You are on page 1of 2

Parents of Dev Bati, an unmarried woman from Khoti village in Kinnaur, died a few years back.

has a married sister but no brother. Rightfully the property should have gone to her and her sister
but the power of attorney for the property was handed over to Dev Bati's paternal uncle, who
bequeathed it to his illegal wifes son.
Sarojini Negi, also unmarried, did not inherit her parents property and it went to her paternal uncle.
Hiya Devi was thrown out by her in laws after the death of her husband. She too has no right over her
husbands property.
Why? Because the customary law in Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti tribal districts of Himachal Pradesh
denies daughters and wives the right to inherit property. According to the prevailing customary law
recorded almost a century back by the British , in revenue related documents like Riwaj -IAm (common tradition) or Wajib ul Arz ,only males are allowed to inherit ancestral property and
bars women from such rights.

Hereditary Laws

The laws of heredity differ from area to area. The hereditary rights pass direct from the father to the son or sons. In
case of there being more than one wife, children of all the wives may claim an equal share. If some one has no son,
his property is shared equally by the daughters. If the daughter dies issueless, the property then passes on to the
father's relatives.
In Spiti the customs are a little different. There the family system is called Jethansi. As the eldest son gets married,
he shall become the head of the house and the father shall retire to a smaller house. The eldest son then comes to
be known as Rambagchepa and the retired father as Ravangechugpa. The father gets a small plot of land to live by
and the younger sons join a monastery. In case the eldest son produces no male heirs, the younger brother may
become the head and shoulder the family responsibilities. The land in the area is thus prevented from getting sub
divided. In case none of the sons produces a son, the daughter of the house is then married to a man who agrees
to come and live in his father-in-law's house and carry on the family traditions. Such a son-in-law is known as
Makpa. If the girl dies, or does not have children, the husband may then marry a cousin of hers who then stands to
inherit the property.
In Kinnaur and Mahasu many families follow the system of polyandry. In such families when the husband dies, the
wife as also property, passes to the next brother and after him the right of property then reverts back to the sons.
Illegitimate children or children born of a widow or an unmarried girl have no property rights. They are known as
Poltu or Chukandu. Earlier they were used by families as domestic servants and in exchange for their services a
small plot of land was given to them. Now they have legal protection against such exploitation and if they can

establish their paternity, they can inherit a share of the paternal property.
Some areas follow the customs of Jethand, Paghand and Chundband. In Jethand the eldest son inherits a larger
share of the property plus a larger share of his family debts. In Chundaband system all the sons of the various
wives have equal share in the paternal property. In Paghand system the property shall first be distributed among the
daughter and then among the sons. This custom is prevalent among the Gaddis. Among the Rajputs there existed a
system known as Daya Bhag (the rightful position). In this, the eldest son stands to inherit a special portion in
addition to his other share by virtue of being the eldest son.