- Karnataka High Court has said that when a father gifts something to her daughter in marriage, then it is part of the property he is gifting
- Earlier, the dowry and Hindu Succession act made the inheritance system biased against the male child
- The judgment is expected to bring balance to the highly polarized gender debate in India
Ever since India gained independence, the primary focus of our polity has been to give equal rights to both men and women. However, sometimes the quest went too far by undermining the rights of men. A landmark decision on women’s inheritance rights is expected to start a conversation about balancing the conversation around gender discourse.
Gifts during marriage are property transfer
Karnataka High Court has clearly demarcated the line between properties owned by the daughter in different circumstances. It has established that if a girl has been gifted certain property during her marriage, then that will be considered as part of her share in family property and not a special privilege afforded to her at the expense of other siblings.
Property rights in India
Section 6(1) (b) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 says, “The daughter of a coparcener shall have the same rights in the coparcenary property as she would have had if she had been a son”.
The aforementioned clause established that a girl would have an equal share in her family property as that of her brother. However, it is also a custom in Hindu marriages that families offer gifts to their daughters during their marriages. The gifts can range from clothing to jewellery to a portion of the father’s property.
Case in issue
The discrepancy arose due to the status of this gift. In the present case, a father had effectively handed over some properties to his daughter at the time of her marriage. Later, when the property dispute arose in the woman’s maternal family, she asked to not include the house given by her father to be counted in property already given to her.
The Lower Court did not accept this demand and gave the decision against the woman. Later, she appealed to Karnataka High Court for what she thought was an injustice to her. However, the High Court categorically refused to reverse the judgment of the Lower Court.
Karnataka High Court draws the line
Commenting on the opaqueness created by the woman, Justice Suraj Govindarajan said, “In my opinion the beneficiary of section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act cannot claim the benefit of partition in a joint family unless she has disclosed the property acquired at the time of marriage.”
Establishing that the gift by her father is a share from his property, Justice Govindarajan added, “Those properties, which were once part of a joint family and have been received by the plaintiff, will also have to form part of the partition.”
Judgment is balanced
The judgment also tries to solve the dichotomy between impractical dowry laws and the division of property between siblings. Despite decades of campaigns against dowry, it has not stopped. So, a girl child would end up getting a larger share in property due to the combination of dowry and Hindu succession act.
Here is how it happens
Suppose a family has two children: one boy and one girl. Now, when the daughter is getting married, she is getting hefty gifts from her parents, which our laws call dowry. On the other hand, due to the Hindu succession act, she gets half of the remaining property which was earlier used by the son of the family. This meant that son would get a disproportionately low number of resources from his parents.
Through this judgment, Court has rightly drawn a boundary around various women-centric laws promoting female entitlement instead of gender equality.