A Delhi High Court bench of acting chief justice Gita Mittal and justice C Hari Shankar, on December 5, 2017, asked the Ministry of Law and Justice, to examine the issue of alleged discriminatory practice in the Muslim law on inheritance. It directed the government to submit its stand, before the next date of hearing on April 9, 2018. The central government’s standing counsel Monika Arora, told the bench that the Law Commission was examining the issue.
The court was hearing a plea by a social organisation – Sahara Kalyan Samiti – which has sought equal inheritance rights for Muslim women. The petition, filed by advocate Raghav Awasthi alleged that Muslim women in India have been discriminated, as far their rights of inheritance were concerned, in comparison to their male counterparts.
It said that the discrimination, based on customary law as well the statutory law, was violative of their fundamental right to equality enshrined under Articles 14, 19, 21 and other relevant provisions of the Constitution. The plea contended that Article 13 of the Constitution included personal laws, including Muslim personal laws.
“It is erroneous to assume that personal laws are excluded from the ambit of judicial examination,” it said.
It claimed that a bare perusal of the law shows that a wife shall receive 1/8th of the property of her husband on his death, if they have children. In case there are no children borne out of marriage, she is entitled to 1/4th of the property. A daughter shall receive half of the share of a son. In stark contrast, the men shall receive 1/4th of the property of his wife on her death, if they have children. In case there are no children borne out of the marriage, he is entitled to half the property. A son shall receive double the share of the daughter, the plea alleged.
“Thus, it is clearly perceivable that women, under the present Islamic law in force are, by the mere factum of their being women in the nature of a wife or a daughter, are only entitled to half of the share of their male counterparts,” it said.