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Report No. 207

3. Relevance of Source of Acquisition

3.1 The group of heirs of the female Hindu dying intestate is described in 5 categories as 'a' to 'e' of Section 15 (1), which is illustrated as under:

3.1.1 In a case where she dies intestate leaving property, her property will firstly devolve upon her sons and daughters so also the husband. The children of any pre-deceased son or daughter are also included in the first category of heirs of a female Hindu.

3.1.2 In case she does not have any heir as referred to above, i.e. sons, daughter and husband including children of any pre-deceased sons or daughters (as per clause 'a') living at the time of her death, then the next heirs will be the heirs of the husband.

3.1.3 Thirdly, if there are no heirs of the husband, the property would devolve upon the mother and father;

3.1.4 Fourthly, if the mother and father are not alive, then the property would devolve upon the heirs of the father which mean brother, sister etc.;

3.1.5 The last and the fifth category is the heirs of the mother upon whom the property of the female Hindu will devolve if in the absence of any heirs falling in the four preceding categories.

3.2 This is the general rule of Succession but the Section also provides for two exceptions which are stated in sub-section (2). Accordingly, if a female dies without leaving any issue then the property inherited by her from her father or mother will not devolve according to the rules laid down in the five entries as stated earlier but upon the heirs of father. And secondly, in respect of the property inherited by her from her husband or father-in-law, the same will devolve not according to the general rule but upon the heirs of the husband.

3.3 The Hindu Succession Bill, 1954 as originally introduced in the Rajya Sabha did not contain any clause corresponding to sub-section (2) of Section 15. It came to be incorporated on the recommendations of the Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament. The reason given by the Joint Committee is found in Clause 17 of the Bill, which reads as follows:-

"While revising the order of succession among the heirs to a Hindu female, the Joint Committee have provided, properties inherited by her from her father reverts to the family of the father in the absence of issue and similarly property inherited from her husband or father-in-law reverts to the heirs of the husband in the absence of issue. In the opinion of the Joint Committee such a provision would prevent properties passing into the hands of persons to whom justice would demand they should not pass."

3.4 The intent of the Legislature is clear that the property, if originally belonged to the parents of the deceased female, should go to the legal heirs of the father. So also under clause (b) of sub-section (2) of Section 15, the property inherited by a female Hindu from her husband or her father-in-law, shall also under similar circumstances, devolve upon the heirs of the husband.

It is the source from which the property was inherited by the female, which is more important for the purpose of devolution of her property. The fact that a female Hindu originally had a limited right and later, acquired the full right, would not, in any way, alter the rules of succession given in sub-section (2) of Section 15. (See Bhagat Ram (D) by L.Rs, Appellants v. Teja Singh (D) by L.Rs, Respondents - AIR 2002 SC 1 at p.3)

3.5 The 174th Report of the Law Commission of India had also examined the subject of "Property Rights of Women: Proposed Reforms under the Hindu Law" and after eliciting views from the public had noted that the rules of devolution of the property of a female who dies intestate reflects patriarchal assumptions. The 174th Report had explained the position thus:-

"Again the patrilineal assumptions of a dominant male ideology are clearly reflected in the laws governing a Hindu female who dies intestate. The law in her case is markedly different from those governing Hindu males. The property is to devolve first to her children and husband; secondly, to her husband's heirs; thirdly to her father's heirs, and lastly to her mother's heirs.

The provision of section 15(2) of HAS is indicative again of a tilt towards the male as it provides that any property she inherited from her father or mother should devolve, in the absence of any children, to her father's heirs and similarly, any property she inherited from her husband or father-in-law, to her husband's heirs. These provisions depict that property continues to be inherited through the male line from which it came either back to her father's family or to her husband's family (Page 32 para 2.5 of the Report).

3.6 The basis of inheritance of a female Hindu's property who dies intestate would thus be the SOURCE from which such female Hindu came into possession of the property and the manner of inheritance which would decide the manner of devolution.

Proposal to amend Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 in case a female dies Intestate leaving herSelf Acquired Property with no heirs. Back

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