The loss of a loved one is quite traumatising but the pain adds up if it leads onto a dispute in the family. Before 2005, only sons could inherit the ancestral property, but post the 2005 amendment in the Hindu Succession Act, 1986, the daughter has equal rights in the Hindu Undivided Property. The Supreme Court further clarified its stand in a recent judgement, Vineeta Sharma V/s Rakesh Sharma, it held that daughters have equal coparcenary rights to the sons in a Hindu Undivided Family. It further held that the 2005 amendment has a retrospective.
In its decision, the Supreme Court observed two main points-
A daughter acquires coparcenary rights on the birth itself.
It is not necessary that the father was alive when the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act was passed, this means that the act has a retrospective effect. It clarifies the point that the daughter is a coparcener in the Hindu Undivided Family right from her birth, irrespective of when her father dies. Until the decision in Vineeta Sharma V/s Rakesh Sharma, only daughters whose fathers were alive when the amendment came into force on 9th September 2005 could claim equal rights in the property.
In the path of making the laws gender neutral, Justice Arun Mishra authoring the above judgement held that “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.” Maintaining this stand he clarifies that daughters can claim a share in the ancestral property.
A coparcener can be defined as a person who acquires the right to a share in their father’s property right from their birth. They can call for a partition and claim their share at any time. The 2005 amendment in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 makes the daughter an equal coparcener in the Hindu Undivided Family Property lawyers In Gurgaon.
However, this judgement only applies to Hindu Undivided Family property and does not apply onto personal or self- acquired property which are passed under the will or as per the laws of intestate succession. When the father leaves a will then his self-acquired or personal property will be distributed as per the tenets of the will. This is known as the testamentary succession. But if the father dies without leaving a will then his property will be distributed as per laws if intestate succession i.e., as per the provisions of the Hindu succession act, 1956. As per this law, if the father dies without leaving behind a will for his self-acquired/separate property, then the daughter being a Class I heir will be entitled to equal rights with his living mother, grandmother and sister/brother.
The Vineeta Sharma Judgement is a progressive step taken by the Supreme Court towards women empowerment and gender neutrality. It can be quite complex for a layman to understand the intricacies involved in the succession laws. It is advisable to consult a good family/ property advocate to get a clarity on the succession laws.