The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, brought about many important changes in the Hindu intestate succession of properties apart from introducing a uniform law of succession among Hindus, in the entire territory of India, These important changes can be enumerated as follows:—
(1) Changes in the Hindu joint family:
Firstly, under the pre-existent law in the Hindu joint family, a coparcener could not write in respect of his interest or property in the family. But Section 30 of the Hindu Succession Act enables a coparcener to write a will in respect of his property. Secondly, on the death of coparcener, the principle of survivorship was recognised.
So that the property went to other coparceners. The widow or the daughter or daughter’s daughter of the pre-deceased coparcener cannot inherit his share in the joint family property. But under section 6 of Hindu Succession Act the widow, daughter etc., can inherit his share and so the principle of survivorship is indirectly abolished.
(2) Abolition of Sapindas Relationship:
The present Act has abolished the previous rules of inheritance. Now new rules are laid down on a totally different basis. The past sapindas relationship was totally abolished. In that place love and affection theory has come into the existence and as such both males and females could inherit the property of the deceased. It is based on the principles of justice.
This is a very important change brought about by the Act. The old law discriminated a male and female heir in the case of inheritance. Females were not at all given the right of inheritance and were totally excluded. But a limited right namely; widows estate or limited estate was given to the widows. By that they could neither sell nor gift the property.
After the widows death, the property will not go to her daughter or near relationship but will revert back to the relations of the deceased husband. Now this is totally abolished and females are equally entitled with the males in the inheritance of property.
(3) Removal of Disqualifications:
The pre-existent law disqualified the following persons from inheritance:
(a) Lunatics, (b) Idiots, (c) Unchaste widows. Now such disqualifications are abolished.
(4) Separate Property of Male Propositus:
Under the old law, simultaneous succession of different types of heirs was not recognised, e.g., when son was living the daughter, mother, father, etc., should not inherit. Succession of different types of heirs is partly recognised. Now the class I heirs namely, son, daughter, widow and mother can inherit the properties of deceased simultaneously and in equal proportion.
But in the simultaneous succession it is partly because only class I heirs can simultaneously inherit the property. The class II heirs, Agnates and Cognates cannot inherit when Class I heirs are existing. The old preferential succession is recognised in the succession of classes. Agnates will inherit in the absence of class I and II heirs, etc.
(5) Changes in Illegitimate Sons:
Under the pre-existing law, the right of succession of illegitimate son varied from school to school. It also depended on the caste to which the parents belonged. But now illegitimate son is recognised only with reference to mother and not at all connected with father’s property.
So the position of illegitimate son is simplified and he cannot claim as heir at all. In the same way, the illegitimate son of the legitimate son cannot claim any right to the grand-father or grand-mother’s property. But the legitimate son of illegitimate son can claim right to the grand-mother’s property alone.
(6) Consanguine and Uterine Blood Relations:
The heir-ship under the Succession Act is restricted to blood relations only. But consanguinity was recognised in the old law. A Hindu female could not have two husbands in her life time. So the prior Hindu Law did not recognise uterine blood relationship. But in the present Act, uterine relations are also recognised.
But both must be legitimate or adopted, it should not be illegitimate. Consanguine means one husband having more wives and the relationship of children among themselves is called consanguinity. Uterine relationship means wife having more than one husband and relationship of children among themselves in such a case.
(7) Others changes:
(1) The female heirs except in Bombay took only life estate. Now all females take absolute estate.
(2) In the previous law, the benefit of doctrine of representation was given only to sons, grandsons and great grandsons of the pre-deceased sons. But now this doctrine of representation is extended to daughters, children of pre-deceased daughters, daughters of pre-deceased sons and daughter of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son etc.
(3) The previous degree relationship namely five degrees on the mother’s side and seven degrees on the father’s side marked the limits of cognatic relationship. But now the above limits are removed for cognates.
(4) In the same way, 14th degree of samonadakas marked the limits of agnate’s relationship. Now the limit is completely removed.
(5) The Act has abolished impartible estates except those created by statute.
(6) The Act does not apply to properties of a person who married under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
(7) The Act does not apply to Mitakshara coparcenary property. But when coparcener dies leaving female heirs mentioned in class I of the Act or male relative of the claim claiming through such female relative, the property of the ancestor is subjected to rules of inheritance under the Act and the coparcenership is abolished.
(8) The Act abolished the difference between male and female heirs.
(9) The Act entitles a male Hindu to dispose of heir’s interest in Mitakshara coparcenary property by will.
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