This article is written by Ishika Gupta pursuing BBA L.LB from Gitarattan International Business School. This article aims to discuss in detail the general rules of succession of Hindu male as per Hindu Succession Act,1956.
The two main systems for inheritance under Hindu law are Dayabhaga and Mitakshara. Both had different rules for inheritance of the property. While Dayabhaga was prevalent in Bengal and its adjoining areas Mitakshara was prevalent in the rest of the country. To bring uniformity in the application of general rules The Hindu Succession Act was applied on June 17, 1956. The main aim was to bring the changes in the rules of succession that were long demanded due to a change in social and economic perspectives of the people.
Succession in general means the act of following or passing the objects, places etc in a particular series. As per the Indian law, succession means the succeeding or passing of rights over property and other things from one person to another. When a person is alive he is the master of the property vested in him but after his demise, it has to be passed to someone else. However, this passage or redistribution of property among the other family members is subject to many rules under The Hindu Succession Act,1956.
Generally, there are two types of succession mentioned below:
1. Testamentary Succession: Whenever a person dies leaving behind his will he is free to choose the
2. Intestate Succession: It is the opposite situation i.e. when the person dies without making a will the property will be distributed among the members as per the law of inheritance. As per Section 3(g) of HSA, “a person is deemed to die intestate in respect of property of which he or she has not made a testamentary deposition capable to taking effect”. The law related to intestate succession deals with matters like who is entitled to property i.e. who are the heirs, if there is more than one heir then how will the property be distributed. Heir has been defined in Section 3(f) as a person who is entitled to succeed to the property intestate under the act.
Section 8 to Section 13 lay down the general laws of succession to the property of a Hindu male dying intestate. Section 8 talks about the rules of succession that are applicable when a Hindu male dies intestate after this act came into force.
Rules of Succession
Section 8 says that the dissolution of the property of person dying intestate must be as per the series laid down below. It is to be noted that property under HSA could be the separate or coparcenary property of the person, joint family property.
1. Firstly, it will pass upon the person who is mentioned in the list of Class 1 heirs of the act,
2. Secondly, if no person from class 1 is present it will pass onto persons mentioned in Class 2,
3. Thirdly, if no one from any of the class is there to succeed the property it will be distributed to the agnates as mentioned in Section 12,
4. Fourthly, if none of the people mentioned in the above three lists is present then it will devolve to cognates as mentioned in Section 13.
Class I Heirs
In simple words, if Hindu male dies intestate, the property entrusted in him is distributed among the members mentioned in class 1 equally and there is no preference order. The members mentioned in class 1 schedule are deceased person’s son, daughter, widow, mother, son of a predeceased son, daughter of predeceased son, son of a predeceased daughter, daughter of a predeceased daughter, widow of a predeceased son, son of predeceased son of a predeceased son, daughter of predeceased son of a predeceased son, widow of predeceased son of a predeceased son. Under this, the adopted child is also deemed as a natural child and the children born are out of the void or voidable marriage are also considered as legitimate children. Since the widows are also class 1 heirs but if there are more than 1 heir then the widows will inherit the property jointly. Married daughters are also eligible to inherit. Mother is always entitled to inherit the property, she can be divorced or remarried also as mentioned in Jayalaxmi v Ganesh Iyer.
Class II Heris
If at the time of distribution none of these people is there in the family then the members of class 2 are looked upon. But there is preference order among these and the people in one order are given property equally. As held in Karumaswami v Nanjappa the class 2 heirs are divided into 9 entries and all of them inherit cumulatively. If there are more than 1 brother or sister they inherit simultaneously. However full blood is preferred over half-blood whereas uterine blood is not counted.
If none of the heirs under class 1 and class 2 are available then the property moves towards agnates. Agnates are the person who by blood or adoption are wholly related through males. Hence it is clear that the people are related by blood or adoption and not by marriage as mentioned in Section 3(g). There is no degree of the relationship under agnates and both male and female can be agnates. Also, there is no difference between full or half-blood.
If agnates are also not present for dissolution then the cognates come into the picture. Cognates, as explained earlier, are related through females. Hence it does not matter how many women are there in the series, once one female is there the descendants are recognised as cognates. Similar to agnates cognates are also related through blood and adoption and not marriage.
While Section 8 and 9 discuss the preference order of class 1 and class 2 heirs, Section 10 talks about the share of each person when there are more than one persons to inherit simultaneously.
Section 12 lays down some rules for distribution of property among agnates and cognates:
Rule 1. Whenever there are more than 1 agnate or cognate the one who has less or few ascent degrees is preferred i.e. among descendants, ascendants and collaterals the descendants are preferred and so on.
Rule 2. When there are people with same degree of ascent the one with less degree of descent is preferred over the other.
Rule 3. If none of the heirs matches above rules then both will inherit the property equally.
Hence it is clear from the above information that the order of succession of Hindu male dying intestate is class 1 heir, class 2 heir, agnates and cognates. However, among these categories, there are different rules according to which the property is distributed among them.
Whenever there is no will made by the deceased he is said to dying intestate and in such case, the Hindu Succession Act comes in place and court checks the heirs as per the act and distributes the share to the heirs as per the rules.
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