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Supreme Court Rules: Woman Has Full Right Over Property Given As Maintenance

Posted: November 27, 2015

In a path-breaking judgement by the Supreme Court of India, it ruled  that a woman’s right over property under the Hindu law is absolute.

Supreme Court recently ruled that a woman’s right over property under the Hindu law is absolute. The court by giving this decision upheld the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in the same matter.

The case was of a widow who transferred property given to her as ‘maintenance’ in her will. A bench of justices MY Eqbal and C Nagappan ruled that she had the right to bequeath property and enjoyed the full right to said property even after her death. The Andhra Pradesh High Court reversed the trial court’s findings that said a woman had a limited right to property after death and the property can be given to male heirs.

What is the case?

The case was complicated. P. Venkata Subba had three wives. Subba in 1920 willed one of his properties to his third wife, Veeraraghavamma, who did not have a child. Veeraraghavamma executed a will to transfer the property after her death to Pentapati Subba Rao. However, after her death, a son from Subba’s second wife sold the property to Sarathy. The case was between Sarathy and Pentapati Subba Rao. The trial court had upheld the sale to Sarathy and said the woman had limited right to enjoy property after her death.

The apex court ruled while citing Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act:

It is well settled that under the Hindu Law, the husbandhas got a personalobligation to maintain his wife and if he ispossessed of properties then his wife is entitled to a right to bemaintained out of such properties. It is equally well settledthat the claim of Hindu widow to be maintained is not a mereformality which is to be exercised as a matter of concession, grace or gratis but is a valuable, spiritual and moral right.

Language of the court

It is important to understand the language being used by the court in this matter. It is asserting that maintenance isn’t to be considered a matter of “grace or gratis” but as a right. This in turn means that it isn’t symbolism; the woman can exercise her full right over it.

Cover image via Shutterstock

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