Inequalities And Discrimination related to Women’s Property Rights and Adoption Aspects under the Hindu Law

Hindu law refers to the legal theory, jurisprudence, and philosophical reflections on the nature of law found in Indian texts from the ancient and medieval periods.

Prior to codification, there were several kinds of Hindu laws related to property rights. One such law is related to the Joint Hindu Family business. The Joint Hindu Family business is a form of a business organisation run by a ‘Hindu Undivided Family’ wherein the family members of three successive generations own the business jointly. The head of the family known as ‘Karta’ manages the business and all the other members are called co-parceners. All of them have equal ownership over the properties of the business. But women were not allowed to be co-parceners and hence lacked property rights. The Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act was passed in 1937 which granted property rights to women. However, it did not grant them complete control over the property. The Hindu Succession Act was passed in 1956. It attempted to strengthen the property rights of women.[1] The notion of co-parcenary, which states that only a male heir can be a coparcener and that a female cannot, has not hugely changed. Even after the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was passed, male heirs had the complete right over the property, and the female heirs enjoyed this right only until they got married. The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act of 2005, on the other hand, has made a significant adjustment. A daughter in a family, whether married or unmarried, now is given the same rights that a son has on the co-parcenary property.[2] However, even with this modification, there is still a chance regarding the taking away of women’s property rights. Because only sons are thought to be entitled to the property in a male-dominated society. To avoid his property going to his daughter, a male co-parcener with the capacity to dispose of his property by making a will, may dispose of it in favour of his sons. The Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005, may not accomplish its genuine objective if the testamentary ability of the Hindu males is not checked.[3] In Indian society, it is an unspoken law that women are responsible for the children and the family. Only with the help of his wife is a male able to generate income. He can only concentrate on his occupation, when the wife looks after the house and children. However, the wife’s contributions are never taken into account. Any property obtained by a couple as a result of their joint efforts is usually bought in the name of the spouse. Such a property is thereafter solely owned by the husband. If the marriage falls apart for any reason, she will have to approach her husband for support. Unlike in other legal systems across the world where women’s rights are protected and safeguarded, there are no matrimonial property laws in India. 

The Shastric Hindu Law of Adoption varied depending on the schools of thought. However, the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 brought uniformity to Hindu adoption law. Earlier, only in exceptional circumstances was it permissible for a Hindu lady to adopt a child under Shastric Hindu Law. Her ability to adopt a kid was severely constrained. Although the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 recognises a woman’s right to adopt a child, in reality, discrimination against women persists. A married man can adopt, but a married woman cannot adopt during the marriage’s duration, according to the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.[4] The Personal Laws Amendment Act of 2010 has now eliminated this difference.[5]

[1] Mohan Rao Bolla, Daughters’ Property Rights Under the Hindu Succession Act, 9 IUP LAW REVIEW, 7 (2019).

[2] “The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, § 6.”

[3] “The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, § 6.”

[4] “The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, § 8.”

[5] “The Personal Laws Amendment Act, 2010, § 8.”

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