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2/4/2019

Women’s Property Rights Before and After Marriage in India

Earlier, women faced discrimination in matters of property ownership in India. Especially, married women had limited rights in their parental property. Widows lived their lives at the mercy of their sons. However, the norms have changed today, and the government is considerate towards the equality of rights in the property.

Many progressive steps have been taken to promote property holding among women in recent times such as offering home loan at concessional rates and keeping stamp duty charges lower. The Centre puts its foot forward to empower women's property rights through various amendments to legislation. Know how the property rights have evolved and what is the share for women in India

Women and their Property Rights

A woman over 18 years of age has all the rights to buy property in India and full ownership rights on property bought by her or willed to her or gifted to her by her parents. She can also sell or give it away as a gift or through a will. The rights do not change after her marriage. Daughters have equal right of inheritance as sons to their father's property as well as having a share in the mother's property. This is true for property self-acquired by the parent. The rules, however, differ for ancestral property (inherited by the parent), based on whether the parent was alive as of September 2005 or not.

Introduction of the Act

Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act introduced in 1956 declared that “Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner.” By property, the government includes both movable and immovable ones. In spite of this act and right, women mostly were unaware of their rights, and they falsely believed to have only limited powers over property, besides numerous other restrictions. The same Act was once again amended in 2005 for equal property rights of Women as previously, a woman had no right to joint ownership or coparcenary property. Section 6 of the amended Act talks about the devolution of interest in coparcenary properties which allows a daughter to become an owner of the coparcenary property by birthright in the same manner as a son does. Widows are also entitled to claim a share equal to that of their children at the time of distribution of the joint family property among the sons. The amended act applied to the various sects and castes of Hindus, along with Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains.

Rights over her husband’s and in-law’s property

Marriage does not grant automatic rights to a wife over her husband’s property. She can inherit it only after her husband's lifetime and on the basis of the will. 
A daughter-in-law does not have a right over the property of her in-laws. She can only get a share after it is passed on to her husband and then from him through succession or a will.
Earlier, during a divorce, a wife had the right to get only a share of the property acquired by the husband after marriage, excluding the property owned before marriage. Later, as per the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill in 2013, 50 percent share was given to the women in all properties owned by the husband upon divorce.

Hurdles in the Amended Act

However, many difficulties came up in granting equal property rights to women. Section 8 and 9 of the Act deal with the devolution of property in case of the death of a male where his relatives get to inherit the property. On the other hand, section 15 and 16 states that in case the woman dies, her husband would inherit the property over her parents. The laws need to be made gender-neutral by the government, and there should be no distinction between the order of succession and rules of inheritance for men and women.

Schedule IX of the Indian Constitution lists the various laws that are beyond the scope of judicial review. It contains the Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Acts (ZALR) of multiple states in India that govern agricultural land holdings. ZALR generally does not grant the same rights to women in inheritance as their male counterparts. The reason being to avoid the fragmentation of land holdings into smaller and smaller parts by the authorities. The decision is taken in favor of the sons while leaving the daughters with practically nothing.

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