Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the daughter of a Hindu father is entitled to inherit his self-acquired property or that obtained through family inheritance when the man died without a will.
The bench comprising Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari held that the daughter will get preference over other collateral members of the family.
“If a property of a male Hindu dying intestate (without a will) is a self-acquired property or obtained in the partition of a coparcenary or a family property, the same would devolve by inheritance and not by survivorship, and a daughter of such a male Hindu would be entitled to inherit such property in preference to other collaterals (such as sons/daughters of brothers of deceased father),” the bench said.
The bench was hearing a matter related to the right of a Hindu daughter to inherit the self-acquired property of her father after his death, in absence of any other legal heir.
Writing a 51-page verdict, the bench also scrutinized the question of whether such property will devolve on to the daughter upon the death of her father, who died without a will, by inheritance or shall devolve on to father’s brother’s son by survivorship.
“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 intestate is well recognized not only under the old customary Hindu Law but also by various judicial pronouncements,” the bench noted.
The bench stated that the legislative intent of this provision is to remedy the limitation of a Hindu woman who could not claim an absolute interest in the properties inherited by her but only had a life interest in the estate so inherited.
The bench added, “Section 14 (I) converted all limited estates owned by women into absolute estates and the succession of these properties in the absence of a will or testament would take place in consonance with Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.”
Hindu Succession Act Ensures That Inherited Property Goes Back To Source
When a female Hindu dies without a will or issue, the property that was inherited by her from her father and mother will go to their legal heirs. However the property that she inherited from her husband or father-in-law will go to either the heirs of the husband.
“The basic aim of the legislature in enacting Section 15(2) (of the Hindu Succession Act) is to ensure that inherited property of a female Hindu dying issueless and intestate, goes back to the source,” the bench observed.
Marappa Gounder died leaving behind a daughter Kupayee Ammal. Marappa had a self-acquired property and he died without a will. He had a younger brother Ramasamy Gounder who died before him.
After the death of the daughter Kupayee, the property was acquired by five heirs of Ramasamy. One of the five heirs, Thangammal filed a suit for the partition of property.
Besides deciding on the question of inheritance and survivorship, the bench was also examining the order of succession following the death of the daughter Kupayee which took place after some amendments in the Hindu Succession Act.
Property Would Devolve By Inheritance And Not Survivorship
The bench noted that since the property in question was admittedly the self-acquired property of a father despite the family being in a state of jointness upon his death intestate, his sole surviving daughter will inherit the same by inheritance and the property shall not devolve by survivorship.
“Thus, the impugned judgement and decree dated March 01, 1994, passed by the Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court vide judgment and order dated January 21, 2009, are not liable to be sustained and are hereby set aside,” the bench said.
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