This landmark judgment “Arunachala Gounder (Dead) By Lrs v. Ponnusamy and Ors. (2011)” reaffirms the legislative intent of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act 1956 which aims at bringing the parity between the inheritance rights of a female Hindu and a male Hindu by declaring female Hindus as absolute owners in the property inherited by her. Mitakshara… Read More »

This landmark judgment “Arunachala Gounder (Dead) By Lrs v. Ponnusamy and Ors. (2011)” reaffirms the legislative intent of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act 1956 which aims at bringing the parity between the inheritance rights of a female Hindu and a male Hindu by declaring female Hindus as absolute owners in the property inherited by her. Mitakshara law recognizes that the right to inherit arises from the principle of propinquity, i.e., the proximity of relationship,...

This landmark judgment “Arunachala Gounder (Dead) By Lrs v. Ponnusamy and Ors. (2011)” reaffirms the legislative intent of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act 1956 which aims at bringing the parity between the inheritance rights of a female Hindu and a male Hindu by declaring female Hindus as absolute owners in the property inherited by her.

Mitakshara law recognizes that the right to inherit arises from the principle of propinquity, i.e., the proximity of relationship, the daughter being in closer proximity of relationship can inherit the father’s property Earlier a Hindu woman could claim an only limited interest in the properties inherited by her but now she being an absolute owner if dies issueless, would go the heirs of her father.

Citation: [Civil Appeal No. 6659 of 2011]

Facts

As per the appellant’s (Thangammal, daughter of Ramasamy Gounder) case, after the death of Marappa Gounder, his self-acquired property was inherited by his daughter Kupayee Ammal. Upon her death in 1967 all the five children of Ramasamy shall be entitled to 1/5th share. A suit for partition was filed by her claiming 1/5th share in the suit property claiming that all the five were children of Ramasamy Gounder.

As per the respondent (Heirs of Gurunatha Gounder) at the time of death of Marappa Gounder in 1949 as per the provisions of Hindu Law prior to 1956, Gurunatha was the sole heir and she inherited the entire property and was in possession and enjoyment of these properties.

Trial Court held that:

“Marappa Gounder died on 15.04.1949 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”.

The decision of the Trial Court was upheld by the Hon’ble High Court, therefore the appellant had filed the present petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Issue

  • Whether a sole daughter could inherit the self-acquired property of her father who died intestate prior to the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956?

Arguments

Arguments on behalf of Appellants:

  • The property in issue was an independent property of Marappa Gounder, upon his death the property would devolve upon his daughter, Kupayee Ammal who died in 1967
  • Under Mitakshara Law, the right of inheritance is based upon the rule of Propinquity i.e proximity of relation, daughter has closer proximity of relation, therefore she would inherit the property and it will not devolve upon her father’s brother’s son upon survivorship.

Arguments on behalf of Respondents-

  • Marappa Gounder died in the year 1949 when his daughter Kupayee Ammal had no right to inherit the property of her deceased father, the only heir available at that time was Gurantha Gounder, the son of Ramaswamy

Judgment Analysis

  1. As per strong Hindu belief, their laws have been preserved in Vedas, Shrutis, and Smritis. Smritis embraces forensic law or the Dharma Shashtra believed to be recorded in the words of Lord Brahma. These writings are considered to be authentic on the edifice of which commentaries, digests, and annotations have been developed. These sources of law progress over the years and are considered to be conclusive authorities.
  2. The development of Hindu Law has been supplemented by constituent principles of equity, justice, a good conscience, and judicial decisions.
  3. These commentaries have given rise to different schools of Hindu Law-like
    • Daya Bhaga in Bengal, Mayukha in Bombay, Konkan and Gujarat
    • Marumakkattayam/Nambudri in Kerala
    • Mitakshara in other parts of India applicable to the majority of India
  1. Mitakshara School of Law
    • Is derived majorly from the commentaries of Smritis written by ‘Yajnavalkya’, other being ‘Vyavastha Chandrika’ and Smriti Chandrika.
    • Considered as the main authority for all the schools except for Daya Bhaga School prevalent in Bengal
    • ‘Yajnavalkya’ states that: “What has been self-acquired by anyone, as an increment, without diminishing the paternal estate, likewise a gift from a friend or a marriage gift, does not belong to the co-heirs.”
    • As per ‘Vyavastha Chandrika’ with respect to Daughter’s Right of Succession states-

“In default of the widow, the daughters inherit the estate of the man who died separated (from his coparceners) and not re-united (with them).”

    • Manu as quoted in ‘Vyavastha Chandrika’ states that:

“The son of a man is even as himself, and the daughter is equal to the son. How then can any other inherit his property, notwithstanding the survival of her, who is, as it were, himself.”

  1. The law of female inheritance was mentioned for the first time in The Hindu Law of Inheritance (Amendment) Act,1929.It introduced certain female statutory heirs like-
    • the son’s daughter,
    • daughter’s daughter,
    • sister and sister’s son
  1. Judicial Precedents

In the case of Katama Natchiar v. Srimut Rajah Mootoo Vijaya Raganadha Bodha Gooroo Sawmy Periya Odaya Taver it was held that:

“succession in the case of Hindu male dying intestate is to be governed by inheritance rather than survivorship. In the absence of a male member, the property devolves upon the widow and thereafter to daughter.”

174th Law Commission report stated:

“The Mitakshara law also recognizes inheritance by succession but only to the property separately owned by an individual, male or female. Females are included as heirs to this kind of property by Mitakshara law. Before the Hindu Law of Inheritance (Amendment) Act 1929, the Bengal, Benares, and Mithila sub-schools of Mitakshara recognized only five female relations as being entitled to inherit namely;- widow, daughter, mother, paternal grandmother, and paternal great-grandmother”.

Therefore, it can be concluded from the above-mentioned texts, commentaries, judicial pronouncements that several female heirs, the wives, and the daughters have inheritance rights.

  1. In the present case The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that:
    • The widow and the daughter have a right to inherit the self-acquired property or share received in the partition of a coparcenary property of a Hindu male dying intestate as recognized in Old Customary Hindu La and various judicial pronouncements. Supreme Court further held that:

“If a property of a male Hindu dying intestate 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.”

    • Here property in the issue is a self-acquired property of Marappa Gounder dying intestate will devolve upon his sole surviving daughter Kapayee Ammal despite the family being in a state of jointness at the time of his death. And, the same shall not devolve by survivorship.
    • There stand contradictory opinions as to how the succession will be followed after the death of such a daughter inheriting the property from his father. The daughter has a limited interest just like a widow, and it would revert back to the heirs of the deceased male who would be entitled to inherit by survivorship. while the other school holds as opposite view.
    • But this contradictory opinion has no relevance as Kupayee Ammal died after the enforcement of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 containing law relating to intestate succession among Hindus. Earlier women were given only limited estate in the property. The purpose of this Act is to draw parity between the property rights of males and females by declaring absolute ownership rights to females in the property. The Act governs both the Mitakshara and Daya Bhaga Schools.
    • Section 14 declares the right of absolute ownership to the Hindu female. Section 14 does away with the discriminatory practice of granting her a life interest in the inherited property to recognize her claim of absolute interest in the inherited estate.
    • The succession of the inherited property of the female in the absence of will or testament is done as per Section 15.

As per Section 15

Section -15. General rules of succession in the case of female Hindus.—

(1) The property of a female Hindu dying intestate shall devolve according to the rules set out in section 16,—

(a) firstly, upon the sons and daughters (including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) and the husband;

(b) secondly, upon the heirs of the husband;

(c) thirdly, upon the mother and father;

(d) fourthly, upon the heirs of the father; and

(e) lastly, upon the heirs of the mother.

The exception to the above rule is that if a Hindu female dies without leaving any direct heirs i.e her son or daughter or children of the pre-deceased son or daughter will devolve upon the heirs of the father as per Section 15(2)(1)(a). The legislative intent behind enacting Section 15(2) is to ensure that if the female Hindu dies issueless, the property inherited by her shall go back to the source. It was held in Bhagat Ram (dead) by LRs. v. Teja Singh (dead) by LRs.16, a two-Judge that:

“The source from which she inherits the property is always important and that would govern the situation. Otherwise, persons who are not even remotely related to the person who originally held the property would acquire rights to inherit that property. That would defeat the intent and purpose of sub-Section 2 of Section 15, which gives a special pattern of succession”. Therefore if the female has no heirs specified under Entries (a)-(c) of Section 15(1) then as per Section 15(1)(d) it will devolve upon the heirs of the father.

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 the present case since the succession of the suit properties opened in 1967 upon the 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.


  1. Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
  2. Legal Bites Academy – Ultimate Test Prep Destination
Updated On 2022-01-27T13:14:20+05:30
Mayank Shekhar

Mayank Shekhar

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