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Know more info on women inheritance laws in India
In pre-independence India, many things were unfair to women in the country, including how property was distributed. However, many acts have been passed after independence to change this, and in modern times, women get a much better treatment in the country owing to these changes. However, it is important to understand that India is home to different faiths, and to preserve their specific culture, uniform civil code does not exist in the country. Instead, different laws govern how much inheritance gets passed on to people.
Apart from gender, the exact amount of inheritance one has rights to depends on many things including number of heirs to the property, type of property, and much more. The main laws that govern such inheritance are The Hindu Succession Act 2005, The Hindu Succession Act 1956, and the Hindu Succession Amendment Act 200 for Hindus; the Muslim Personal Law Application Act 1937 for Muslims; and the Indian Succession Act 1925 for Christians. These laws can be complex to understand, but by the end of this article, a person reading it should have a fair understanding of women's rights to ancestral property in India.
The Hindu Succession Act 2005 is the primary legislation that governs property inheritance for Hindus. The major laws that apply to Hindus are also applicable to Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs in the country. The inheritance laws further vary on what position the woman has within the family.
Under the hindu inheritance law, a mother of the property owner is entitled to an equal share of assets as the children of her deceased sons and daughters. She is also additionally entitled to maintenance and support from her children. She is what is legally called a class-1 heir of the property. The mother can do whatever she wants with such inherited property, and it will be further distributed to her children after she dies.
Under the hindu inheritance laws, the daughter is what is legally called a coparcener of the property, sharing both the rights and liabilities(such as debt) on the ancestral property - with such rights and liabilities equally distributed to her brothers as well. The daughter has the right to ask for shelter in her parents residence if she gets widowed, estranged or divorced after marriage. She can do whatever she wishes with her inherited property after she reaches the legal age required to be considered an adult.
In the case of the wife of a property owner, she is entitled to shelter and support from the husband’s family and is entitled to a share in the husband’s property if the husband dies. The shares will be divided between her, her children and the husband’s mother. Apart from this, she has separate rights to her parental property.
A divorced woman cannot claim a stake in her ex-husband’s property as per hindu inheritance laws, however she can demand alimony or support from the husband’s family. If she owns a joint property with her ex husband, she may claim a stake in it if she proves her contribution to the property. A divorce that is not formalized recognises the wife as claimants of the husband’s property, as stated above.
Other important property rights for women in the family are:
In the case of Muslims, the Muslim Personal Law Application Act 1937 governs property inheritance. According to the law, women in the family receive inheritance as stated below.
A mother is entitled to receive maintenance and support from her children and according to property inheritance laws of muslims, is entitled to one-sixth of the assets of each of her deceased children. Her own assets will be divided as per muslim law.
According to muslim law, the woman's value is half that of a man and hence the daughter gets half of whatever her brothers are getting when inheritance is considered. However, she can do what she pleases with the inheritance after it is handed to her. The daughter has further rights to ask for residential support after she gets divorced if she has no adult children. If she does have adult children, she must take support from them.
A wife has all the rights to shelter and support from the husband’s family during marriage according to muslim inheritance laws. She is also entitled to the share of her husband’s property and a right to a “Mehr” amount if the husband dies. The share she gets is usually one fourth of the assets if she does not have children, and one-eighth if she does. In islamic faith, polygamy is legal and if the husband has more than one wife, the inheritance of the wife may lessen. Such inheritance can also be affected by the will of the husband.
Christian property inheritance laws are governed by the Indian Succession Act 1925. The following things discuss such laws for prominent members in the family.
The mother is not considered a dependent of the child under christian inheritance law. Therefore she is not entitled to maintenance from her child. However the mother will inherit one fourth of the child’s assets if the deceased child does not have children and is unmarried. The laws become more complex if they have either of those things.
A daughter is to inherit both of the parent’s property equally with her siblings after their deaths according to christian property inheritance laws. A daughter is also entitled to maintenance and support from their parents until she gets married, after which her husband has that responsibility. After legal age, she can do whatever she wishes to her inheritance.
A christian wife is eligible for maintenance from her husband as per law, and can file a divorce if she doesn’t get it. According to law, she gets one third of the assets of the husband in the case of the death of her husband with the rest of the assets being distributed among her children. She will get half of the property.
The rights of the divorcee and a remarried widow remain the same as hindu law in christian property inheritance law.
As you can see, property inheritance laws in India are different for people of different faiths as the country does not have a uniform civil code yet. However, the guidelines for inheritance transfer in any faith is strictly written down in the code of law in India, and as such the rights of women are protected as per the different laws. Provided the parents do not make a will, the inheritance usually passes to women as stated in the article. However it is important to note that in the case of a dispute, courts may be a necessary place to go since there is more complexity involved when multiple heirs to the property are involved.