Hindu Female Intestate Succession: A Case Law
Facts of the Case:
A Hindu female, who died intestate, left behind her mother, father, and mother-in-law. The prime concern is the distribution of her self-acquired property amongst these relatives.
To whom does the self-acquired property of a Hindu female intestate devolve in the absence of her husband and children?
In what proportions will the said property be distributed among the mother, father, and mother-in-law?
Rule of Law:
General Principles of Succession for a Hindu Female:
According to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, when a Hindu female dies intestate (without leaving a will), her property devolves in a particular order of preference:
Firstly, to her children and husband.
Secondly, to her heirs from her father's side.
Thirdly, to her heirs from her mother's side.
Lastly, to her husband’s heirs.
Provisions Relevant to the Case:
• As per Section 15(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, in the absence of children and a husband, the next in line to inherit the deceased's property are the heirs of her father.
• According to Section 15(2)(a), in the absence of any heirs as mentioned in Section 15(1), the property will go to the heirs of the mother.
Application and Discussion:
Preference of Heirs for Inheritance:
Given the facts presented, the Hindu female intestate has left no husband or children. Therefore, her self-acquired property will first devolve to the heirs from her father's side.
Father’s Claim: The father, being a direct heir from her paternal side, holds the primary right to inherit the property.
Mother’s Claim: The mother comes into play as per Section 15(2)(a), which stipulates that in the absence of any heirs from the father's side, the property will devolve to the heirs of the mother. However, since the father is alive, the mother would share the property with the father.
Mother-in-law’s Claim: The mother-in-law is considered an heir from the husband's side. As the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 clearly specifies the order of devolution, the mother-in-law would only have a claim if there were no heirs from the deceased woman's side, i.e., neither from her father's side nor from her mother's side. Given that both parents of the deceased are alive, the mother-in-law has no legitimate claim over the property.
Distribution of Property:
The property will be equally distributed between the deceased's mother and father, as they both hold legitimate claims as direct heirs.
Conclusion: Female Intestate Succession
In the absence of her husband and children, the self-acquired property of a Hindu female intestate will primarily devolve to her father.
Given that both parents of the deceased are alive, they will share the property equally, i.e., 50% for the father and 50% for the mother.
The mother-in-law, being from the husband’s side of relatives, does not have a legitimate claim on the property as both parents (heirs from the deceased's side) are alive.