THE HINDU SUCCESSION ACT, 1956

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The Hindu Succession Act is a Central legislation enacted by the Parliament in 1956 as a branch of the Hindu Bill Code. The primary objective behind the legislation is to modify and consolidate law dealing with intestate succession between Hindus. The Act overrides all other laws, regulations, custom or usages that prevailed instantaneously before the initiation of the Act in relation to the provisions of the present legislation. The Act also invalidates all laws that are conflicting with the provisions of Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The provisions o the Act shall not pertain to properties which are controlled by the Indian Succession Act, 1925, the property which is the subject matter of a contract between rulers of Indian State with Indian Government and other properties specified under the Act.

The share in the Mitakshara coparcenary properties of a deceased Hindu male at the time of his death shall be transferred to his legal heirs by survivor-ship and not in conformity with the provisions of the Act but upon certain specifications. The share in the property is calculated on the principle that the total share of the deceased person if the partition has taken place just before his death. But the Act does not allow a person to claim share in the property of the deceased if he has departed himself from the coparcenary or any of his survivors to allege on intestacy in the share stated in the Act.

Where marumakkattayam law or nambudiri law is applicable to a Hindu and he dies after the initiation of the present legislation, his share in the property of tarwad or illom shall be transferred by intestate succession according to the provisions of the Act and not governed by marumakkattayam law or namboodiri law. If a person is governed by aliyasantana law, and he dies after the initiation of the Act, his undivided share in the kutumba or kavaru shall pass on to his testamentary or intestate succession under the present Act.

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The share of a deceased Hindu male who dies intestate shall pass on to his Class I legal heirs as per Schedule I of the Act. Where the deceased person does not have a Class I legal heir, then the right of property shall transfer to the Class II heirs listed in the Schedule. In the absence of legal heirs, the right of the property shall vest with the agnates of the deceased Hindu male. Finally, in the absence of agnates, the right shall devolve to the cognates.

The Act provides for certain rules to be applied in dividing property of the deceased Hindu among different classes of legal heirs, agnates and cognates specified in the Schedule. The sequential arrangement of succession between agnates and cognates are also determined by the legislation. A Hindu female shall enjoy absolute control over her property and not as an incomplete owner. But the provision is not applicable where the property is acquired by way of gift, will, order or award from civil court etc.

The Act stipulates the rules to be followed in distributing the property of deceased Hindu female who dies intestate. There are special canons to be applied to persons who are administered by marumakkattayam and aliyasanthana laws. A child in the mother’s womb shall have the same right in the property of the intestate as that of others, in the same manner as if he had born before the death of intestate. Where a widow remarries, she shall not be entitled to claim the property of the deceased as a legal heir. If there is no legal heir to acquire the property of the deceased, such property shall pass on to the Government and the Government shall have all the rights and obligations as that of a legal heir.

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The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 has been amended by enacting Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act in 2005. In the amending provisions, the daughter will have the same right as that of a son in the property of a coparcener. The special proviso dealing with dwelling house has been omitted by the Amendment Act. The 2005Act also leaves out the provision which departs the right of a widow who is remarried, to inherit the property of the deceased. Hence the Act recognized equal right of man and woman in inheriting property of the person dying intestate.