The Indian laws of inheritance are privy to the general populace as per their religion. There different laws existing in India for inheritance vary for Hindus, Muslims and Christians etc.
Laws of Inheritance for Hindus
The article discusses in detail the various laws relating to inheritance in India pertaining to the Hindus. The Hindu laws have been codified by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Besides, laying down the rules for inheritance and devolution of the property, the legislation provides for other basic governing principles for the succession among Hindus. The laws governing inheritance in India for the Hindus have been discussed in this article.
The laws of inheritance for Hindus are contained in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (hereinafter referred to as “HSA”), which is applicable to all Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and to any other person who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew. Any person who becomes a Hindu by conversion is also governed under the Act.
The HSA overrides all customs, traditions and usages being followed by Hindus. However The HSA is not applicable to cases of testamentary disposition of property and only applies to cases of intestate death of an individual, i.e. the deceased dies intestate without any testamentary disposition of the property.
A child in womb at the time of death of the intestate, who is subsequently born alive, has been granted the same rights to inherit the property as if the child was born before the death of the intestate. A person who commits the offence of murder or abets the commission shall be disqualified from inheriting the property of the person murdered.
The heirs entitled to the property and the order of preference among them is specified and provided by the HSA. The HSA broadly divides its provisions for inheritance on the basis of gender, i.e. laying down separate rules for both males and females.
Property of the Hindu Undivided Family
With regard to the interest of a Hindu male in the Hindu Undivided Family (hereinafter referred to as “HUF”), the same shall not be governed by the rules of succession provided by the HSA, rather the same shall devolve upon the other surviving members of the HUF. Such interest is not governed by the succession principles in the prescribed order. The head of the family becomes the Karta of the family, who has the authority of handling and maintaining the property for the interest of the family. A specific provision of the HSA contained in Section 30 allows a Hindu to dispose of his interest in the HUF through a will.
The HSA provides for the devolution of the property of an intestate Hindu upon the Government, if there are no heirs qualified to succeed to such property in accordance with the provisions of the HSA. The Government takes charge of the property, for which there are no heirs to inherit in accordance with the provisions of the HSA and in consonance with the rule against perpetuities.
Developments in the Law
The HSA has been amended to strengthen the position of Hindu females in succession. With the amendments brought to the HSA by virtue of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, the daughters by birth become a coparcenor in her own right and shall have the same rights as a son with regard to the coparcenary property and shall also be subject to the same liabilities as a son with respect to the coparcenary property. The amendments made the position of Hindu females stronger as compared to the earlier position and vested inheritance rights on them, which were at par with the Hindu males in multiple respects.