In article <101800015@uiucdcs>, re...
> The wife has no right to her husband's "inherited wealth". Only sons have.
> On the other hand, the wife may have right to her husband's "earned wealth".
> I am not sure howmuch.
Not so at all. I was able to find a copy of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956
in our library, and it confirms the substance of my earlier posting that the
rights of female heirs are equal with that of male heirs. Your statement
roughly corresponds to the law governing "joint-family" property prior to
1956. However, even that has changed as a result of the act.
Let me quote from the Hindu Succession Act (Sec. 10 applying to a male dying
"The property of an intestate shall be divided among the heirs is class I
of the Schedule in accordance with the following rules:
Rule 1: The intestate's widow, or if there are more widows than one,
all the widows together, shall take one share.
[My comment: While bigamy has been contrary to custom in most
Hindu communities, it is possible (given the diversity of custom
in India) that it may have been found in some communities
prior to the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 outlawing the practice.]
Rule 2: The surviving sons and daughters, and the mother of the intestate
shall each take one share.
Rule 3: The heirs in the branch of each predeceased son or each predeceased
daughter of the intestate shall take between them one share.
Rule 4: The distribution of the share referred to in Rule 3....(etc.)"
The Schedule mentioned in the act lists the following persons as Class I
heirs: Son, daughter, widow, mother. Now, if a son or daughter has died
before the father, then the above rules are applied recursively to the
tree rooted at the predeceased son or daughter, except that at this subtree
the mother is not a Class I heir (she already having received a full share
of her husband's property). This recursive rule may be applied one further
level (in the case of a predeceased grandchild).
This also confirms an asymmetry in the law biased in favour of female
heirs: The father is not a Class I heir to his son's property (he is a
Class II heir). Since surviving Class I heirs inherit property before,
and to the exclusion of heirs in classes II, III, and IV, the father
typically gets none of his son's property. On the other hand, if a son
dies single (and childless), his mother inherits all his property.
Now regarding the "inherited property" issue: (The following will not be
found in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956). As per the traditional
"Mitakshara" law that used to be followed by most of India (Bengal followed
the "Dayabhaga" law, and NO PLACE in India followed the "Laws of Manu"),
"joint-family" property was owned by all the males in the joint family as
co-parcenaries. The very birth of a son conferred upon him a share in the
"joint-family" property EQUAL to that of his father and all others (uncles,
brothers, etc.) having a share in the property. Hence, on the death of his
father, the property devolved NOT by succession, but simply by survivorship.
The wife of a deceased male did have full rights to income accruing from her
husband's share of the property, but no right to the property itself.
Under present law, however, if a male having a share in such "joint-family"
property dies leaving a female Class I heir, his share of the property is to
be divided as per rules 1-4 above. The old law relating to undivided
"joint-family" property applies ONLY if there is NEITHER a Class I female
heir NOR any Class I male heirs of a Class I female heir (if she be
predeceased). This ensures that female heirs also get their share of
"joint-family" or "Mitakshara" property.