Daughter entitled to inherit self-acquired property of her father: Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India
Source: Supreme Court of India
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  • Post published:January 21, 2022
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The Court observed that, if a property of a male Hindu dying intestate is a self-acquired property or obtained in 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.

If a female Hindu dies 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.

In case, a female Hindu dies leaving behind her husband or any issue, then Section 15(1)(a) comes into operation and the properties left behind including the properties which she inherited from her parents would devolve simultaneously upon her husband and her issues as provided in Section 15(1)(a) of the Act, Bench of Justice Ab. Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari observed.

Background of the Case:

A Partition Suit was filed by the sole daughter claiming 1/5th share in the separate property of his father, however the trial Court after considering the evidence observed that Marappa Gounder died on 05.04.1949 and thus, the suit property would devolve upon the sole son of deceased Ramasamy Gounder, the deceased brother of Marappa Gounder by survivorship and the plaintiff-appellant had no right to file the suit for partition and, accordingly, dismissed the suit.

Aggrieved with the order of dismissal, the plaintiff filed First Civil Appeal before the High Court which also got dismissed.

Submissions of the Appellant before the Supreme Court:

The Appellant submitted that since the property was purchased through Court auction sale by the Marappa Gounder on 15.12.1938, hence, it is his independent property and it was never considered as a joint family property, as such on death of Marappa Gounder, this property would devolve by succession upon his daughter, Kupayee Ammal, who died in the year 1967.

He further submitted that under the law of Mitakshara, the right to inheritance depends upon propinquity i.e., proximity of relationship. Since, the daughter has closer proximity of relationship, she would inherit the property from the father instead of the father’s brother’s son and daughter.

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Submissions of the Respondent:

The respondent submitted that the property in question was purchased by Marappa Gounder in Court auction sale out of the family funds and thus, it was a joint property, and on his death, since he had no male heir, the defendant as a coparcener succeeded to the estate.

He further submitted that the Trial Court after scrutinizing the evidence brought on record by the parties came to the conclusion that the paternal uncle of plaintiff, Marappa Gounder, died prior to the enforcement of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and, therefore, the plaintiff and other sisters of the plaintiff were not the heirs as on the date of death of Marappa Gounder in the year 1949 and thus, plaintiff was not entitled to the partition of 1/5th share in the suit properties, and thus, the suit was rightly dismissed.

Observations of the Court:

The Court after considering the arguments of the parties framed three questions in order to adjudicate and determine the issues;

1) What is the nature of the property and what would be the course of succession if it is a separate property as opposed to undivided property?

2) Whether a sole daughter could inherit her father’s separate property dying intestate? And if so – 3) What would be the order of succession after the death of such daughter?

The Court while answering the question no. 1 and 2 made the following observations;

66. If a property of a male Hindu dying intestate is a self-acquired property or obtained in 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.

67. In the case at hands, since the property in question was admittedly the self-acquired property of Marappa Gounder despite the family being in state of jointness upon his death intestate, his sole surviving daughter Kupayee Ammal, will inherit the same by inheritance and the property shall not devolve by survivorship.

With regard to question no. 3, the Court after analyzing Section 14 and 15 of the Hindu Succession Act observed as under;

72. Thus, if a female Hindu dies 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. In case, a female Hindu dies leaving behind her husband or any issue, then Section 15(1)(a) comes into operation and the properties left behind including the properties which she inherited from her parents would devolve simultaneously upon her husband and her issues as provided in Section 15(1)(a) of the Act.

73. The basic aim of the legislature in enacting Section 15(2) is to ensure that inherited property of a female Hindu dying issueless and intestate, goes back to the source.

74. Section 15(1)(d) provides that failing all heirs of the female specified in Entries (a)-(c), but not until then, all her property howsoever acquired will devolve upon the heirs of the father. The devolution upon the heirs of the father shall be in the same order and according to the same rules as would have applied if the property had belonged to the father and he had 47 died intestate in respect thereof immediately after her death. In the present case the since the succession of the suit properties opened in 1967 upon death of Kupayee Ammal, the 1956 Act shall apply and thereby Ramasamy Gounder’s daughters being Class-I heirs of their father too shall be heirs and entitled to 1/5th share each in the suit properties.

The Court after referring to the judgment in State of Punjab Vs. Balwant Singh & Ors. observed that, since the succession of the suit properties opened in 1967 upon death of Kupayee Ammal, the 1956 Act shall apply and thereby Ramasamy Gounder’s daughter’s being Class-I heirs of their father too shall also be heirs and entitled to 1/5th Share in each of the suit properties.

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The Court ultimately set aside the impugned judgment and order of the High Court.

Click here to download the judgment.

Case Details:
Case Title & No: Arunachala Gounder (Dead) BY LRS vs Ponnusamy and Ors. | Civil Appeal No. 6659 OF 2011
Coram: Justice Ab. Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari
Date of Judgment: 20TH JANUARY, 2022