The Himachal Pradesh high courts' verdict to allow tribal women to inherit property of their ancestors has come as a relief to the women. Soon there will also be good news for the tribal men, who are deprived of inheriting the property, in Lahaul and Spiti.
The Himachal government has ordered a survey to assure equal property to persons eligible.
Earlier, as per the customs followed by tribal communities of Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti, women were not entitled to ancestral property. The districts followed a custom where property was given to the elder son while the younger sibling was to become a nun or monk and live in monasteries across Lahaul and Spiti.
The prevailing customary law which dates back to a century during British rule shows evidence of revenue records where only males were allowed to inherit ancestral property isolating women from the right
The Himachal high court observed that the provisions to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, could not come in the way of inheritance of property by daughters belonging to tribal areas where Hinduism and Buddhism was followed.
Justice Rajiv Sharma said that the act should be read as consistent with the constitutional goal of removing gender-based discrimination targeted at the economic empowerment of Hindu women. He added that women have the right to elimination of gender-based discrimination particularly with respect to property.
"Earlier, the land holding were less. In order to prevent fragmentation of land people even practiced polyandry a tradition that was compelled by circumstances," said chief minister Virbhadra Singh. Singh also spoke of the practice known as badha ghar (bigger house) meaning elder brother and chotta ghar (meant the younger brother). According to this practice the elder inherited the property while younger went to a monastery or worked as a labourer."
The chief minister gave a guarded reply on the high court's verdict, "Right now I have not examined the judgment and if needed, we will amend the laws accordingly," said Singh.