Hindu converted into other religion is not disqualified to claim the property under Section 26 of the Hindu Succession Act, the court observed.
The Bombay High Court has observed that a Hindu, who converted to other religion, is entitled to his/her father's property if father died intestate.
Justice Mridula Bhatkar observed that the right to inheritance is not a choice but it is by birth and, in some cases by marriage, it is acquired and renouncing a particular religion and to get converted is a matter of choice and cannot cease relationships which are established and exist by birth.
The court was disposing of an appeal wherein it was contended that under Section 2(1)(a)(c) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, this Act is not applicable to the persons who are Muslim, Christian, Parsis and Jews by religion, and since the plaintiff is converted to Islam, she cannot claim any proprietary right in the father's property.
Referring to Section 26 of the Hindu Succession Act, the bench observed: “The legislature did not include the convert under the caption of disqualification. Section 26 is a specific section on the point of disqualification due to conversion wherein the legislature could have mentioned the “convert” along with the “convert descendants”, however, the convert himself is not included under the ambit of section 26 and hence not disqualified.”
The court said under Section 26, though the children of converts are not Hindu by birth due to conversion of their parents and so they are not covered under the Hindu Succession Act, their parents (converts) are Hindu by birth, cannot be disqualified for inheritance of their father who is a Hindu because their father's property and inheritance are governed by the Hindu Succession Act.
The court further observed: “The conversion may be due to force or it may be a free choice. Why person chooses to change religion and accept other religion? For most of the people in the world, the religion is a way of life which regulates a particular lifestyle, beliefs, and culture. A person may think by adopting a particular way of life and faith, his search of many unknown questions like the existence of the universe, who he is etc. can be answered. He may think that following a particular religion is a correct path, which may lead to a spiritual journey. Therefore, the constitution of India has guaranteed right to religion as fundamental right and in our secular country, any person is free to embrace and follow any religion as his or her conscious choice. Hence, Hindu converted into other religion is not disqualified to claim the property under Section 26 of the Act.”