Bombay HC: Hindu converted to Islam Is Entitled to Inherit Father’s Property
The Bombay High Court has observed that a Hindu converted into other religion is not disqualified to claim property under Section 26 of the Hindu Succession Act if the father This decision was given by Justice Mridula Bhatkar who observed that the right to inheritance is not a choice but it is a right by birth and, in some cases by marriage. It is a acquired right and the practice renouncing a particular religion and to get converted is matter of choice and cannot cease relationships which are established and exist by birth.
The court gave this decision when it was disposing of an appeal wherein it was contended that Section 2 (1) (a) (c) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is not applicable to the persons who are Muslim, Christian, Parsis and Jews by religion, and since the appellant had converted to Islam, she was not entitled to claim any proprietary right in the father’s property.
Referring to Section 26 of the Hindu Succession Act, the court observed that “the legislature did not include the convert under the caption of disqualification. Section 26 is a specific section on the point of disqualification due to conversion wherein the legislature could have mentioned the ‘convert’ along with the ‘convert descendants’, however the convert himself is not included under the ambit of section 26 and hence not disqualified.”The court also clarified that though the children of converts are not Hindu by birth due to the conversion of their parents and so they are not covered under the Hindu Succession Act, however their parents are Hindu by birth, cannot be disqualified for inheritance of their father who is a Hindu because their father’s property and inheritance are governed by the Hindu Succession Act.
The court also said that “the conversion may be due to force or it may be free choice. Why person chooses to change religion and accept the other religion? For most of the people in the world, the religion is a way of life which regulates a particular lifestyle, beliefs and culture. A person may think by adopting a particular way of life and faith, his search of many questions like the existence of the universe, who he is etc., can be answered. He may think that following a particular religion is a correct path, which may lead to a spiritual journey. Therefore the constitution of India has guaranteed right to religion as fundamental right and in our secular country, any person is free to embrace and follow any religion as per his or her conscious choice. Hence the idea of disqualifying a Hindu converted into other religion from inheriting his father’s property under Section 26b of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is against our constitutional principles.”
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