Property of a female Hindu to be her absolute property

 

Section 14 of The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 states that,

(1) 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.

Explanation: In this sub-section, “property” includes both movable and immovable property acquired by a female Hindu by inheritance or devise, or at a partition, or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance, or by gift from any person, whether a relative or not, before, at or after her marriage, or by her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by prescription, or in any other manner whatsoever, and also any such property held by her as streedhan immediately before the commencement of this Act.

(2) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall apply to any property acquired by way of gift or under a will or any other instrument or under a decree or order of a civil court or under an award where the terms of the gift, will or other instrument or the decree, order or award prescribe a restricted estate in such property.

Under this Section , any property acquired by a Hindu female except that which is covered by sub-section 2 before the Act came into force will became her absolute property and any property acquired by a Hindu female except that which covered by the commencement of Act will be her absolute property.

 

The above stated changes could be seen while going through the observation of courts at different periods:-

In Janaki v. Narayana Swami,  Privy Council observed regarding women’s estate as “her right is of the nature of right of property, her position is that of owner; her powers in tat character are, limited…So long as she is alive , no one has vested interest in succession.”

 

In another case,  Kalawati v. Suraj, SC stated that in the context of section 14 “ ‘women’ does not mean any woman , but that woman who is the owner of woman’s estate. If the holder of woman’s estate had alienated the estate to a woman, that woman is not the woman whose estate is enlarged to full estate.”

“The effect of rule laid down in the Section 14 of The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is to abrogate the stringent provisions against the proprietary rights of a female which are often regarded as evidence of her perpetual tutelage and to recognize her status as independent and absolute owner of property.”

Before the enactment of The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Hindu women has streedhan as:-

(a)Absolute property and

(b) Limited estate.

 

When the constitutionality of the Act has been challenged and SC has observed that the Act has the object of enhancing women’s limited estate concept regarding property into absolute interest. It is within the spirit of court of India. Hence it is not violative of any fundamental rights especially Art.14, 15(1) of the Constitution of India.

 

S.14 has been given retrospective effect. But this Section has no application for those who has already inherited and alienated the property before the Act came into force. In Anandibhai v. Sundarabhai , High Court has been observed as “the expression ‘any property possessed by a female Hindu’ in Section 14 means ‘any property owned by a female Hindu’ at the date of the commencement of the Act, and, these words are prospective in their application. Any property ‘acquired before’ the commencement of the act shall be the absolute property. The expression ‘whether acquired before or after the commencement of this act’ shows that section is operative retrospectively.

 

There are two conditions to be fulfilled for the application of Section 14 of The Hindu Succession Act, 1956:

Ø Ownership of the property must vest in her, and

Ø She must be in the possession of the Estate when the Act came into force.

 

Supreme Courts and High courts have given wider connotations for the term possession. According to their observation, it can be in the form of actual and constructive possession. In Santosh v. Saraswathi, a question has been raised regarding the possession of property of female Hindu and Court held the view that where property was given to the woman by way of maintenance over which she had a right, her possession was accepted, it became her absolute property. Even when the property is in the possession of a trespasser, it has been held that she is in constructive possession.

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