Reading time : 7 minutes
Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that daughters will have equal rights to their father’s property even prior to the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act (HSA) of 1956. The case involved a dispute over the property of a person who died in 1949 having a Daughter who also died issueless in 1967.
Earlier, the trial court held that since the person had died prior to the enforcement of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 therefore the petitioner and her other sisters were not the heirs as on date and not held for partition of shares of their property. But later on the supreme court dismissed the appeal against the trial court.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the property of a man who has died without executing a will and is survived only by a daughter will devolve upon the daughter and not others such as his brother. What was the case? How did SC come to this conclusion?
What is the case?
One Marappa Gounder died intestate in 1949 leaving behind a daughter, Kupayee Ammal, who also surpassed in 1967 issueless. Marappa has a brother known as Ramasamy Gounder. Gurunatha Gounder and four other daughters are the children of Ramasamy.
One of those daughters, Thangammal, sought legal intervention annoying a one-fifth percentage inside the property of Marappa.
She contented in court that once after Marappa’s loss of life, the assets become handed directly to Kupayee Ammal, the man’s daughter, and after she died childlessly, it ended up with Ramasamy Gounder, Marappa’s brother, and that is how she is an heir and as a consequence, she’s entitled to a one-fifth share of the inheritance.
And on the other side, the children of Gurunath, who’s the son of Ramasamy, maintained that Kupayee Ammal had no right to inherit the property inside the first location. because Gurunath became the only inheritor to be had, they are the rightful heirs to the property.
What the Supreme Court said
A two-judge bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari stated that “right of a widow or daughter to inherit the self-obtained assets or proportion obtained in the partition of coparcenary belonging of a Hindu male demise intestate is properly acknowledged now not only under the antique customary Hindu law” but additionally under preceding judicial pronouncements.
including, “if a property of a male Hindu dying intestate is a self-acquired asset or acquired in the partition of a co-parcenery or own family belonging, the equal might devolve through inheritance and no longer by means of survivorship, and a daughter of such a male Hindu might be entitled to inherit such property in preference to other collaterals”.
The court upheld that the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 shall apply considering the query of succession in the case simplest opened after the loss of life of Kupayee Ammal in 1967. sooner or later, Thangammal, the appellant, is described as an heir and is entitled to the only-5th percentage of the inheritance.
The judgment further clarified that if a girl Hindu dies intestate and childless, the property she inherited from her parent might go to the father’s heirs. And the belongings she received from her husband or father-in-law could go to the husband’s heirs.
And in case a woman Hindu dies leaving a husband behind, then the residences surpassed directly to the husband and her children might encompass the inheritance from her mother and father, in keeping with Hindu Succession Act.
The Supreme Court’s view and analysis
The issue, earlier than the Supreme Court, for consideration, become whether or not the late Marappa Gounder’s sole surviving daughter Kuppayee Ammal could inherit the self-obtained property by inheritance or it’d devolve with the aid of survivorship, upon the father dying intestate, previous to the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (HSA).
Relating to customary Hindu law in addition to judicial pronouncements, the bench observed that the rights of female heirs, especially the wives and daughters are acknowledged in law.
The Court mentioned out that, in step with the Mitakshara law, the property of a Hindu male is devolved upon his death, keeping in mind the subsequent propositions:
“(1) Where the deceased was, turned into, on the time of the death, a member of joint and undivided circle of relatives, technically referred as coparcenary, his undivided interest inside the coparcenary property belongings on his coparceners by using survivorship.
(2) (i) Even supposing the deceased was joint at the time of his death, he would have left self-acquired or separate property. Such property is going to his heirs by succession and not to his coparceners;
(ii) If the deceased became at the time of his death, the sole surviving member of coparcenary property, the whole of his property, including the coparcenary assets, will pass to his heirs by way of succession ;
(iii) If the deceased became separate on the time of his death from his coparceners, the whole of his property, including the coparcenary assets, will pass to his heirs by way of succession
(3) If the deceased turned into re-united at the time of his death, his property will pass to his heirs with the aid of succession.”
The bench further held that in the case of Gopal Singh v Ujagar Singh,(1954), it became located with the aid of the ultimate courtroom that “the daughter succeeds to the self-obtained assets of her father in preference to collaterals”.
The courtroom, therefore, proceeded to preserve that if a belonging of a male Hindu demise intestate is a self-received property or received within the partition of a coparcenary or own family belonging, the same could devolve via inheritance and now not by using survivorship, and a daughter of this type of male Hindu would be entitled to inherit such property in choice to different collaterals.
The matter in the trial court and High Court
The trial court, dismissing Thangammal’s case in 1994, noted that since Marappa died before Hindu Succession Act, 1956 came into force, she and her sisters were not entitled as heirs to the inheritance. The High Court dismissed the appeal against the trial court in 2009.
The High Court dismissed the appeal against the trial court order in 2009.
Studying older Hindu laws and judicial pronouncements
According to the supreme court the Mitakshara law recognizes inheritance through a succession of property owned by way of a person, male or female. And over time, various sub-schools of the regulation brought more than one woman member of the family to define inheritor to the inheritance. The court, after noting several such previous judicial clauses, concluded that it’s far abundantly clear that a daughter turned into in truth able to inherit the Father’s separate estate.
The court found, “From the above discussions, it’s miles clear that historic textual content as also the Smritis, the Commentaries are written by means of various famend discovered persons and even judicial pronouncements have diagnosed the rights of several lady heirs,the wives, and the daughter’s being the most of them. The rights of women in the family to maintenance were in every case very substantial rights and on whole, it would seem that some of the commentators erred in drawing adverse inferences from the vague references to women’s succession in the earlier Smritis. The views of the Mitakshara on the matter are unmistakable. Vijneshwara also nowhere endorses the view that women are incompetent to inherit,”
What does the judgment mean?
The courtroom has held that the self-received belongings of a Hindu man shall not devolve through survivorship however by using succession and girl heirs—wife and daughter—will be entitled to inheritance/succession even earlier than 1956, when the Hindu Succession Act become enacted.
What this indicates is that “anywhere the female heirs are being denied succession for the period previous to the year 1956 on the ground of succession by survivorship, shall grow to be entitled to succession and could carry a lot desired remedy to female legal heirs,”
The court, among other things, has analyzed the right of a sole daughter to inherit the property of a father who died intestate prior to the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act.
The court went into the sources of Hindu laws and several judicial pronouncements and upheld the right of a daughter to her father’s property. This is in line with a string of judgments that have reiterated the right of a female Hindu to inherit property, said Avikshit Moral, partner at IndusLaw.
-The apex court pronounced that, daughters of a male Hindu, dying intestate, might be entitled to inherit the self-obtained and other properties obtained in the partition by way of the father.
-Daughters can even get preference over other collateral members in their own family.
-As per the court, if a property of a male Hindu dying intestate (without a will) is a self-acquired asset or it’s been acquired inside the partition of a coparcenary or an own family property, it might devolve by inheritance and not via survivorship. The daughter would be entitled to inherit such property.
-Right of a widow or daughter to inherit the self-acquired property or proportion obtained in the partition of a coparcenary property of a Hindu male dying intestate is well recognized under old customary Hindu Law in addition to by way of numerous judicial pronouncements..
Daughters Inheritance:It states that if a person is died without leaving any will and is survived by his daughter will devolve upon the daughter and not others such as his brother.
But before there was an amendment made in Hindu Succession Act, 2005. There it was amended that if father and daughter were alive on the amended date then the daughters have Coparcenary right. But, this clutch of the previous Judgment of the apex court has been set aside by a three-judge bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri. SC held that daughters will have inheritance rights equal to those of the brother, Grandfather, Great grandfather right from the codification of the law in 1956.
Ancient Texts & Judicial Pronouncements:The sc referred to ancient tex by various named persons even judicial pronouncements which have recognised the rights of several female heirs, the wives and the daughter’s being the foremost of them.
Supreme court also looked into vyavastha chandrika,a renowned learner of Hindu law by shyama charan sarkar vidya Bhushan who quoted vrishaspati by saying that thr wife is pronounced successor to the wealth of her husband as a son,so the daughter of a person also proceed from her second limbs.
Supreme court also noted that the book also quoted manu as saying The son of a person even himself and a daughter is equal to a son.How can any other inherit his/her property not withstanding the survival of her,who is,as it were,himself.
Old law:The previous law stated that right of a widow or daughter to inherit the self-acquired property or share received in the partition of a coparcenary property of a hindu male dying intensity is well recognized not only under the old customary Hindu law
-If a property of a male Hindu dying who has died without having made a will is said to be self-acquired property or obtained in the partition of a unity of little or family property, the same will be developed by inheritance and not by survivorship and a daughter of such a male hindu will be entitled to inherit such property in preference to other property or something valuable that you agree to give to somebody if you can not pay back money that you have borrowed.
Property after womens death
the court also said that if a female Hindu dies without having made a will or without leaving any issue then the property inherited from her father would go to their inheritance of father or mother whether if in case the property of father is inherited from her husband or father in law.would go to the heir of her husband.
Land Rights and Women in India
Property in India was largely towards to male heirs. In this case, it turns deprives women of agency, financial independence, and entrepreneurship. According to the national family health survey, 43% of women respondents were reported to be owing house/land alone or jointly but the main point is women’s ability to actually access and control property.
-In fact, in 2020 university of manchester working on a paper found that hardly 16% of women in rural landowning households own land.
-Patriarchy=In deep patriachal mores and rural agrarian settings, property which were seen as their primary source of wealth is largely contributed to the male heirs of the family.
-state laws=Inheritance laws for agricultural land remain a minefield with conflicting cultural personal laws and state laws.
-In this point of view states like punjab,haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and even Delhi have regressive inheritance provisions.
-In fact, Haryana also twice tried to take away the progressive rights which were given to women through the Hindu succession Act 1956, while in Uttar Pradesh since 2016 Married daughters were not considered primary heirs.
-Ground-level resistance =There was also a lot of ground-level resistance for registering land for women in the northern parts of India. But in fact, women’s empowerment and property rights remain an unfinished project in India.
Hindu Succession Act, 1956:
-The Mitakshara school of Hindu law was codified because the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 governed succession and inheritance of property but only to the acknowledged males as their legal heirs.
-It was applied to everyone who isn’t a Muslim, Christian, Parsi, or Jew via religion. Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, and followers of Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, are also were considered Hindus for this law.
-In a Hindu Undivided Family, numerous legal heirs through generations can exist jointly.
Traditionally, only male descendants of a commonplace ancestor in conjunction with their mothers, wives, and unmarried daughters are taken into consideration in a joint Hindu family. The legal heirs preserve the family belongings mutually.
Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005:
-The 1956 Act was changed into amended in September 2005 and women had been regarded as coparceners for property partitions arising from 2005.
-Section 6 of the Act was amended to make a daughter of a coparcener also a coparcener via birth “in her own right in the same manner as the son”.
-It also gave the daughter the identical same rights and liabilities “within the coparcenary property as she might have had if she had been a son”.
-The law applies to ancestral property and to intestate succession in personal property, where succession takes place as per law and no longer thru a will.
How did the court reach the conclusion?
Tracing the sources of commonplace Hindu law on inheritance, the court docket mentioned Mitakshara law and appeared into amongst others to ‘Vyavastha Chandrika’, a digest of Hindu law by using Shyama Charan Sarkar Vidya Bhushan which quoted ‘Vrihaspati’ as pronouncing ‘the spouse is pronounced successor to the wealth of her husband; in her default, the daughter. As a son, so does the daughter of a man continue from his several limbs. How then, have to every other individual (b) take her father’s wealth?”.
The SC also referred to that the ebook quoted Manu as pronouncing “the son of a person is at the same time as himself, and the daughter is identical to the son. How then can another inherit his assets, notwithstanding the survival of her, who is, as it has been, himself.”
Author: ADARSH DEBASISH, KIIT UNIVERSITY.
Editor: Kanishka Vaish, Senior Editor, LexLife India