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A Feminist’s Take On Women’s Share In Paternal Property

The Supreme Court of India on 11th August, 2020 ruled that daughters will have equal rights to inherit joint Hindu family property as sons, saying the amended Hindu Succession act that came in force in 2005 will have retrospective effect.

Daughters have equal rights over joint Hindu family property, says SC. Source: Twitter

A three-judge Bench which was headed by Arun Mishra ruled that a Hindu woman's right to be a joint heir to the ancestral property is by birth and it does not matter or depend on whether her father was alive or not when the law was enacted back in 2005. Although the amendment was applicable to Hindu daughters as coparceners who died after the 2005 act came into action, there was no clarity on whether it will have any retrospective effect.

The Hindu Succession Act, 2005 (39 of 2005) was enacted to remove gender discriminatory provisions in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Under the amendment, the daughter of a coparcener shall by birth become a coparcener in her own right in the same manner as the son. “Since the coparcenary is by birth, it is not necessary that the father coparcener should be living as on 9.9.2005,” the ruling said.

“Daughter is always a loving daughter for the rest of their life,” Justice Mishra said.

Getting inheritance rights is a big win for all the Indian women and a step closer to gender equality. As the old saying goes, 'Daughters are special' and now they are equal in the eyes of the law as well. Indian women had no say on her father's property or her husband's property. They had to fight for their rights and after the Supreme Court's clarification on Tuesday, The Hindu Succession act will have a retrospective effect. The shackles of patriarchal society are being broken.

"In patriarchal families, women are afraid to raise their voice to claim what is rightfully due to them. With this ruling, law clarifies that all women have equal rights to ancestral property, irrespective of when they were born or when their father died. It has paved the way for greater involvement of women in their family businesses and, hopefully, this will, propel them to leadership positions. My fight for equality is not just for my immediate family but for all women. I will continue this fight. For too long, women have been overlooked in family businesses. There is a mindset change which is required. Hopefully, this judgment can bring about this change." said Valli Arunachalam, who has been battling with Murugappa Group against alleged gender bias.

Who is a Coparcener?

Coparcenary property is the family property of a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) and coparceners are certain members of the joint family who hold an interest in the property i.e coparcenary property. Ancestral and self-acquired property may fall under the ambit of coparcenary property. The former is divided equally amongst the coparceners whereas, in case of the latter, the family member in ownership of the property is free to manage the property upon his own free will.

The plea for clarity was filed by two sisters in Karnataka claiming property belonging to their father which was denied to them on the grounds of being born prior to 2005. Through this landmark judgment in Vineeta Sharma v Rakesh Sharma, the court has affirmed that the benefit of the amendment would go to the sisters retrospectively irrespective of their date of birth. It serves as a sign of equality and progress and clarified the difference of opinions between different benches of the Supreme Court.

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