This significant case in Hindu law elucidated the rights of sons concerning joint family property, emphasizing that birth serves as the decisive factor.

This significant case in Hindu law elucidated the rights of sons concerning joint family property, emphasizing that birth serves as the decisive factor for inheritance rights in Mitakshara Hindu law.Case Title: Muhammad Husain Khan v. Babu Kishva Nandan SahaiCourt: High Court of AllahabadCitation: Privy Council Appeal No. 97 of 1934IntroductionMitakshara Hindu law acknowledges the concept of a will, permitting an individual (testator) to dispose of their property as per their preferences....

This significant case in Hindu law elucidated the rights of sons concerning joint family property, emphasizing that birth serves as the decisive factor for inheritance rights in Mitakshara Hindu law.

Case Title: Muhammad Husain Khan v. Babu Kishva Nandan Sahai

Court: High Court of Allahabad

Citation: Privy Council Appeal No. 97 of 1934


Mitakshara Hindu law acknowledges the concept of a will, permitting an individual (testator) to dispose of their property as per their preferences. A will, a legally binding document, becomes effective upon the testator's demise. However, Hindu law imposes certain limitations and conditions on testamentary power, such as the capacity of the Testator, Subject Matter, Maintenance etc. In this case, the judicial approach was to interpret and apply Mitakshara Hindu law principles regarding the rights of sons in ancestral property.

The Privy Council, which was the highest appellate court for many British colonial territories, including India, provided a significant ruling on the matter. This case also places a spotlight on the aspect of ancestral property under the Hindu personal laws and discusses the essential ingredients of succession and inheritance of ancestral property.

Facts of the Case

Bindeshri Prasad, the owner of property village Kalinjar Tirhati, instituted this case for the first time, against the auctioneering and subsequent selling of the said Land upon a decree for money obtained against Bindeshri Prasad, by a Creditor. The case was instituted during the lifetime of Bindeshri Prasad, who died on December 25, 1926.

Subsequently, in March 1927, his wife - Giri Bala, applied for her name to be substituted in the suit, as the Plaintiff claiming to be the sole heiress to the suit property. She also prayed that the Court permit her to amend the plaint on the ground that under a will made by her father-in-law, Ganesh Prasad, on April 5, 1914, her husband got the estate only for his life, and that on the latter's death, his life interest came to an end, and the demise in her favour became operative, making her absolute owner of the estate including the village in question. Therefore, Giri Bala attempted to substantiate that even if the sale was binding on her husband, it should be rendered inoperative/invalid in the context of her rights of ownership over the suit property.

The Trial Judge who was subsequently transferred to another district, allowed for the amendment of the Plaint and also recorded reasons to justify the same. However, over time, with the Defendants beginning to make their additional pleas, the successor of the previous Judge dismissed it on various grounds - one of them being that the amendment changed the nature of the plaint and thus should not have been allowed.

The Court then proceeded to examine the establishment of Giri Bala’s title over the suit property and whether she was acting by her interests in the property. The original will has been lost, and only 2 copies remain that can be used to verify its contents. Either party has not challenged the veracity of these copies and remains obscure from hindering the case proceedings. In 1898, he applied to the relevant Government having jurisdiction to take over the management of his estate.

During the last four years of his life, Ganesh Prasad made multiple unsuccessful attempts to release his estate from government management. Ganesh Prasad had only one son, Bindeshri Prasad, and his relationship with him was tainted due to his expensive lifestyle and unsatisfying temperament.

On account of this, on August 5, 1911, Ganesh Prasad registered the Suit Property in Allahabad, causing it to be distributed following his death for specific religious and charitable causes. He also named seven individuals as the executors of his will and trustees to oversee the trusts' execution. Among these seven individuals was the Collector of his district, Banda; at the time, the Collector was an employee of the Indian Civil Service named Mr. Swan. Since the testator sent Mr. Swan a copy of the will, he was aware of both its execution and its contents.

Meanwhile, Bindeshri Prasad applied to the Revenue Officer for a mutation to be effected in his favour about the property left by his father, claiming that the estate was ancestral and that he was entitled to it by right of survivorship. He also filed a caveat in the High Court against the grant of probate of the 1911 will.

During the mutation proceedings between Bindeshri Prasad and the trustees under the 1911 Sir Shadi' Lai will, a settlement was struck on October 5, 1914. Following the death of one of the trustees, who lived in Allahabad, five trustees declared that the second will was authentic and included Ganesh Prasad's signatures. They also decided to allow Bindeshri Prasad to continue having proprietary ownership of his father's assets.

They applied to the High Court to dismiss their application for probate and at the same time, Bindeshri Prasad agreed to create a trust of a house comprised of the estate to be used as a dharamsala, and, also to pay Rs. 300 per annum to defray the expenses of the Ram Lila festival at Banda as a symbol of being responsible for his father's debt.


  • Whether this case address the overlapping aspects of family law, including inheritance, wills and probate, intestate succession, and legal heirs?
  • Whether Giri Bala still maintained her position as the sole heiress to the suit property?
  • Whether the will executed by Bindeshri Prasad in Allahabad would engage itself in operation or effectuation, affecting Giri Bala's position as the sole heiress?
  • Whether the court deliberated on the validity and impact of the will concerning the inheritance rights of Giri Bala and other interested parties?
  • Whether the court reconciled the competing claims and interests of the parties, particularly regarding the testamentary disposition of the suit property and the rights of the legal heirs?

Analysis of the Case 

In this case, the Privy Council addressed the question of whether a son has a right by birth in the ancestral property, even if he was born after the partition. The court held that under Mitakshara law, a son acquires an interest in the joint family property by birth, and his right is not affected by the subsequent partition. Overall, the court's decision in this case reflected a meticulous analysis of Mitakshara Hindu law principles and a commitment to ensuring fair and equitable distribution of ancestral property among the family members.

The defendants, who are the appellants before their Lordships, contended that Giri Bala was not allowed to add any further causes of action that accrued to her in her capacity and that she could only pursue the lawsuit based on the ones that were already owed to her husband.

To control the havoc that can be caused by a decree of such nature being reversed, Section 99 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, provides that ‘no decree shall be reversed or substantially varied, nor shall any case be remanded in appeal, on account of any misjoinder of parties or causes of action, or any error, defect or irregularity in any proceedings in the suit, not affecting the merits of the case or the jurisdiction of the Court’.

There can be no doubt that the rule embodied in Section 99 proceeds upon a sound principle, and is calculated to promote justice, and their Lordships are not prepared to adopt a course which would merely prolong litigation.

The judicial approach in this case aimed at upholding the rights of the son in the joint family property, emphasising the automatic acquisition of a share by birth, even if the son was conceived but not yet born at the time of partition. The property that a man gets from any of his three immediate paternal ancestors—his father, his father's father, and his father's father—equates to ancestral property, which his son jointly acquires an interest in by birth. This is a well-established principle in Hindu law. He is the owner of this property, and it is implied by his coparceners that the survivorship theory also applies to it.

However, the appeal raises the question of whether the youngster shares a birthright stake in the estate with his father, who gets it from his maternal grandparents. In common usage, the term "ancestor" refers to both a paternal and maternal ascendant. However, the "ancestral" estate—which, in Hindu law, a son acquires jointly with his father an interest by birth—must be limited, as the original Mitakshara text makes clear, to the property that descends to the father from his male ancestor in the male line.

The Plaintiffs in this case, contended that “It appears that the phrase "ancestral property," upon which reliance is placed on behalf of the appellants, was used in its ordinary meaning, namely, property which devolves upon a person from his ancestor, and not in the restricted- sense of the Hindu law which imports the idea of the acquisition of interest on birth by a son jointly with his father.”

The Court observed that Ganesh Prasad inherited the estate from his maternal grandfather. According to their Lordships, this property cannot be considered ancestral, and his son doesn't share a joint interest in it. Consequently, Ganesh Prasad had complete authority to dispose of the estate, and the transfer to his daughter-in-law, Giri Bala, cannot be contested by his son or anyone else. Even upon her husband's death, the devised property remained unaffected, and the High Court's decree should be upheld. Their Lordships recommend dismissing this appeal with costs and advising accordingly to His Majesty.

Thus, an unborn son cannot have an acquired interest in ancestral property as per legal norms. Inheritance rights typically apply to living individuals, and the unborn have no legal standing until birth. Property rights are contingent upon existence, and a person must be born to inherit. However, in some jurisdictions, provisions like the Hindu Succession Act may confer certain rights to a child in the womb, ensuring their share upon birth. Legal frameworks vary, but generally, actual birth is a prerequisite for an individual to possess any acquired interest in ancestral property.


While the Mitakshara school's influence persists, individuals now have greater autonomy to devise wills, enabling the testamentary disposition of both ancestral and self-acquired property. The probate process, however, involves judicial scrutiny to ensure the authenticity of wills.

This contemporary legal stance reflects a nuanced balance between tradition and evolving individual rights in the realm of inheritance and succession planning in India. This decision clarified the rights of sons in joint family property, emphasising the concept of birth as the determining factor for inheritance rights in Mitakshara Hindu law.

Aryan Udani

Aryan Udani

Aryan's key areas of interest are Environmental Law, Intellectual Property Law and Mergers & Acquisitions Law. Institution: Christ University

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