What is the object of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and explain its main features, scope and application?

Ans. Object of Hindu Succession Act, 1956-The main object of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is to remove the inequalities between men and women with respect to rights in property and evolves a list of heirs entitled to succeed on intestacy based on natural love and affection rather than on religious efficacy. The Act has been passed to codify and amend the Hindu Law regarding succession.

Main Features of the Act-

1. The Act applies to all Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs but not to Muslims, Parsis, Christian and Jews. It has further been extended even to. those persons, one of whose parents is a Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh and who is brought up as a Hindu (S.2) One of the most important features of the Act is that the right of a Hindu female to inherit property has been fully recognised and she has been made entitled to a share equal to the male heirs. Women’s limited estate has been abolished and whatever property has been or shall be inherited by a Hindu female will be or shall be her absolute property. The Act has given an important place to Hindu females in the classification of heirs.

2. The Act has abolished impartible estate and the special mode of its succession. (S.5).  

3. The Act does not apply to the property of a person who has contracted marriage under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

4. The concept of coparcenary has undergone a change in the sense that succession to coparcenary property was governed by rule of survivorship. In this rule the female heirs did not have any place and the property, on the death of a male heir, devolved upon the rest of the male members of the coparcenary. Now under the Act the rule of survivorship has a limited application. The Act provides for four categories of heirs, the first of which is class I heirs, which consists of eight female heirs and four male heirs. The proviso to S.6 provides that in case a coparcener (male heir) dies intestate leaving his coparcenary interest then, such interest, left behind, shall not devolve according to the rule of survivorship but according to the provisions of this Act, i.e., class I heirs would come forward to inherit, which shall include female heirs also. Thus, the sanctity of the rule of survivorship has gone. It has a limited application only in cases of those families which consist of male members only.

5. The order of succession provided by the Act is based on the concept of love and affection. The rule of preference based on right to offer Pinda or propinquity of blood has been discarded by the Act.

6. The Act entitles even remotest agnate or cognate to be the heir.

7. The Act makes no distinction between male and female heirs.

8. The Act has repealed provisions of different Acts relating to succession under Matriarchal system prevailing in the South. (S. 7).

9. The Act has provided uniform order of succession governing the property of a male Hindu, with a few changes in respect or the Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana Law. (Ss. 8 and 17).

10. The Act has dispensed with the rules of succession prevailing under Mitakshara and Dayabhaga law, and provided a uniform code for determining rules of succession. II. The order of succession of agnates or cognates, as the case maybe, is according to the degree (S.12), and they are computed according to the rules laid down therein. (S.13).

12. The Act has abolished Hindu women’s limited estate and made her absolute owner of the property even with regard to properties under their lawful possession on the commencement of the Act. (S. 14).

13.The Act has provided uniform order of succession also with respect to the property of a female Hindu. If a woman dies intestate, her children would become her first heirs followed by her husband and her portents. In the absence of any issue, property inherited from her father Would revert to his family and property inherited from her husband or father-in-law will revert to husband’s heirs. (Ss. 16 & 17).  

14. The full blood shall exclude the half-blood where the relationship is the same in other respects. (S.18).

15. Where two or more heirs succeed to the property of an intestate, they shall take their share per capita and not per stripes and as tenants-in-common and not as joint tenants.

16. The right of child in womb at the intestate’s death and subsequently born alive, shall relate back to the date of intestate’s death. (S.20).

17. Where the 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, i.e, the Act recognizes the so called right of pre-emption. (S. 22).

18. The Act gives to an unmarried woman, a widow, or a woman deserted by or separated from her husband, the right to residence in her father’s home. (S.23).

19. Murderer and widow re-marrying on the date of succession, are not entitled to succeed to the property of the person murdered and the relatives of the widow.

20. A convert’s descendants have been disqualified from inheriting the property of their Hindu relatives. (S.26). it is interesting to note that under the Act the convert has not been disqualified but it is only his descendants who are excluded from inheritance.

21. The disqualified heir is treated as one who had predeceased the intestate. (S.27).

22. Disease, defect or deformity is now not any ground of exclusion from inheritance under the Act. (S.28).

23. Unchastity is no longer a ground of exclusion from inheritance on the part of woman.