The exclusion was based on addiction to evil deeds on account of which such person was held to be an outcast and thus socially ostracised. It is unfounded to hold that exclusion from inheritance was based on religious sentiments.
Manu wrote:“Impotent persons and outcaste, persons born blind or deaf, the insane, idiots and dumb as well as those deficient in any organ, receive no share. Similarly Yajnavalkya also said: “An impotent person, an outcaste and his issues, a lame, a lunatic, an idiot, a blindman, a person afflicted with incurable disease are not entitled to a share and they are to be maintained. ‘A’ heir was excluded from inheritance on the following grounds:— 1) Physical disabilities 2) Mental disabilities 3) Moral disabilities 4) Religious disabilities 5) Disabilities based on equity.
(1) Physical Disabilities:
Persons suffering from physical disabilities like congenital blindness, deafness, dumbness were disqualified to inherit. Similarly those, who were lame by birth, or impotent or suffering from want of any organ or were a victim of incurable disease like leprosy, were excluded from inheritance. All the above disabilities must be inborn or occuring in a person in an incurable form in order to exclude him from inheritance.
Later on the above disabilities were removed by the Hindu Inheritance (Removal of Disabilities) Act, 1928.
(2) Mental Disabilities:
Idiocy and lunacy are the two mental disabilities included in this head. It was not necessary that the person must be Punatic by birth for disqualifying him to inherit. He must be a lunatic at the time of when inheritance opens. The congenital lunancy brings the right to inheritance to an end permanently under the Mitakshara law.
Idiocy is always congenital. Section 2 of the Hindu Inheritance (Removal of Disabilities) Act, 1928 provided that notwithstanding any rule of Hindu law to the contrary, no person shall be excluded from inheritance on the ground of any physical or mental defect except congenital lunacy or idiocy so that blindness, deafness, dumbness, lameness, impotency or any other physical defect would be no bar to inheritance.
(3) Moral Disabilities:
The moral disability included the unchastity of a woman.
The unchastity of a widow excluded her from inheriting the property of the diseased. But it is to be noted that once the husband’s estate has vested in her under law, it cannot be divested by subsequent unchastity, provided she remained chaste till the death of her husband. Under Dayabhag law’ the condition of chastity applied to widows, daughters and mother. Where a minor widow inherits the property from her deceased husband and later on enticed by the deceased husband’s brother to lead a immoral life with him with an intent to disqualify her on the ground of unchastity and to divest her of the inherited property so that he could claim the title to such property the court held that under these circumstances he would be stopped to claim title over the property as he would not be allowed to take benefit of his own wrongs.
(4) Religious Disabilities:
On conversion to another religious or being declared as an outcaste, a person is excluded from inheritance. Similarly when a person renounces the world and becomes a Sanyasi, he is disqualified to inherit as the renunciation amounts to civil death for all practical purposes. But the Caste Disabilities (Removal) Act, 1850 had done away with the disabilities based on the ground of outcaste and conversion.
(5) Disabilities based on Equity:
A murderer is disqualified to inherit the estate of tine murdered one.
Although a murderer is not disqualified under Hindu law from succeeding to the estate of the victim yet he is held to be so disqualified on the principles of justice and equity. Neither the murderer himself nor anyone else claiming through him can claim right to inheritance in the property of murdered person but where the male descendant of the murderer had an interest by birth in the estate of the deceased (murdered), he would not be disqualified to inherit in that case. No one can claim right to inheritance from any such person with whom he had been fighting throughout his life and had been keeping malicious intent with him. Disability is personal and it does not affect adversely the right to inheritance of natural issues. But in case of an outcaste or a murderer their descendants or persons claiming through them are also disqualified. The adopted son of a disqualified heir can only claim maintenance. The disqualified heirs were deprived only of the right to inherit but not of right to maintenance.
Their right to maintenance remained intact and the persons inheriting the estate of the deceased was under the obligation to give maintenance to such disqualified heirs. Sections 24 and 25 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 have laid down the grounds for excluding a person from inheritance, while Section 28 of the Act expressly provides that no person shall be disqualified from succeeding to any property on the ground of any disease, defect or deformity or on any ground except as provided in the said Act of 1956.