Supreme Court: Daughters have equal rights in inherited property

Since ages, the Hindu society has been a patriarchal society. This has also been reflected in the laws of the land. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 which governs the inheritance and succession of the Hindus was one such act. As per this Act, the rights of female members was very limited compared to the male counterparts.

Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005 came into effect on 9th September 2005 abolished this inequality towards females. A joint Hindu family means all people lineally ascending or descending from a common ancestor including wives and unmarried daughters. However, a Hindu coparcenary is a much focused group. It consists of the ancestor and his three descendants. Coparcenary property is one inherited by a Hindu man from his father, grandfather or great grandfather.

Before the 2005 Amendment Act, only the males viz., sons, grandsons and great grandsons were considered as coparceners. W.e.f 9th September 2005, the daughters became coparceners by birth in their right having the same liability in coparcenary property as if she had been a son. This was a landmark moment in the Indian legal as well cultural history where the partiality between man and woman were removed in law.

However, certain legal points remained ambiguous viz.,

  1. Whether the coparcenary rights of daughters who were born before 9th September 2005 would be equal as that of the sons as per the new Amendment law or would remain limited as per the ld Act?
  2. Whether the coparcenary rights of daughters remain the same as the sons whose father had died before 9th September 2005?;

There were conflicting judgements from Supreme Court itself in this regard before. However on 11th August 2020, a three-judge bench consisting of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Abdul Nazeer and Justice M.R. Shah in Vineeta Sharma vs Rakesh Sharma & Ors [Civil Appeal No. 32601 of 2018] took note of these conflicting judgements and settled the law:

  1. The provisions of the Amendment Act, 2005 confer the status of coparcener on the daughter born before or after the amendment in the same manner as son with the same rights and liabilities;
  2. Since the coparcenary right is by birth, it is not necessary that the father coparcener should be living as on 9the September 2005.
  3. However the daughter can only claim her rights w.e.f 9th September 2005 and any transaction relating to property i.e. disposition or alienation, partition or testamentary disposition which had taken place before 20th December, 2004 before the amendment cannot be touched by this judgement.

Thus this judgement now clears any confusion that prevailed as regards to the Amendment Act of 2005 and Hindu daughters are now on equal footing with Hindu sons when it comes to inheritance and succession of property,