GROUNDS OF DISQUALIFICATION OF SUCCESSION OF HEIRS UNDER HINDU LAW

The most important part under family law is the Hindu Succession Act 1956. In this article, the main focus will be on laws related to disqualification under the Hindu Succession Act 1956, and what old Hindu law and Modern Hindu laws say about disqualification. There are certain laws related to disqualification law like widow remarriage, murderer and conversion by the decedents. However, an exception where the person is not disqualified is in case of any disease or any other defect. The Hindu succession act, 1956 deals only with intestate succession among the Hindus. The Succession open at the time of the death of the person whose estate is in question and is governed by this law in force at that time[1].

Several disqualifications were recognized before 1956 which prevented an heir from inheriting property. Section  27 of the  Hindu succession act 1956 lays down that if a person is disqualified from inheriting any property under the Act, it shall devolve as if such person had died, therefore, no title or right to succeed can be traced through the disqualified person. In Khagendra Nath Ghosh v. Karunadhar[2], the Calcutta High Court laid down that excepting sections 24, 25 and 26 there is no other provision under the Act which provides for disqualifications of heirs to succeed. However, these sections do not disqualify any female heir on the ground of her unchastity or leading an immoral life. Under section 8 of the Act, lays down that any property of Hindu male dying intestate shall delegate according to certain provisions like ; firstly upon the heirs being the relative mentioned under Schedule 1 and, secondly, if there is no heir of any of the class, then upon the agnate of the deceased. The following are the valid grounds for disqualification.

WIDOW RE-MARRIAGE

According to section 24 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, it states “Any heir who is related to an intestate as a widow of a predeceased son, the widow of a predeceased son of a predeceased son or the widow of brother shall not be entitled to succeed to the property of the intestate as such widow, if, on the date the succession opens, she has remarried.” Under the Widow Remarriage Act, 1856 only three kinds of women are disqualified from inheriting the property if they remarried before death viz son’s widow, son’s son’s widow, brother’s widow.

When the daughter-in-law breaks away the relationship by re-marrying and entering another family, she becomes disqualified to inherit the property as well as is not entitled to retain the property inherited by her. In Cherotte Sugatlmn and others v. Cherotte Bharathi[3] and others, the Supreme Court upheld that, if the widow inheriting property of her husband on his death she becomes its absolute owner of that property, subsequently remarriage of widow does not divest her of property because in view of Section 24, of Hindu Succession Act overrides provisions of the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act, 1856.  As the law stands, remarriage disables a widow of a gotraja sapinda from succeeding to the property of a male Hindu when on the date succession opens, she has ceased to be the widow of a gotraja sapinda by reason of remarriage”[4].

MURDERER

Section 25 states “A person who commits murder or abets the commission of murder shall be disqualified from inheriting the property of the person murdered, or any other property in furtherance of the succession to which he or she committed or abetted the commission of the murder.” In the case of Smt. Kasturi Devi v. D.D.C AIR 1976 SC 2105, it was held that the murderer should be disqualified from succeeding to the person whom he had murdered. The disqualification on the ground of murder extends to every kind of property to which he or she would have been entitled to inherit, had he or she not committed the murder of the intestate. The heir of the murderer is also disqualified from inheriting the property of the person murdered. In one case, the wife was accused of murdering her husband along with three other people and was clearly denied with the succession certificate under the particular section. In Vallikanna v. R. Singaperumal & others[5], it has been held that a person who has murdered his father or a person from whom he wants to inherit, stands totally disqualified. Section 27 of the Hindu Succession Act makes it further clear that if any person is disqualified from inheriting any property under this Act, it shall be deemed as if such person had died before the intestate.

CONVERSION

Section 26 states “Where before or after the commencement of this Act a Hindu has ceased or ceases to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion, children born to him or her after such conversion and their descendants shall be disqualified from inheriting the property of any of their Hindu relatives, unless such children or descendants are Hindu at the time when the succession opens.” Under the old Hindu law, conversion by a Hindu into some other religion was considered as disqualification which was further removed by the Caste Disability Removal Act,1850[6]. It is interesting to note that the converts have not been disqualified to inherit; only his descendants or children of descendants have been disqualified to inherit, in case they don’t remain Hindu at the time when the succession opens. In P. Partrakah v. Subbiah[7], it was held that succession to the property of a convert is governed by the personal law to which he converted.

No disqualification for disease and deformity

Section 28 of the Act has declared that defect, disease, deformity etc. shall not be the grounds of exclusion from inheritance. Section 28 states “No person shall be disqualified from succeeding to any property on the ground of any disease, defect or deformity or save as provided in this Act, on any other ground whatsoever.” The Section is not retrospective. The section, therefore, applies to both testamentary and intestate succession. It comes into the operation when the succession opens after the commencement of the Act. If the succession opens before the commencement of the Act it states that Section not being retrospective[8].


[1] Vivek Khandelwal-Disqualification as to Succession: Hindu Succession Act 1956, Disqualification as to Succession: Hindu Succession Act 1956 | Law column, visited on 28-06-2021.

[2] AIR 1978 Cal 431

[3] 2008 S.C 1467.

[4] Ayush Verma-Disqualification as to succession under Hindu law, Disqualification as to succession under Hindu law – iPleaders, visited on 28-06-2021 at 17:54hrs.

[5] 2005 SC 2587.

[6] Ayush Verma-Disqualification as to succession under Hindu law, Disqualification as to succession under Hindu law – iPleaders, visited on 28-06-2021 at 18:17hrs.

[7] 1981 Ker. 1980

[8] Ayush Verma-Disqualification as to succession under Hindu law, Disqualification as to succession under Hindu law – iPleaders, visited on 28-06-2021 at 18:38hrs.

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