Khasi Inheritance of Property Bill, 2021 (November 2021)

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An announcement has been made recently by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) in Meghalaya regarding the introduction of the ‘Khasi Inheritance of Property Bill, 2021’ . This bill aims at “equitable distribution” of parental property among siblings of the Khasi community. The proposed bill if implemented would modify an age-old customary practice of inheritance w. r. t the matrilineal Khasi tribe.

A matrilineal system of inheritance is practiced by the three tribes of Meghalaya namely Khasis, Jaintias, and Garos. Lineage and descent are traced through the clan of the mother. This bill further proposes to bring economic empowerment based on the principle of equitable property distribution.

Autonomous and Territorial Councils

About

  • Children take the mother՚s surname, husband moves into the house of his wife, the full share of the ancestral or the clan՚s property is entrusted by the youngest daughter (khatduh) .
  • Equal distribution of the self-acquired property among the siblings.
  • Both male and female siblings would be provided the “equitable distribution” of parental property.
  • The parents would be able to decide whom they want to handover their property.
  • A sibling would be prevented from getting parental property in case he/she marries a non-Khasi, accepting the customs and culture of the spouse.
  • The inheritance tradition is applicable only to the ancestral or clan/community property that has been with the family for years.
  • In case a couple doesn՚t have any daughters, the property goes to the wife՚s elder sister including her daughters.
  • The clan usually takes over the property in case wife doesn՚t have any sister.

Khatduh

  • Becomes the “custodian” of the land.
  • Assumes all the responsibilities associated with the land.
  • Take care of aged parents along with unmarried or destitute siblings.

Need of the Bill

  • The system of property inheritance over the years has been protested by few groups.
  • It “disinherits” men and has also pressed for equitable property distribution among all children of the family.

Way Ahead

KHADC does not have the power to legislate and is a body under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

Sixth Schedule of the Constitution

  • Provides for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, and Meghalaya for safeguarding the rights of the tribal population in these states.
  • Special provision is provided under Constitution:
    • Article 244 (2)
    • Article 275 (1)
  • Through Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) , it provides for autonomy in the administration of these areas that have been empowered to make laws in respect of areas under jurisdiction.

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