Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, SA Nazeer and MR Shah, JJ has held that daughters have right in coparcenary by birth and that it is not necessary that the father coparcener should be living when the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 came into force.
“The conferral of right is by birth, and the rights are given in the same manner with incidents of coparcenary as that of a son and she is treated as a coparcener in the same manner with the same rights as if she had been a son at the time of birth.”
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
The Court was dealing with a reference relating to the interpretation of section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 as amended by Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 in view of the conflicting verdicts rendered in two Division Bench judgments in Prakash v. Phulavati, (2016) 2 SCC 36 and Danamma v. Amar, (2018) 3 SCC 343.
Prakash v. Phulvati ruling
section 6 is not retrospective in operation, and it applies when both coparceners and his daughter were alive on the date of commencement of Amendment Act, 9.9.2005. The provision contained in the Explanation to section 6(5) provides for the requirement of partition for substituted section 6 is to be a registered one or by a decree of a court, can have no application to a statutory notional partition on the opening of succession as provided in the unamended Section 6. The notional statutory partition is deemed to have taken place to ascertain the share of the deceased coparcener which is not covered either under the proviso to section 6(1) or section 6(5), including its Explanation. The registration requirement is inapplicable to partition of property by operation of law, which has to be given full effect.
Danamma v. Amar Ruling
The amended provisions of section 6 confer full rights upon the daughter coparcener. Any coparcener, including a daughter, can claim a partition in the coparcenary property. The father, in the said case, died in the year 2001, leaving behind two daughters, two sons, and a widow. Coparcener’s father was not alive when the substituted provision of section 6 came into force. The daughters, sons and the widow were given 1/5th share apiece.
DETAILED EXPLANATION OF LAW IN REFERENCE
On the law on Coparcenary and Joint Hindu Family
Coparcenary property is the one which is inherited by a Hindu from his father, grandfather, or great grandfather. Property inherited from others is held in his rights and cannot be treated as forming part of the coparcenary. The property in coparcenary is held as joint owners. Coparcener heirs get right by birth. Another method to be a coparcener is by way of adoption.
“As earlier, a woman could not be a coparcener, but she could still be a joint family member. By substituted section 6 with effect from 9.9.2005 daughters are recognised as coparceners in their rights, by birth in the family like a son. Coparcenary is the creation of law. Only a coparcener has a right to demand partition. Test is if a person can demand a partition, he is a coparcener not otherwise.”
On unobstructed and obstructed heritage
Unobstructed heritage takes place by birth, and the obstructed heritage takes place after the death of the owner. It is significant to note that under section 6 by birth, right is given that is called unobstructed heritage. It is not the obstructed heritage depending upon the owner’s death.Thus, coparcener father need not be alive on 9.9.2005, date of substitution of provisions of Section 6.
On effect of death of father before the Amendment Act, 2005 came into force
Rejecting the argument that if the father or any other coparcener died before the Amendment Act, 2005, the interest of the father or other coparcener would have already merged in the surviving coparcenary, and there was no coparcener alive from whom the daughter would succeed. It said,
“It is not by the death of the father or other coparcener that rights accrue. It is by the factum of birth. It is only when a female of Class I heir is left, or in case of her death, male relative is left, the share of the deceased coparcener is fixed to be distributed by a deemed partition, in the event of an actual partition, as and when it takes place as per the proviso to unamended section 6.”
On possibility of uncertainty if daughter is given the right to be a coparcener by birth
The Court also rejected the contention that if the daughter is given the right to be a coparcener by birth and deemed to become a coparcener at any point in the past, in the normal working of the law, uncertainty would be caused.
It said that no uncertainty is brought about by the provisions of section 6 as the law of Mitakshara coparcenary makes the share of surviving coparceners uncertain till actual partition takes place. Uncertainty in the right of share in a Mitakshara coparcenary is inhered in its underlying principles, and there is no question of upturning it when the daughter is treated like a son and is given the right by birth; to be exercised from a particular date, i.e., 9.9.2005.
“There is no doubt about it that advancement brings about the enlargement of the size of the coparcenary and disabling it from treating the daughter unequally. Even otherwise, its size could be enlarged by the birth of a son also.”
By applying section 8, the joint possession was not repudiated by the fact that a female, whether a wife or daughter, inherited the share of coparcener under the proviso to original section 6. She was an equal member of the joint Hindu family and deemed statutory partition did not bring disruption of the coparcenary.
- The provisions of section 6 have been held to be prospective. The provisions contained in substituted Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 confer status of coparcener on the daughter born before or after amendment in the same manner as son with same rights and liabilities.
- The rights can be claimed by the daughter born earlier with effect from 9.9.2005 with savings as provided in Section 6(1) as to the disposition or alienation, partition or testamentary disposition which had taken place before 20th day of December, 2004.
- Since the right in coparcenary is by birth, it is not necessary that father coparcener should be living as on 9.9.2005.
- The statutory fiction of partition created by proviso to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 as originally enacted did not bring about the actual partition or disruption of coparcenary. The fiction was only for the purpose of ascertaining share of deceased coparcener when he was survived by a female heir, of ClassI as specified in the Schedule to the Act of 1956 or male relative of such female. The provisions of the substituted Section 6 are required to be given full effect. Notwithstanding that a preliminary decree has been passed the daughters are to be given share in coparcenary equal to that of a son in pending proceedings for final decree or in an appeal.
- In view of the rigor of provisions of Explanation to Section 6(5) of the Act of 1956, a plea of oral partition cannot be accepted as the statutory recognised mode of partition effected by a deed of partition duly registered under the provisions of the Registration Act, 1908 or effected by a decree of a court. However, in exceptional cases where plea of oral partition is supported by public documents and partition is finally evinced in the same manner as if it had been affected by a decree of a court, it may be accepted. A plea of partition based on oral evidence alone cannot be accepted and to be rejected outrightly.
[Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 641, decided on 11.08.2020]