Rights of women have changed with the passage of time. Women rights in the property may be studied in two parts – first her rights in her own ancestral property through her father, property self acquired by her father and second, her rights in the property of her husband and in-laws.
Women have equal rights in parental and ancestral property
Although in the ancient times also women were respected but they were not treated equally when it comes to her rights in ancestral property. Now, after the Hindu Succession (Amendment)Act, 2005, a woman has equal rights as of her brothers on the property of her own parents. When it comes to property to be passed on through inheritance, a woman is equal to her brothers. Further, with the change brought in by the legislation, a widow is to be treated equally with her sons when it comes to the rights in the property of a deceased husband. The Hindu woman’s rights to property act replaces the rule of Hindu law that a widow was to get only when her sons or their sons actually divided the estate. Now, under the act, a widow gets right to the same share as her son, independent of whether a partition takes place or not. In such a case, a widowed daughter-in-law gets equal rights along with her own son in the ancestral property of her husband. Further, she gets right of her deceased husband’s interest in the joint family by inheritance and not by survivorship, as it used to be. This interest which devolves upon her is declared to be a Hindu women’s estate.
However, a woman married in India – presently married or divorced – does not have any right in the property of her husband or in-laws.
This is very important law point for non-resident Indians or persons of Indian origin residing abroad. She has only right to get maintenance and shelter. Recently under domestic violence act, women in India have got a right to stay in the shared household or household of her husband. Still this does not mean she has any right in the property of her husband. She doesn’t have any rights in the property of her in-laws. A woman married in India has absolute right to own and possess her own istridhan (gift given to a woman by her relatives and friends in the marriage for her exclusive use). In such circumstances, if a woman wants to have alimony or maintenance in India, she gets a meagre amount only. Therefore lawyers in India suggest that women should file false cases of dowry and domestic violence under section 498A, 406 et cetera. This is the only way that Indian law provides a mechanism to get alimony or maintenance of a larger sum than that provided by section 24 of Hindu marriage act or section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. If a woman does not want to file false criminal case against husband and her in-laws in India, then the only way to get sufficient alimony and maintenance is to file for uncontested divorce outside India with the terms of settlement allowing a woman to have half share in the property of her husband.