- The decision came in response to an appeal from the Madras High Court, which had dismissed the daughters’ partition suit.
- The Supreme Court overruled the trial court’s and the high court’s findings.
- The top court stated that the legislative goal was to remedy a limitation faced by a Hindu woman who could not claim an absolute interest in properties inherited by her.
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court on Thursday that the daughters of a male Hindu who died intestate would be entitled to inherit the father’s self-acquired and other properties, as well as priority over other collateral members of the family.
The decision, which came as a result of an appeal against the Madras High Court decision, addressed 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 sons/daughters of deceased father’s brothers),” said a bench of justices S Abdul Nazeer & Krishna Murari.
The court was discussing the legality of the daughter inheriting her father’s self-acquired property in the absence of any other legal heir.
In his 51-page decision for the bench, Justice Murari addressed whether such property will fall on to the daughter through inheritance following the death of her father, who died without a will, or if it will devolve on to “father’s brother’s son by survivorship.”
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According to the verdict, “The 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.”
The legislative objective, according to the legal provision, was to rectify 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.
“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…,” it stated.
If a female Hindu dies intestate, the property inherited from her father or mother goes to the heirs of her father, whereas the property inherited from her husband or father-in-law goes to the heirs of the husband, according to the law.
“The underlying goal of the legislature in adopting Section 15(2) (of the Hindu Succession Act) is to guarantee that the inherited property of a female Hindu dying issueless and intestate, goes back to the source,” it stated.
In dealing with the facts of the case, the bench overturned the trial court and high court’s rulings rejecting the daughters’ partition claim.
The Supreme Court said, “…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.
“As a result, the challenged judgement and decree dated March 1, 1994, passed by the Trial Court and affirmed by the High Court via decision and order dated January 21, 2009, are not liable to be upheld and are thus set aside,” it stated.