Arunachala Gounder (D) by LRS. v. Ponnuswamy and Ors.
ARUNACHALA GOUNDER (DEAD) BY LRS. v. PONNUSAMY AND ORS.
2022 SCC OnLine SC 72
Coram: S. Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari, JJ.
Decided on: 20th January 2022
Related Statute: The Hindu Succession, 1956
A suit for partition was filed by one Thangammal, daughter of Ramasamy Gounder, claiming 1/5th share in the self-acquired property of her deceased uncle, Marappa Gounder who is the elder brother of Ramasamy Gounder. The plaintiff alleged that the property was inherited by Kupayee Ammal after the death of her father, Marappa Gounder and upon her death in 1967, it shall devolve further upon the five children of Ramasamy Gounder since Kupayee Ammal died issueless. Since the parties died during the pending of suit so, they are represented by their legal representatives. The Trial court held that Marappa Gounder died on 15.04.1949 and therefore, the suit property would devolve upon the sole son of deceased Ramasamy Gounder deceased brother of Marappa Gounder by survivorship and the plaintiff-appellant had no right to file a suit. The High Court of Madras affirmed the decision of the Trial Court by stating that the property shall devolve upon the defendant based on the survivorship. The present appeal was filed challenging the order of the Hon’ble High Court.
Whether the self-acquired property of father will devolve on to the daughter upon the death of her father intestate by inheritance or shall devolve upon the father’s brother’s son as per the doctrine of survivorship?
Questions of Law:
For the determination of this fact in issue, the Supreme Court three different questions:
- What is the nature of the property and what is the course of succession if it is a separate property?
- Whether a sole daughter could inherit her father’s separate property dying intestate? If yes, then what will be the order of succession after the death of such a daughter?
Decision: The Hon’ble Supreme Court allowed the appeal and held that a daughter is capable of inheriting the self-acquired property of a father dying intestate (prior to the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956).
Law as held: The Hon’ble Apex Court arrived at the decision by noting the following:
Sources of Hindu Law and Statute
The origin is traced in antiquity and the law is assumed to be preserved in Vedas; Shrutis; Smritis like- Manu, Yajnavalkya, Vishnu; commentaries and digests. With the progress in time and change of social conditions, the source of Hindu law also changed to customs, equity, good conscience and judicial decisions or legal precedents. At present, there is The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (hereinafter, the Act) which amended and codified the Hindu law relating to intestate succession. It was introduced to establish sense of equality among females with regard to property rights, thereby abolishing the concept of limited estate and giving her an absolute interest in the property. The relevant provisions of this Act for the present case are as follows:
Section 14. Property of a female Hindu to be her absolute property.
Section 15. General rules of succession in the case of female Hindus.
Legislations and Legal Precedents
The court noted the following substantial position of law while dealing with this case:
- The Hindu Law of Inheritance (Amendment) Act, 1929 entitled the daughter’s daughter to succeed to the property of a male Hindu governed by Mitakshara law. Before this legislation, only five female relations were allowed to inherit the property namely- widow, daughter, mother, paternal grandmother and paternal great-grandmother. The order of succession has been cited in Paragraph 43 of Mulla’s Principles of Hindu Law (14th Edition) as:
The Sapindas succeeded in the following order:-
1-4 A son, grandson and great-grandson and (after 14th April, 1937) widow, predeceased son’s widow, a predeceased son’s widow, and predeceased son’s son’s widow.
6 Daughter’s son
13 Father’s father
13A Son’s daughter
13B Daughter’s daughter
- Madras sub-schools under Mitakshara Law recognised the heritable capacity of a large number of female heirs i.e., son’s daughter, daughter’s daughter and the sister who were expressly named as heirs in the Hindu Law (Amendment) Act, 1929.
- The 174th Law Commission in its report on ‘Property Rights of Women’ proposed reforms and one of them stated as ‘The Mitakshara law also recognising inheritance by succession but only to the property separately owned by an individual, male or female. Females are included as heirs to this kind of property by Mitakshara law.
- In Lal Singh & Ors. v. Roor Singh & Ors. [55 Punjab Law Reporter 168 at 172] as well as Gopal Singh & Ors. v. Ujagar Singh & Ors. [AIR 1954 SC 579], the respective Courts held that in regard to the separate or non-ancestral or self-acquired property of father, the daughter shall have preferential claim as against the collaterals.
The Court answered the three issues accordingly:
- Issue 1 and 2 has been answered affirmatively by the Judge(s) stating that if a property of a male Hindu dying intestate is a self-acquired property or obtained in partition of a co-parcenary or a family property, the same would devolve by inheritance and not by survivorship. And the daughter of such a male Hindu would be entitled to inherit such property in preference to other collaterals.
- With respect to the Issue 3, the Court observed two conflicting views of the two schools of Hindu law. One says that such a daughter inherits a limited estate like a widow and shall not have an absolute right which means after her death the property shall revert back to the heirs of deceased male. While the other says the exact opposite.
However, in the present case Kupayee Ammal inherited the property and died in 1967 after the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Therefore, the property of deceased Kupayee Ammal shall be succeeded by Ramasamy Gounder’s daughters as they are Class I heirs of their father. Hence, they shall be entitled to 1/5th share each in that property.