Before independence, it was uncommon for a daughter to get a share in the paternal property. In 1956, the Hindu Succession Law came about. It made the succession laws uniform. However, this law too favored the male heirs. People thought that a daughter would get married and become part of someone else's family, and hence, giving her share in the property would alienate the property.
Women had absolute ownership over their property but had no coparcenary rights over the ancestral property. This Act discriminated against women solely based on their gender and violated their fundamental right to equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
To do away with the Act's discrimination against women and enact a gender-neutral law, an amendment was done to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The Hindu Succession Act, 2005 (the 'Amendment Act') was enacted, which gave daughters a right to their parent's property.
Section 6 of the 1956 Act was also amended and was made to include under its ambit that the liabilities and rights in the parental property shall be the same as the rights and liabilities of a son.
After the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act, a daughter's share in her parental property became the same as that of the son. The Act gives an 'unobstructed heritage' or a birthright to both daughters and a son in the parental property.
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Daughter's Right in Father's Property
The Mitakshara School of Hindu Law covers the concept of coparcenary, i.e., parental property succession to the coparceners. Initially, the daughters were not given any rights in the family's parental property, but after the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act, the daughter's right over her father's property was put on the same pedestal as the son's right over the property.
A daughter's right over her father's property was only available if the property was ancestral. In this case, if the property was worth Rs. 10 crores, both the son and the daughter will receive equal parts of the property, i.e., Rs. 5 crores each.
If the father's property was self-acquired, he could decide not to give any share to his daughter or create a Will as he thinks fit. The Amendment Act of 2005 gave daughters a right over their father's property only if it was an ancestral property owned by the father and did not consider any self-acquired property owned by the father. If the father dies without a Will, then the self-acquired property is also divided equally amongst the sons and daughters.
The marital status of a daughter doesn't affect a daughter's rights and liabilities. The recent supreme court judgment clarified that even married daughters are considered coparceners.
Daughter's Right in Mother's Property
The aspect of a daughter's right in her mother's property is generally not given attention, but it is also an important part of the Hindu Succession Act.
A woman having any property is the absolute owner of that property. The fact that the woman has inherited the property received it as a gift or through a Will doesn't matter since it eventually converts into a self-acquired property.
The devolution of the property is according to the Hindu Succession Act, and there is no difference since the daughters have the same rights as the sons in their mother's property. Also, there is no distinction in the Act for married or unmarried daughters, but an important thing to keep in mind is that a married daughter has no right over her mother's property during the lifetime of the mother.
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Recent Supreme Court Judgments on Daughter's Right on Property
The rights of daughters in the parental property have gone through development over a span of many years in India. Supreme Court, through these years, gave some very important judgments in this regard and has molded the law into the way it is today.
One of the earliest cases relating to daughters' rights in her parent's property was Prakash & Ors. vs. Phulavati & Ors. In this case, the Supreme Court held that "the rights of coparceners under the Amendment Act, 2005 apply to the living daughters of living coparceners as on 9th September 2005, irrespective of the birth date of daughters."
Hence, if a father who is a coparcener dies before 9th September 2005, then the living daughter of the coparcener would have no right to the parental property and cannot inherit it. The Amendment Act of 2005 will not be applicable in such situations where the coparcener had died before the Act's commencement.
Further, in the case of Danamma vs. Amar Singh, the Supreme Court held that if the father who passed away before 9th September 2005 is a coparcener and there is a prior suit pending regarding partition by a male-coparcener, then the daughter is also entitled to a share in the parent's property.
The Court reasoned that Section 6 of the Act is applicable in a retrospective manner and confer an absolute right to daughters in the parental property.
The contradicting decisions of both the cases created confusion among people regarding a daughter's share in the parental property, but this was solved in Vineeta Sharma vs. Rakesh Sharma & Ors.
The Supreme Court, in this case, held that Section 6 (1) (a) of the Amendment Act, 2005 gives an "unobstructed heritage" to the coparcener. A coparcener has a birthright over the ancestral property and the fact that whether the father was alive or dead on the date of the amendment is irrelevant. The Court also held that Section 6 of the Amendment Act should be applied retroactively, which would help daughters benefit from succession based on their birth.
This judgment cleared the air and gave daughters an equal right in the parental property as the son. The amendment will also apply to living daughter of living coparceners irrespective of her date of birth.
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