Synopsis: The ruling of the Apex Court, on Tuesday, made it clear that the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, will have retrospective effect, giving equal rights to daughters to inherit ancestral property.
The Supreme Court ruled that daughters have an equal right of inheritance to acquire Hindu undivided family land as sons have. Asserting that this privilege is gained by birth according to section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the bench consisting of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice S.Abdul Nazeer and Justice M.R. Shah stated that the provisions substituted in section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, grant coparcener status only to the daughter born before or after amendment in the same manner as the son with the same rights and obligations.
Coparcener is a term used for a person who takes on a legal right of the parental property only by birth. Only a coparcener has a right to claim property partition in a Hindu undivided property, however, the inclusion in a property increases or declines by death or birth in a family.
In the present judgment, the court dealt with an interpretation of Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, concerning its 2005 amendment, which granted equal protection to daughters in ancestral property.
The supreme court said that the petitions on the same matter were pending before various High Courts and the questions were already postponed due to legal imbroglio triggered by contradictory judgments.
Furthermore, the court observed that while seeking coparcenary privilege, daughters would not be entitled to challenge the disposal or alienation of the ancestral property by the current coparceners before December 20, 2004, as provided in the amended Section 6. The court also requested other coparceners not to be disturbed by the decision.
Analyzing the Mitakshara system which applies in different ways to properties owned by Hindu families, Justice Mishra cited a famous phrase noted in a Supreme Court judgment in 1996, that a son remains a son unless he gets a wife, whereas, a daughter always remains a daughter throughout her life.
The Centre who was represented by Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, argued that coparcenary was a daughter’s birthright. Justice Mishra, however, commented on it and said that if daughters had a birthright, it would be incongruous for her to be restricted on the condition that her father must be alive to enjoy that right. Because the right is by birth and not by dint of succession, it is will be meaningless whether a co-parent whose daughter is given the rights is alive or not.
The Supreme Court, lastly, stated that it is just a matter of broadening the rights of the daughters. The court specifies that the rights of other kins will remain unchanged as existed in the proviso to Section 6, as it was before the amendment.