The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notice to the Union Government on a petition filed by a law student challenging the constitutionality of the Hindu Succession Act 1956.
The petition filed by Daksh Kadian, a student of National Law School of India University, challenges the Act as gender discriminatory.
It is contended in the petition that the scheme of intestate succession as per the Act gives preference to sons over daughters. As per Section 8, the property of a male Hindu dying intestate shall devolve upon first, the Class I heirs specified in the Schedule, and if there are no Class I heirs, then upon Class II heirs.
While heirs of daughter are kept in Class II, heirs of son are moved to Class I. This classification is arbitrary, and thus, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, contends the petition.
Even in Class II heirs, preference is given to heirs through male line than female line. For example, relatives such as mother's parents, mother's siblings etc are ranked after father's parents and siblings.
Giving preference to heirs derived through males over heirs derived through females is discriminatory on the grounds of gender, which is prohibited under Article 15 of the Constitution.
The petition filed through Advocate Sarthak Gupta also states that the Act gives preference to 'agnates' over 'cognates'.
A person is said to be an agnate of another if two are related by blood or adoption wholly through males. If a person is related to another by blood or adoption not wholly through males, he is said to be a 'cognate'.
As per Section 8 of the Act, agnates are preferred over cognates. According to the scheme of intestate succession, firstly, the property will devolve on the relatives mentioned in Class I. In the absence of Class I heirs, the property will devolve on Class II heirs. If there are no heirs in Class I or Class II, agnates will be considered. Cognates will be considered only if agnates are also not there. This is also said to be discriminatory on grounds of gender.
The Court has sought the reply of Central Government by September 20.