Women can inherit only during lifetime, SC rules

ISLAMABAD: In a far-reaching verdict, the Supreme Court has ruled a woman could claim inheritance only in their lifetime and her children could not make a claim against the estate after their mother’s demise.

The court acknowledged the children’s right to inheritance but observed the jury was still out on the situations wherein they had willingly rescinded their right or simply did not assert it.

Inheritance is the main avenue through which Muslim women acquire independent ownership of land and housing.

However, despite the law, it is local customs and traditions that determine inheritance rights for Muslim women the world over. The customary laws are largely patriarchal and do not favour women.

Traditional leaders or judges often exclude women from inheriting land and property based on discriminatory cultural practices, wrongly assuming these are Islamic principles, experts say.

In the case of married women, fathers and sons become willing to give them a share of the parental property because they believe she belongs to the husband’s family, and that she has already been compensated with a dowry at the time of her marriage.

The apex court ruling was issued in a case wherein the children of two deceased women claimed a share in their maternal grandfather who in 1935 transferred his property to his son without giving a share to either of his two daughters.

Neither of the daughters had challenged the move in their lifetime to assert their right on the property but their children filed a case in 2004 to claim their share.

While a civil court had ruled in their favour at the time, the high court had later nullified the judgement.

The Supreme Court upheld the high court’s decision, with Justice Umar Ata Bandial observing that the law provided protection to women’s inheritance rights.

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