A Delhi High Court bench of chief justice G Rohini and justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, on March 1, 2017, issued a notice to the government and directed it to examine the alleged discriminatory practice in the Muslim law, with regard to inheritance. The court asked the government to submit its response before May 15, 2017, the next date of hearing.
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 advocates Raghav Awasthi and Shoumendu Mukherji, alleged that Muslim women in India have been discriminated as far as their rights of inheritance are concerned, in comparison to their male counterparts. It said that the discrimination based on customary law, as well as the present 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 includes personal laws, including Muslim personal laws. “It is erroneous to assume that personal laws are excluded from the ambit of judicial examination,” it said.
The plea states 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 the 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 contended.
“Thus, it is clearly perceivable that women under the present Islamic law in force, 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 added.