The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 governs the succession and inheritance of property. This Act establishes a complete and consistent structure that includes both succession and inheritance. This Act also addresses intestate or unintended (testamentary) succession. As a result, this Act incorporates all aspects of Hindu succession into its scope. This blog will go over the applicability, basic words and definitions, and succession rules for males and females.
Hindu Succession Act, 1956 applies to all Hindus as defined under Section 2 of the Hindu Marriage Act and Section 2 of the Hindu Succession Act.
TYPES OF SUCCESSION
There are two types of succession – testamentary and intestate.
1. TESTAMENTARY SUCCESSION
The succession of property is referred to as testamentary succession when a testament or will guide it. Under Hindu law, a Hindu man or female can make a will for the benefit of anyone, including a portion of the undivided Mitakshara coparcenary property. This should be legal and enforced. The distribution shall follow the stipulations of the will rather than the laws of inheritance. Property may pass under inheritance law if the will is not legitimate or legally enforceable.
2. INTESTATE SUCCESSION
According to Section 3(1)(g), an intestate individual dies without leaving a will. When this occurs, the property is distributed to the lawful heirs by inheritance regulations.
SUCCESSION FOR MALES
Hindu law has a dual set of succession. It is different for males and females. Section 8 establishes the general norms for male succession. Section 8 applies in circumstances when succession arises after the Act’s inception. It is not essential for the male Hindu, whose property must be devolved by inheritance, to die after the start of this Act. For example, suppose a father settles his property in favour of his wife during his lifetime and wishes that it pass to his daughter after his wife’s death, and the daughter dies after the commencement of this Act. In that case, the succession will open, and the property will devolve according to Section 8.
The heirs are divided into four categories – Class I heirs, Class II heirs, Agnates, and Cognates.
1. CLASS I HEIRS
Class I heirs are 16 heirs, which include the following:
- Adopted sons
- Sons of a predeceased son
- Widows of a predeceased son
- Son of a predeceased son of a predeceased son
- Widows of a predeceased son of a predeceased son
- Daughter of a predeceased son
- Daughter of a predeceased daughter
- Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased son
- Son of a predeceased daughter
- Daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter
- Son of a predeceased daughter
- Son of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter
- Daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased son
- Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased daughter
They will all inherit at the same time, and if any of them is present, the property will not pass to the Class II heirs. All Class I heirs have absolute rights in the property, and their portion is distinct; no one may claim a right by birth in this inherited property. A Class I heir cannot be deprived of his or her property, even by remarriage, conversion, or other means.
Until the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act of 2005, the Class I heirs consisted of twelve heirs, eight of whom were females and four of whom were male; however, four new heirs were introduced after 2005, eleven of whom are female and five male.
2. CLASS II HEIRS
- Son’s Daughter’s son
- Son’s daughter’s daughter
- Daughter’s son’s son, daughter’s son’s daughter, daughter’s daughter’s son, daughter’s daughter’s daughter
- Brother’s son, sister’s son, brother’s daughter, sister’s daughter
- Father’s father, father’s mother
- Father’s widow, brother’s widow
- Father’s brother, father’s sister
- Mother’s father, mother’s mother
- Mother’s brother, mother’s sister
SCHEME OF SUCCESSION FOR WOMEN
Prior to the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, women’s property was essentially classified into two categories: Stridhan (or women’s property) and Women’s estate.
The Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act of 1937 provided new inheritance rights for Hindu females, thus raising the weightage of women’s estates. The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 made significant modifications to women’s property, as explicitly stated in Section 14 of the Act. This clause has done away with the concept of “women’s estate” and replaced it with Vijnaneshwara’s interpretation of Stridhan. The distinction between Stridhan and women’s estate is mainly determined by the source from which either is received.
The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 (39 of 2005) amended the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, to remove gender discrimination. According to the amendment, a coparcener’s daughter, like his son, becomes a coparcener in her own right at birth. The subject of women’s property under Hindu law will be discussed in this article through the lenses of case laws and judicial viewpoints.
Sections 15 and 16 of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 provide broad norms of succession in the case of female Hindus, as well as the sequence of succession and manner of distribution among heirs of a female Hindu.
The following are the two types of estates considered to be women’s:
- Inheritance property – A property inherited by a female from another female falls under the jurisdiction of Stridhan under the Bombay School. As a result, whatever is purposefully handed to a girl becomes her Stridhan, according to this belief.
- Share obtained on partition – On partition, a female is entitled to obtain her fair share of the property, but she does so only as a limited owner because her rights are subject to two limitations: she cannot alienate the corpus (things or shares obtained in the partition) in an ordinary manner, and her property is entrusted to the next heir of the last full owner after her death.
The Bombay High Court’s judgment in the matter of Kasserbai v. Hunsraj  established the Bombay School notion that property inherited by a woman from other females is termed Stridhan.
In Smt. Rashmi Kumar vs. Mahesh Kumar Bhada , the Supreme Court observed that when a wife entrusts her Stridhan property to her husband or any other member of the family with dominion over that property, and the husband or such other member of the family dishonestly misappropriates or converts that property to his or her own use, or willfully allows another person to do so, they commit criminal breach of trust.
In the 1980s case of Sundari and Ors v. Laxmi and Ors, the Supreme Court of India observed that Sections 15 and 16 of the Act of 1956 provide for succession to a female Hindu dying intestate. Section 15(2) employs the phrase “inherited,” which means “to receive as heir” or “succession by descent,” and excludes devolution under the dead owner’s Will. The Madras High Court remarked this in the matter of Komalavalli Ammal & Others v. T.A.S Krishnamachari & Others.
The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 represents a step forward in preserving the property rights of Hindu women. As a result of this Act, women are being granted rights that have been denied to them for years. It is a significant step forward in the preservation of women’s rights because it removes a woman’s inability to acquire and hold property as a single owner.
Along with the legislation, equal credit should be given to the court, which has provided a broad interpretation of the legislation while taking into account the socioeconomic evolution of the nation as a whole.
- Hindu Succession Act, 1956
- Hindu Marriage Act, 1956
- Modern Hindu Law by Dr. Paras Diwan
- Hindu Law by Dr. Poonam Pradhan Saxena
Articles and Blogs
- Kasserbai v. Hunsraj (1906) 30 Bom. 431.
- Smt. Rashmi Kumar vs. Mahesh Kumar Bhada 1997 2 SCC 397.
- Sundari and Ors v. Laxmi and Ors 1980 AIR 198.
- Komalavalli Ammal & Others v. T.A.S Krishnamachari & Others 1990 (2) LW 598.
 (1906) 30 Bom. 431
 1997 2 SCC 397.
 1980 AIR 198.
 1990 (2) LW. 598.