The Most Notable Features of The Hindu Succession Act – Explained!

(i) The Act shall apply to all intestate Hindu succession ex­cept (i) to the property of a person to whose marriage pro­visions of the Special marriage Act (1954) apply, and (ii) to the impartibly estates of Rulers, of Indian States, suc­cession to which is regulated by special covenants or agree­ments or any existing enactments. (Vide Sec. 5).

(ii) The Act will also not apply to a Mitakshara coparcenary

Property except when a coparcener dies leaving female heirs mentioned in Section 6.

(iii) The Act lays down new provisions for the devolution of the property of a male Hindu (Vide Sec. 8) and of a female Hindu (Vide Sec. 15), dying intestate.

(iv) The Act abolishes Hindu women’s limited estate and con­fers on her absolute property right. (Vide Sec. 14).

(v) Where property of an intestate devolves upon two or more heirs and any one of such heirs proposes to transfer his or her interest, the other heirs shall have a preferential right to acquire the interest proposed to be transferred. (Vide Sec. 22).

(vi) Section 23 gives right of residence to a female heir in the dwelling house of the intestate family, if she is unmarried or is married but discarded or is a widow.

(vii) A convert’s descendants have been disqualified from in­heriting the property of their Hindu relatives, unless such- descendants are Hindu at the time when the succession opens. (Vide Sec. 26). The convert himself, in view of the Cast Disabilities Removal Act, 1850, however, will not be so disqualified,

(viii) No person shall be disqualified from succeeding on the ground of any disease, defect or deformity or on any other ground not provided in the Act. (Vide Sec. 28).

(ix) Section 30 entitles a male member of a Hindu Mitakshara coparcenary to dispose of his interest in the coparcenary by will.

Overriding effect of the Hindu Succession Act:

Section 4 of the Hindu Succession Act provides for overriding effect of the Act. It runs as follows:

“Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act:

(a) Any text, rule, or interpretation of Hindu Law or any cus­tom or usage as part of that law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to have effect with respect to any matter for which provision is made in this Act;

(b) Any other law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to apply to Hindus in so far as it is inconsistent with any of the provisions contained in this Act.

(2) For the removal of doubts it is hereby declared that noth­ing contained in this Act shall be deemed to affect the provisions of any law for the time being in force providing for the preven­tion of fragmentation of agricultural holdings or for the fixation of ceilings for the devolution of tenancy rights in respect of such holdings.”

Thus section 4 seeks to override all existing laws, whether in the shape of ancient texts or legislative enactments, which are inconsistent with this Act. In view of sub-section (2), however, nothing contained in this Act will have the effect of overriding any law, passed by any Slate legislature, which makes provi­sions.

(i) Preventing fragmentation of agricultural holdings; or

(ii) Fixation of ceilings; or

(iii) Special method of devolution in respect of tenancy rights in holdings.

The Punjab Custom (Power to Contest) Act No. 1 of 1920 was enacted to restrict the rights exercisable by members to the family to contest alienations made by a holder of ancestral property. By virtue of Sec. 6 of this Act, no person is entitled to contest by alienation of ancestral immovable property unless he is descended in the male line from the great grandfather or the alienor.

Under the customary law in force in the Punjab, a declaratory decree obtained by the reversionary heir in an action to set aside the alienation of the ancestral property enured in favour of all persons who ultimately took the estate on the death of the alienor, for the object of a declaratory suit filed by a reversionary heir impeach­ing an alienation of ancestral estate, was to remove a common apprehended injury in the interest of the reversioners.

The decree did not make the alienation a nullity; it removed the obstacle to the right of the reversioner entitled to succeed when the succes­sion opened. It is true that, under the customary law, the wife and daughters or a holder of ancestral property could not sue to obtain a declaration that the alienation of ancestral property will not bind the reversioners after the death of the alienor; but a declara­tory decree obtained in a suit instituted by a reversioner compe­tent to sue has the effect of restoring the property alienated to the estate of the alienor.

In the case of Giani Ram v. Ramji Lai, A.I.R. 1969 S.C. 1144….. (1969) I.S. C.C. 813. (1969) S.C.D.757…. (1969) 2 S.C.J. 527….. 71 Punj. L.R. 996. J, a Hindu Jat governed by the custom­ary law of the Punjab, sold to one S. without legal necessity, a fourth share in the land which was ancestral in his hands, G, son of J instituted a suit in the year 1920 in the Court for a declaration that the sale of ancestral lands of J in favour of S was null and void and was ineffective against his reversionary rights. This suit was decreed. J died on October 16, 1959, leaving his surviving three sons, his wife and two daughters. It was held by the Su­preme Court that

(i) The effect of the declaratory decree in suit No. 75 of 1920 was that the alienations could not inure beyond the life-time of J. In other words, the effect of the declaratory decree was merely to declare that, by the sale, interest conveyed in favour of the alienee was to inure during the life time of the alienor.

Therefore, the property alienated reverted to the estate of Jat the point of his death, and all persons who would, but for the alienation, have taken this estate, will be entitled to inherit the same.

(ii) Under the Hindu Succession Act which came into force on June 17, 1956, the estate of J devolved upon his widow, his sons and his daughters in equal shares.

(iii) There is nothing in the Hindu Succession Act which retro­spectively enlarges the power of a holder of ancestral land or nullifies a decree passed before the Act.

(iv) If J had died before the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was enacted the three sons would have taken the estate to the exclu­sion of the widow and the two daughters.

(v) After the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act the es­tate devolved by virtue of Sections 2 and 4 (1) of the Hindu Succession Act upon the three sons, the widow and the two daugh­ters.

(vi) The argument that because in the year 1920, that wife and the daughters of J were incompetent to challenge the alienation of ancestral property by J, they cannot after the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act inherit his estate when succession opens after that Act come into force has no force.

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