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SC to decide if Muslim women get equality in succession

The Supreme Court, while hearing a civil appeal, said that it will look into the question if Muslim women have the right to claim equality in succession in light of Article 14 (Right to equality) and 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) of the Indian constitution.

A bench headed by Justice C T Ravikumar and Rajesh Bindal said it will look into three questions that arose while hearing a civil case appeal.

  1. Whether Muslim women have right to claim equality in succession in view of the mandate of Constitution of India under Articles 14 and 15 thereof in the light of Article 44.
  2. Whether a testator, who is governed by Mohammedan Law, is entitled to execute a Will of his entire estate left, according to his wish?
  3. Whether a testator, who is governed by Mohammedan Law, can execute a Will to the extent of 1/3rd of the estate left by him in favour of any or more of his legal heirs without the consent of other legal heirs?

The case

The bench was hearing a suit where the respondents claimed their late father Hazi, who has four sons, left properties in his Will for three and left the fourth son out.

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The Will was framed as per the Sharia Law.

The appeal was first heard in a trial court where the late Hazi’s decision to give properties to three sons and leave the fourth son out was upheld.

Later the appeal was heard in an appellant court which modified the decision stating while the 1/3rd of the will will be given to a third party, 2/3rd of it will be distributed equally amongst the four sons.

The appeal reached the High Court which quashed the appellant court’s order and restored the trial court. However, a condition was made that the 1/3rd of the property would be waived off to a third party with the consent of the legal heirs.

Inheritance and Muslim women

During the hearing, the Supreme Court bench headed by C T Ravikumar and Rajesh Bindal, pointed out a similar appeal in Karnataka High Court concerning one son and a daughter. The will, according to the Sharia Law gave 3/4th of the property to the son while the daughter was left with 1/4th. In this case, the daughter appealed and got 1/3rd of the property as her share of inheritance but not 50%.

The Supreme Court appointed Senior Advocate V Giri as an Amicus Curiae in the case and also asked Advocate-on-Record Amit Krishnan to assist him in the matter.

The Registry is directed to supply the complete set of paper book of these appeals to Mr. Amit Krishnan, AOR, assisting the learned Amicus Curiae and the Office of the learned Attorney General for India along with a copy of this order, after incorporating the corrections in the paper book, as sought for by the appellant.,” the Court recorded before parting and posted the matter to July, 25.

Kerala Couple remarried under Special Act

It should be noted that in March last year, a Kerala Muslim couple remarried under the Special Marriage Act so that their property after their death went to their three daughters and not other family members as per the Sharia Law. The couple had first married in 1992 under the Sharia Law.

Hence, to ensure that their hard-earned property should go to their children only, the couple got married under the Special Marriage Act which states that the succession to the property of any person solemnised under it will be governed by the Indian Succession Act.

What is Sharia Law of inheritance for Muslim women?

The inheritance rights for Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, which is based on Islamic principles of inheritance. Although daughters are eligible, they are not equal parties to the share when compared to their brothers.

In cases where there are no sons and only daughters, the latter gets 2/3rd of the property while 1/3rd is divided amongst family members, like spouses, cousins etc.

Also, if a Muslim man dies leaving behind both sons and daughters, each son will inherit twice the share of each daughter.

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