From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Women's right to parents' property
The Supreme Court in its latest judgement clarified that women’s right to their parents’ property is their birthright and clarified the air of confusion surrounding the issue due to previous judgements.
What was said in the judgement
- The judgement highlighted the patriarchal practices of the Mitakshra School of Hindu law — the guiding force of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
- It settled the confusion created by two of its own antagonistic judgments.
- In Prakash vs Phulawati (2016), it had ruled that the amendments to the Hindu Succession Act (2005) applied only to women whose parents were alive on September 9, 2005, the date of the notification of the act.
- In Danamma @ Suman Surpur vs Amar (2018) cases, it inferred that coparcenary rights were birthrights.
- The Supreme Court has now set forth the idea that coparcenary rights are birthrights free from limitations imposed by the dates of any legal notifications.
Issues that need to be addressed
1) Stree dhan issue
- Section 14 (1) of the Hindu Succession Act 1956 provides that women can acquire property as a full owner, and it can be carried over or retained post marriage as stree dhan.
- There are cases where the movable property may have been given to a daughter by her father as an intentionally undeclared and informal settlement between his descendants.
- At the same time, it is quite true that stree dhan over time gave way to the unethical and illegal practices of dowry.
- But the issue of stree dhan needs to be explained further in the light of this judgment.
- The ruling might impact dowry transactions that continue despite stringent anti-dowry laws.
2) Issues in claiming the right to property
- In the rural context, where most of the property is in the form of agricultural land claiming the property may not be easy.
- With patriarchy, it is doubtful if male heirs will share property-related documents, information.
3) Challenge of societal change
- On occasion, the law and courts may turn out to be progressive.
- However, we can not expect society to readily accede to progressive reforms.
- The challenge for economically dependent women in far-flung rural areas who are denied literacy, dignity and, sometimes, even a name and identity, in securing their rights is immense.
- In parts of Bihar, there are areas where women are still addressed by their village names or more commonly as someone’s wife.
Women are asserting their rights, both in conjugal and property matters. However, there are significant cultural, religious, educational barriers and caste and class inequalities that require a massive overhauling of social attitudes to overcome.
Back2Basics: Mitakshra School of Hindu law
- In the Mitakshara School, the allocation of parental property is based on the rule of possession by birth.
- Moreover, a man can leave his property in his will.
- The joint family property goes to the group known as coparceners.
- Ther are the people who belong to the next three generations.
- Hence, the joint family property by partition can be, at any time, converted into a separate property.
- Therefore in Mitakshara School, sons have an exclusive right by birth in the joint family property.
- Coparcenary is a term often used in matters related to the Hindu succession law, and coparcener is a term used for a person assumes a legal right in his ancestral property by birth.