The widow becomes an absolute owner of the deceased husband's riches to the extent of her share as the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act 1956 would prevail over the earlier Hindu Widow's Remarriage Act 1856, a bench of Justices S B Sinha and B S Sirpurkar said.
The apex court passed the ruling while dismissing an appeal filed by Cherotte Sugathan and other legal heirs challenging a ruling passed by a civil court in favour of a widow Cherotte Bharathi, which was affirmed by the Kerala High Court.
Sugathan and other claimants had submitted that Bharathi was not entitled to any share in her deceased husband's property since she had married another man.
They quoted Hindu Widow's Remarriage Act 1856 in support of their contention.
According to the Act, all rights and interests which any widow may have in her deceased husband's property by way of maintenance, or by inheritance, shall cease upon her re-marriage.
But the two lower courts had ruled that the widow Cherotte Bharathi was entitled to a share in the property of her deceased husband in view of the subsequent enactment of the Hindu Succession Act which removed the disqualification provision for the widows.
Aggrieved by the ruling Sugathan and other claimants filed the appeal in the apex court. Since the Hindu Marriage Act provided for absolute ownership for a widow over her deceased's husband property, she cannot be deprived of the same even after her marriage to another person, the apex court said while dismissing the appeal.
Interpreting a number of earlier rulings, the apex court observed the Hindu Succession Act had "brought about a sea change in shastric Hindu law. Hindu widows were brought on equal footing in the matter of inheritance and succession along with male heirs."
Citing section 4 of Hindu Marriage Act, the apex court said the provision stipulated that it would have overriding effect over the text of any Hindu law including the Hindu Widow's Remarriage Act.