India: Property Of A Hindu Female Dying Intestate

Last Updated: 23 October 2018
Article by Maneck Mulla and Jinal M. Shah

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 ("the Act") was enacted nine years after India obtained independence and at that time the legislature did not contemplate that in times to come women in India would acquire properties of their own accord. Over the years, women have taken strides in multifarious spheres. The situation in India has changed considerably since then as women are becoming leaders in various fields and thus own properties in their individual right. However, the Act which also covers non-testamentary succession of not only Hindus, but also of Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, still contains a lacuna with regards to self-acquired properties of women.

Section 15 of the Act envisages a definite and uniform scheme of succession of property of a Hindu female who dies intestate. Section 16 of the Act sets out the order of succession of the heirs of the Hindu female and is to be read along with Section 15 of the Act setting out the general rules of succession. However, Section 15 of the Act has failed to consider the equity of the fate of the self-acquired property of a Hindu female dying intestate. The legislators while framing the legislation did not contemplate, at that time, that Hindu females would hold self-acquired property.

The term 'property' although not specifically defined by the Act for the purpose of Section 15 of the Act, means the property of the deceased Hindu female heritable under the Act. It includes both movable and/ or immovable properties owned and acquired by a Hindu female by virtue of inheritance or at partition or by gift or by purchase. The Section does not differentiate between the property inherited by a Hindu female and the self-acquired property of a Hindu female. It only prescribes that if property is inherited from the husband or father-in-law, it would go to her husband's heirs and if the property is inherited from her father or mother, in that case, in the absence of her issues, the property would not go to her husband or his heirs but to the heirs of her father.

THE CURRENT POSITION IN LAW FOR SELF-ACQUIRED PROPERTY OF HINDU FEMALE DYING INTESTATE: Let's look at a situation where a married Hindu female dies intestate leaving behind her self -acquired properties. We shall assume she had no issue and was a widow at the time of her death. As per the present position of law, her property would devolve in the second category i.e. to her husband's heirs. Thus, in case the mother of her husband is alive, the deceased Hindu female's entire self-acquired property would devolve on her mother-in-law. If the mother-in-law is also not alive, it would devolve as per the rules laid down in the case of a Hindu male dying intestate. Thus, if the father of her deceased husband is alive, the next in line to inherit the property will be her father-in-law, and if the father-in-law is also not alive, then her property would devolve on the brother and sister of the deceased husband. Thus, the entire self-acquired property of the Hindu female would vest in the brothers and sisters of the of the pre-deceased husband and not that of the Hindu female even if she has siblings that are alive.

Therefore, where a Hindu female dies intestate leaving behind her self-acquired property and in case where her heirs in the first category fail, her property would devolve totally upon her husband's heirs who may be very remotely related or probably even unaware of each other's existence.

A similar issue was raised before the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 3241 of 2009, Omprakash and Ors. V/s. Radhacharan and Ors.1 Smt. Narayani Devi was married to Sri. Dindayal Sharma in the year 1955 and within three months of her marriage, her husband passed away leaving her a widow. Consequently, she was driven out of her matrimonial home immediately after the demise of her husband.

She thereafter never stayed in her matrimonial home and returned to her parent's home where she was given an education and was also gainfully employed. Through the employment she acquired considerable liquid assets in the form of various bank accounts and also acuminated an enormous sum in her provident fund account. She subsequently passed away without preparing a will on 11th July, 1996. Her mother, Ramkishori, on the demise of Narayani Devi filed an application for grant of a succession certificate in terms of section 372 of the Indian Succession Act. The sons of Shri Dindayal's sister also filed a similar application. The same came before the Hon'ble Supreme Court for consideration.

The Apex Court while considering the issue held:

"[...] The law is silent with regard to self- acquired property of a woman. Sub-section (1) of Section 15, however, apart from the exceptions specified in Sub-section (2) thereof does not make any distinction between a self-acquired property and the property which she had inherited. It refers to a property which has vested in the deceased absolutely or which is her own. The self-acquired property of a female would be her absolute property and not the property which she had inherited from her parents [...]

[...] This is a hard case. Narayani during her life time did not visit her in-laws' place [...] She had not been lent any support from her husband's family [...] and all support had come from her parents but then only because a case appears to be hard would not lead us to invoke different interpretation of a statutory provision which is otherwise impermissible. It is now a well settled principle of law that sentiment or sympathy alone would not be a guiding factor in determining the rights of the parties which are otherwise clear and unambiguous [...]

The Court would not determine a question only on the basis of sympathy or sentiment. Stricto sensu equity as such may not have a role to play.

If the contention of Mr. Choudhury 2 is to be accepted, we will have to interpret Sub-section (1) of Section 15 in a manner which was not contemplated by the Parliament. The Act does not put an embargo on a female to execute a will. Subsection (1) of Section 15 would apply only in a case where a female Hindu has died intestate. In such a situation, the normal rule of succession as provided for by the statute, in our opinion, must prevail."

Thus, in case of the self-acquired property of a Hindu married female dying intestate, as in the above matter, if the husband pre-deceases her and in the absence of any issues, her property devolves on her husband's heirs. Her paternal and maternal heirs do not inherit her property, but the relations of her husband would inherit in the capacity as her husband's heirs, irrelevant of what relationship they shared.

With the growth of the nuclear family, a married woman's dependency on her natal family and continued closeness to it is much greater today even if it was not so earlier. Most married women would prefer that their parents/ siblings should be the preferred heirs to inherit their property in the absence of a husband and children.

CONCLUSION - SHOULD A HINDU FEMALE MAKE A WILL? We, due to our conditioning, still remain under the impression that it is always too early to make a Will and the right time would be when old age sets in. 

However, based on the current position in law, it is advisable that a Hindu female should protect her assets after her demise and bequeath it to persons she desires, else, in the event of intestacy, as is evident from the case of Smt. Narayani Devi, the law will take its own course and a Hindu female's property will end up in the hands of persons whom she never had any intentions of bequeathing it to or even had any relation during her lifetime.

Thus, to answer the above question of "should I make a Will?", the answer would be 'Yes'.


1  (2009) 15 SCC 66

2 Advocate for the Appellant

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions