I am living in an ancestral property since 30 years. Now, other heirs are laying claim on the property under Muslim personal law, though they have their own property worth 50 lakh. Do they have a claim on the property after 30 years? Also, what are my rights now that I have been living in the property for 30 years?

—Name withheld on request

We assume from your query that your specific concern relates to the right of the legal heirs to inherit property in India under the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat).

Under Muslim law, the concept of ancestral and self-acquired property is not recognised. As long as the person is alive, the property owned by him is his absolute property and no right of any legal heirs accrues until his death. Upon his demise, the legal heirs become entitled to a definite fraction of the estate of the deceased. Under Muslim law, distribution of property can be made in two ways, i.e. per capita or per strip distribution for sunnis and shias respectively. The quantum of their inheritance would depend upon the branch and the number of persons that belong to the branch. 

Under Muslim laws, the right to claim inheritance may be exercised during the lifetime of the person claiming such right. In the present case, the rights of the person living in the property for thirty years vis-à-vis that of persons who have not claimed any right to the property would have to be examined in light of the specific facts of the case and the principles governing the Muslim law in India. 

To understand whether by being in possession of the property for 30 years, to the exclusion of other legal heirs of the deceased owner, would disentitle the other legal heirs is not only a question of law, but also a question of fact which would have to be considered to ascertain the true rights of the parties. 

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Aradhana Bhansali is partner, Rajani Associates 

Queries and views at mintmoney@livemint.com

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