Does a widow have rights in her husband’s property?

Section 10 in The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 talks about the distribution of property in situation husband dies intestate and says that distribution of property shall take place among the heirs in class I of the Schedule wherein the Rule 1 specifically states that the intestate’s widow, or if there are more widows than one, all the widows together shall take one share.

For instance, if husband dies intestate and is survived by two widows and a son, heirs in Class I shall take the property simultaneously and to the exclusion of all others. Here according to the provisions of Rule 1 of section 10, both the widows of the husband shall take one-half share in the property of the husband and the other half shall go to his son.

In situation a husband dies intestate leaving two widows and no sons, both of them shall inherit the property equally, i.e. both of them shall be entitled to one-half share, there being no other Class I heir.

A remarried widow can keep the share of her dead husband’s property

In 2008, the Supreme Court of India decided that widow who remarries cannot be deprived of a share in her dead husband’s property as according to it the widow becomes an absolute owner of the deceased husband’s riches to the extent of her share as the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act 1956 would prevail over the earlier Hindu Widow’s Remarriage Act 1856.

The Supreme Court of India did not concur with the provisions of the Hindu Widow’s Remarriage Act 1856 which says that all rights and interests which any widow may have in her deceased husband’s property by way of maintenance, or by inheritance, shall cease upon her re-marriage and set it aside.

The apex court based its decision on the fact that since the Hindu Marriage Act provides for absolute ownership for a widow over her deceased’s husband property; she cannot be deprived of the same. The change in her marital status thereafter does not matter, particularly after the tremendous changes brought in by the Hindu Succession Act.

The Supreme Court in its decision observed that the Hindu Succession Act had brought about a sea change in Shastric Hindu law and made Hindu widows eligible and equal in the matter of inheritance and succession along with male heirs.

The Apex court held that section 4 of Hindu Marriage Act would have overriding effect over the text of any Hindu law including the Hindu Widow’s Remarriage Act.

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