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Doctrine of pious obligation

In Family law particularly dealing with Hindu customs and traditions expressly followed in Indian society have various aspects. It has dealt in different prospect of life. Derived from the frameworks of renowned people of Vedic age, Smritis Vedic description like Dharmasastra based on traditional institutions and customs became time immemorial, gained a legal enforcement as customary laws comprising both substantive and procedural frameworks. It has through societal and judicial developments gained a jurisprudential degree and a legal enforcement in the environment of practice. The Doctrine of Pious Obligation” imposes liability upon sons to repay their father’s debts. ‘Pious obligation’ means the moral liability of sons to pay off or discharge their father’s non-avyavaharik debts. The ancient doctrine of pious obligation was governed by Smriti law. There is a pious obligation on the sons and grandsons to pay the debts contracted by the father and grandfather. The Mitakshara school of thought was general proposed by Vijnaneshwar. It is the last piece of the eleventh century. The tenets of Yajnavalkya contrast various parts of Hindu law in legal enforcement. The fluctuations and differences which arose between the subdivisions of the Mitakshara identified with selection and legacy have now been cleared away by the two modern law enactments, Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.

The Doctrine of Pious Obligation is a doctrine of minimum morality and a concept of legal obligation of repayment of debt was clearly dealt in Hindu customary laws. It has its existence from Vedic period. The perusal of Vedic doctrines in Hindu law through modern developments gained a legal codified recognition to Pious Obligation doctrine. By virtue of Mitakshara school of thought son were deemed to fulfil the pious obligation procedure applied for both spiritual and secular debts, including monetary debts are incurred upon the son. Precept of Pious Obligation implies the ethical liability of children to pay off and release their father's debts and further non-payment of obligations is a wrongdoing and furthermore a crime. This obligation or commitment of a child to reimburse the obligations of the expired father is refreshed upon an exceptional doctrine, known as “The Doctrine of Pious Obligation”. A Hindu beneficiary is at a liability to pay back the obligations regardless of whether legitimately acquired or for an indecent or unlawful reason of the perished, out of the benefits he has acquired from the expired. The commitment exists whether the children are major or minor, or whether the father is alive or dead. The obligation exists notwithstanding amid the father's life-time and subsists inasmuch as the father is subject.

According to Privy Council this obligation extends to great grandsons also because all the male descendants up to three generations constitute coparcenary. Every coparcener is under a religious obligation to pay the debt contracted by their ancestor, provided such debt was not taken for an immoral or unlawful purpose. In Dharmashastras, non-payment of debt is a sin which results in unbearable sufferings in the next world. The debts must be paid off in all circumstances provided it was not for immoral and illegal purposes. Vrihaspati has said, “If the father is no longer alive the debt must be paid by his sons. The father’s debt must be paid first of all, and after that a man’s own debts, but a debt contracted by the paternal grandfather must always be paid before these two events.” Yajyavalkya says, “A son has not to pay in this world father’s debt incurred for spirituous liquor, for gratification of lust or gambling, nor a fine, nor what remains unpaid of a toll; nor idle gifts.”

In case of debts for purposes other than the above, on the death of the father, or on his going abroad, or suffering from some incurable disease, the debt contracted by him would be payable by his sons and grandsons.

Sons shall not be made to pay (a debt incurred by their father) for spirituous liquor, for idle gift, for promises made under influence of love or wrath, or for surety ship, nor the balance of a fine or toll liquidated in part by their father. The father has gone abroad or is suffering from some incurable disease, the liability to pay the debt contracted by him would lie on the sons and grandsons irrespective of the fact that the father had no property. There are reasons for fixing this liability on sons and grandsons. The liability to pay the debt is in the order, viz., in absence of father the son and in absence of son the grandson. The doctrine of pious obligation does not extend the liability to females notwithstanding she has been given a share in the joint family property on partition. Where the wife gets a share on partition between husband, sons and herself, still she would not be under any obligations to pay the debt of the ancestor (father). As per the Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, after the amendment the daughters shall have the same rights and liabilities as if she would have been a son. The pious obligation has been deleted after the amendment Act of 2005 but the liability to pay the debt of the deceased father will be the same upon daughters as they would be on sons before the commencement of the 2005 amendment Act. The rights of the creditors will be preserved if the debt was taken before the commencement of this amendment. Hindu Succession Act, 1956 after amendment ensured rights to daughters the same rights as that of sons. in the process of inheritance has left the inheritance of pious obligation doctrine, a process of repayment of debt. As per the Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, after the amendment the daughters gained the same rights as the son. By this amendment the pious obligation has been deleted. After the amendment Act of 2005, the liability to repay the debt of the deceased father before the enactment remained working. Pious Obligation should be deemed that daughters should be a duty bearers in repayment of debts.

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