Decoding the Property Rights of Hindu Women

Author- Mahendra Pratap Bharti, BALLB 3rd Year Student from Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida


Since the ancient time, the women have always been subject to man’s superiority. The women were dependent upon the men for their survival, safety, food, security, and all. Even at some places they were treated as the property itself. In many early societies the women were considered as the property just like the other material and immaterial properties like wealth, land, and all. But with the change of the time, there has been change in the status of the women in every society. The women who were subject or inferior to superiority of men have now become capable of working with the same pace as of men. You can clearly observe in your society that women are giving neck to neck competition to the men and are ahead in several aspects as well. With the struggle of status, the women also had to fight of being capable to have their own property. The struggle has been a struggle of centuries. In ancient times, they had no as such right to hold and dispose of property and now in the modern times, they have now become equal to sons when it comes to having shares in the father’s property as per the Hindu laws. This paper will examine the status of women to hold and dispose of properties in the ancient times and in early Hindu laws and simultaneously it will provide a brief, how the status of women has now changed and become equal to men in the Hindu society. The paper will also elaborate some case laws to have better understanding of the topic.


The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was enforced on dated 17th June, 1956, which was a part of the Hindu Code Bill which was presented in the Assembly by Dr BR Ambedkar however the whole Hindu Code Bill did not get enough votes to be passed in the assembly but several Acts were passed to codify the Hindu laws, and one of the such Act was the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. With this Act the women were given several rights over the ‘Stridhan’ and as well as it being capable of being inherited by her heirs. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was passed to remove the inequalities in the societies between the two genders over the right to property. By granting women the freedom to acquire and dispose of property as they please, this legislation seeks to empower women as full owners and additionally, it had retroactive impact for properties purchased prior to the Code’s implementation. Before we discuss what happened after the commencement of this Act, first let us understand the women right to property in early times.


Women’s inheritance rights were severely restricted under Hindu traditional customs and laws. As per the ancient Hindu literatures the women had the authority to hold the property, but it was only embodying in the texts of those literatures. In practical life they had no rights as such. They were not allowed to hold of properties. The schools of the Mitakshara and Dayabhaga were two main law providing traditions in India. But under both the schools the women had no right of inheritance over the property of the parents. The women’s property has been classified into two parts; they are discussed below:

Stridhan Property

The women had absolute ownership over these properties. These properties were presents from her parents, spouse, other relatives, and non-relatives as well. When it comes to disposition of these properties, she had the absolute right to dispose of the properties gifted to her by husband, parents, or other relatives. But in case of the properties gifted to her by the non-relatives, she had the limited right over it, she could only use and enjoy that property, when it comes disposition, she must take the consent of her husband for the same.

Non-Stridhan Property  

These properties are consisting of gifts and property inherited by the women from her relatives. Women had very limited right over these properties, she could only use and enjoy these properties but had no right to dispose of. The only possible way for the devolving this property was after her death, which gets divided among her surviving heirs.


The Act improved the position of Indian women in respect of holding the property. The widow of the deceased person was made to have right over the late husband’s property after his death. The widow was the only one with ownership rights to such property. She did, however, have certain restrictions on this property, which she owned until the end of her life. When it comes to disposition of such property, she had very restrictive rights as such. There were separate rules for the disposition of self-acquired and the ancestral property respectively.


The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was enforced on dated 17th June, 1956. This enactment, which made some significant modifications to the antiquated personal laws, attempted to actualize the procedure and position of women about property inheritance. Section 14 of the Act states that “any property which is in possession of female Hindu, she would be the full owner of that property, it immaterial whether she acquired that property before or after the commencement of the same Act.” This Code eliminated the idea of women having limited ownership. She was free to choose how to use and enjoy her properties now that she had complete and total ownership over them. 

In the explanation of the Section 14 it provides that the property mentioned in the section 14 of the Act includes each and every type of property whether it is movable or immovable etc. So, it made clear that women would be absolute owner of any property which is possessed by her. She become able to fully exercise her right over that property and concept of differentiation in properties as ‘Stridhan’ or ‘non-Stridhan’ was abolished. 

Disposition of the Property

When the question comes for the disposition of that property, since the women were absolute owners of all the property, they possessed she had all the rights for its disposition as well. She could dispose of the property in whatever way she wanted. In contrast to women, who were not allowed to dispose of coparcenary property through a will, only men were allowed to do so.

Now, let us understand the situation by looking at some of the important case laws:

  • Punithavalli Ammal v. Ramalingam and Anr. 1970 AIR 1730

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that women have an unalienable right guaranteed by Section 14(1), which cannot be restricted in any way by legal interpretation or assumption.

Furthermore, it decided that the date of possession of the property is meaningless because women who owned it before to the law was enacted would now have full rights that were previously restricted.

  • Pratap Singh v. Union of India 1985 AIR 1695

Many Hindu males criticised Section 14(1), arguing that it violates the right to equality given by Article 14 and is therefore unconstitutional. However, the Supreme Court ruled in Pratap Singh that there was no breach of Article 14 or Article 15(1) in relation to the clause. Given the necessity of bolstering women’s rights, it was constitutional.

  • Agasti Karuna v. Cherukuri Krishnaiah 2000 AIHC 84

In this case, the Andhra Pradesh High Court ruled that, in accordance with Section 14 of the HSA, women had the sole right to the deceased husband’s property. The wife’s transfer or alienation of such property after the commencement of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 cannot be contested by any successor.


Another provision of the Act which is essential to note here is the section 30 of the said Act. As per the Hindu Succession Act,1956 Section 30; a Hindu woman possesses complete legal authority to sell her possessions through intestate or testamentary succession in accordance with her entitlement to full ownership. Making a will to distribute their belongings was once limited to Hindu men alone. Hindu women now enjoy equal rights. 


17th report of the Law Commission proposed reforms under the Hindu law under the chairmanship of Justice VP Jeevan Reddy. It was this recommendation which led to amendment in the existing Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The amendment substituted the section 6 of the Act and now it provides that before, only the male family members were allowed to inherit their father’s possessions; now, married women can too inherit the same. This meant that women might now inherit the patriarchal property and become coparceners of the family, with equal deposition rights as of the sons. This amendment provides that, unlike before, a Hindu woman who is the oldest member of the family has an equal right to become the Karta of a Hindu Undivided family. Simultaneously whether she is married or not, a daughter of a deceased father has an equal claim to his property. The Act also provides that daughters may even request that the coparcenary property be divided because they now have an interest in it. These days, women can form both their own joint family and coparcenary as well.

Disposition of the Property

Now, when the question comes for the disposition of that property, it has provided under the Section 6 of the same amendment Act. Section 6(1) of the Amendment Act talks about the right to hold property available to Hindu women whereas section 6(2) & (3) talks about the manner of disposition of the property under the possession of Hindu women.

Section 6(2) provides that A female coparcener may use a testamentary disposition to distribute her coparcenary property.

Section 6(3) makes it clear that female coparceners have the same rights to share as their male coparceners.

Previously, Section 30 permitted only Hindu men to dispose of their coparcenary property by testamentary means, as women were not previously included in the coparcenary. However, they now have the right to participate in coparcenary as well as the ability to dispose of coparcenary property through a will according to the 2005 Amendment.

Now let’s look at some famous case laws to have a clear the picture of this concept:

  • Vaishali Satish Ganorkar v. Satish Keshorao Ganorkar AIR 2012 Bom

It was held by the Bombay High Court that the term ‘devolution of interest’ interpreted as the devolution takes place when the coparcener dies and his succession opens. The word ‘shall’ denote the future tense and the word ‘on and from’ means from the commencement of the Act. 

So, it categorises daughter into two categories- one born before the amendment and one after it. The former become coparcener only on devolution of interest while latter by birth.

  • Badrinarayan Shankar Bhandari v. Om Prakash Shankar Bhandari AIR 2014 Bom

The question was raised here that whether the heirs of the daughter who has been died will get share in the property of father of the daughter. Full bench of the Bombay High Court held that this provision is applicable to all living daughters who born prior or after the amendment but not to the heirs of the daughter who died before the amendment.

  • Prakash and Anr v. Phulawati and Anr AIR 2015 SC

Now the question of the interpretation of the section came in light before the Supreme Court and the court held that amended section has prospective effect and daughter as well as at the time of the commencement of the amendment the father should be alive. The Supreme Court summed up the right as follows:

  1. The amendment of the substantive provision is always prospective unless it is expressly mentioned or intended to be retrospective.
  2. The contention that the amendment should be read as retrospective being a social piece of legislation cannot be accepted.
  3. Rights of the daughters depend on the fact that they have living coparceners on the date of amendment (living daughters of living coparceners).
  4. Amendment will not affect any disposition or alienation which took place before the commencement of the amendment act.
  • Vineeta Sharma and Ors v. Rakesh Sharma and Ors AIR 2018 SC

The Supreme Court held that irrespective of a coparcener father being alive or not on or before the Amendment Act 2005, a daughter would be entitled to a share in coparcenary property in the same manner as son simply by virtue of: her birth and her being alive as on the date of the Amendment.

  • Dhanamma @ Suman Surgur v. Amar AIR 2018 SC

It was held in this case that where a suit of partition was filed by son in 2002 and during the pendency of the case the amendment of 2005 was done, the daughter would be held as coparcener in that property as well.


The rights of Hindu women to own and dispose of their property have seen significant advancements with the time. Once upon time, women were not able to hold any property but with the development of time they have now become equally capable as the sons are. They now can become the coparceners of the property and even be a Karta of the Joint Hindu Family if she is the senior most member of the family. She now has all the rights to dispose of the property in whichever manner she likes. They also have the option to dispose of such coparcenary property through a testamentary disposition or by requesting partition. 

Lastly, the role of judiciary has been appreciable in this regard. With its judgement in different case laws the judiciary has always been providing the justice to the needy so as to the women of the Hindu society as well.


Decoding the Property Rights of Hindu Women

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