Do courts grant women their inheritance shares? An analysis of case law in India

Bina Agarwal, Shruthi Naik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recent decades have seen progressive reform of inheritance laws towards gender equality, both globally and in South Asia. Yet, a wide gender gap persists in actual ownership due to family resistance to endowing daughters with property. Given this, do women use courts to claim their rights across regions? Who are the opposing parties? What kind of property is most disputed? How long do cases take? To what extent do judgements favour women, and does the language of judgements reveal gender stereotypes? No prior study has addressed these questions.

This paper does so for India. Here, under the Hindu Succession Amendment Act of 2005 (HSAA 2005), Hindu women achieved legal equality in inheritance rights over all property, including agricultural land and coparcenary joint family property (JFP) in which they now have direct shares by birth. To analyse women’s use of courts to claim their coparcenary shares, we draw on the four main online data sources to extract 505 cases (from over 2900 examined) relating to women coparceners, where judgements were delivered in High Courts over 2005–2020.

Brothers were the most commonly listed opponents to women’s claims and most of the disputes related to land, especially agricultural. In 77% of the cases filed by women or against them, the rulings granted women some share in parental property. But only in 52% of these positive rulings did they receive their direct shares in JFP, while receiving property through other rights in the rest. The legal route thus holds some promise of positive outcomes, but progress specifically in the implementation of the HSAA 2005 remains limited. This will require activating new channels of support for women. Located in the interface of social science and law, this paper would also have relevance for other countries, both methodologically and in substance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106688
JournalWorld Development
Volume182
Early online date2 Jul 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jul 2024

Keywords

  • Women’s property
  • Coparcenary rights
  • Inheritance claims
  • Court judgments
  • Gender inequality
  • India

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Do courts grant women their inheritance shares? An analysis of case law in India'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this