The Hindu Succession Act: An Overview

After the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act, 1937, the government set up the Rau Committee to suggest necessary reforms. The Committee suggested watershed changes in the law in order to remove inequalities existing against women amongst Hindus. The committee recommended that Hindu succession law be codified. Accepting the suggestions of the Rau Committee, Parliament legislated the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 to regularise and codify the entire law of succession. The Act came into force on June 17th, 1956. This article is an attempt to discuss briefly the provisions of this Act.

What does Hindu Succession Act Define?

The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 is a codified legislation that governs the succession of a person who dies intestate. It is applicable to anyone who identifies as a Hindu in any of its various manifestations. This Act establishes a thorough and consistent structure that takes both succession and inheritance into account. Intestate or testamentary succession is likewise covered by this Act. As a result, this Act incorporates all facets of Hindu succession and includes them in its purview.


It is essential to note that this Act does not apply in the case of testamentary succession, i.e., when a person dies leaving behind a will. The Act applies when a Hindu male or female dies intestate.Section 2 of the Act states that the Act applies to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, and any person who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi, or Jew.

The Act does not apply to the Schedule Tribes covered under Article 366 of the Constitution of India.As per Section 5, the Act does not apply to a person to whom the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 apply (because they are governed by the Indian Succession Act, 1925).

Also, this Act applies only to the division of ancestral property in a joint Hindu family. It lays down separate rules for succession for males and females. The moment a Hindu dies, his heirs become entitled to succession.

Devolution of Interest

Section 6 of the Act lays down provisions for the devolution of interest in coparcenary property. It states that the coparcenary property of a male Hindu passes to his heirs through succession rather than survivorship. The coparcenary property shall be deemed to have been divided as if a partition had taken place before his death. This is also called notional partition. Section 6 also provides for the people who would get a share in such a partition.

In 2005, a remarkable amendment was made to Section 6 and afterwards known as Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005. In this amended Act, the pre-existing survivorship rule was abolished. This amendment also made a daughter a coparcener by birth and gave her the same rights as those of a son.

Male Succession

Sections 8-13 of the Act provide for the intestate succession of a Hindu male. Section 8 lays down the general order of succession, i.e., the property of a male Hindu devolved upon his heirs in the following order −

  • Firstly, upon his Class 1 heirs.

  • If there are no class 1 heirs, then there are class 2 heirs.

  • If there are no class 2 heirs, then upon his agnates.

  • If there are no Agnates, he will rely on his cognates.

The Class 1 and Class 2 heirs have been specified in the Schedule. The schedule lists a total of twelve Class 1 heirs, who take the property in priority to all other heirs.

Section 9 lays down the rules regarding succession among heirs. For example, the heirs in Class 1 shall take the property simultaneously, the first entry in Class 2 shall be preferred over the second entry, etc.

Further, Section 10 gives the rules for the devolution of property among class 1 heirs. Section 11 lays down the rules regarding Class 2 heirs. Section 12 talks about the devolution of property amongst agnates and cognates.

Female Succession

Section 14 of the Act makes a female Hindu an absolute owner of the property held by her and she is not a limited owner of the property which may have been acquired by her through inheritance, partition, will, gift, own skill, purchase etc.

Sections 15 and 16 detail the rules governing a Hindu female's intestate succession.

Section 15 of the Act lays down the order in which the property of a Hindu female shall devolve.

General Rules on Succession

Section 18–20 lays down certain rules, which would apply to the succession of property.

For example,

  • Full-blooded heirs shall be preferred over half-blooded heirs.

  • If there are two or more heirs, the property is divided per capita rather than per stripe.

  • They will inherit the property as tenants-in-common rather than joint tenants, and so on.


If a Hindu male or female dies without leaving an heir, the doctrine of escheat applies. As per Section 29 of the Act, the property would devolve upon the government.


The Hindu Succession Act has within its fold the various rules and guidelines for succession of property of a Hindu who dies intestate. With time, the law has evolved to give equal rights to the daughters in the coparcenary and now it has even included the married daughters to have equal rights like that of an unmarried daughter and the son.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Who has been disqualified for succession under the Act?

Ans: Sections 25-28 mention the persons who have been disqualified from succeeding under the Act. The following people have been disqualified from succession:

  • A person who has murdered the intestate.

  • A person who has converted to another religion.

  • A person is not disqualified on the grounds of any disease, defect, or deformity.

Q2. What was the most significant change brought by the 2005 amendment?

Ans: Women were recognised as coparceners for property partitions originating after September 2005. A daughter of a coparcener is now also a coparcener by birth "in her own right in the same manner as the son," according to the amendment to Section 6 of the Act. Additionally, it provided the daughter the same obligations and rights as a son. The idea of survivorship was totally repealed by the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, which also significantly improved the condition of women.

Q3. State the important judicial decisions relating to the 2005 amendment?

Ans: A controversy arose as to whether the amendment of 2005 would have a prospective or retrospective effect.

In the case of Prakash v. Phulavati and others (2016), the court held that the rights under the Act would apply to those daughters whose fathers were alive on the date of enforcement of the amendment.

In the case of Danamma v. Amar (2018), the court held the opposite of what has been stated above.

The case of Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma (2020) cleared the controversy and held that a daughter would have equal rights as that of a son, irrespective of whether the father was alive or dead. This judgement also gave equal rights to a daughter, irrespective of her marital status.

Q4. Who are the Class 1 heirs under the Act?

Ans: As per the Act, Class I heirs are 

  • Sons

  • Daughters

  • Widow

  • Mother

  • Son of a pre-deceased son

  • Daughter of a pre-deceased son

  • Son of a pre-deceased daughter

  • Daughter of a pre-deceased daughter

  • Widow of a pre-deceased son

  • Son of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son

  • Daughter of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son

  • Widow of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son

  • Son of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter

  • Daughter of a deceased daughter of a predeceased daughter

  • Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased daughter

  • Daughter of a predeceased daughter of predeceased son

Q5. Which judgement gave equal coparcenary rights to the married daughters?

Ans: In the landmark judgement in the case of Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma (2020), the Supreme Court held that daughters have equal coparcenary rights by birth, irrespective of her marital status.

Updated on: 11-Jan-2023


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