Constitution of India does not differentiate between males and females. Women have equal rights as that of a man in every sphere. Earlier women did not have any rights to the property and they were at the mercy of the male members of the family.
Joint Hindu Family, an unique institution acted as refugee home for women. With the disappearance of the Joint Hindu Family, the plight of women worsened. Gradually in course of time, the women have acquired absolute rights over the property as that of a male. Successive governments have enacted various laws improving/ conferring property rights to women.
Hindu Women’s Rights to the Property Act 1937 dealt with the rights of Hindu widow, on the death of her husband who does not make any Will. In such cases, the widow is entitled to the share of the property as that of a son. But her interest in the property, Hindu Women Estate is limited interest.
Karnataka Hindu Law Women’s Rights Act 1933 conferred limited rights to the property, to the women. This limited right is called limited estate. Under limited estate rights, the women do not get any rights to alienate the property by sale, Will and gift etc. But the women had full rights including that of alienation by sale, Will in case of Stridhana Property. Stridhana includes ornaments, apparel, gift received, property acquired out of her savings.
The Hindu Succession Act 1956 brought out revolutionary changes in property rights of women. Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, confers absolute right to the female in any property possessed by Hindu female. The rights are of full nature including unfettered rights of disposal of property.
The property covered under the Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act is both movable and immovable, which is acquired by inheritance, demise, partition, in lieu of maintenance, arrears of maintenance, gift, property acquired by her own skill, purchase, prescription, or in any other manner and also Stridhana. This absolute right operates retrospectively, since the Section 14 refers to the properties acquired before or after the commencement of the Act.
Rights in family property:
Another area, which was improved upon, is Co-parceners property. Co-parceners property is a Hindu undivided family property. The member of Hindu Undivided property is called coparcener who attains the right in the property by birth. They are all related to the head of the family. This Coparceners include relatives within four degrees including Kartha. Earlier females were not member of co-parceners, hence were denied succession to the ancestral property.
Many states including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu Kerala have amended the Hindu Succession Act 1956. Amendment to Hindu Succession Act by Karnataka has come into effect from July 30, 1994. Women who have married prior to July 30, 1994; do not have any rights in the ancestral/co-parceners properties. But this Act gives women equal status as that of a male who are married or not subsequent to July 30, 1994. She becomes a member of Co-parcenary by birth in the same manner as that of a son. On partition of the Co-parcenary property, she is entitled to the equal share as that of a son. The property so acquired on succession is capable of being disposed by her, through Will or any other Testamentary disposition.
In certain cases the ancestral house might be the co-parcenary property. Generally, members of the joint family, mostly male Co-parceners reside in such houses. In such cases, the female member cannot force a partition of such ancestral house unless other male members in occupation of the house opt for partition.
But the unmarried daughter, a married daughter deserted or separated from her husband, or a widow is entitled to a right of residence therein.
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