- From the very beginning, the Constitution of India has taken care of equal rights for both men and women. This perspective treats the right to equality as a fundamental right.
- Therefore, in the case of dividing the share of a property in India to a daughter and daughter-in-law, different laws are framed so that their rights are adequately governed, and they enjoy the rights in their realm, which includes the Legal ownership of a daughter-in-law in India.
- Today, Women face all sorts of problems in India, be it female infanticide, marital rapes or child abuse to dowry deaths; the primary reason that our women are so dominated is the high illiteracy as most of the women are unaware of their rights which result in immense emotional, physical pain, daughter in laws are worst hit in our society.
- Considering this, today’s legislature has made various laws that state the Legal rights of the daughter-in-law in India.
- Various Legal rights of the daughter-in-law in India have been framed considering the cruelty they faced and the injustice done to them by their in-laws; the mere objective of the Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India is to protect them from all such cruelty and injustice.
The distinction between Ancestral and Self-Acquired Properties
Understanding the difference between ancestral and self-acquired properties is crucial when discussing property rights, especially in the context of inheritance and succession:
- Ancestral Property:
- Definition: Ancestral property refers to a property that has been passed down, undivided, through at least four generations of male lineage. It should have remained undivided throughout this period.
- Rights: Every coparcener (a person who has a birthright in the property, like sons, daughters, etc., after the 2005 amendment) has an equal right in the ancestral property from their birth.
- Partition: Any coparcener can demand a partition of the ancestral property, and upon partition, the share of each coparcener is determined.
- Self-Acquired Property:
- Definition: Self-acquired property is the property that an individual purchases or acquires during his/her lifetime using his/her resources without the aid of ancestral wealth. It can also be acquired through a will or inheritance but from someone other than one’s father, grandfather, or great-grandfather.
- Rights: The owner of the self-acquired property has the sole discretion to decide how the property will be distributed after his/her death. During the owner’s lifetime, no legal heir can claim any rights over the property.
- Inheritance: Upon the death of the owner, if there is no will, the self-acquired property is distributed among the legal heirs as per the personal succession laws applicable to the deceased.
Understanding this distinction is vital for daughters and daughters-in-law to know their rights and entitlements in different property scenarios.
Understanding the Concept of ‘Shared Household’
The term ‘Shared Household’ is pivotal in the context of the rights of a woman, especially a daughter-in-law, in her matrimonial home. It is defined under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
- A ‘Shared Household’ refers to a household where the person aggrieved (typically the woman or daughter-in-law) lives or has lived at any point in time in a domestic relationship, either singly or along with the respondent (typically the husband or male partner). This includes homes owned or rented by the respondent, or both the aggrieved person and the respondent, or which might have been jointly owned or rented by both.
- Rights in a Shared Household:
- A woman has the right to reside in her matrimonial home or shared household, regardless of whether the house is owned by her, her husband, her in-laws, or jointly.
- This right is secured even if she is evicted from the home, as the law provides her with the right to return to the shared household.
- If the property is exclusively owned by the relatives of the husband (and he has no legal stake in it), then it might not always be considered a shared household. However, court decisions have varied on this aspect, and the specifics of each case play a crucial role.
- The concept of ‘Shared Household’ is essential as it provides protection to women from being evicted from their homes, ensuring they have a shelter and are not rendered homeless due to marital disputes or any form of domestic violence.
Legal Overlaps: Navigating the Intersection of Multiple Acts
In the realm of legal rights for women, especially daughters-in-law, there are instances where multiple acts intersect, leading to potential overlaps and ambiguities. Two such significant acts are the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
- Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007:
- Purpose: This Act primarily aims to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents, ensuring their well-being and financial security.
- Implications for Daughters-in-law: Under this Act, if a senior citizen transfers their property to an heir (including a daughter-in-law) with the expectation of receiving maintenance and care, and such care is not provided, the transfer can be declared void.
- Overlap: While the Act aims to protect senior citizens, it can sometimes be at odds with the rights of daughters-in-law, especially in cases where they are residing in the same household and disputes arise.
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005:
- Purpose: This Act seeks to protect women from domestic violence, ensuring their safety and well-being within the household.
- Rights of Residence: The Act provides women, including daughters-in-law, the right to reside in the “shared household,” even if they do not own the property or have any legal title to it.
- Overlap: While the Act empowers women, there can be scenarios where the rights of senior citizens (as per the 2007 Act) and the rights of women (as per the 2005 Act) might conflict, especially in cases of property disputes or maintenance issues.
- Navigating the Overlaps:
- It’s essential to understand that while both Acts aim to protect vulnerable sections of society, their intersection can sometimes lead to legal complexities.
- Legal counsel and mediation can play a pivotal role in resolving such overlaps, ensuring that the rights of all parties are upheld.
Legal Rights of Daughter-in-law in India
1. Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India to Streedhan
- As per Hindu law, Streedhan refers to all movable, immovable property, gifts, etc., a woman receives during pre-marriage/marriage ceremonies and childbirth.
- The legal rights of daughter-in-law in India on such property vest with her, even if she places it in the custody of her husband or her in-laws.
- In case the mother-in-law dies without Will registration and at the time of death she possessed her daughter-in-law’s Streedhan, according to the Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India, she has the right to claim Stridhan and not the son or any other family member of mother-in-law. A woman has inalienable rights over Streedhan.
- The legal rights of the daughter-in-law in India provide her claim on her Stridhan even after being separated from her husband. She does not lose her legal right due to mere separation from her husband.
- Also, in case the husband or other family member denies giving Streedhan to the woman, it may amount to domestic violence, according to which her husband and family members may be liable to face criminal prosecutions.
2. Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India to live with dignity and self-respect
- Every person, be it a woman or a man, has a fundamental right to be free of mental and physical torture; hence, a married woman has all the right to live her life with dignity.
- One must be well aware of the fact that under the Domestic Violence Act, a Legal right of a daughter-in-law in India is to make the husband execute a “bond of good behavior” or “bond to keep the peace,” according to which the court may order to put a stop to domestic violence and also a right to demand divorce based on domestic violence.
- For security, the husband may be asked to deposit guarantees in the form of property or money that might be transferred to his wife if he continues to act violently.
3. Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India to a committed relationship
- In a committed relationship, a husband cannot be in a relationship with another woman unless he is separated from his wife using a divorce.
- This is the fundamental right of a married woman. And therefore, a married woman can charge her husband for adultery, which may lead to a ground for divorce.
4. Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India to parental property
- According to the amendments made in the Hindu Succession Act, every daughter, whether unmarried or married, has a right to inherit the property of her father after his death; in case the father had died without Will registration, the daughter has equal Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India to the property of her father as his son’s, not only this today the daughter even has right in her mother’s property.
- Also, according to the amendment, the daughter is considered the coparcener. Further, as per a Supreme court order, a father can nominate his married daughter to be legally entitled to her father’s cooperative society flat. One may approach legal consultation in such a case and know the Legal rights of the daughter-in-law in India.
5. Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India to Maintenance
- Every person has a right to live a life of standard and decency. Therefore, a woman, after her marriage, can claim an average and decent living with the basic comforts of life with her husband.
- Even after separation, the husband cannot run away from his duties. Therefore, he is asked to provide essential maintenance to his wife and children, which may include the provision of clothing, food, medical treatment, and education.
6. Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India to the marital home
- A matrimonial home or Marital home refers to the household that a woman shares with her husband, be it owned, rented, or officially provided by her husband.
- According to the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, according to the Legal rights of a daughter-in-law in India, she has the right to reside in her matrimonial home even if she does not own it, irrespective of whether it is a joint family house, ancestral house, rented house or a self-acquired house.
7. Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India upon the Death of the Husband
- Right to Inheritance: In the event of the husband’s death, the daughter-in-law has a right to inherit her husband’s share in his ancestral and self-acquired properties.
- Maintenance: If the daughter-in-law cannot maintain herself, she can claim maintenance from her in-laws.
- Residence: She retains the right to reside in the matrimonial or shared household, even if the property is owned by her in-laws.
8. Legal rights of daughter-in-law in India Upon Becoming a Widow:
- Streedhan: The daughter-in-law has complete rights over her Streedhan, and no one can take it away from her, including her in-laws.
- Maintenance and Residence: As a widow, she retains her rights to maintenance and residence in the matrimonial home.
- Remarriage: If the daughter-in-law chooses to remarry, her rights in her deceased husband’s property may vary based on personal laws. However, her rights over her Streedhan remain unaffected.
Recent Legal Developments in the Rights of Daughters in Ancestral Property
In recent years, there have been significant legal developments that have reinforced the rights of daughters in ancestral property:
- Supreme Court Decisions:
- In 2020, the Supreme Court of India reaffirmed that daughters have equal coparcenary rights in Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) property. This means that daughters have the same rights and liabilities as sons on their father’s property.
- The Court clarified that the rights could be claimed by the daughter born earlier to the 2005 amendment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The rights can be claimed irrespective of whether her father was alive or not at the time of the amendment.
- The judgment emphasized that a daughter remains a loving daughter throughout her life. The rights can’t be denied simply because she was born before the enactment of the law.
- Amendments to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956:
- The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, brought about a significant change. It granted daughters the same rights, duties, liabilities, and disabilities as sons. This amendment ensured that daughters could also be coparceners and have a right by birth in the ancestral property.
- The amendment also gave daughters the right to ask for a partition of the ancestral property and to become the Karta (manager) of the HUF if they were the eldest family member.
These developments mark a progressive step towards gender equality in property rights in India. Daughters and daughters-in-law need to be aware of these rights to ensure they are not denied their lawful inheritance.
- Various instances have been reported in India where daughters-in-law have been deprived of their property rights, and many few women have an idea that the women of the house, too, have the right to claim a share in the property just as any other man; this is the legal rights of the daughter in law.
- Therefore, a daughter-in-law may have a legal consultation and knowledge of various Legal rights of the daughter-in-law in India before exercising their right.
- Also, in 2005, various amendments were made to the Hindu Succession Act, under which daughters and daughters-in-law were allowed equal rights as coparceners.
- Also, the Supreme Court (SC), in a landmark judgment, ruled on the Legal rights of the daughter-in-law in India and that a daughter and daughter-in-law possess equal rights as coparceners under the Hindu Succession Act and that a daughter receives her coparcener rights by birth. Also, the daughter’s marriage does not affect her rights to coparcenary property.