|Justice R.M. Lodha|
Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court in Ganduri Koteshwaramma Vs. Chakiri Yanadi has discussed the law relating to intestate succession by Hindu females and the effect of the amendment to the Hindu Succession Act. While dealing with the effect of the amendment in the Hindu Succession Act, in a suit for partition of ancestral property, the Supreme Court has observed as under;
12. 1956 Act is an Act to codify the law relating to intestate succession among Hindus. This Act has brought about important changes in the law of succession but without affecting the special rights of the members of a Mitakshara Coparcenary. The Parliament felt that non-inclusion of daughters in the Mitakshara Coparcenary property was causing discrimination to them and, accordingly, decided to bring in necessary changes in the law. The statement of objects and reasons of the 2005 Amendment Act, inter alia, reads as under :
".......The retention of the Mitakshara coparcenary property without including the females in it means that the females cannot inherit in ancestral property as their male counterparts do. The law by excluding the daughter from participating in the coparcenary ownership not only contributes to her discrimination on the ground of gender but also has led to oppression and negation of her fundamental right of equality guaranteed by the Constitution. Having regard to the need to render social justice to women, the States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra have made necessary changes in the law giving equal right to daughters in Hindu Mitakshara coparcenary property."
13. With the above object in mind, the Parliament substituted the existing Section 6 of the 1956 Act by a new provision vide 2005 Amendment Act. After substitution, the new Section 6 reads as follows :
"6. Devolution of interest in coparcenary property.—
(1) On and from the commencement of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, in a Joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara law, the daughter of a coparcener shall,- -
(a) by birth become a coparcener in her own right in the same manner as the son;
(b) have the same rights in the coparcenary property as she would have had if she had been a son;
(c) be subject to the same liabilities in respect of the said coparcenary property as that of a son, and any reference to a Hindu Mitakshara coparcener shall be deemed to include a reference to a daughter of a coparcener: Provided that nothing contained in this sub-section shall affect or invalidate any disposition or alienation including any partition or testamentary disposition of property which had taken place before the 20th day of December, 2004.
(2) Any property to which a female Hindu becomes entitled by virtue of sub-section (1) shall be held by her with the incidents of coparcenary ownership and shall be regarded, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law for the time being in force in, as property capable of being disposed of by her by testamentary disposition.
(3) Where a Hindu dies after the commencement of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, his interest in the property of a Joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara law, shall devolve by testamentary or intestate succession, as the case may be, under this Act and not by survivorship, and the coparcenary property shall be deemed to have been divided as if a partition had taken place and,--
(a) the daughter is allotted the same share as is allotted to a son;
(b) the share of the pre-deceased son or a pre- deceased daughter, as they would have got had they been alive at the time of partition, shall be allotted to the surviving child of such pre-deceased son or of such pre-deceased daughter; and
(c) the share of the pre-deceased child of a pre- deceased son or of a pre-deceased daughter, as such child would have got had he or she been alive at the time of the partition, shall be allotted to the child of such pre-deceased child of the pre- deceased son or a pre-deceased daughter, as the case may be.
Explanation.-- For the purposes of this sub-section, the interest of a Hindu Mitakshara coparcener shall be deemed to be the share in the property that would have been allotted to him if a partition of the property had taken place immediately before his death, irrespective of whether he was entitled to claim partition or not.
(4) After the commencement of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, no court shall recognise any right to proceed against a son, grandson or great-grandson for the recovery of any debt due from his father, grandfather or great-grandfather solely on the ground of the pious obligation under the Hindu law, of such son, grandson or great- grandson to discharge any such debt: Provided that in the case of any debt contracted before the commencement of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, nothing contained in this sub-section shall affect –
(a) the right of any creditor to proceed against the son, grandson or great- grandson, as the case may be; or
(b) any alienation made in respect of or in satisfaction of, any such debt, and any such right or alienation shall be enforceable under the rule of pious obligation in the same manner and to the same extent as it would have been enforceable as if the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 had not been enacted. Explanation.--For the purposes of clause (a), the expression "son", "grandson" or "great-grandson" shall be deemed to refer to the son, grandson or great-grandson, as the case may be, who was born or adopted prior to the commencement of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005.
(5) Nothing contained in this section shall apply to a partition, which has been effected before the 20th day of December, 2004.
Explanation. --For the purposes of this section "partition" means any partition made by execution of a deed of partition duly registered under the Registration Act, 1908 (16 of 1908) or partition effected by a decree of a court."
14. The new Section 6 provides for parity of rights in the coparcenary property among male and female members of a joint Hindu family on and from September 9, 2005. The Legislature has now conferred substantive right in favour of the daughters. According to the new Section 6, the daughter of a copercener becomes a coparcener by birth in her own rights and liabilities in the same manner as the son. The declaration in Section 6 that the daughter of the coparcener shall have same rights and liabilities in the coparcenary property as she would have been a son is unambiguous and unequivocal. Thus, on and from September 9, 2005, the daughter is entitled to a share in the ancestral property and is a coparcener as if she had been a son.
15. The right accrued to a daughter in the property of a joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara Law, by virtue of the 2005 Amendment Act, is absolute, except in the circumstances provided in the proviso appended to sub-section (1) of Section 6. The excepted categories to which new Section 6 of the 1956 Act is not applicable are two, namely, (i) where the disposition or alienation including any partition has taken place before December 20, 2004; and (ii) where testamentary disposition of property has been made before December 20, 2004. Sub- section (5) of Section 6 leaves no room for doubt as it provides that this Section shall not apply to the partition which has been effected before December 20, 2004. For the purposes of new Section 6 it is explained that `partition' means any partition made by execution of a deed of partition duly registered under the Registration Act 1908 or partition effected by a decree of a court. In light of a clear provision contained in the Explanation appended to sub-section (5) of Section 6, for determining the non- applicability of the Section, what is relevant is to find out whether the partition has been effected before December 20, 2004 by deed of partition duly registered under the Registration Act, 1908 or by a decree of a court. In the backdrop of the above legal position with reference to Section 6 brought in the 1956 Act by the 2005 Amendment Act, the question that we have to answer is as to whether the preliminary decree passed by the trial court on March 19, 1999 and amended on September 27, 2003 deprives the appellants of the benefits of 2005 Amendment Act although final decree for partition has not yet been passed.