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Daughters born even prior to 2005 Amendment to Hindu Succession Act have Coparcenary Rights : SC

VINEETA SHARMA V. RAKESH SHARMA & ORS.CIVIL APPEAL NO. DIARY NO.32601 OF 2018, August 11, 2020.


The bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice Arun Mishra, Hon’ble Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, and Hon’ble Justice M.R. Shah pronounced the judgment on section 6 of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005. Furthermore, the bench overruled the views to the contrary expressed in Prakash V. Phulavati and Mangammal V. T.B. Raju & Ors. The opinion expressed in Danamma@ Suman & Anr. V. Amar has been partly overruled to the extent of the contrary to this decision.

The question concerning the interpretation of section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (in short, ‘the Act of 1956’) as amended by Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 (in short, ‘the Act of2005’) has been referred to a larger Bench in view of the conflicting verdicts rendered in two Division Bench judgments of this Court in Prakash & Ors. v. Phulavati & Ors., (2016) 2 SCC 36 and Danamma @ Suman Surpur & Anr. v. Amar & Ors.,  (2018) 3 SCC 343. In other connected matters, the question involved is similar; as such, they have also been referred for hearing along.

Shri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General of India, appearing on behalf of Union of India, raised the following arguments:

(i) The daughters have been given the right of a coparcener, to bring equality with sons, and the exclusion of daughter from coparcenary was discriminatory and led to oppression and negation of fundamental rights. The Amendment Act, 2005, is not retrospective but retroactive in operation since it enables the daughters to exercise their coparcenary rights on the commencement of the Amendment Act. Even though the right of a coparcener accrued to the daughter by birth, coparcenary is a birthright.

(ii) The conferment of coparcenary status on daughters would not affect any partition that may have occurred before 20.12.2004 when the Bill was tabled before Rajya Sabha as contained in the proviso to section 6(1). Hence, the conferment of right on the daughter did not disturb the rights which got crystallised by partition before 20.12.2004.

(iii) Unamended Section 6 provided that if a male coparcener had left behind on death a female relative specified in Class I of the Schedule or male relative claiming through such female relative, the daughter was entitled to limited share in the coparcenary interest of her father not share as a coparcener in her rights. They were unable to inherit the ancestral property like sons/male counterparts. The Mitakshara coparcenary law not only contributed to discrimination on the ground of gender but was oppressive and negated the fundamental right of equality guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

Shri R. Venkataramani, learned senior counsel/amicus curiae, argued as under:

(a) There is no conflict between the decisions in Prakash v. Phulavati (supra) and Danamma v. Suman (supra). In both the decisions, the provisions of section 6 have been held to be of prospective application. The amendment is a prospective one. The declaration by the law that the daughter of a coparcener has certain entitlements and be subject to certain liabilities is prospective. The daughter is treated as a coparcener under the amendment Act and not because of the daughter’s birth prior to the amendment.

(b) Unlike the joint tenancy principle in English law, a joint Hindu family stands on a different footing. Every son by birth became a coparcener, and because of birth, the son became entitled to be a coparcener in the joint Hindu family property entitled to claim partition with or without reference to the death of the Karta of a joint Hindu family. Like a son born into the family, an adopted son is also entitled to succeed to the joint family property. He becomes a coparcener with adoptive father, but his relationship with the natural family is severed, including his status as a coparcener in the family of birth as laid down in Nagindas Bhagwandas v. Bachoo Hurkissondas, AIR 1915 PC 41 and Nanak Chand & Ors. v. Chander Kishore & Ors., AIR 1982 Del. 520.

Shri V.V.S. Rao learned amicus curiae/senior counsel, argued that:

(a) the logic of Prakash v. Phulavati has been upheld in Mangammal v. T.B. Raju, (2018) 15 SCC 662. It was held that there should be a living daughter of a living coparcener to inherit the property on the date of enforcement of the amended provisions of the 2005 Act.

(b) Section 6(1)(a) declares a daughter to be a coparcener by birth. By the declaration, a daughter stands included in coparcenary. As the declaration is to the effect that the daughter is to become coparcener by birth, the question of prospectivity or retrospectivity will not arise— daughter, whether born before 2005 or after that, is considered a coparcener.

(c) Section 6(1)(b) and (c) deal with the effects of inclusion of daughter as a coparcener. Having regard to the plain language and future perfect tense “shall have the same rights,” the only conclusion is that the daughters who are included in the coparcenary will have the same rights after coming into force of the Amendment Act. The future perfect tense indicates that an action will have been completed (finished or perfected) at some point in the future. This tense is formed with “will” plus “have” plus the past participle of the verb. If the Parliament had intended to mean as conferring the same rights in the coparcenary, anterior to the amendment, the language would have been different. The future perfect tense indicates that action will have to be completed at some point in time in the future. The tense is formed with “will” plus “have” plus the past participle of the verb. If the Parliament intended to mean conferring the same rights in the coparcenary, anterior to the amendment, the language would have been different. If the daughter is now made a coparcener, she would now have the same rights as she is a son.

Shri Sridhar Potaraju, learned counsel, vociferously argued that:

(a) The decision in Prakash v. Phulavati adopted the correct interpretation of the provision. Married daughters are not considered as part of the father’s joint family. They were recognised as Class I heirs that, by itself, did not make them part of their father’s joint Hindu family. He has relied upon Surjit Lal Chhabda v. Commissioner of Income Tax, (1976) 3 SCC 142. A married daughter ceases to be a member of the father’s family and becomes a member of her husband’s family.

(b) As considered by P. Ramanatha Aiyar in Major Law Lexicon, the land is held in coparcenary when there is the unity of title, possession, and interest. A Hindu coparcenary is a narrower body than the joint family. A coparcener shares (equally) with others in inheritance in the estate of a common ancestor. Otherwise called parceners are such as have an equal portion in the inheritance of an ancestor. The share of a coparcener is undefined and keeps fluctuating with the birth and death of a coparcener. When a male is born, he becomes a coparcener, thereby decreasing the share of other coparceners. In the event of the death of a coparcener, the rule of survivorship comes into play, and the estate devolves on the surviving coparceners to the exclusion of heirs of the deceased coparcener. Status of a coparcener is a creation of law commencing with birth and ending with death or by severance of such status by way of partition or statutory fiction. The status of coparcenary ceases on death.

Ms. Anagha S. Desai, learned counsel, strenuously urged that section 6 provides parity of rights in coparcenary property among male and female members of a joint Hindu family on and from 9.9.2005. The declaration in section 6 that the daughter of a coparcener shall have the same rights and liabilities as she would have been a son is unambiguous and unequivocal. The daughter is entitled to a share in the ancestral property. She has relied upon Ganduri Koteshwaramma & Anr. v. Chakiri Yanadi & Anr., (2011) 9 SCC 788.

When a daughter, who is claiming and demanding a share in the coparcenary, is alive, there is no difficulty of interpretation, irrespective of the fact whether a coparcener has died before the commencement of the Amendment Act. The coparcener and the daughter do not need to be alive as on the date of the amendment. If it is to be interpreted that coparcener and daughter both should be alive, it will defeat the very purpose and objective of the amended provisions. Earlier, the provisions of Hindu law treated a son as a coparcener by birth; now, daughters are given the same rights since birth. In case partition has been effected by metes and bounds and is adequately proved, then the daughter of coparcenary cannot seek partition of already divided property.

The expression used in Explanation to Section 6(5) ‘partition effected by a decree of a court’ would mean giving of final effect to actual partition by passing the final decree, only then it can be said that a decree of a court effects partition. A preliminary decree declares share but does not effect the actual partition, that is effected by passing of a final decree; thus, statutory provisions are to be given full effect, whether partition is actually carried out as per the intendment of the Act is to be found out by Court. Even if partition is supported by a registered document it is necessary to prove it had been given effect to and acted upon and is not otherwise sham or invalid or carried out by a final decree of a court.

In case partition, in fact, had been worked out finally in toto as if it would have been carried out in the same manner as if affected by a decree of a court, it can be recognized, not otherwise. A partition made by execution of deed duly registered under the Registration Act, 1908, also refers to completed event of partition not merely intendment to separate, is to be borne in mind while dealing with the special provisions of Section 6(5) conferring rights on a daughter. There is a clear legislative departure with respect to proof of partition which prevailed earlier; thus, the Court may recognise the other mode of partition in exceptional cases based upon continuous evidence for a long time in the shape of public document not mere stray entries then only it would not be in consonance with the spirit of the provisions of Section 6(5) and its Explanation.

Resultantly, the court answers the reference as under:

(i) The provisions contained in substituted Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 confer status of coparcener on the daughter born before or after amendment in the same manner as son with same rights and liabilities.

(ii) The rights can be claimed by the daughter born earlier with effect from 9.9.2005 with savings as provided in Section 6(1) as to the disposition or alienation, partition or testamentary disposition which had taken place before 20th day of December, 2004.

(iii) Since the right in coparcenary is by birth, it is not necessary that father coparcener should be living as on 9.9.2005.

(iv) The statutory fiction of partition created by proviso to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 as originally enacted did not bring about the actual partition or disruption of coparcenary. The fiction was only for the purpose of ascertaining share of deceased coparcener when he was survived by a female heir, of Class-I as specified in the Schedule to the Act of 1956 or male relative of such female. The provisions of the substituted Section 6 are required to be given full effect. Notwithstanding that a preliminary decree has been passed the daughters are to be given share in coparcenary equal to that of a son in pending proceedings for final decree or in an appeal.

(v) In view of the rigor of provisions of Explanation to Section 6(5) of the Act of 1956, a plea of oral partition cannot be accepted as the statutory recognised mode of partition effected by a deed of partition duly registered under the provisions of the Registration Act, 1908 or effected by a decree of a court. However, in exceptional cases where plea of oral partition is supported by public documents and partition is finally evinced in the same manner as if it had been affected by a decree of a court, it may be accepted. A plea of partition based on oral evidence alone cannot be accepted and to be rejected out rightly.

The Court held that;

We understand that on this question, suits/appeals are pending before different High Courts and subordinate courts. The matters have already been delayed due to legal imbroglio caused by conflicting decisions. The daughters cannot be deprived of their right of equality conferred upon them by Section 6. Hence, we request that the pending matters be decided, as far as possible, within six months. In view of the aforesaid discussion and answer, we overrule the views to the contrary expressed in Prakash v. Phulavati and Mangammal v. T.B. Raju & Ors. The opinion expressed in Danamma @ Suman Surpur & Anr. v. Amar is partly overruled to the extent it is contrary to this decision. 

View/ Download the Judgment: VINEETA SHARMA V. RAKESH SHARMA & ORS.

CIVIL APPEAL NO. DIARY NO.32601 OF 2018
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Karthik K.P (School of Law, SASTRA Deemed to be University)


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