Case Analysis: Prakash & Ors. v. Phulavati & Ors., (2016)

Case Analysis: Prakash & Ors. v. Phulavati & Ors., (2016)

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Prakash & Ors. v. Phulavati & Ors., (2016) Overview

The judgment delivered in Prakash & Ors. v. Phulavati & Ors., (2016) is widely cited for its ruling about the applicability of the act to the living daughters of living coparceners regardless of their date of birth. This case analysis looks into every major issue dealt in the High Court and the Supreme Court’s ruling and tries to draw the different perspectives of the courts in settling this case.

Introduction

Property has been a matter of dispute in families, since ages. Since the amendment of Section 6 of Hindu Succession Amendment Act in 2005, daughters, irrespective of them being married or unmarried will be considered as coparceners in a Hindu joint family, which is governed by Mitakshara law. This amendment can be defined as ‘revolutionary’ because of its very nature of being pro-women. In an act, mostly derived from Dharmashatras, which say that if a son failed to pay the debts of his ancestors, then the sole of that ancestor would return to the creditor’s house in the form of a slave or a 4 legged animal or a woman, bringing about such tremendous amendment which confers property rights to women, is indeed a laudable gesture. Posthumous to an amendment, its application becomes important in setting precedents.

In Prakash & Ors vs. Phulavati & Ors,[1] the contention was made about the application of the “Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005”, hereafter referred to as Amendment Act. The decisions of the High Court and Supreme Court, in this case, can be considered as the most intricately analyzed judgements and the Apex Court’s judgement has been taken as a landmark ruling and had been applied in several other cases as well. This case analysis looks into every major issue dealt in the High Court and the Supreme Court’s ruling and tries to draw the different perspectives of the courts in settling this case.

Facts of the Case | Prakash & Ors. v. Phulavati & Ors., (2016)

The dispute was about the ancestral and self-acquired property and retrospective application of the Amendment act. The Respondent in the Supreme Court petition had filed a suit in the Trial Court of Belgaum, claiming for partition and possession of certain per cent of ancestral properties, which were acquired by her (respondent’s) father and different per cent of share in another property. The death of Respondent’s father, who had acquired the ancestral property, happened on 18th of February 1988. After his death, Respondent acquired the ancestral properties.

The present Appellants challenged this in the year 1992, claiming that the Respondent can only acquire her father’s self-acquired properties and not the ancestral property that was inherited by him. Both the parties, during the pendency of the trial, changed and mended their petitions according to changing circumstances and changing percentage of shares in the properties.

The Trial Court considered all of those pleadings which were not relevant to the case per se and this led to delay in the declaration of the judgement. Though the exact date of the Trial Court verdict is not known, the case was filed in 1992 and the first appeal in High Court was made in the year 2007, almost immediately after the Trial Court verdict. This can be used to estimate the delay made in delivering the Trial Court verdict. When the Amendment act came into effect on 9th of September 2005, the Respondent, according to Section 6(1) of the Act, rightfully claimed her share of the property according to the Amendment Act. The Trial court partly allowed the suit.[2] The Respondents approached the High Court and the High Court’s decision was overruled by the Supreme Court.

Contention | Prakash & Ors. v. Phulavati & Ors., (2016)

In the Trial court, the contention was that the Respondent cannot claim the ancestral property because of the simple reason of her not being a legal coparcener in the property. Whereas in the High Court, the contention was that the Respondent’s father died before the Amendment Act came into existence, hence it cannot be applied to the Respondent’s case.

In Supreme Court, the contention was that the Amendment Act came into place after the death of the Respondent’s father, which made him lose his status of being a coparcener. Hence, she cannot claim to be the Coparcener. When she is not a coparcener per se, then the act, which expressly doesn’t talk about any retrospective applicability, would not be applied in her case.

Issues Involved

The court had to decide whether:

  1. The amendment is applicable even if the Respondent’s father had died after the act came into existence?
  2. The Amendment Act can be applied to the partition effectuated without the decree of court?
  3. The Amendment Act can be applied retrospectively?

Judgment | Prakash & Ors. v. Phulavati & Ors., (2016)

The High Court held that as the partition was not effectuated by the partition deed or any sort of court’s order, it would be deemed to be recognized as a notional partition and hence the Section 6(5) of the Amendment Act cannot be applied to the present case.

The Supreme Court differentiated between the application of the Act in the present case by the High Court and application of the Act retrospectively in general. The Supreme Court reversed the High Court’s Decision.

Case Analysis

The two-judge bench The High Court of Karnataka, which included Justices D.V. Shylendra Kumar and N. Anand, in this case[3] delivered the judgement in the favour of the Respondents in the Supreme Court case. As per the facts are considered, the partition that happened after the death of the Respondent’s father, was merely a notional partition and it did not happen subsequent to any decree of a court or any such legal procedure. However, the Petitioners contested the claim in the High Court saying that the Amendment Act cannot be applied because the death of the father happened before the commencement of the act, which lead to the partition. Here, the Bench had to decide upon two separate issues:

  • Can the Act be applied to the case, which has been pending since before the commencement of the Act?
  • If Section 6(5) of the Amendment Act be applied to the notional partition, done before the Act came into existence?

Regarding the first issue, the Bench analyses the judgement delivered by the Supreme Court in the case of, G. Sekar v. Geetha And Ors.[4]. Here, the apex court clarifies that any Amendment or development that will be made in law will be applicable to the cases, which were in the pendency during the procedure of amendments in the law. The court also differentiated between this concept of applicability and retrospective applicability. This decision was rendered based on the judgement of the case S.L Srinivasa Jute Twine Mills (P) Ltd v. Union Of India,[5] which was not considered in the context of the factual situation, but for the judgement in itself, where it was decided that the right of existing parties during the commencement of an act would not be taken away. Based on this legal discourse, the High Court made it very clear that as the case was pending during the commencement of the Act, the will be applied to the present case, while keeping the difference drawn between such application and the retrospective application, intact.

The High Court while dealing with the self-acquired property, after examining several facts and proofs, found out that property was indeed self-acquired and there was no contribution done by the members of the joint family. While citing a Supreme Court judgement in the case of P.S Sairam v. P.S Rama Rao,[6] if there is no funding that was contributed to a firm by the joint family then there would be a presumption in law that, that firm will not be a part of that joint family property. In the same case, it was also mentioned that if an individual member of the joint family used a part of joint family property to run any business, which also includes his personal earnings and investments, then in such circumstances it would not be liable for the partition. As this was not the case in the present case, the property was considered as self-acquired property and not part of other ancestral properties.

The High Court unequivocally ruled that if a member of a joint family develops his own business by investing his money and skills, in such case, no other member of the joint family or the joint family as a whole would have any right on such self-acquired property or any another property acquired by that individual by the income from such self-acquired property. But the court, in evaluating other properties, which the Respondent claimed to be self-acquired, stated that there was no ‘special skills’ applied or there was no source of income for the Respondent’s father, hence his ancestors invested in that business. Hence, that part of the property is considered as ancestral property.

Whereas about the second issue, it is completely based on the Amendment Act, 2005. Section 6(5) of the Act says that this Act would not be applicable to the partitions effectuated before 20th of December 2004. Hence, the Appellants contested saying that as the partition was done before this particular date, the act will not be applicable. But the act explicitly says that the word “partition” means a partition effectuated by the deed registered under the Registration Act, 1908 or made by the decree or order passed by the court.[7] In the present case, the partition was not made based on any sort of legal order or under the Registration Act. It was just a nominal partition, not in accordance with any legal order.

The High Court bench criticized the Trial Court judgement saying that the learned Judge had framed and entertained many irrelevant issues, though the parties amended their written statements several times, the consideration of all those pleadings made without any proof, were completely “unnecessary” and because of considering all the pleadings made in the trial, there was a delay in the judgement.

Aggrieved by the High Court’s decision, the Appellants appealed to The Supreme Court. Here, the contention was made on the basis on the date of the death of the Respondent’s father. The Appellants claimed that the death happened and the father seized to be a coparcener in the property before the act came into place, meaning that he was no more a coparcener in the family when the Act came into existence. Hence, the Respondent cannot claim to be “daughter of a ‘coparcener’,” as such. Therefore, when she is not even the daughter of a coparcener, there would be no question of applying the Act in her case. They also claimed that notional partition has been taken place, heirs were given exclusive rights and those rights cannot be denied by the subsequent amendment, which did not have anything mentioned expressly about the retrospective application. The Act can be applicable to the pending proceedings only if the case is eligible to get the Act applied.

After analyzing the contentions from the parties, the Apex Court referred to the judgement of the case Shyam Sunder v. Ram Kumar,[8] where it was held that unless the statute expressly states the applicability can be retrospective, it is implied that the intention of the statute is to apply it prospectively. The Act expressly provides that the applicability will not be made for the partitions effectuated before the 20th of December 2004. The court also considered the definition of the “partition” given in the act and agreed with the High Court’s interpretation of partition in the present case. The Supreme Court interpreted the Act as applicable for the living daughters of living coparceners as on September 9th, 2005, regardless of when those daughters are born.[9]

Stating the above said reasons, the Apex Court had set aside the High Court’s judgement. The court rejected the contention of the Respondent that as the Amendment Act is progressive legislation, it has to be applied retrospectively, saying that even for social legislations, the express mention of retrospective application is necessary. The summary of the whole judgement can be done in one line saying that the Amendment can be applied to the daughters, whose father was living coparcener as of 9th of September 2005, regardless of when the daughters are born.[10]  However, in this case, the Respondent in the first place is not considered a coparcener as her father was not living coparcener as on the date of commencement of the judgement. Relying on the above-mentioned reasons, the Supreme Court allowed the Appellant’s appeal.

Conclusion

The author of this case analysis concurs with the Supreme Court’s Judgment as the two-judge bench consisting of Justices Anil.R.Dave and Adarsh Kumar Goel, where the analysis of the provisions of the Act and judgements cited by both the parties in their pleadings, was made. The judgement of the Apex Court verified all the cases and came to the conclusion that as there were varied factual situations the ruling cannot be applied directly without consideration. Though the question was not wholly about the factual situations of those cases, it was relevant in the sense of considering the scenario in which such judgements were delivered.

The apex court drew the distinction between the Section 6 of Hindu Succession Act and the Amendment Act and said that even after that act expressly not mentioning the retrospective application, it would not be appropriate to consider it as social legislation and apply it retrospectively. Though some cases of the Supreme Court and their ruling, made it perplexing for the application of Section 6 of the Act in future cases, the Phulavati’s case ruling stands as a landmark ruling in this arena of law. This judgment is widely cited for its ruling about the applicability of the act to the living daughters of living coparceners regardless of their date of birth.


By: Mayukha Chihnitha

The author is a law student of National Academy of Legal Studies and Research University of Law, Hyderabad


[1] Prakash & Ors. V. Phulavati & Ors., (2016) 1 Supreme Court Cases (Civ) 549.

[2]“ IndiaLaw LLP Blog IndiaLaw LLP Blog, https://www.indialaw.in/blog/blog/real-estae/prakash-ors-v-phulawati-ors-inheritance-rights-of-daughter-over-coparcenery-property/ (last visited Jul 18, 2019).”

[3] Prakash v. Phulavati, AIR 2011 KAR 78.

[4] G. Sekar V. Geetha And Ors., (2009) 78 AIC 138 (SC).

[5] “S.L Srinivasa Jute Twine Mills (P) Ltd v. Union Of India, 2006 SCC (L&S) 440.”

[6]“ P.S Sairam v. P.S Rama Rao, ILR 2004 KAR 1353.

[7] § 6(5), Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005.”

[8] Shyam Sunder v. Ram Kumar, (2001) 8SCC 24.

[9] Daughter’s Right in Property-SC says Daughters have Same Right as Sons, https://www.vakilno1.com/legal-news/daughter-right-coparcenary-property-sc.html (last visited Jul 21, 2019).

[10]“ Continuance of confusion: Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act Bar & Bench, https://barandbench.com/confusion-section-6-hindu-succession-act/ (last visited Jul 16, 2019).”


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Author: K. Mayukha Chihnitha

Mayank is a student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University. Under his leadership, Legal Bites has been researching and developing resources through blogging, educational resources, competitions, and seminars.

  • Disha Dagar says:

    Commendable efforts. The work is worth appreciation.