Widow is a word that creates limitless sympathy in the hearts of sensitive people. In a typical Indian society, a widow is considered to be a helpless creature who feeds herself on the mercy of other members of the family. In the recent past, the legal machinery of India has also taken the conditions of the widows seriously and ruled out improved provisions to safeguard their interests.
In a landmark judgement by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a division bench has held that a Hindu widow needs not be in actual physical possession of property belonging to her husband in order to become absolute owner of that property under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Comprising former Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, the Bench set aside an order passed by a single bench in 1983, which had taken the view that the widow has to be in physical possession of the property in order to become its absolute owner.
The judgment was passed last week on a bunch of appeals filed by three sons of late Bhagwan Devi over 12 pieces of property in Hoshiarpur. Family members of Devi had challenged her competence of executing a will as she was not in physical possession of the property, belonging to her husband, who died in 1949.
The litigation is nearly 50 years old. The third generation of both the parties were contesting the litigation. Appearing on behalf of one of the sons, in whose name Bhagwan Devi had executed a will, senior lawyer Anupam Gupta countered the challenge to the widow's right.
Co-relating the Hindu Succession Act with the Hindu Women's Rights to Property, 1937, Gupta contended that for the first time in history, Hindu women were given right to property in 1937. "However, this right known as Hindu Widows Estate was limited to her lifetime. And the property reverted to her husband's heirs after her death," Gupta had argued.
Relying upon judgments of the Supreme Court (Mangal Singh versus Rattano, 1967) and Madras High Court, Gupta had claimed that even though the widow was out of possession, her mere right to succeed to her husband's property expanded into an absolute right under the Hindu Succession Act.
It’s really appreciative that our judiciary has taken the issues related to widows seriously and has come up with some remarkable judgements. Widows are a part of our society and occupy a very sacrificing role in the concerned family. They should be loved, respected and protected.
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