 house for mother & another for 3 brothers. I have mother, 1 sister & 3 brothers. All are married. 3 years back my sister got some amount and gave release deed. Since my childwood I was ill treated & tortured in my parents house & I was fighting for injustice done to me. Now i came to know that 3 years back, name transfers of 2 houses have been made to my 3 brothers without my releasedeed & consent. Without my (eldest daughter’s) consent/releasedeed,is it possible to make name transfer in ancestor’s properties Can I get equal share of property. I have sacrificed my life ,education etc to bring up my brothers. How name transferring authority has allowed this transfer? No justice to woman sacrificing life for family welfare.

  21. I belong to a hindu family.meri dadi ke ek property ki ancestral property nahi ha.meri dadi ne wo property 1992 me wo property mere father aur tau ke name pe kar de the.kya hmari bua means sister of my father us will kn challenge kar skte ha.bua ke marriage 1980 se phle ho gyi the.plz guide me

  22. My grandfather have a 80 sq. yds. property in Meham, Haryana who has been expired on 1995.

    He have 4 sons & 7 daughters. all daughters are married. so plz tell me what are the rights of daughters in our said forefather property.

    Is it distrubeted in 11 shares
    …..? or in four shares …..?

  23. I want to leave my right on parents property what should i do? Is writing it on a stamp paper will be sufficient?

  24. yea you can denounce your rights in a stamp paper, and also give a notice in local news paper. saying hereafter you have no rights over said property.

  25. We are 3 brothers and a sister our mother and father passed away in 1997 and 2009 respectively. Left behind 100 sqr yard built up property in delhi. After death of my father one brother and sister relinquesh their share in said property in favour of two brother in 2010. Now i occupy GF and FF by my younger brother but since last 6 month we become enemy of each other and dont want to see each other.
    How can i get my share in this property as it seems that we cant reach mutualy to get the share in the said property. Kindly guide me as i want to leave the property with my due share.

  26. If your name is there in RTC then you can file petition for your share, as it is ancestor property you cannt sell it.

  27. Hi, I really need some advice and help here. My mother has not got her share of property after her father died in 1994. my mother and father signed some documents stating that they would not go behind the property . but then she signed fearing her brother would go in depression, hence she signed. the total share of the property is anywhere around 90 lakhs above. all she has got from her house is 85000 dowry. I am looking for some advise and a lawyer too….

  28. comment #29 – we are Christians, if the law is different – I guess there was a dispute that went in favor of Mrs Roy a couple of years back though I do not the circumstances she was in….please advice

  29. if its NOC to brothers name and property is already in her brother name, you cannt do anything, change of mind will not work in property matter

  30. My father had bought various lands and registered them some in the name of my brothers and some in the name of my mother. My father had died without any will. Please guide me how it will be distributed among us and our mother. We are 4 brothers and 2 sisters(married) and my mother.

  31. Children can claim ancestor property only; if property is already in someone name you cannt claim.
    unless you prove brothers property was bought by father then you will get its share. you can claim property from mother

  32. My sisters were married brfore the year 2005. Are they coparceners in our HUF, with my Father as the Karta. Are they entitled to the same share from ancestral property as the male members?

  33. my daughter can get share from her grandmothers joint property if i alive in muslim law,

  34. sir.

    My grandfather haveing property they are having sons 04 and daughters 03. their age more then 60 years this four sons property diveded into four shares in 1993 -1994 accourding to Supreme court amendement 2005 these 03 daugher eligiblity is their for property
    pls tell us
    2) grand father property equal share with sisiters.
    if they have sister /husband more then our proerty.
    if they eligiblity have the share of Grandfather property.
    3) Grand father property what was cut off age. means date of birth before or after eligibility

    pls let know all these details

    H.R.Nagesh gowda

  35. I am a married 60 year old woman and have several joint properties with my husband and son.
    What are my rights in case i consider a divorce.I am a hindu.Can my husband ask me to leave the house?

  36. You have joint properties or not, he cant ask you to leave. he may contest the divorce as you are asking for the Divorce

  37. My mother-in-law is a widow. She has property in her name. she have 4 sons & 3 married daughters. Can she make a will giving her property as she like i.e any one.

  38. we have a property, and the holders are 2 brother and 5 sisters. Now as per govt.rules all are getting equal shares. but if elder sister is died, can her childerns are rights to get the share in property. justgive me website also to check the same online and give as a proof to others.

  39. i am 20 years grandfather had 6 acre of land.without writing a will he died .he has 3 son snd 3 daugther including my my father and one among his brother his staying in that land.after some year my gandmother also died without signing any my father wants his share .but other 5 of his
    brother and sister are not giving sign .they are tellng that they will not give what my father has to do.should we put a case in court.we will get our share or what.please do reply.its urgent.

  40. Dear sir,

    We r two bothers and one sister.
    We r catholic christians from Tamil nadu.
    Our father having all family property in his own control.
    before the marriage of me and my sister he told, he is going to divided the shares into 4. after our marriage he gave one non value property as settlement for me and my sister. Now he is saying he going to divided the share into 2, only for my brothers. But it is a family property he didnt bought any property. If me and my sister ask any thing about the land means he is blackmailing us he going to write a will to my brothers name. And our brothers are denying us.
    Now me and my sister want to have share.
    Is it possible to file a suit for 1/4 partition.
    What law gives christian woman to get share.

  41. if its ancestor property everyone should get equal share. if Father aquired property his own then he has right to make will to anyone. but others can contest as per law.

  42. As its ancestor property Father can ask for his share divided, if others are not co-operating Court will pass the order to divide among all equally.

  43. Dear Sir,

    I need your help to solve one big problem, I am now 70 Yrs old.

    There was land which brought by my mother, she died in 1995 , 5 years after my father.

    she brought one land in 1985, she did not write any will.
    I have one brother. and two sisters married & well settled.

    we both brothers thinking to construct the house on that land and move to that property.
    but our two sisters who married and well settled ,
    the two sisters are asking there share in to that property.
    i recently had mild heart attack when i heard that from my own sister.

    i really need your help in this regards, because this is not ancestor property . this was brought by mother.

    could you please confirm , if my two sisters really own half of the property.

    please reply asap. Thanks for your response.

    Mumbai Hindu Family

  44. I want to buy a Agriculture Property from a Mulsim Owner, he is having two Sons and Dauthers. The Property is not an ancestrol Property, it is purchased within 5 years period. Please suggest.

  45. We are 2 daughters. My mother owns a property. Do I have legal rights on that property.

  46. if its ancestors or Fathers transfered to her name after Fathers death(if any) then all of you have equal rights. if its mothers then she can sell her own

  47. we have ancestors property , my father and his brother are separated that property with their name but not registered. they haviche only patta number,i have one younger brother,and yonger sister. we got married after 2007. my father and brother are refusing to give the property. please guide which way i can proceed it

  48. Move a Petition claiming your rights over said Ancestor Property; they will be served notice and will be decided in court.

  49. My father inherited property by will .He has three legal heirs two sons one daughter.could he make a will in favor of his 3 legal heirs not in equal share.Please guide.

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