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Delhi High Court Rules: Hindu Women Don't Have 'Absolute' Rights Over Dead Husband’s Property

Hindu woman without having income of her own has complete rights to enjoy, throughout her life, the self-acquired property of a dead husband, the Delhi High Court ruled.

“In the case of Hindu women, who may not have their income, receiving a life estate given to them by their husbands—who may predecease them—is an essential safeguard for their financial security during their lifetime,” observed Justice Prathiba M Singh said.

Delhi High Court Rules: Hindu Women Don't Have 'Absolute' Rights Over Dead Husband’s Property

Such security is essential to ensure that the woman is not dependent on her children, after the demise of the husband. Under such circumstances, the wife has complete rights to enjoy the property during her lifetime. She can also enjoy the income from the said property throughout her life," Justice Singh further said.

But, conditions apply

The court, however, clarified that she doesn’t have absolute rights to sell or transfer the property when there are competing claims by other legal heirs, including children.

The HC further said it cannot be held that the entire property should be construed as maintenance giving the wife absolute rights over the property, after the death of her husband.

What's the case?

The Delhi HC was hearing a property dispute case where the civil court concluded that since there was a Will by the husband before his death, the wife became absolute owner of his property since she lived there for 23 years.

The civil court's verdict was challenged with multiple claims over the property by the dead man’s six children and a granddaughter.

In the case, one party sought rights over the property as envisaged in the Will by the dead man, while the other side argued that since mother had absolute ownership, fresh partition of property must devolve from that.

The High Court observed that the wife did not ‘possess’ any rights in the property prior to her husband’s death and acquired them solely under the Will.

“The Will categorically states that the wife has no right to sell, alienate, or transfer the subject property. Given this position, to assert that upon the death of her husband she became the absolute owner of the subject property and could have sold or alienated the property would contradict the clear intent expressed in the Will as also the intention of the deceased mother clearly expressed through her conduct that she did not execute a Will or sell the property during her lifetime,” the Delhi High Court said.


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