Hindu widows will get the shares in all the properties of the husband, not just the homestead, the High Court has said in a judgment.
The court said the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act 1937 will dictate the inheritance of the assets.
Barrister Syed Nafiul Islam, one of the lawyers in a related case, briefed reporters on Tuesday on the 22-page judgment that was issued by the High Court bench of Justice Miftah Uddin Choudhury in the last week of September.
The rights to property act does not specify the property of husbands. So, the word "property" means all types of assets, including movable and immovable, real estate, agri and non-agri land, and cash, said the judgment.
"There is no scope for differentiating between farm land and non-farm land. Rather, such properties are necessary for the survival of the widow after the demise of the husband," the judgment said.
Lawyers say Hindu widows had been entitled only to the house of the husband under the 83-year-old Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act. Now, the High Court ruling will pave the way for Hindu widows' rights to all properties of their husbands.
Senior lawyer Subrata Chowdhury believes the ruling would end the discrimination that had been prevailing for around a century.
"The judgment is very positive and promising," he noted, saying the court has done its part, and now the government should determine what the legal structure would be for the property distribution.
The High Court judgment that came out recently involves a legal battle that began in Khulna in 1983. A widow named Gauri Dasi in the south-western Bangladeshi district had been demanding her husband's farm land, while her brother-in-law Jyotindranath Mandal stood against it.
The brother-in-law filed a case with a Khulna court in 1983, demanding that the widow should not get a share of the agri land.
But the Khulna judge's court ruled that the Hindu widows would be entitled to farmlands that belonged to the husbands. Subsequently, Mandal appealed with the Supreme Court, challenging the lower court order.
After a long time, the brief verdict of the High Court came on 2 September 2020 in favour of Hindu widows' share in husbands' agricultural land.
Lawyer Ujjwal Bhowmik appeared in the High Court as the amicus curiae in the case while lawyer Syed Nafiul Islam appeared for Gauri Dasi.
Ujjwal Bhowmik said Hindu widows have the rights to both their husbands' agricultural and non-agricultural land as per the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act. But the customs limit the rights since the son of the deceased or the son's lineage, not the wife, gets priority in the inheritance.
Aroma Dutta, a human rights activist and a member of parliament, welcomed the High Court judgment. She said the ruling is a milestone for the widows of the Hindu community in the country.
The Bangladesh Law Commission in 2010 prepared a report on the reform of colonial-era Hindu law. The report highlighted the history of Hindu law, its evolution and the current situation in Bangladesh. Besides, a number of recommendations came up for the reform of the existing law.