Brother has no claim over assets of married sister that she inherited from her husband

On February 07, 2017: The Apex Court has ruled that: 

A woman's brother is not part of his sister's matrimonial family. Hence a woman's brother cannot claim right over property inherited by his married sister from her husband.

A property inherited by a woman from her husband cannot be claimed by her brother.

Earlier the Uttarakhand High Court found the man (Brother) to be an unauthorized occupant in a property in Dehradun where his married sister, now dead, was a tenant.

The state law on tenancy was referred and appreciated.

The man (Brother) filed appeal in Supreme Court of India, challenging the March 2015 order of the Uttarakhand High Court.

The man (Brother): Durga Prasad claimed tenancy rights on the ground that he was part of the family and also a legal heir as he had been living with his sister (Lalita) for a long period in the rented premises and running a medical business with her.

The bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice  R. Banumathi, looked into the UP Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent and Eviction) Act, 1972 to understand whether the deceased woman's brother could qualify either as a member of her family or her legal heir, and observed that:

‘Durga Prasad is neither an 'heir' nor falls under the definition family as per Section 3 of the UP law’…………

He being brother of the deceased tenant, he cannot be held to be 'family' as the inclusive list given under the Act clearly omits 'brother and sister' and the same cannot be read therein as the list has to be read and interpreted strictly.

The bench said that: Since Durga Prasad does not fall under the category of 'heir' of Lalita's husband, the tenancy of the suit premises will not devolve on him (Durga Prasad) nor can he be called an heir. 

He being the brother of deceased Lalita had no reason to normally reside with his married sister. 

Be it noted, in her written statement filed in the release application, Lalita had not averred that her brother Durga Prasad was living with her and that he was taking care of her.

Finding that deceased married sister was Hindu, the apex court bench of judges referred to the provision of the Hindu Succession Act, and observed that:  

‘Language used in Section 15 clearly specifies that the property inherited from the husband and father-in-law would devolve upon the heirs of husband/father-in-law from whom she inherited the property’.

The following decision of the apex court is crystal clear:

CASE NO.:
Appeal (civil)  6626 of 1995

PETITIONER:
V. DANDAPANI CHETTIAR

RESPONDENT:
BALASUBRAMANIAN CHETTIAR (DEAD) BY LRS AND ORS.
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/08/2003

"10. Sub-section (2) of Section 15 carves out an exception in case of a female dying intestate without leaving son, daughter or children of a predeceased son or daughter. In such a case, the rule prescribed is to find out the source from which she has inherited the property. If it is inherited from her father or mother, it would devolve as prescribed under Section 15(2)(a). 

If it is inherited by her from her husband or father-in-law, it would devolve upon the heirs of her husband under Section 15(2)(b). 

The clause enacts that in a case where the property is inherited by a female from her father or mother, it would devolve not upon the other heirs, but upon the heirs of her father. This would mean that if there is no son or daughter including the children of any predeceased son or daughter, then the property would devolve upon the heirs of her father. Result would be -- if the property is inherited by a female from her father or her mother, neither her husband nor his heirs would get such property, but it would revert back to the heirs of her father."

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Kumar Doab 
on 21 March 2017
Published in Family Law
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