Muslim Personal Law in India:Essentials of Death Bed Gifts( Marz-ul-Maut)
In the United States there is a uniform civil and criminal code for all its citizens. In India this is not the case as the British rulers after the lapse of Muslim rule allowed the various communities like Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs to have their own personal law, though the criminal law had universal applicability. This has carried on after independence, though in the Directive Principles of the Constitution it is enshrined that the endeavor of the state will be to enact a uniform personal law for all citizens of India.
One of the Muslim laws enshrined in the Shariat is the Marz-ul Maut or gifts made by a Muslim on his death bed. Muslim law in India means that portion of Islamic civil law which is applicable only to Muslims. Generally the trend among Muslims earlier was not to make a will or ‘Wasiyat’. Hence Islamic law thought it prudent to lay down a set of laws regarding disposal of property when a Muslim was on his death bed. This is referred to as Marz-ul- Maut.
As per Islamic personal law a gift made at a time when there is reasonable apprehension of death of the testator will be distributed as per the canons of the Shariat. This is called death bed gifts and is valid only if the testator dies after executing a will. As per the Shariat there are 2 restriction imposed on this gift on the death bed. They are
a) There can be no disqualification of a heir or successor
b) The net value of the property that can be disposed should not be greater than 1/3rd of the total value of the assets.
The Shariat law is inviolable, except with the consent of the heirs. Thus on his own no Muslim can disown any heir while making a will during Marz-ul-Maut.
Some reasonable restrictions are imposed by the Shariat on Marz-ul- Maut. These are
a) There should be genuine apprehension of death due to an illness. In case a person does not die, the will made will be null and void.
b) Mere apprehension of death due to old age is not a ground for Marz-ul Maut. Thus a man dying from natural causes due to old age does not come under the purview of this law.
Marz-ul- Maut does not come under the purview of gifts and is not subject to gift tax. This was upheld by a bench of the Supreme Court of India in Commissioner of Gift Tax vs. Abdul Karim Mohd on 10 July 1991( 1991 SCR(2)846).
The Shariat and Marz-ul- Maut is further amplified in Section 191 of Indian Succession Act 1925 and section 129 of the TP Act.