My father, a Hindu, died intestate or without making a will. My sister, upon her marriage in 2008, converted herself to a Muslim. I want to know if she will be entitled to inherit her father’s property. Please explain whether the Hindu Succession Act apply to her.
- Rajat Jha
A change of religion and loss of caste was at one time considered as grounds for forfeiture of property and exclusion of inheritance. However, this has ceased to be the case after the passing of the Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850.
Section 1 of the Caste Disabilities Removal Act inter alia provides that if any law or (customary) usage in force in India would cause a person to forfeit his/her rights on property or may in any way impair or affect a person’s right to inherit any property, by reason of such person having renounced his/her religion or having been ex-communicated from his/her religion or having been deprived of his/her caste, then such law or (customary) usage would not be enforceable in any court of law.
The Caste Disabilities Removal Act intends to protect the person who renounces his religion.
In the case of E. Ramesh and Anr. v. P. Rajini and 2 Ors. [(2002) 1 MLJ 216], a division bench of the Madras high court has held that by virtue of section 1 of the Caste Disabilities Removal Act, the conversion of a Hindu to another religion will not disentitle the convert to his right of inheritance to the property.
As stated above, a Hindu convert does not lose the right to inherit property under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Therefore, your sister is entitled to inherit her share in her father’s property and the Hindu Succession Act shall apply to her with regard to her right to inherit her share in her father’s property.
It may be noted that section 26 of the Hindu Succession Act states that if a Hindu has ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion, children born to the convert after such conversion and their descendants shall be disqualified from inheriting the property of any of their Hindu relatives, unless such children or descendants are Hindus at the time when the succession opens. However, this section has no impact on the convert’s right to inherit property from her Hindu relatives and shall only apply to the children born after conversion and their descendants.
This was upheld in the case of Shabana Khan v. D.B. Sulochana and Ors. [2008(2) ALD818], where the Andhra Pradesh high court held that disinheritance as a result of conversion to another religion is only as regards children born to the Hindu after such conversion, but not in respect of the convert himself or herself.
Shabnum Kajiji is a partner with Wadia Ghandy & Co. Advocates, Solicitors and Notaries.
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