SC seeks Centre’s response on plea against sections of Hindu Succession Act

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to file its response on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 15 and 16 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and Bela M. Trivedi granted three weeks to file a counter affidavit on the plea, filed by Kamal Anant Khopkar, through advocates Mrunal Dattatraya Buva and Dhairyashil D. Salunkhe, terming the sections “highly discriminatory”.

In January, this year, a bench of Justices Chandrachud and Surya Kant had said the matter should be heard by a three-judge bench.

The bench, in its order, had said: “List the petition on 10 February 2022. Learned counsel for the parties would be at liberty to file their written submissions before the next date of listing and a copy of the submissions in the PDF format.”

The plea has argued that Section 15 in the Act, discriminates in connection with the devolution of property in case of a woman dying intestate, when compared with the devolution of property of a man dying intestate, contending that discrimination in the provisions is only based on gender and not on family ties.

According to the plea, Section 15 gives priority to the heirs of the husband over the parents of the deceased, if a Hindu woman dies without making a will. The plea contended that since the husband is alive at the time of her death, he takes all her property, without leaving any share for her own mother or father. It added that this is because they come in the next order in comparison to the hierarchy of the Hindu man who dies intestate and whose mother is provided in the class 1 heir class.

“Section 15(2) provides source of acquisition of property as a basis to devolution of a property of a woman dies intestate-issueless; whereas for man u/section 8 or 10 of HSA, 1956, no source-based devolution of a property is provided when he dies intestate. Further the property of a woman goes back to a source from whom she inherited the property such as father, husband, and father-in-law. However again it discriminates with the mother, as, even if a woman inherits from her mother, her father’s heirs succeed to the property,” said the advocates for the petitioner in a statement.

The plea added that Section 8 of the Hindu Inheritance Act, 1956 gives preference to children/men and blood relatives can only be inherited by men, not by women.

“Succession laws for Hindu women are governed by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Section 14 of this Act clarifies Hindu woman is absolute owner of her property. While Sections 15 and 16 give the rules of inheritance and the order of succession. The relevant provisions of this Act do not consider a Hindu woman to be an independent person capable of transferring her property to her blood relatives. Pursuant to Section 14 of the Hindu Inheritance Act, 1956, any property in her possession is said to belong entirely to a Hindu woman,” added the statement.

In 2019, the court had issued notice on the petition noting that it raised an important question on gender equality.

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