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The natural guardian cannot dispose of the share of the minor in the joint family property: SC

ARUMUGAM vs. AMMANIAMMAL AND ORS., CIVIL  APPEAL  NO. 8642 OF 2009 – JANUARY  8, 2020

The Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Abdul Nazeer pronounced a judgment considering the facts of both sides and allowed the appeal.

The Court held that; The natural guardian cannot dispose of the share of the minor in the joint family property.  However, this principle would not apply when a family settlement is taking place between the members of the joint family.   When such dissolution takes place and some of the members relinquish their share in favour of  the Karta,  it   is  obvious   that   the   Karta   cannot   act  as   the guardian   of  that  minor  whose  share is  being  relinquished  in favour of the Karta.   There would be a conflict of interest.

The background facts of the case are:

One Moola Gounder died intestate on 28.12.1971 leaving behind his wife (D5), two sons (D1- Palanisamy and D2- Arumugam) and 3 daughters (Plaintiff, D3, and D4). The 1/3rd share of the coparcenary property was given to the sons D1 and D2. The remaining share was shared by the Plaintiff and the other 5 defendants. A suit was filed by the youngest daughter claiming that the property is not properly divided and should be divided according to the law. A written statement was filed by D1 and D2 stating that the mother along with all the daughters has jointly executed the release deed relinquishing their rights in the property in favor of the sons. The plaintiff who was at that time minor was represented by her mother. D1 acted as the guardian for D2 who was a minor at that time. After D2 attained the majority, a registered partition deed was executed between the 2 brothers.

The trial Court dismissed the suit stating that the mother is the natural guardian of a minor and no action was taken before 3 years after attaining majority. Appeal in the High Court – the above said property is a Joint Hindu Family Property, therefore the mother could not act as a natural guardian to the daughter. The Court held that the release deed is void ab initio. Therefore, this appeal is made.

Issue: Whether mother could act as the natural guardian of the minor daughters in respect of the property?

The contention of the petitioner is that the Karta of the family should have acted as the guardian of the minor and not the mother of the minor. Therefore, mother acting as the guardian is void in nature. The High Court held that the document of release deed is void.

The contention of the respondent according to S.6 of the Succession Act states that the property of the deceased, when devolved by survivor-ship, will be given only to the brothers, but as there are female heirs, they are also given a portion of the property. Therefore, the partition is properly done and is in accordance with the law.

The following cases are being analysed to make a conclusion:

Gurupad Khandappa Magdum vs. Hirabai Khandappa Magdum and Ors., Commissioner of Wealth Tax, Kanpur and Ors. Vs. Chander Sen and Ors. , Appropriate Authority (IT Deptt) and Ors. Vs. M. Arifulla and Others.

Applying various principles laid down in the aforesaid cases, the female heirs will also get a share of the property as per Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act.

The Court stated that Section 6 of the Act provides is that the natural guardian of a minor Hindu shall be his guardian for all intents and purposes except so far as the undivided interest of the minor in the joint family property is concerned.  This would mean that the natural guardian cannot dispose of the share of the minor in the joint family property.  However, this principle would not apply when a family settlement is taking place between the members of the joint family.   When such dissolution takes place and some of the members relinquish their share in favour of  the Karta,  it   is  obvious   that   the   Karta   cannot   act  as   the guardian   of  that  minor  whose  share is  being  relinquished  in favour of the Karta.   There would be a conflict of interest.    In such an eventuality it would be the mother alone who would be the natural guardian and, therefore, the document executed by her cannot be said to be a void document.

Therefore, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of the High Court and restored the judgment of the trial court dated.

View/ Download the Judgment: M. ARUMUGAM vs. AMMANIAMMAL AND ORS.

–  Vydurya Selvi Baskaran

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