This article explains  Landmark Cases on Hindu law that brought significant change in Hindu Laws along with the remarkable effect on the lives of the people in our society.

This article explains Landmark Cases on Hindu law that brought significant change in Hindu Laws along with the remarkable effect on the lives of the people in our society. Hindu Law is definitely regarded as the most prolific law. We live in a society where many times, men and women are treated differently. Through various judgments, the Supreme Court laid the foundation of Justice for all individuals, and so women are now entitled to inherit their father's property. The author...

This article explains Landmark Cases on Hindu law that brought significant change in Hindu Laws along with the remarkable effect on the lives of the people in our society. Hindu Law is definitely regarded as the most prolific law. We live in a society where many times, men and women are treated differently. Through various judgments, the Supreme Court laid the foundation of Justice for all individuals, and so women are now entitled to inherit their father's property.

The author exclusively deals with the cases of maintenance of an unmarried daughter, the mother's right to take the child's custody, and many more aspects of the societal change through the judgments of the Supreme Court and High Court that have been incited in this Article. The idea is to reflect how law changes with the change in need of the people, and it's truly said change is the law of nature.

A Brief Introduction: Hindu Law

Hindu law is a diverse law, encompassing in its arena various laws that guide us in our existence. It has its own importance in history as well as in the modern era. However, what is even beyond all the laws is justice. If Justice is not delivered even to the last person on earth, then the formation and implementation of laws will all go in vain. Following are some landmark judgments relating to the Hindu laws which have kept up the spirit of justice, equity, and good conscience.

Landmark Cases on Hindu law

1. Bipin Chander Jaisinghbai Shah v. Prabhavati[1]

In this case, the parties got married in the year 1942 and had a child out of wedlock in 1947. The appellant left off for England and later realized that her wife was having an amorous relationship with another person. Unable to give an answer, she went to her matrimonial house. In July, the appellant sent a notice to his wife through his solicitor, mentioning that he no longer wants to be in a relationship with her and wishes to have his minor son to himself. Later that month, he instituted a suit mentioning that the respondent had deserted herself for a period of four years, which was not proved ultimately.

Desertion means "desertion of the petitioner by the other party to the marriage without any reasonable cause and without the consent or against the wishes of a party, and includes willful neglect of the petitioner by the other party to the marriage, and its grammatical variations and cognate expressions."

In the present case, the Supreme Court held that where the replier leaves the nuptial home with an intention to desert, he'll not be guilty of desertion if latterly, he shows an inclination to return and is averted from doing so by the petitioner.

2. Bipin Chandra Shantilal Bhatt v. Madhuriben Bhatt[2]

In this case, the marriage of the parties took place in December 1945, and soon after the marriage, the opponent got to know of the insanity of her husband. With time, the insanity of the person deteriorated and thus started breaking window panes, doors and everyday quarrels. The respondent notified that the petitioner's insanity was growing day by day. After 11 years of marriage, the opponent filed the petition under Section 13(1)(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for dissolution of marriage on the ground that the petitioner was of unsound mind for more than 3 years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.

In this case, the Gujarat High court propounded the accompanying three suggestions:

  • It is for the applicant to point out the unsound mind, i.e., the obligation to prove any claims is on the candidate,
  • The unsoundness of the mind should be incurable.
  • Respondent can't be constrained to go through clinical assessment however, by virtue of his refusal; an adverse deduction might be drawn.

3. Dipo v. Wassan Singh & Others[3]

In this case, the appellant claimed herself as the nearest heir of Bua Singh who was her brother, and sued the respondent to discover the position of property belonging to her brother. From the defendant's side, the contentions that were raised were that the appellant was not the closest heir of Bua Singh, and for instance, even if she was then the defendants had a preferential title in the property because of the reason that the whole land was ancestral property in the hands of Bua Singh.

The lower court in Amritsar found that not all the properties of Bua Singh were ancestral property, so it held that in accordance with the laws and customs the appellant is excluded only from the share of the ancestral property but not from the share of the non-ancestral property.

Now, aggrieved by the judgment, the case was further taken to the district judge by the appellant, however, the appeal was dismissed on the ground that the appellant did not present the appeal in person as required by Order XXXIII rule 3 of the CPC. Subsequently, a second appeal was made to the high court of Punjab and Haryana and the second appeal was dismissed as it was barred by the Limitation Act and so the appeal was filed in the Supreme Court.

An individual, who needs to inherit property from his immediate paternal ancestors up to 3 lines, holds it in coparcenaries and to different relations, he holds it and is qualified for holding it, as his outright property. Henceforth, the property inherited by an individual from some other connection turns into his different property.

4. Vaddeboyina Tulasamma v. Vaddeboyina Shesha Reddi[4]

In this case, the appellant asked for maintenance out of the property of the joint family which was in the hands of the respondent who was her deceased husband's brother. This claim was decreed in favor of the appellant and to execute the degree of maintenance. A mutual decision was arrived at between the parties about the properties that were in question.

The Supreme Court for this petition featured the Hindu female's right to maintenance as a substantial right against property which streams from the spiritual connection between a couple. The Bench involving Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Justice A.C. Gupta, and Justice S.M. Fazal Ali held that Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 should be generously construed for the females to propel the object of the Act. This part makes a female Hindu a full owner of a property, rather than a restricted/limited owner of the property.

5. Dharmendra Kumar v. Usha Kumar[5]

The respondent, in this case, made an application for restitution of conjugal rights under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act where a decree was passed in August 1973 by the Additional Senior Sub Judge of Delhi.

Even after the passing of the decree, the appellant had tried to call the respondent to come and reside with him. However, the respondent did not revert to his letters and failed to comply with the decree passed. Aggravated by this, the petitioner made an appeal in the High Court which got dismissed and later filed a special leave appeal to the Supreme Court for the judgment of the High Court. This judgment is important from the point of view of the definition of 'wrong'.

The relief sought to the mate against whom a decree for restitution of conjugal rights has been passed can't reasonably be denied to the person who doesn't demand compliance with the decree passed in support of themselves.

To be a "wrong" inside the importance of Section 23(1)(a), the action alleged must be more than a simple hesitance to consent to a proposal of reunion, it should be an offence adequately significant to legitimize denial of the relief to which either the wife or the husband is generally entitled. Simply not abiding with a decree for restitution doesn't comprise wrong inside the meaning of Section 23(1)(a).

6. Neeraja Saraph v. Jayant Saraph[6]

The Supreme Court gave very important observations in this case and said that a foreign court cannot annul a marriage between an Indian woman and an NRI which has taken place in India.

Provisions can be made to provide adequate alimony to the wife from the property of the husband which is both in India and abroad by entering into reciprocal agreements like Section 44A of the Civil Procedure Code which makes a foreign decree executable, a decree granted by Indian courts. It may also be made executable in foreign courts on the principle of comity other than reciprocal agreements mentioned above.

7. Dhanwanti Joshi v. Madhav Unde[7]

In this case, the respondent Madhav married the appellant by suppressing the fact of the first marriage. The appellant was treated harshly and under stressful circumstances, she had to leave the house of her husband with his 35-day-old child. The conduct of Madhav Unde did not prove his interest in the welfare of the child. However, this was not the case with Dhanwanti Joshi.

The Supreme Court in this case concluded by deciding the custody of the child when he was over 12 years of age and concluded that despite the fact that the father might have acquired custody from the US court, the well-being of the child demanded that the child be allowed to stay with the mother in India who had raised the child without any help in India, subject to the right to visit that was granted to father.

8. Surajmani Stella Kujur v. Durga Charan Hansdah[8]

In this case, the appellant belonged to the Oraon tribe and the respondent belonged to the Santhali tribe. It was submitted that the respondent solemnized a second marriage while his first marriage already existed with the appellant.

The second marriage being void, the respondent must be liable to be prosecuted for the offence which is punishable under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code. The appellant had filed the complaint in the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate stating that her marriage was solemnized with the respondent in Delhi itself according to the Hindu rights and customs.

The appellant alleged that the respondent solemnized another marriage without obtaining any divorce through the court of law from the appellant. As both the parties came from the tribal background, the Court had to answer who is a Hindu in the context of this case. The court even interpreted the application of the Hindu Marriage Act depending on this specific case.

The Supreme Court explained who is a "Hindu" for the reasons for the applicability of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The Act, is, subsequently, pertinent to:

"(1)All Hindus including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat, a Brahmo, Prarthana Samajist and an Arya Samajist

(2) Buddhists

(3) Jains

(4) Sikhs"

The SLP filed by the appellant got dismissed because of the constitution of offence under Section 494 of IPC along with the interplay of customs and usage with that of penal provisions.

9. Lata Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh[9]

In this case, a girl aged 27 years used to live with her brother and after attaining the majority she moved out of the house to marry a man of her choice who was outside the caste of the girl and they married at Arya Samaj Mandir and had a daughter out of their wedlock. The brothers of the petitioner were against this marriage and started harassing the family of both her sister and her husband. The Supreme Court allowed a writ petition filed by the girl for her right to marry a person of her choice according to her own will and the Supreme Court agreed and provided her with police protection as well.

Noticing that there was no bar to an inter-caste marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court containing Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Markandey Katju saw that since no question about the candidate was being significant,

"she was allowed to marry anybody she likes or live with anybody she likes".

10. Seema v. Ashwani Kumar[10]

While dealing with the petition the court observed that there were a lot of cases where people were refuting the existence of marriage and the reason being that there was no known evidence to substantiate the marriages, therefore the amicus curiae assisted the judges in laying down some specific guidelines to avoid such situations.

The Supreme Court ordered the State Governments and the Central Government that the marriages of all people who are Indian citizens, no matter to whichever community or religion they belong to, should mandatorily register their marriage in their individual States, where such marriages are solemnized. The bench, containing Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S.H. Kapadia additionally directed that as and when the Central Government enacts a comprehensive statute, the equivalent shall be put under the watchful eye of that Court for investigation.

11. Roxann Sharma v. Arun Sharma[11]

In an amazing judgment managing interim custody of a child suffering in parent's wedding disputes, appearance rights, and guardianship, a division bench of the Supreme Court set down different suggestions of regulation while giving the interim custody of the child to the mother till final disposal by the trial court.

The bench comprising Justice Vikramjit Sen and Justice C. Nagappan provided exceptionally sharp observations and inspects different meanings of a 'guardian', and 'visitation rights' and tests the issue from the point of arrangement of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and another important law i.e.Guardian and Wards Act, 1890.

The Supreme Court held that in a fight between parents, for the custody of the minor child, who has not yet attained the age of five years, shall be allowed to stay with the mother. The Bench including Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice C. Nagappan held that in such cases the child shouldn't be treated as a "chattel".

12. Virupakshaiah v. Sarvamma & Anr[12]

In this long-drawn family battle relating to a property, various aspects of laws were refreshed and laws like the Code of Civil Procedure were basically emphasized. In this civil appeal, the Supreme Court held that if a Hindu inherits property from his father, father's father, or father's father's father, then that property will be his ancestral property.

13. Balveer Singh v. Harjeet Kaur[13]

While concluding the issue, the Uttarakhand High Court referred to the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act and mentioned some key objectives:·

  • That on a straightforward perusal of Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, has a completely different purpose. The motive behind Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is to meet a contingency.·
  • Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Section 13-An of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 are outlined to meet a different arrangement of possibilities.
  • If Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is either decreed or dismissed, it won't take away the right from a party to file a suit under Section 13-A of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for the disintegration of marriage at any stage.

14. Prakash and Ors v. Phulavati and Ors[14]

The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 regulated intestate succession among Hindus in the year 2005, Section 6 of this act was amended to give legal rights and liabilities to daughters in their ancestral property by birth as equivalent to that of the right of a son. Since the amendment, a question that arose before the court was whether Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act can be retrospectively applied.

In Prakash v. Phoolwati, a single-judge bench in the Supreme Court held that Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act which was amended in 2005 did not apply retrospectively and only applied to the cases where both daughter and her father were alive on September 9th, 2005 this is the date when the amendment came into effect.

The following points should be noted from this case:

  • The daughter must be alive in the year 2005, in case she wants to claim a share in the joint Hindu family property.
  • In case, if the daughter has died before the enactment of this amendment act, the property cannot be claimed by her legal heir.
  • Not only the daughter but also her father should be alive during the time of the enactment of this amended law in order to provide an equal share in the coparcenary property.

15. Lokmani v. Mahadevamma & Ors.[15]

On account of Lokmani v. Mahadevamma, 2016, the High Court expressed that Section 6 of the already amended Hindu Succession Act is given retrospective impact in cases where daughters were denied right in the coparcenary property, forthcoming procedures and appeals were now to be settled according to the amended provisions and disparity has been taken out. The High Court likewise expressed that the oral petition and unregistered partition deeds are taken out from the meaning of 'partition' referenced in the amended Section 6(5) of the Hindu Succession Act.

16. Vineet Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma & Ors.[16]

A three-judge bench took into notice the clashing judgment to settle the law. On account of Vineet Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma and Ors., the Supreme Court expressed that Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act gives an unhindered privilege to inherit by birth to the daughter. In this manner, a coparcener's father need not be alive on 9 September 2005.

The court expressed, "Coparcener's right is by birth". Subsequently, it isn't all fundamental that the father ought to be living as on the date of the amendment act of 2005, as she has not been presented the rights of a coparcener by obstructed heritage". Henceforth, the daughter can ask for her rights from the date of the alteration and any transaction related to the property won't be impacted by the amended Section 6(1) of the Hindu Succession Act.

Further, the court gave an in-depth explanation of Section 6(5) of the Hindu Succession Act which states partition exclusively by the virtue of a registered partition deed or partition effected by a decree of the court, thus, the court can consider the oral partition in exceptional cases just in view of well-established proof as clear public documents.

17. Mrs. Sujata Sharma v. Shri Manu Gupta[17]

This landmark judgment was related to women as Karta in a Hindu Undivided Family. Earlier a woman was not considered for a coparcener, thus she was not to be a Karta of a Hindu Undivided Family before the 2005 amendment. However, after the amendment in the Hindu Succession Act took place, now the woman is at par with the male descendants and there remains no reason for her not being the Karta.

In this case of Mrs. Sujata Sharma v. Shri Manu Gupta, 2011, the court clearly stated through an unambiguous interpretation of the object and goal of the Amendment of 2005 which extends not only to the Hindu woman as coparceners but also recognized the eldest coparcener of the Hindu Undivided Family and it can also include a woman as the Karta of that Hindu Undivided Family and its properties.

18. Chhotey Lal v. Jhandey Lal[18]

In this case, it was held that a joint Hindu family is cannot be called a corporation and not even a juristic person. The reason behind not calling a Joint Hindu Family a corporation or a juristic person is that it has no separate legal entity from its members.

19. Abhilasha v. Parkash and Ors.[19]

In this case, the appellant namely Abhilasha filed a petition challenging the judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which upheld the decision that the daughter of the respondent is only entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 till she attains the age of majority; and this was the judgment by the sessions court.

Being unhappy with the decision of the sessions court, the appellant filed a review petition and so the matter was taken up by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The High Court too upheld the decision of the sessions court, and subsequently, the matter went up to the Supreme Court of India. The issue raised in this case was whether maintenance can be claimed by a Hindu unmarried daughter from her father under Section 125 CrPC only up to the time she attains the age of majority or is she allowed to claim maintenance till she gets married.

The Supreme Court held that an unmarried Hindu daughter can claim maintenance from her father till she gets married stating the provision of section 20(3) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. However, there was a clause that such a daughter must prove that she is not able to maintain herself, and only in such a situation, she shall be entitled to maintenance under the Act.

20. Gur Narain Das v. Gur Tahal Das[20]

In this case, the ambiguousness of who will and who will not belong to the Joint Hindu Family was cleared. Assuming that a daughter's husband abandons her or she turns into a widow and gets back to her father's home permanently, she will rejoin the Joint Hindu family and become a part of it. Her children, then again, will stay in their father's Joint Hindu family and will not join the mother's father's Joint Hindu family. Indeed, even an illegitimate child of a male descendent will be a part of his Joint Hindu family.

21. Swaraj Garg v. KM Garg[21]

This case was related to the restitution of conjugal rights under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act. The Court propounded that the wife shouldn't always be forced to resign from her job and live with the husband just to conform to her marital duties, even when the husband is not able to maintain himself and provide the appropriate standard of living to her. The Court while rejecting the contentions of the Respondent, held that the wife had a reasonable excuse for refusing to resign from her job and live with the Respondent in Delhi. The decision was in favour of the wife and the court said that the Appellant withdrew from the society of the husband as the parties were unable to agree to the place of the matrimonial home.

22. Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India[22]

This case has been recognized as one of the landmark cases decided by the apex court. The practice of conversion from one religion to another, just for getting married without dissolving the first marriage was completely declared to be invalid. As that was against justice, equity, and good conscience. Conversion from one faith to another cannot be the reason for a dissolution of a marriage. A marriage gets dissolves as per Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act upon the decree of divorce. The Court also prescribed the guilty persons to be penalized as per section 494 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for the offence of bigamy.


Hindu Law is a law that is considered to be of divine nature as it is believed that it has been developed on the words of God, theories given by god. However, it should not be forgotten that laws are ever-evolving, it evolves with time. People are changing fast and so is society, and to govern this fast-changing society, we need laws that evolve with the society as well, only then can ends of justice be achieved.

Hindu law has also evolved with time. Where women were not given a piece of land are now eligible to get equal rights on their father's property, right to maintenance, right to alimony and much more are now easily accessible to women. Laws ranging from the definition of a Hindu to defining the Hindu Undivided Family and its components, Hindu law has evolved not at a fast pace but has definitely changed with time.


[1] AIR 1957 SC 176

[2] AIR 1963 Guj 250

[3] 1983 AIR 846, 1983 SCR (3) 20

[4] 1977 AIR 1944, 1977 SCR (3) 261

[5] 1977 AIR 2218

[6] (1994) 6 SCC 461

[7] (1998) 1 SCC 112

[8] AIR 2001 SC 938

[9] 2006 (5) SCC 475

[10] AIR 2006 (2) SCC 578

[11] 2015 8 SSC 318

[12] Civil Appeal No. 7346 of 2008 (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 11785 OF 2007)

[13] Appeal from Order No. 552 of 2015

[14] (2016) 1 Supreme Court Cases (Civ) 549

[15] SLP(C) No. 6840 OF 2016

[16] (2020) AIR 3717 (SC)

[17] (2016) 226 DLT 647

[18] AIR 1972 All 424

[19] Criminal Appeal No. 615 of 2020

[20] 1952 AIR 225, 1952 SCR 869

[21] AIR 1978 Delhi 296

[22] 1995 AIR 1531

Updated On 23 Dec 2022 6:20 AM GMT
Aayushi Tiwari

Aayushi Tiwari

A Law Student and a lifetime humanitarian from the historically rich state, Bihar. Avid reader, writes to bring a difference and a public speaker to enlighten others.

Next Story