Understanding The Hindu Succession Act 1956

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The Hindu Succession Act

It is an Act to amend and codify the law relating to succession and inheritance of property among Hindus. The Hindu Succession Act, revolves around the principle of Mitakshara (literal meaning is ‘measured words’) School (The Principle of Propinquity which means the nearness of blood relationship). The types of succession that comes under the ambit of the The Hindu Succession Act are Testamentary Succession and Intestate Succession.

Some Important Facts:

Citation of the Act: Act 30 of 1956

Enacted by: The Parliament of India

Date Enacted: 17 June, 1956

Amendment: 2005

Topics to be Covered

  • Applicability of the Hindu Succession Act 1956
  • Understanding Basic Terms
  • Types of Succession
  • Properties which does not fall under the ambit of the Act
  • Basic Rules of Succession in the Case of Males
  • Classification of Heirs
  • Basic Rules of Succession in the Case of Females

Applicability of the Hindu Succession Act 1956

As per Section 2 of this Act, its applicability extends to the following:

  • To the followers of Hindu Religion including Lingayat, Virashaiva and also the followers of Brahmo, Arya and Prarthna Samaj.
  • Followers of Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism.
  • Any person who is not a Muslim, Christian, Jew or Parsi, unless it is proved that any such person would not have been governed by the Hindu Law or by any other custom.

(For a detailed understanding of the Applicability of the Act you can refer to India Code website.

  • The Act is applicable to every State of India as of 31.10.2019 when the words ‘except the state of Jammu and Kashmir’ were omitted by the Act 34 of 2019, s 95 and the fifth schedule.
  • Not applied to persons of scheduled tribes, within the meaning of clause (25) of article 366 of the Constitution unless the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, otherwise directs.

Understanding Basic Terms

Section 3 of the Act covers some important definitions and interpretations. Let’s have a look at them to get a complete understanding of the Act.

Agnate: Two people are said to be ‘Agnate’ of each other if they are related by blood or adoption wholly by males.

Cognate: Two people are referred to as ‘Cognate’ of each other when they are related by blood not wholly through males.

Heir: Any male or female person entitled to succession is termed as an heir.

Full Blood: Two people are related to each other by full blood when they are descended by a common ancestor with the same wife.

Half Blood: Two people are related to each other by half blood when they are descended by a common ancestor but from different wives.

Uterine Blood: Two people are related to each other by Uterine blood when they are descended by a common ancestress but by different husbands.

Types of Succession

Testamentary Succession:

When Succession of a property is done in accordance with a testament or will it is called Testamentary Succession. When a will is made by a male or a female, the distribution of the property among the heirs is done according to the will and not according to the law of inheritance. In case when the will is not valid or legally enforceable, the property is devolved in accordance with the Inheritance Law.

Intestate Succession:

When a male or a female dies without leaving behind a testament or will and the property is devolved in accordance with the Law of Inheritance, the process is termed as Intestate Succession.

Properties which does not fall in the ambit of Succession Act:

Such Properties are mentioned in Section 5 of The Hindu Succession Act. Mentioned below are properties to which the Act does not apply

  • The properties whose succession comes under the regulation of the Indian Succession Act, 1925  by reasons of the provision under Section 21 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 is not regulated by the Hindu Succession Act of 1956. Section 21  Succession to the property of any person whose marriage is solemnized under this Act and the property of the issue of such marriage shall be governed by the Special Marriage Act under Section 21. 
  • Any estate or property which goes to the single heir through the terms of any agreement or covenant formed between the Ruler of an Indian State and the Government or through any enactment formed and passed before the commencement of this Act.
  • The Valliamma Thampuran Kovilakam Estate and the Palace Fund under the administration of the Palace Administration Board due to the powers conferred under the Proclamation (IX of 1124), dated 29th June 1949, given by the Maharaja of Cochin.

Basic Rules of Succession in the case of Males

These rules are laid down under Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act which mentions that a person dying intestate will have his property devolved as follows:

  • First, among the heirs, who are related to the person as specified in class I of the Schedule;
  • Second, if there is no heir of class I, then among the heirs, who are related to the deceased as specified in class II of the Schedule;
  • Third, if there is no heir of any of the two classes, then among the Agnates of the deceased;
  •  Fourth, if there is no agnate, then among the Cognates of the deceased.

Classification of heirs

Heirs are classified into four categories:

  • Class I
  • Class II
  • Class III (Agnates)
  • Class IV (Cognates)

Class I heirs 

  • Sons
  • Daughters
  • Widows
  • Mothers
  • 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

Before the amendment of the Act in 2005 there were the heirs were classified into twelve types out of which eight were female and four were male but after 2005 four new heirs were added. The total heirs now stand as sixteen with eleven females and five males.

Class II heirs

The Class II heirs are categorized and are given the property in the following order:

  • Father
  • Son’s Daughter’s son
  • Son’s daughter’s daughter
  • Brother
  • Sister
  • 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

Then comes Class III and Class IV heirs who are Agnates and Cognates respectively about whom we have been briefed above.

Basic Rules of Succession in case of Females

With the Hindu Succession Act the status of women as the ‘limited owner’ was abolished. After the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, daughters got entitled to an equal share in the property as in the case of sons. Hence the Amended Act 2005 stands as a woman empowering Act

The property in case of a dying female Hindu intestate will devolve as follows:

  • First, among the sons and daughters, which would also include the children of a predeceased son or a predeceased daughter) and the husband. 
  • Second, among the heirs of the husband.
  • Third, through the mother or the father.
  • Fourth, among the father’s heirs.
  • Fifth, among the mother’s heirs.

In case of a property being inherited by a female Hindu by her father or mother, where there is no son or daughter of the deceased (including a child of predeceased son or daughter), then it shall devolve among father’s heirs. 

And in case of a property being inherited by a female Hindu by her husband or her father in law, where there is no son or daughter of the deceased (including the child of a predeceased son or daughter), it shall devolve among the husband’s heirs. 

Briefing Up

The Hindu Succession Act is a very general topic which is not only important with respect to competitive exams but every individual should be aware of the significance of the Hindu Succession Act.

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