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October 22, 2023by canonsphere0
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This blog is written by Yashasvi Gaur, a 2nd year law student at University of Mumbai.


The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 is a crucial piece of legislation that governs the inheritance and succession rights of Hindus in India. It was enacted to bring about uniformity and clarity in the laws related to property and succession among Hindus. The Act applies to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, as these communities share similar cultural and religious traditions. One of the most significant reforms introduced by the Act was to grant equal inheritance rights to daughters. Before the Act, daughters had limited or no rights to ancestral property. The Act ensures that daughters have the same rights as sons in matters of succession. The Act categorizes heirs into two classes: Class I and Class II. Class I heirs include the deceased’s sons, daughters, widows, mothers, sons of predeceased sons or daughters, and widows of predeceased sons. Class II heirs come into the picture if there are no Class I heirs; they include the deceased’s father, siblings, and their descendants.

One significant amendment to the Hindu Succession Act was made in 2005. The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, brought about substantial changes to the Act, particularly with regard to the rights of daughters in ancestral property.

It contains 4 chapters, 31 sections and 1 schedule.

Chapter1- Preliminary (section 1 to 4)

Chapter2 – Intestate succession (section 5 to 29)

Chapter3 – Testamentary succession (section 30)

Chapter4 – Repeals (section 31)


Before India gained independence in 1947, inheritance and succession laws among Hindus were a complex mix of customary practices and traditional laws. Additionally, British colonial rulers had influenced these laws, often codifying them for administrative purposes. The colonial-era laws were not uniform and did not necessarily reflect the cultural and religious practices of the diverse Hindu community. After India gained independence, there was a push for legal reforms to harmonize and modernize various personal laws that governed different religious communities, including Hindus. This was part of a broader effort to bring about legal uniformity and ensure equality and justice for all citizens. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution and the country’s first Law Minister, played a crucial role in drafting and passing the Hindu Code Bill. The Hindu Succession Act was one of the four components of the Hindu Code Bill, the others being the Hindu Marriage Act, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act. These were introduced in Parliament in the 1950s. The Act also recognized the concept of coparcenary, which gives sons equal rights to ancestral property. This was an important change as it expanded the rights of sons beyond what was available under traditional Hindu law


The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to amend, codify and secularize the law relating to intestate or unwilled succession, among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.



The objective of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is to consolidate and clarify the laws governing the inheritance of property among Hindus when there is no will (intestate succession).
SECTION 2-Application of Act

This section specifies that the Act applies to Hindus, Buddhists, Jainas, Sikhs, and certain other individuals not belonging to specific religions (Muslim, Christian, Parsi, Jew) unless proven otherwise. The definition of “Hindu” includes children of Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina, or Sikh parents, individuals raised in these religious communities, and converts/reconverts to these religions. Members of Scheduled Tribes are generally excluded unless specified by the Central Government. The term “Hindu” is interpreted broadly to cover individuals falling within the Act’s provisions regardless of their religious beliefs.
Section 5 – Act not to apply to certain properties

This section of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, specifies that the Act does not apply to:Property succession regulated by the Indian Succession Act, 1925, due to provisions in the Special Marriage Act, 1954.Estates passing to a single heir under agreements made by Indian rulers with the Government of India or by pre-existing enactments before the Act’s commencement.Specific properties like the Valiamma Thampuran Kovilagam Estate and Palace Fund governed by a proclamation issued by the Maharaja of Cochin in 1949 under the Palace Administration Board’s administration.
Section 6 – Devolution of interest in coparcenary property

This section of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, amends the law related to coparcenary property in Joint Hindu families governed by Mitakshara law. It grants daughters of coparceners equal rights to ancestral property as sons, effective from the Act’s commencement. Daughters inherit coparcenary property by birth, with rights and liabilities similar to sons. Any property inherited by a daughter is treated as coparcenary ownership and can be disposed of through a will. Upon a coparcener’s death, property devolves through testamentary or intestate succession, treating coparcenary property as partitioned immediately before death. Daughters receive equal shares as sons, and pre-deceased heirs’ shares pass to their surviving descendants. The Act also abolishes the pious obligation rule, protecting descendants from ancestral debts incurred after the Act’s commencement. These provisions do not apply to partitions executed before December 20, 2004, defined as partitions by registered deed or court decree.
5. Section 8 –
General rules of succession in the case of males
When a male Hindu dies intestate, his property devolves according to a specified order of heirs outlined in the Hindu Succession Act. Firstly, it goes to Class I heirs as specified in the Schedule, which includes immediate family members like sons, daughters, widow, mother, etc. If no Class I heirs exist, the property then passes to Class II heirs listed in the Schedule, comprising more distant relatives such as father’s siblings or grandfather. In the absence of both Class I and Class II heirs, the property devolves upon agnates (relatives connected through male lineage) and finally, if no agnates are available, upon cognates (relatives connected through blood relations other than agnates). This succession framework ensures that property of a deceased male Hindu is distributed among his relatives based on a specified hierarchy of inheritance.
6. Section 10 –
Distribution of property among heirs in class I of the Schedule.
In dividing the property of an intestate male Hindu among Class I heirs, the following rules apply:
– The widows collectively receive one share.
– Each surviving son, daughter, and the mother individually receive one share.
– The heirs in the branch of each pre-deceased son or daughter share one portion among them.
– Distribution within a pre-deceased son’s branch ensures equal portions for the widow(s) and surviving sons/daughters, with the remaining portion divided equally among his sons and daughters.
– Distribution within a pre-deceased daughter’s branch provides equal portions to her surviving sons and daughters. These rules establish a structured distribution plan for the intestate’s property among specified Class I heirs based on familial relationships and lineage.
7. Section 13 –
Computation of Degrees
This text specifies how the order of succession among agnates or cognates is determined under the Hindu Succession Act. Relationship is reckoned from the intestate (deceased without a will) to the heir based on degrees of ascent or descent. Degrees are computed inclusive of the intestate, with each generation representing a degree either ascending (towards ancestors) or descending (towards descendants). These rules provide a systematic way to assess familial connections for the purpose of property succession in cases of intestacy.
8. Section 14 –
Property of a female Hindu to be her absolute property
This section of the Hindu Succession Act grants full ownership of property to a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the Act’s commencement, eliminating the concept of limited ownership.
However, this provision does not apply to property acquired through specific instruments like gifts, wills, court decrees, or awards that impose restrictions on ownership.
9. Section 15 –
General rules of succession in the case of female Hindus
When a female Hindu dies intestate, her property devolves according to the rules specified in section 16 of the Hindu Succession Act. Firstly, it passes to her sons, daughters (including children of any pre- deceased son or daughter), and her husband. Secondly, it goes to the heirs of her husband, followed by her mother and father, then the heirs of her father, and finally, the heirs of her mother.

However, there are exceptions outlined in the Act:
– If the female Hindu inherited property from her father or mother and has no surviving sons or daughters, the property devolves to the heirs of her father.
– If the property was inherited from her husband or father-in-law and she has no surviving sons or daughters, it devolves to the heirs of her husband. These provisions ensure a structured order of succession based on familial relationships in cases of intestacy among female Hindus.
10. Section 16 –
Order of succession and manner of distribution among heirs of a female Hindu.
The order of succession among the heirs specified in section 15 is governed by the following rules:
Heirs listed in one category are preferred over those in succeeding categories, and heirs within the same category inherit simultaneously.
(A) If any son or daughter of the intestate has pre-deceased, their children (grandchildren of the intestate) inherit the share (B) hat the deceased son or daughter would have received if alive at the time of the intestate’s death.
( C) The distribution of property among heirs mentioned in clauses (b), (d), and (e) of section 15(1) and section 15(2) follows the same order and rules as if the property belonged to the father, mother, or husband of the intestate who then died intestate immediately after the intestate’s death.
The Act provides the list of Class I heirs on the priority basis and also provides the list of Class II heirs.



In this case the court held that “A Hindu coparcenary under the Mitakshara school consists of males alone; it includes only those members who acquire by birth or adoption interest in the coparcenary property. The essence of coparcenary property is unity of ownership which is vested in the whole body of coparceners. While it remains joint, no individual member can predicate of the undivided property that he has a definite share therein. The interest of each coparcener is fluctuating, capable of being enlarged by deaths, and liable to be diminished by the birth of sons to coparceners; it is only on partition that the coparcener can claim that he has become entitled to a definite share. The two principal incidents of coparcenary property are; that the interest of coparceners devolves by survivorship and not by inheritance; and that the male issue of a coparcener acquires an interest in the coparcenary property by birth, not as representing his father but in his own independent right acquired by birth.”


In this case the court held that “A coparcener, whether he is natural born or adopted into the family, acquires an interest by birth or adoption, as the case may be, in the ancestral property of the family. A managing member of the family has power to alienate for value joint family property either for family necessity or for the benefit of the estate. An alienation can also be made by a managing member with the consent of all the coparceners of the family. The sole surviving member of a coparcenary has an absolute power to alienate the family property, as at the time of alienation there is no other member who has joint interest in the family. If another member was in existence or in the womb of his mother at the time of the alienation, the power of the manager was circumscribed as aforesaid and his alienation would be voidable at the instance of the existing member or the member who was in the womb but was subsequently 4 born, as the case may be, unless it was made for purposes binding on the members of the family or the existing member consented to it or the subsequently born member ratified it after he attained majority. If another member was conceived in the family or inducted therein by adoption before such consent or ratification, his right to avoid the alienation will not be affected.”


The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 has had a profound and far-reaching influence on Indian society. It brought about significant changes in the way property and inheritance were governed among Hindus and related communities. Here are some of the key ways in which the Act has influenced Indian society:

  1. Gender Equality: One of the most notable impacts of the Act has been the promotion of gender equality within families. By granting daughters equal rights in ancestral property, the Act challenged traditional gender norms and discrimination against women. It empowered women economically and socially, allowing them to have a stake in family assets.
  2. Empowerment of Women: The Act has had a transformative effect on the lives of women. It has given them a stronger financial footing, increased their decision-making power within the family, and provided them with greater security, especially in cases of marital disputes or widowhood.
  3. Impact on Joint Family Systems: The Act has had implications for the traditional joint family system prevalent in many Hindu households. It has made it easier for members to seek partition and division of joint family property, potentially leading to the fragmentation of joint family units.
  4. Legal Awareness: The Act has increased legal awareness among the population. People have become more conscious of their property rights and the legal mechanisms available to them for safeguarding those rights.
  5. Financial Independence: The Act has contributed to the financial independence of women, making them less dependent on their marital families for economic support. This financial autonomy has improved their overall status within society.
  6. Social Attitudes: The Act has played a role in changing societal attitudes towards gender roles and women’s rights. It has encouraged discussions about gender equality and women’s empowerment, challenging traditional patriarchal norms.
  7. Economic Impacts: The Act has had economic consequences by increasing the participation of women in the workforce and entrepreneurship. Women who have inherited property are often better positioned to start businesses and invest in their education and that of their children.

In summary, the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 has been a catalyst for positive social change in India. It has helped empower women, reduce gender disparities, and promote a more equitable distribution of property within families. While it has brought about significant advancements, it has also raised complex issues related to family dynamics and legal compliance.


  1. Gender Discrimination (Pre-Amendment): Prior to the 2005 amendment, the Act was criticized for perpetuating gender discrimination by not granting daughters equal rights in ancestral property. This disparity was seen as unfair and out of step with modern principles of gender equality.
  2. Inadequate Provision for Married Daughters: Even after the 2005 amendment, some critics argue that the Act still does not provide married daughters with sufficient rights in their parental property. There are concerns that married daughters may not have the same level of control or access to their parental property as they should.
  3. Limited Scope of Applicability: The Act applies only to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. Other religious communities, such as Muslims, Christians, and Parsis, have their own personal laws governing inheritance and succession. Critics argue that this disparity in legal treatment creates inequities.
  4. Complexities in Joint Family Property: The Act recognizes the concept of coparcenary and joint family property. While this is meant to protect the interests of family members, it can also lead to complexities and disputes, especially in cases of partition and division of such property.
  5. Failure to Address Agricultural Land Issues: In rural areas, the Act has been criticized for not adequately addressing issues related to agricultural land. It may not always align with local customs and practices, leading to disputes and challenges in agricultural communities.
  6. Need for Legal Expertise: The Act can be complex and difficult for individuals without legal expertise to understand fully. This can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the law.
  7. Conflict with Local Customs: In some cases, the Act may conflict with local customs and traditions, especially in rural and remote areas. This can lead to tensions between statutory law and customary practices.
  8. Challenges in Implementation: Implementation of the Act can be challenging, especially in cases where property disputes arise within families. The legal process to settle such disputes can be lengthy and costly.
  9. Impact on Property Transactions: The Act can influence property transactions, making it necessary for individuals to consider the legal implications of selling or transferring property, which can be burdensome for some.
  10. Need for Further Amendments: While the 2005 amendment was a significant step towards gender equality, some argue that further amendments may be needed to address evolving social and economic conditions.

It’s important to note that while the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 has faced criticism and has limitations, it has also brought about significant improvements in the rights of women and daughters in matters of inheritance and succession. Any further reforms or changes to the law would need to consider a balance between tradition and modern principles of equity and justice.


In conclusion, the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 represents a significant step towards achieving greater equity and justice in matters of inheritance and succession among Hindus and related communities in India. It reflects the changing social and legal landscape of the country, and while it has faced criticism and challenges, it has undeniably played a crucial role in advancing the rights of women and promoting fairness in family property matters.

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