The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that daughters of a male Hindu, who dies without writing a will, would be entitled to inherit the self-acquired properties of the father and get preference over other members of the family in absence of any other legal heir.
A bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari were dealing with a judgment which came on an appeal against the Madras High Court verdict which dealt with the property rights of Hindu women and widows under the Hindu Succession Act.
“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 sone/daughters of brothers of deceased father)”.
Justice Murari also dealt with 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 recognised not only under the old customary Hindu Law but also by various judicial pronouncements”
One Marappa Gounder who died in 1949 leaving behind a daughter Kupayee Ammal, who also died in 1967, had a brother Ramasamy Gounder who was survived by a son and four daughters. One of the four daughters, Thangammal sought one-fifth share in the property of her deceased uncle Marappa Gounder.
Thangamma in her argument said Kupayee Ammal had inherited the property of her property, however, after she died without issuing a will, the property automatically came to her father Ramasamy Gounder. Thangammal contended that she being the daughter of Ramasamy had right on the one-fifth of the property share.
However, one Gurunath’s children claimed that, after Marappa died, there was no legal heir of his property as his daughter had no legal right to inherit his property, so the only heir available then was Gurunatha Gounder and the property had come to Gurunatha.
The Madras High Court verdict concluded that as Marappa Gounder had died prior to the enforcement of Hindu Succession Act, 1956, therefore, the daughter of the deceased was not the legal heir of the property. Therefore, the property directly goes to Gurunatha and Thangammal and her sisters were not the heirs as on the date of his death and therefore, they were not entitled to partition of 1/5th share in the suit properties. The Madras High Court therefore, had rejected the suit filed by Thangammal on March 1.
“If a female Hindu died intestate without leaving any issue, then the property inherited by her from her father or mother would go to the heirs of her father whereas the property inherited from her husband or father-in-law would go to 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 Supreme Court kept aside the verdict of the trial court and the Madras High court, which dismissed the partition suit of the daughters.
“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 1, 1994, passed by the Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court vide judgement and order dated January 21, 2009 are not liable to be sustained and are hereby set aside.”
The Apex Court also quoted Manu while concluding the case.