The Rights Of A Hindu Widow In Husband’s Property
Family Dispute

The Rights Of A Hindu Widow In Husband’s Property

The Position Of Women In Society

The position of women in terms of proprietorship in any system of law is governed by the thought and the belief system of the community. Thus, the ownership status that a woman availed in the Hindu law did not just reflect the index of the Hindu civilization but also the appropriate yardstick of the culture of the Hindu race.

The Hindu Shastras assigned a role, to the widow and even to the women in general, both in her family and society, a state of dependence and submission. "Through independence, the women go to ruin, though born in a noble family.”

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Widow’s Right Over Stridhan Before-1956

When a woman became a widow, the woman suffered an absolute and unrestricted right of loss of property, it didn’t matter whether the property had been acquired before or after the death of her husband. Thus, she was pushed to give up the properties without her will. Thus, her near relative could easily inherit her property. 

Changes In The Law Of Stridhan, Post-1956 After The Hindu Succession Act 

As per the new provision, a widow is like a limited heir. Accordingly, she receives the property for her entire life but she is the owner of the property which is inherited as a tenant. However, her alienation right is limited. After her death, the property is not acquired by her heirs rather it passes on to the heirs of the last full owner thereof. Thus, the main feature of a woman's estate is: that the woman is a limited owner. To put it more clearly, she owns this property in the same manner as any other person can own the property subject to the basic limitation:

She cannot easily give up the corpus and; when she dies, it is acquired by the next successor of the last full owner. To cite a practical instance, in the Janki vs. Narayaswami, the Privy Council did observe: Her right is like the right of property, she holds the position of the owner; Her powers in that role are, however, limited. Until she is alive, no one has a vested interest in succession.\

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Her disposal power on the property is subject to limits and it is the limit that goes to explain the nature of her estate. The limitations are not put up for the benefit of the reversioners. In case, there are no reversioners, the estate carries on to be a limited estate.

About The Relevant Provisions

The Widow Remarriage Act of 1856:  The various rights and interests which a  widow commands in her dead husband's property will end after her remarriage; and the other successors of her deceased husband, or some other person legible to the property after her death, will thereupon succeed to the same.

Hindu Succession Act, 1956: The widows who go on to remarry hold a right on their dead husband's property. The Hindu law felt it was a necessity in a situation where the widow had to sell her deceased husband's ancestral property. Situations arose where she needed money for giving charity or doing rituals in memory of her late husband. The wedding expenses of the daughter also led to a legal necessity.

The Rights Of A Hindu Widow - The Widow Remarriage Act of 1856:

The various rights and interests which any widow had held in the property of her dead husband shall, once she marries, cease, and the next successors of her deceased husband, or some other person entitled to this property after her death, shall thereafter succeed to the same. But, this Act was repealed. As per the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, widows who decide to remarry will have a right on their deceased husband's property.

Can Widow Claim Husband's Ancestral Property After Remarriage?

Further, the Mumbai High Court (HC) ruled that a widow who marries again need not give up her right over the ancestral property of her deceased husband. This got highlighted when a man (who was the brother of the deceased) took recourse to Section 2 of the Widow Remarriage Act 1856 and stated that his sister-in-law should be barred from acquiring her former husband's property as she had remarried. But, the HC decreed that she is still grouped under the Class-I successor of her deceased husband and thus should inherit the property.

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The Claim Of The Hindu Widow Over Husband's Property

In a scenario wherein a Hindu widow purchased immovable property in possession as such of the estate of her dead husband out of the income of the estate, such property does not mandatorily become an accretion to the husband's estate. So the widow can dispose of it during her lifetime, and only when she feels during her lifetime a clear intention to consider it as an addition to her husband's ancestral property, or permits it after her death to remain undisposed of, that such property can become part of that estate.

When A Man Dies With More Than One Widow

In case a man dies with more than one widow, the widows have the right to invoke the law for acquiring and partitioning the property. Their right to informally divide the estate amongst themselves has been recognized by the Court.