Rakshabandhan: Legal View of Brother-Sister Relationship

Posted On : August 11, 2022
Rakshabandhan: Legal View of Brother-Sister Relationship
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Pulling your sister’s hair feels great. Fake crying to get your brother beaten by parents feels awesome. Pillow fights in sibling relationships come to an amicable end only after the entry of their angry mother in the room. In India, such scenes are not so rare when the sister is tying a rakhi on her brother’s hand and ends up slapping him the next second. This is a phase which everyone with a sibling has experienced during childhood. Years go by, then life happens and those siblings who could not pass a day without fighting with each other get busy with their careers and personal lives. Since it is such a close relationship, how can it be left untouched by laws of the land? On the occasion of Rakshabandhan, know the legal aspects related to sibling relationships in India. Know what the law lays for brothers and sisters in India in terms of personal and financial facets. 

Raksha Bandhan: Legal View of Brother-Sister Relationship 

First understanding the obvious terms from a legal view, a sister and brother are offsprings of the same parents. In other words, when a couple gives birth to a girl followed by a boy, such boy and girl are brother and sister respectively. Even if a couple adopts a boy later on blessed with a girl child through birth or adoption, such boy and girl share a sibling relationship like a brother and sister. Biological siblings share the upbringing as well as their genes through parents. Whether they share any legal responsibility towards one another, a quick read through the blog below is a must.

Maintenance Rights

India has a vast history of joint families whereby men in the family typically run the business and feed the whole family, which includes direct dependents like parents, spouse and children. Such close knit families may also include sisters, grandparents, widowed aunts, etc. Although modern India sees more nuclear  families, the idea of joint households is not so rare. Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 grants right to maintenance for parents, wife and children. Hence, it is obvious that a brother or a sister are not legally bound to pay for the livelihood of each other. However, exceptions often occur as a trial court in Delhi ordered a brother to pay maintenance to his sister. Thus, in cases whereby a sister is unmarried or physically disabled to maintain herself while her parents are no more or lack a source of earning, a brother may be legally ordered to pay for her maintenance. Similarly, a sister may also be required to pay maintenance to her brother if he is unmarried and not able to maintain himself while the sister has a personal source of sufficient earning. 

Dependants in Family

When a family member relies upon you for their financial needs, they are your dependants. Now the question arises - Can sister be a dependant? The answer varies depending upon the purpose whether it is insurance policy or other benefits. Sometimes, minor, widowed or physically disabled sisters are allowed to be considered as a person’s dependants. The concerned person is legally bound for providing maintenance to their dependants. 

What is the law for property distribution between brothers and sisters?

When it comes to partition of property among family members, both sons and daughters usually have equal rights. However, the concept of division of shares among brothers and sisters may be different among Muslims, due to fixed portions of shares for certain relatives. Inheritance is a subject of personal laws based on religion. 

Ancestral Property: Rights to Married Sisters

Rights in an ancestral property are obtained through birth or adoption in a Hindu family. Hence, regardless of girl or boy, once a child takes birth in a family having ancestral property going on for generations, he/she becomes a coparcener. The effect is similar when a child is legally adopted. It means that the partition of such Hindu Undivided Family will give equal shares to brothers and sisters in such a family even if some of the sisters have been married off. However, if such sisters wish to go for relinquishment of property, they can sign off a No-objection certificate which reflects backing off from seeking their shares in the property being subjected to partition among sibling relationships.

Can brother and sister have joint property?

Yes,  there is no law that prohibits sibling relationships from jointly owning a property in India. They can also be joint applicants for home loans in pursuance of buying a house together in joint ownership. Brother and sister can also have a joint savings account if they can afford to amicably possess shared savings. The laws in India do not contain any obstruction in this regard.

Does sister have right on brother's property?

In a sibling relationship, there is no direct right in each other’s properties. If a person, through Will, includes his/ her brother or sister as getting one’s property after his/ her death, nothing prevents such person from doing so. The law does not prevent someone transferring the whole property in favour of a sibling through Will. If there is no will and the person dies intestate, his/ her brother or sister come after spouse, parents and children of the deceased. 

Can a sister gift property to brother?

Yes, although relations are not really necessary for gifting a property in the name of another. One can gift movable or immovable property to his/ her brother or sister. However, it needs to be reminded here that one can gift a property which he/she already owns and not a future property. The transfer needs to be immediate and registration of gift deed is a must for immovable property. It may be noted that transfer of property to blood relations takes place without or with minimal taxes/ registration fee based on the applicable state laws. 

Are brothers and sisters legal heirs?

The laws in India provide for the concept of legal heirs under inheritance laws, which again are subject to particular religious faiths followed by people. In the case of Hindus, brothers and sisters are class 1 legal heir. For Muslims, the concept of sharers and residuaries is a bit complicated which varies for shares and relatives available in a particular case. Succession laws mainly give priority to spouses, parents and children. This chain is followed by inheritance by grandchildren, and in the absence of all such relatives come the sibling relationships. Thus, it can not be denied that brothers and sisters are legal heirs to each other, although the degree goes a bit far.    

Legal Status of ‘Rakhi Brothers’

It may sound funny, but it is part of reality that we live in. Sometimes, people find a sibling-like figure in others while they do not have their own brother or sister, or are no more in contact due to some personal issues. For such people, festivals like rakshabandhan give them a chance to tie a thread on their best friend’s wrists and share sibling relationships. It should be understood that we get our siblings through our parents in order to have a legal relationship. Hence, unless your parents legally adopt someone with whom you share a sibling-like relationship, festivals like raksha bandhan do not give any legal status. 

Is it legal for brother and sister to marry?

Marriage between brother and sister is void in India. In simple words, when two people who are related by blood, share a sibling relationship and decide to marry each other, such a marriage is not legally accepted from the very beginning. Legally speaking, under the Hindu law, Sharia law, Christian law, Parsi law and even the Special Marriage Act prohibit marriage among people with same ancestors, specifically, the marriage between brother and sister.  

Written By:
Ridhi Khurana

Ridhi Khurana


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