There is hullaballoo by the Union government that it has, despite strong resistance by the male dominated agriculture land owners, brought women on par with them in succession of property, but the ground reality is altogether different. For, the amendment made to the Hindu Succession Law seven years ago doesn’t take care of women’s right to be party in the land ceiling law. Worse, it keeps away widowed and “married minor daughter” of the late owner from the land he has left for his successors.
Recently, a Supreme Court ruling upheld this law passed by the Haryana government in 1972. It defines “family” as a husband, wife and their minor children, or any two or more of them. A married minor daughter “shall not be treated as a child”, it says. A widowed daughter is not included under this law. She isn’t part of this “separate unit”.
It’s not Haryana alone that has this discriminatory law. Some other states, including Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, too haven’t cared to amend the law to make it inclusive so that the injustice done to “widow” or “married minor daughter” is undone.
According to senior lawyer Mahabir Singh, an expert in land holding laws, the top court had in 1988 upheld this Act but no attempt has so far been made to challenge its validity on the ground of discrimination to the fair sex after the amendment in 2005.
It may be pointed out that the changes made in the succession law are not comprehensive enough and women are still subjected to inequality in property rights in agricultural land.
Section 4(2) of the Hindu Succession Act allows for special state laws to address the issue of fragmentation of agricultural holdings, fixation of ceiling and devolution of tenancy rights in these holdings.
Certain other provisions of the Hindu Succession Act do give step motherly treatment to women through the discriminatory order of succession for male and female heirs.
What’s needed at this junction is to have a fresh look at the amendments in the succession law that allow women to enjoy equal right of a coparcener in the joint Hindu family. But married women are denied the right to own a share in the ancestral property.
Why should men have all the fun and enjoy the property that’s come to them in inheritance? A son and a daughter have common parents. If the source of their existence is common, how can a law separate them on the ground of marriage by the sister?
A son on becoming a widower or a divorcee can marry again and enjoy the inherited property. But his sister doesn’t enjoy the basic right if she is also the victim of unforeseen circumstances.