Although successive governments have tried to link the gender inequality gap by introducing various laws, property ownership amongst women in India remains dismal to this day.
Presently, there is no uniform civil code on property inheritance, and many religions follow different sets of rules. While property inheritance among Buddhist, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains is governed by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Muslims have their own unique law. Property inheritance among Parsis and Christians is ruled by the Indian Succession Act, 1925.
Throughout an amendment to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, in 2005, equal rights were granted to girls in their fathers’ ancestral property. However, this law applies only to the ancestral property, and not to a person’s self-acquired property.
In a case of a self-acquired property, a person can provide it to anyone through a WILL. In a situation the owner dies before making a will, the property is transferred to Class-1 heirs (mother, spouse and children). In the case of the absence of Class-1 heirs, the property goes to Class-2 heirs (father, siblings and grandchildren).
However, the Supreme Court had held that those daughters whose parents passed away before the law was changed are not allowed to a share in their fathers’ ancestral property.
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Section 19 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, declares that if two people get married under the terms of the said law, the Hindu will terminate to be part of the Hindu undivided family, and so his “severance from such family”.
The Special Marriage Act also states that succession to a property of any Hindu who marries a non-Hindu will be ruled by the Indian Succession Act, and not through the Hindu Succession Act. That means ancestral property which is an heir’s right under the Hindu Succession Act (unlike in the Indian Succession Act) terminates to be a right once the heir marries a non-Hindu.
Under the Hindu Succession Act, a female’s property is distributed into three categories:
• Property obtained from parents
• Property received from husband or in-laws
• Self-acquired property or property acquired as gift
Presently, if a woman who is a childless widow dies without implementing a valid will, the property kept by her goes back to the source it came from. The self-acquired properties, however, is transferred to her in-laws.