On September 2, the High Court in a verdict had said that Hindu widows are entitled to shares in all the properties of their husbands
A legal notice has been served to the government, seeking its move to formulate a law to ensure equal rights of Hindu and Buddhist women to inherit properties of their parents and husbands.
Supreme Court lawyer Tanoy Kumer Saha sent the notice on Tuesday to the secretaries of Cabinet Division, Law Ministry and the Religious Affairs Ministry.
He said Hindu and Buddhist women are not entitled to inherit property due to religious dictates, not the patriarchy per se.
Sections 27 and 28 of the constitution ordain equal rights for men and women, he said. Apart from that, Bangladesh is also member of many international conventions which emphasizes on such equal rights.
The personal laws of the country’s religious communities govern most aspects of private life, including matters relating to marriage. Hindu law is the personal law of the Hindu citizens and is applicable in the matter of marriage, adoption, inheritance, gift, will etc. The Hindu community of Bangladesh is mainly governed by the Dayabhaga or Bengal School of Hindu law.
The Buddhist community also follows the Hindu law for personal matters in Bangladesh.
Essentially, the notice argued that the application of the personal law in Hindu and Buddhist women's cases is infringing on the equal rights guaranteed by the constitution.
The lawyer urged the respondents to take proper and necessary steps to legislate and enact laws to ensure equal rights of Hindu and Buddhist women on properties of their parents and husbands.
83 years later
On September 2, the High Court had said in a verdict that Hindu widows are entitled to shares in all the properties of their husbands and not just their homesteads.
In line with that verdict, according to lawyers, Hindu widows will get their rights to inherit their husbands’ assets after 83 years.
Among Hindus, widows usually inherit their husbands' assets only in the matter of homesteads, not any other assets like agricultural land.
“After this verdict, they will get a share of agricultural land too,” said Barrister Syed Nafiul Islam, one of the lawyers for the plaintiff in that case.
The strictest part of Hindu law is the distribution of property among girls. The law, enacted in 1937, deprived women of the right to inherit their husbands’ properties.
One Jotindra Nath Mandal of Khulna filed a case in 1996 seeking a court order to deprive his dead brother's wife of their father’s assets.
A lower court said that widows had rights only to the area of the houses they lived in, and not to agricultural property. Later, a district judge expressed a different opinion, saying widows also had rights to agricultural land in the same manner in which their husbands had their rights.
The matter then went to the High Court.