Hindu Minority Act as passed in 1956

Hindu Minority Act is an act that amends and codify certain parts of the law. These laws relate to minority and guardianship among Hindus. The Parliament enacted it in the seventh year of the Republic of India. People also call this Act the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956. It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. This act also applies to Hindus who reside in the territories to which this Act extends. It also applies to the Hindus who are outside the said territories. This act was to act as a supplement to Act 8 of 1890. The provisions of this Act shall be expressly provided. This will be in derogation of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 (8 of 1890).

This Act applies to any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms or developments. This includes or may extend to a Virashaiva, a Lingayat, or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana, or Arya Samaj. This also extends to any person who is a Jain, Buddhist, or Sikh by religion. This act also applies to any other person who resides in the territories to which this Act extends. It also acts for those who are not Muslim, Christian, Parsi, or Jew by religion. However, this is an exception. It happens only if it is proved that any such person would not have been governed by the Hindu Law. Any custom or usage as part of that law also should not govern him. It is in respect of any of the matters dealt with if this Act had not been passed.

The following minors get judged:

  • any child, legitimate or illegitimate, both of whose parents are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, or Sikhs by religion
  • any child, legitimate or illegitimate, one of whose parents is a Hindu, Jains, Buddhist, or Sikh by religion. Along with that, a member of the family to which such parent belongs or belonged must not bring him up. This goes for community, groups and tribes as well.
  • any person who converts or reconverts to the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, or Sikh religion.

Nothing imposed by this Act shall apply to the members of any Scheduled Tribe. This is within the meaning of clause (25) of Article 366 of the Constitution. This happens unless the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette directs otherwise. Not a single word contained in this Act applies to the Renoncants of the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The expression “Hindu”, in any provision of this Act, shall be construed as if it included a person who, though not a Hindu by religion, is, however, a person to whom this Act applies on the basis of the provisions contained in this section.

In this Act, “minor” means a person who has not completed the age of eighteen years. The same Act says a “guardian” is a person who cares for the minor person or his property. It might also be of both his person and property. This includes:

  • a natural guardian
  • a guardian appointed by the will of the minor’s father or mother
  • a guardian appointed or declared by a court
  • a person empowered to act as such by or under any enactment relating to any Court of wards.

The natural guardians of a Hindu minor; in respect of the minor’s person as well as in respect of the minor’s property are-

  • in the case of a boy or an unmarried girl—the father, and after him, the mother. This is all said and done provided that the custody of a minor who has not completed the age of five years shall ordinarily be with the mother
  • in the case of an illegitimate boy or an illegitimate unmarried girl—the mother is in custody and after her, the father
  • in the case of a married girl—the husband. This happens only if no person claims to act as the natural guardian of a minor if he has ceased to be a Hindu. It can also happen if he has completely and finally renounced the world by becoming a hermit (vanaprastha) or an ascetic (yati or sanyasi).

Here the expressions “father” and “mother” do not include a step-father and a step-mother. The natural guardianship of an adopted son who is a minor, on adoption, to the adoptive father and after him to the adoptive mother. The natural guardian of a Hindu minor has the power to do all the things which are necessary or reasonable and proper for the benefit of the minor. This extends to the realization, protection, or benefit of the minor’s estate.

However, in no case can the guardian bind the minor by a personal covenant. The natural guardian shall not, without the previous permission of the court mortgage or charge, or transfer by sale, gift, exchange, or otherwise, any part of the immovable property of the minor. He or she also cannot lease any part of such property for a term exceeding five years or for a term extending more than one year beyond the date on which the minor will attain majority. No court shall grant permission to the natural guardian to do any of the acts mentioned here. But there will be an exception in case of necessity or for an evident advantage of the minor.

A minor shall be incompetent to act as guardian of his or her own property. After putting this Act to use in any particular case, no person gets the right to dispose of, or deal with, the property of a Hindu minor merely on the ground of his or her being the de facto guardian of the minor. In the case of a minor who has an undivided interest in joint family property and the property is under the management of an adult member of the family, no guardian will be appointed for the minor in respect of such undivided interest. This will happen provided that nothing in this section deems to affect the jurisdiction of a High Court to appoint a guardian in respect of such interest.

When there will be an appointment of declaration of any person as guardian of a Hindu minor by a court, the welfare of the minor shall be the paramount consideration. No person shall be entitled to guardianship by virtue of the provisions of this Act or of any law relating to guardianship in marriage among Hindus. This will happen only if the court is of opinion that his or her guardianship will not be for the welfare of the minor.

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