Published on: November 5, 2021




A district autonomous council in Meghalaya, which If implemented, the proposed Bill would modify an age-old customary practice of inheritance of the matrilineal Khasi tribe.


  • The three tribes of Meghalaya — Khasis, Jaintias, and Garos — practise a matrilineal system of inheritance.
  • In this system, lineage and descent are traced through the mother’s clan.
  • In other words, children take the mother’s surname, the husband moves into his wife’s house, and the youngest daughter (khatduh) of the family is bequeathed the full share of the ancestral — or the clan’s — property.
  • The khatduh becomes the “custodian” of the land, and assumes all responsibility associated with the land, including taking care of aged parents, unmarried or destitute siblings.
  • Custom also dictates that the khatduh cannot sell the property, without permission of her mother’s brother (maternal uncle) — since he technically belongs to the mother’s clan, through which descent is traced.
  • This inheritance tradition applies only to ancestral or clan/community property, which has been with the family for years. On the other hand, self-acquired property can be distributed equally among siblings.

 In this traditional set-up, if a couple does not have any daughters, then the property goes to the wife’s elder sister, and her daughters. If the wife does not have sisters, then the clan usually takes over the property.

What does the Bill aim to change:

  • Main objective – “equitable distribution” of parental property among siblings – both male and female.
  • Would let parents decide who they want to will their property to.
  • Prevent a sibling from getting parental property if they marry a non-Khasi and accept the spouse’s customs and culture.
  • When a couple has no children, and there is no genuine heir, the clan takes over the property, as per custom. It leads to a number of litigations by children against their parents
  • Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, it does not have the power to legislate. Paragraph 12 A of the Sixth Schedule gives the final right of passing a law to the state legislature.