Welcome to the official blog of the Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate and Associates, where we are dedicated to providing litigation support services for matters related to The Rights of an Unborn Child (Hindu Succession Act, 1956). In today’s blog post, we aim to shed light on the prevailing issues surrounding the Rights of an Unborn Child, the legal framework in place for their protection, and the steps we can take as a society to combat these acts. Join us as we explore this critical subject and empower you with the knowledge to protect your rights and safety.

The Hindu Succession Act of 1956, a pivotal legislation governing the inheritance rights of Hindus in India, also addresses the rights of an unborn child. Section 20 of this Act deals specifically with the inheritance of property by a child who is in the womb at the time of the intestate’s death. This provision acknowledges the rights and interests of an unborn child, ensuring equitable distribution of property within the family. The essence of Section 20 and its implications for the unborn child.

Understanding Section 20 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956

Section 20 of the Hindu Succession Act, of 1956, primarily deals with the devolution of interest in coparcenary property or self-acquired property of a deceased Hindu who dies intestate (without leaving a valid will). According to this section, if a Hindu male dies intestate, and his property passes on to his heirs, then the share of an unborn child is also recognized and protected.

Rights of an Unborn Child in Coparcenary Property

Before the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act, only living persons could be coparceners (those who share equally in the ancestral property). However, the amendment brought about significant changes, giving daughters the status of coparceners by birth, and also granting equal rights in ancestral property. As a result, the rights of an unborn child in coparcenary property have become important.

When a coparcener passes away, leaving behind ancestral property, the unborn child’s right comes into play. If a coparcener, who is the common ancestor, dies intestate, the unborn child’s share is deemed to be a part of the coparcenary property, and the inheritance takes place as if the child were already born.

Rights of an Unborn Child in Self-Acquired Property

While coparcenary property is governed by birthright and ancestral lineage, self-acquired property is subject to different rules of succession. Section 20 also recognizes the rights of an unborn child in self-acquired property. If the deceased Hindu leaves behind self-acquired property, the unborn child’s share is determined based on the principle of representation. The unborn child is treated as if they were alive and a legitimate child at the time of the intestate’s death.

Implications and Significance

Section 20 of the Hindu Succession Act, of 1956, plays a crucial role in safeguarding the rights of an unborn child, ensuring that they are not deprived of their rightful share in ancestral and self-acquired property. This legal provision holds significant importance in promoting gender equality, especially after the 2005 amendment that granted daughters equal coparcenary rights. The amendment aimed to rectify historical gender biases prevalent in traditional Hindu inheritance laws.

The recognition of an unborn child’s rights under Section 20 is also instrumental in providing financial security and stability to the unborn child once they are born. It ensures that they receive their legitimate share in ancestral property, enabling them to have a solid foundation for their future. However, it is essential to note that the rights of the unborn child are contingent on their survival after birth. In case the child is not born alive, the share allocated to them would be redistributed among the surviving heirs as per the applicable laws.

The Legal Status of a Person

According to legal scholar Salmond, a person is any entity recognized by the law as capable of possessing rights and being bound by legal duties. The term “person” is further classified into two categories: natural person and legal/artificial person.

Natural Person

According to Austin, a “person” refers to a physical or natural being, specifically a human being, who possesses a legal personality. Living human beings are considered natural persons, and they enjoy most of the rights, privileges, and obligations conferred by the law. Throughout history, slaves were denied the privileges of legal persons and were only recognized as natural persons by virtue of their birth. Human rights and fundamental rights are bestowed upon natural persons to safeguard their well-being and ensure fair treatment.

Civil rights, such as the right to life, voting, privacy, marriage, professional practice, travel, and religion, are vested in natural persons. However, certain rights, like the right to marry and the right to vote, may be subject to age restrictions. In jurisprudence, a natural person is defined as a reasonable and prudent human being living in a specific area, endowed with the rights typical of individuals in that region. A person is considered a natural person from birth until death. After death, the person’s body is accorded respect, and their property and reputation are taken into consideration. The legal privileges and duties of natural persons are broad and comprehensive.

Legal or Artificial Person in the Eyes of the Law

As society evolved, natural persons began establishing entities for business purposes, requiring certain individuals to act on behalf of these entities. However, a complex issue arose when these entities needed to be held accountable in legal matters. To address this, the concept of a “legal” or “artificial” person was introduced. In jurisprudence, an entity is attributed legal personality if it has the capacity to sue and be sued in a court of law. Examples of legal persons include companies, states, idols, and trade unions. The law has the power to transform an entity into an artificial person, providing it with legal status and value. This clarification aids in identifying the party involved in legal proceedings. Legal persons are endowed with rights and duties by the law specifically for legal purposes.

It is essential to understand that all natural persons are considered legal persons, but not all legal persons are natural persons. For instance, an individual living in Hyderabad is both a natural and legal person, while a business established in Chennai is solely a legal person, existing only for legal purposes. Legal personality extends beyond businesses; it also applies to specific positions held by individuals, such as the president or deputy officer, who may be held liable for actions carried out in their official capacities. Additionally, corporate personality, granted by the law, bestows more rights and duties upon legal persons, particularly corporations.

The Legal Status of an Unborn Child

As previously mentioned, an individual is considered a natural person from birth until death, and only living natural persons have a legal personality. Consequently, a natural person must be alive to possess rights and duties. However, the law faces a dilemma concerning the status of an unborn child. Medical and theological aspects argue that an unborn child is a living entity.

Through legal fiction, a child in its mother’s womb is considered already born, and upon birth, attains legal status. While the law primarily addresses living natural persons, it makes an exception for infants “ventre sa mere,” recognizing an unborn child’s capability to acquire certain rights and inherit property, contingent on whether the child is born alive. For instance, an unborn child is considered a person during a partition, and damages can be claimed by the unborn child for injuries sustained while in their mother’s womb.

Indian Laws Dealing with an Unborn Child

Indian laws recognize the legal status of an unborn child and address certain situations concerning them:

  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860: Section 315 states that inflicting prenatal injury on a child capable of being born, affecting its birth, amounts to an offence of child destruction.
  2. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973: Section 416 mandates that if a pregnant woman sentenced to death is found to be pregnant, her execution must be postponed, or it may be reduced to life imprisonment if deemed appropriate by the High Court.
  3. Transfer of Property Act, 1882: Section 13 allows the transfer of property for the benefit of an unborn person through trust arrangements.
  4. The Indian Succession Act, 1925: Section 114 provides for the creation of prior interests before an unborn child is made the owner of the corporeal or incorporeal property. However, the property is not deemed vested in the unborn child until birth, as per the Act.

Additionally, Hindu Law recognizes the rights of an unborn child in certain instances, such as in Mitakshara Law, where an unborn child can have an interest in coparcenary property in a Hindu Undivided Family. However, under Mohammedan Law, a gift in the name of a non-existent person is void.

The Legal Status of Environmental Resources

The Environment (Protection) Act, of 1986, defines the term “environment” as encompassing air, water, land, and their interrelationships with human beings, flora, fauna, microorganisms, and property. This comprehensive definition emphasizes that human beings are just one part of the environment. As humans enjoy various rights and privileges, it is evident that the environment and its resources also deserve certain rights and protections. Numerous Indian laws offer environmental protection, with the judiciary actively establishing doctrines and principles to safeguard the environment.

Significant Case Laws

  1. Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India (Bhopal Gas Tragedy Case): The Supreme Court established the Doctrine of Absolute Liability, holding that enterprises engaged in hazardous activities must strictly compensate individuals harmed by accidents resulting from such activities, without any exemptions.
  2. Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India (Bicchri Case): The court created the Polluter Pays Principle, which imposes liability on individuals who harm the environment, making them accountable for compensation and restoration, irrespective of their intentions or level of care exercised.
  3. Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India: The court emphasized the Precautionary Principle, which requires state governments and local authorities to anticipate and prevent environmental degradation, even in cases where scientific knowledge about potential harm is insufficient.
  4. MC Mehta v. Kamal Nath: The Doctrine of Public Trust dictates that environmental resources, such as air, water, forests, and seas, are invaluable public assets and should not be subject to private ownership. This doctrine empowers citizens to challenge inefficient environmental resource management.
  5. Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of Uttar Pradesh: This case highlighted the concept of sustainable development, emphasizing inter-generational equity, and ensuring that non-renewable resources are not exploited in a manner that deprives future generations of environmental benefits.

The Indian Constitution and the Environment

The Indian Constitution dedicates significant attention to environmental protection, containing specific provisions to safeguard the environment. The 42nd Amendment Act, of 1976, vested responsibility on states to protect and develop the environment.

Relevant Articles

  1. Article 21: The right to life and personal liberty. The Indian courts have interpreted this article to include the right to a safe environment since a healthy environment directly affects people’s lives.
  2. Article 48-A: Part of the Directive Principles of State Policy, this article obliges the state to protect and improve the environment, forests, and wildlife.
  3. Article 51A(g): Part of the Fundamental Duties, this article places a duty on Indian citizens to protect and improve the environment, including lakes, rivers, wildlife, and forests, and to have compassion for living creatures.


The legal status of a person, an unborn child, and environmental resources differ significantly. While persons, both natural and legal, enjoy numerous rights and privileges, an unborn child’s rights depend on their birth status. Section 20 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, acknowledges and safeguards the rights of an unborn child to inherit ancestral and self-acquired property. By doing so, it helps in creating a more equitable and just society, providing equal opportunities for both born and unborn heirs. It also contributes to breaking away from traditional gender biases and empowering daughters with equal coparcenary rights. As Indian society continues to evolve, legal provisions like Section 20 play a vital role in ensuring a fair and inclusive approach to inheritance, ultimately benefiting the entire family and promoting social harmony.

We are a law firm in the name and style of Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate and Associates at Gurugram and Rewari. We are providing litigation support services for matters related to the Rights of an Unborn Child. (Hindu Succession Act, 1956).

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