DISQUALIFICATION UNDER HINDU SUCCESSION ACT, 1956

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY SHIVAM SAXENA A STUDENT OF TAMIL NADU NATIONAL LAW SCHOOL.

INTRODUCTION

Family law is the broad expression. The extent of family law is subjective in character. There are different branches of family law. The most important part under family law is Hindu Succession Act 1956. In this article the researcher will mainly focused on laws related to disqualification Under Hindu Succession Act 1956, what old Hindu law and Modern Hindu laws says about disqualification. There are certain laws related to disqualification law like certain widows remarrying may not inherit as widows, murderer disqualified, converts decedents disqualified, succession when heir disqualified. There is one exception to disqualification in which person shall not be disqualified when Disease, defect, etc. not to disqualify. The researcher went through various case laws, legislative acts which helped the researcher throughout. After completion of the researcher’s work I have given some suggestions for disqualification to succession like unsuccessful attempt to murder should also be included in the ambit of S.25, Unchastely of a widow should also be a ground of disqualification, Offenses like rape & torture should also be a ground for disqualification by this the researcher has concluded my research work. In this Research work the researcher have tried to fulfil all the loopholes of disqualification to succession.

Laws are social digesters and rarely are they neutral. They have Masculine taste especially with reference to family laws. Making of laws, administering the laws or resolution of disputes arising out of operation of laws are totally considered of male bastion and reasonable signals, if any, towards women came out of men’s sympathies for women’s problems. The principle of equality is equated with “sameness treatment” in an inherently unequal society. The Hindu succession act 1956 came with the objective of providing a comprehensive and uniform scheme of intestate succession for Hindus. As the researcher has researched on the “Disqualification” under this topic, According to Hindu law, the inheritance rights of person were not absolute. Despite the nearness of relationship, a person could still be disqualified from inheriting property on account of his certain physical or mental sickness, or a definite conduct .this exclusion from inheritance was not merely on religious grounds , an incapability to perform religious rites, but depended upon social and moral grounds and bodily defects as well.

My research is mainly focused on the law enforcement of Hindu succession act, 2005, laws related to Murderer in context of disqualification, Consequence of disqualification and under which circumstances person shall not be disqualified from succeeding to any property.

LAWS OF DISQUALIFICATIONS

Disqualifications of succession in Hindu law are given under Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Basically, S. 24 to S. 28 deals with the disqualifications of succession. Under this Act the disqualifications are divided in three types:-

  1. Widows re-marriage (S. 24)[1]
  2. A murderer (S.25)
  3. Conversion of other religion (S. 26)
  1. Widows re-marriage:-

“Any heir who is related to an intestate as the widow of a predeceased son, the widow of a predeceased son of a predeceased son or the widow of a 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.”[2]

  1. i. Purpose of the section

In the objects and reasons appended to Hindu Succession Bill 13 of 1954(S. 28 of these bill corresponds to S.24 of the said Act) it was stated “the principle underlying this clause is that the widow is the surviving half of her husband, and therefore, when she remarries, she ceases to continue to be such (Section 2 of the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act, 1856), on this basis divested the inheritance already vested in the widow on her remarriage. 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.”

  1. ii. Applicability of the section:

The section applies only to intestate succession. The testamentary succession is away from the capacity of this section, since a testator has power to lay down in his will any conditions on which a beneficiary will take the inheritance. The section applies only to Class I and Class II heirs of a Hindu male. It is submitted that the question of its application in other cases does not arise, as cognates and agnates are all blood relations. In fact, even among Class I and Class II heir’s only five heirs are relations by affinity. These are: (1) intestate’s own widow, (2) son’s widow (3) son’s son’s widow (4) father’s widow (5) brother’s widow. The first three are in Class I and last two are in Class II, category (VI). Of these the question of intestate’s widow’s remarriage before succession opens does not arise and its reason is already been explained above. Only father’s widow is allowed to inherit even if she had married. The other three widows are disqualified under this section.[3]

  1. Conversion of other religion

“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 Hindus at the time when the succession opens.”[4]

  1. i. Scope of the section:

Under the old Hindu law conversion by a Hindu to another religion was a disqualification which was removed by the Caste disabilities Removal Act, 1850. Even under this Act, when a Hindu becomes a convert to another religion he continues to have a right to inherit from his Hindu relative but descendants of a convert are disqualified from inheriting the intestate. It is laid down under this section that where a Hindu ceased to be a Hindu by converting to any religion whether before or after the commencement of this Act, the 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 children or descendants are Hindus when the succession opens.

  1. ii. Applicability

This section has no application to testamentary succession where the terms of the testament govern the rules of succession but it is only applicable to intestate succession.

Consequence of disqualification

Under this section a disqualified heir is deemed to have died before the intestate, it follows that no person can claim the right of inheritance to the property of the intestate through him or her. The word ‘before’ used in the section makes it abundantly clear that the property does not vest in the disqualified heir, and if it does not vest in him, he cannot be the medium of passing property to others. In other, words a disqualified heir cannot be a fresh stock of descent and a person claiming through the disqualified heir cannot succeed. But it makes no difference to the application of the rule whether the convert ceased to be a Hindu before or after the commencement of this Act.

  1. A Murderer:-

“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.”[5]

  1. i. Purpose of the section:

The doctrinaire theory that provisions of a statute of distribution are paramount and forbid the consideration of any disqualification not contained in the statute itself was discountenanced by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The section has the effect of lying down that a person who commits Murder or abets the commission of murder is disqualified from inheriting

(1)  The property of the person murdered; or

(2) Any other property he may become entitled to succeed by reason Of furtherance of succession resulting from the murder.

It is not compulsory for the appliance of this section that the person Disqualified should have been convicted of murder or abetment of murder. The disqualification will apply if it is established in any following proceeding that the person to be disqualified had committed or abetted the murder. It stands that a person Prosecuted for murder but acquitted of the charge would not be disqualified. Thus if the case was one of suicide and there was no case of abatement, such a person would not be disqualified.

  1. ii. Application of the Section:

The section applies to both testamentary and intestate succession. the section definitely applies in the cases where the property is to be inherited as per the Act but it also applies where the testator has left behind the will. The principle of this section applies also to testamentary succession. [6]

Commission of Murder

 Murder means to kill or to assassinate and it is to be understood in its popular sense[7], and not in the technical rigid, and beyond reasonable doubt proof oriented sense of the Indian Penal Code[8]. An acquittal from the criminal courts on the basis of benefit of doubt[9], or because the prosecution could not prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, may still disentitle a person from inheriting the property of the intestate whom he killed. But where an heir is charged with the murder of an intestate but is acquitted by the criminal court as her involvement in the murder is not established at all, such an heir is not disqualified and her inheritance rights would be intact. In sarita chauwhan V. Chetan Chauwhan[10] the wife was accused of murdering her husband abetment to commit murder along with three persons and was denied succession certificates in view of sec. 25 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. In light of clear acquittal by the criminal courts, the Bombay High Court held that as there was nothing to suggest that she could have been involved in any way with the murder of her husband, she was entitled to succeed to her property.

A murder committed under grave and sudden provocation, or even to save one’s own life or the life of some other person, might be looked upon sympathetically under criminal law, but it would not place the heir differently from a case where he kills the intestate through meticulous planning and a well-executed murder. The civil courts are not normally bound by the verdict of criminal courts[11], and they can assess the case independently. In Rani Chandha V. State of NCT of Delhi[12], the husband was held guilty of committing the murder of his wife within a few year of the marriage. She had left behind property including a flat that she had purchased before her marriage. In accordance with the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the property constituted her general property and as she had died issueless, her husband would normally have succeeded her property, but in accordance with the previous of Sec. 25, as he was the one who had murdered her, it was held that he was disqualified from inheriting her property. Similarly, in Vellikannu V. R. Singaperumal[13], the son murdered his father and was convicted by the Court. As he was disqualified from inheriting the property of the deceased, his wife claimed the same on the ground that since the murderer would be deemed to be dead she would be regarded as the widow of the predeceased son and eligible to inherit the property as the intestate’s class-I heir. It was held that neither the son nor his wife was eligible to claim inheritance. However, if there is a finding of the criminal court that the claimant id not the murderer and the deceased had committed suside, then there is no bar to the claimant being granted a share in the property of the deceased.[14]

Abets the Commission of Murder

The commission of murder of the intestate or the abetting of the commission of murder has the same consequences. Where, for example, the whole planning of the murder of the intestate Is done by A, and B and C, who are the nephews of the intestate, help A in the commission of the murder, by bringing the intestate on a false pretext to the spot where A kills him, B and C might not have murdered the intestate, but because they abetted the commission of the murder, they will be disqualified from inheriting the property of the intestate.

 

Murder Committed in Furtherance of Succession

 Where a person commits the murder, not of the intestate, but of his heir, the removal Will accelerate the succession in his favour, such murderer is again disqualified from inheriting the property of the deceased.

For example, a family consists of a Hindu male A, his father F, and a son of his predeceased brother BS.

In terms of priority, on the death of A, it is the father who would inherit his property and not BS, as the son of a predeceased brother has an inferior placement in comparison to the father. In apprehension of A’s death, if BS commits the murder of the father of A, on the death of A, despite being the closest relation, he (BS) would be disqualified from inheriting the property of the intestate. Here again, he may personally kill the father or take somebody’s help in its commission or abet its commission, the consequences will be the same.

The rule of disqualification on ground of commission of murder or abetting it is applicable to both intestate as well as testamentary succession.

CONCLUSION

The principle of equality is equated with “sameness treatment” in an essentially unequal society. Law of disqualification under HSA is dealt by S. 24 to 28 and with respect to these sections a person can be disqualified only in case of remarriage by few widows expressly mentioned in the section, when a person commits murder for furtherance of property and when a person is a descendant of a convert. Under only these three circumstances a person can be disqualified to inherit and rest all disqualifications common under old Hindu Law are abolished. According to my view the following should be included in the disqualification of succession there is no doubt that these sections enacted by the legislatures are well founded and it has done a great job in providing few specific grounds of disqualifications. But in respect to above discussion it is submitted that few other grounds of disqualifications should be added in addition to those already mentioned and they are as follows:

  1. A person torturing another person should also be disqualified to inherit the property of that another person.
  2. Attempt of murder should also be a ground to disqualification to succession even that attempt was unsuccessful under S.25.
  3. Unchaste women should also be disqualified.
  4. Stepmother of the deceased person should be disqualified on remarriage under S.24 of HSA, 1956.
  5. A person committing rape of the lady from whom he is going to inherit should also be disqualified.

Hence it is submitted that the present law of disqualification under HSA is appropriate for Hindu law and as such there is no need for any kind of change or alteration in these law except that some other grounds of disqualifications as mentioned above should also be added in Hindu Succession Act, 1956.

[1] Now, Section 24, omitted by Act 39 of 2005, Section 5(w.e.f 9-9-2005).

[2] S. 24 OF Hindu Succession Act, 1956.

[3] Dr. Paras Diwan, Law of Intestate and Testamentary Succession, Ed. 2nd , universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd.

[4] Section 27 of Indian Succession Act, 1956.

[5] S. 25 of Indian Succession Act, 1956.

[6] Mani V. Paru ; AIR 1960 ker. 195 at 196.

[7] Minoti v. Sushal Mohan Singh, AIR 1982 Bom 68.

[8] Ram Chatterjee V. Dabathi Mukhrjee, (2002) 2 SCC 193.

[9] Sitaramaiah V. Rama Krishnaya, AIR 1970 AP407.

[10] AIR 2007 Bom 133.

[11] Kenchawa V. Girimallappa, AIR 1924 PC 209.

[12] AIR 2007 Del 107.

[13] (2005) 6 SCC 622.

[14] G.S. Sadashiva V. M.C. Srinivasam, AIR 2001 Kant. 453.

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