The three judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India delivered a historic judgment on 11th August 2020 in respect of the amendment (2005) made in the Hindu Succession Act 1956. While arguing in the proceedings related to the case, the solicitor General representing Government of India has pointed out that the Mitakshara Coparcenary law not only contributes gender discrimination but is oppressive and negated the fundamental right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
Human discrimination and oppression is the fundamentalist tenet of Hinduism. In the long strenuous journey to modern India, facing lot many challenges on religious front, it took about 15 years to interpret exactly the meaningful amendment (2005) made in the Hindu Succession Act 1956. To bring the progressive legislation is a tough task, for which social revolutionary like Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had to resign his official assignment, at the cost of some progressive changes that resulted in the legislation of the Hindu Succession Act 1956.
Even prior to that post independent legislative action, in British India in 1929, the great social revolutionary Thanthai Periyar convened the First Madras Provincial Self Respect Conference at Chinglepet and many progressive resolutions were passed for women liberation, equality and equal opportunities at par with men, the effect of which was not felt popularly then. One such resolution was to bring legislation to provide equal rights for women in the inheritance of their paternal ancestral property. It was much ahead, the mission was led by Thanthai Periyar which was crystallised in the form of proposed resolution that was passed unanimously.
In 1989, during the rule of the Dravidian political party viz. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), in Tamil Nadu, the Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi proposed a Bill in the State Legislative Assembly for the equal rights of daughters in the inheritance of paternal property (at par with sons) and that was passed unanimously.
The legislation was the Hindu Succession (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act 1989. The statement of Object and Reason narrated in the Bill pointed out the progressive resolution passed in 1929 at the Self Respect Conference convened by Periyar.
In 2005, when DMK was in alliance with the Congress party sharing the rule at the Centre rule, the United Progressive Alliance II (UPA II) the inheritance rights for women was ensured at all India level through the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005.
2020: The latest three judge bench upheld the earlier verdict of 2018 having retrospective right. The judgment ironed out the confusion arising from the Supreme Court’s conflicting interpretations of the amended Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act 2005. The bench said whether the father was alive or not, daughters born before September 9, 2005 too could claim equal right in inheritance. The Bench also examined the retrospective application of Section 6 and ruled that daughter, would set the rights from 1956 when the law came into being.
The gender discrimination and oppressive spirit of Hindu law has been broken to some extent through the latest verdict. Still more such reforms, have to be legislated as translation of the dreams of the social revolutionaries – Thanthai Periyar, Babasaheb Dr.B.R.Ambedkar who toiled for the cause, and whose movement is still striving for.