In India, Hindu daughters have the same privileges as their male counterparts. They are free to pursue the education of their choosing and to choose whom they wish to marry. Different judicial judgements have upheld that girls and boys have equal rights to their ancestral properties.
However, the situation becomes more complicated when Muslim laws come into play. Taking into account the Mohammedan laws, a court in Ahmedabad denied the claim of three Hindu daughters to a portion of their mother’s retirement benefits following her death.
According to the case material, Ranjan Tripathi’s husband, a BSNL employee, passed away in 1979, leaving behind a pregnant wife and two girls. Based on compassion, BSNL permitted the widow to work as a clerk. However, she did not remain with her family for an extended period of time, and her three daughters were raised by their father’s family.
Ranjan left her family and moved in with a Muslim man afterwards. In 1990, the three daughters filed a maintenance suit against their mom, alleging abandonment and that she was also employed by the department to care for the children. The daughters won their lawsuit. However, the dispute was eventually addressed, and the daughters contended that they had not forfeited their rights to their mother’s retirement income.
After converting to Islam, Ranjan married a Muslim man in 1995; the following year, she changed her name in her service documents to Rehana Malek, and subsequently, the duo had a son. Prior to her death in 2009, she named her son as her executor in her will. After Ranjan alias Rehana passed away, her three daughters filed a complaint in the city civil court, asserting their right to their mother’s provident fund, gratuity, insurance, leave encashment, and other benefits as Class I heirs due to their status as her biological daughters.
According to the sources, the court denied the daughters’ appeal after analysing features of the doctrine of estoppel. It also considered tangible proofs such as a notarised affidavit of conversion to Islam, her marriage registration, and the nominee’s inclusion in her service records. The court stated that if the decedent was a Muslim, then her Class I heirs could not be Hindus. Only Muslims may be deceased Muslim’s immediate heirs.
The mother had a son after converting to Islam, marrying, and becoming a Muslim. Even though they are the daughters of the deceased Ranjan alias Rehana, the Hindu plaintiffs are unable to inherit because she converted to Islam, and they are Hindu.
The court ascribed the case to Nana Firozkhan Pathan, alias Nasim Firozkhan Pathan, where the Gujarat high court declared as follows: “Even Muslims who have converted to Mohammedanism are subject to Mohammedan law. Islam replaces their former religious and personal laws… According to Mohammedan law, a Hindu cannot inherit a Mohammedan’s estate.”