The Rights of a Hindu Widow

The rights of women have come a long way today since the age when a woman was looked after by her father during her childhood, by her husband when she got married and by her son after she was widowed!

However, people unfortunately continue to have the age old ideas of women being able to enjoy the property only during the lifetime of her husband, and if she does not have a son the property reverts to her husband’s heirs.

Since The Hindu Succession Act 1956 came into existence a woman has come into her own. The Act has come forth with the concept of Absolute Ownership of property. A woman has become a full owner of her property. Previously there was a concept of Limited Ownership, i.e. she could enjoy the property during her lifetime. After she died, the property went to her sons or to the husband’s heirs if she had no son.

Today whatever property belonging to a woman, which she may have earned out of her own efforts, or property received by her in inheritance, or gifts received at the time of her marriage, or in connection with her marriage (Streedhan) or her share in her deceased husband’s property is her absolute property i.e. she not only can enjoy it absolutely during her life time but has full rights of disposal of the property in any manner she so desires.

 

She can make a will; she can gift it during her life time, deal with or dispose it off by sale, transfer, or lease it off.

 

A Hindu widow has equal rights in her husband’s property along with her children and the mother-in-law. She may actually receive her share much later after the death, however her share remains intact.

Even if she has remarried after her husband’s death before receiving the actual share in his property, she is still entitled to receive her share, because when her husband’s succession opened i.e. on his death, she was his wife and hence she is an equal heir in his estate along with her children and her mother-in-law.

However a divorced wife has no rights in her ex-husbands property. In numerous cases the husband has nominated his mother in the Forms filled at the time of seeking employment, and subsequently forgotten to change the nomination.

The Law is settled on this point that the Nominee is only a Trustee and the widow, although not named in the Nomination Form is also an equal heir and is entitled to her share in the dead husband’s estate along with her children and her mother-in-law.

Special provision respecting dwelling houses: Where a Hindu man dies leaving behind him his widow, and his property includes a dwelling-house wholly occupied by members of his family, then, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the right of any such female heir to claim partition of the dwelling-house shall not arise until the male heirs choose to divide their respective shares therein; but the widow shall be entitled to a right of residence therein.

 

This article has been written by Ketaki Jayakar, Advocate.

 

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