- The apex Court ruled an important judgement, regarding a woman's property case, on January 24th.
- The Supreme Court ruled that married women are eligible to enter into a family settlement with parental heirs.
- A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy observed that the heirs of the father of a Hindu female are entitled to inherit her property as per the Succession Act, the same heirs are not strangers, and members of the family.
- The Court ruled that, according to Section 15(1)(d) of the Hindu Succession Act, the heirs of the father of a Hindu female are covered under persons entitled to intestate succession of property of a female Hindu.
The Supreme Court observed that married Hindu women are eligible to enter a family settlement with her parental heirs. The ruling of this case answered the few issues that the appellants raised in the Supreme Court-
- Does the Decree of Declaration passed in the civil suit filed by Jagno's brother's sons require registration of the same property?
- Whether her brother's sons are strangers and can she, a married woman can enter a family settlement with potential strangers?
For the issues mentioned in the second point, the Court referred to Ram Charan Das v. Girijanandini Devi and others, and also referred to Kale and Ors v. Deputy Director of Consolidation, which also discusses the issues regarding family settlement, and the definition of family, stating that 'family' must be understood in a broader sense, so it includes not only close relations and heirs, but anyone with a semblance of a claim, or an antecedent title.
To answer the first issue, the Court stated that since the decree declares their rights on the property, a registration is not required.
This ruling came out in a case, relating to a woman named Jagno who inherited her husband's property, after he passed away in the year 1953, without having any children. Since the two had no children, Jagno became the absolute owner of the property, as per Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. In the year 1991, Jagno's nephews (brother's sons) filed a civil suit in the Court of Sub Judge, Gurgaon, claiming a decree of declaration of ownership over the property inherited by Jagno. She consented to this, and therefore the Court granted them the decree. The sons of her brother in law, disagreeing with the decree, claimed that being a married woman, she can't come into a settlement with her parental heirs. They filed a suit in the Trial Court, and the appeal for the same was dismissed in the trial court, the High Court. They approached the Supreme Court for the same.
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
This ruling states that Hindu women are eligible to enter a family settlement with their parental heirs. "In the present case, Smt. Jagno, who, as a widow of Sher Singh, who had died in 1953, had succeeded to half share in the agricultural land and she was the absolute owner when she entered into settlement. We, thus, do not find any merit in the submission of learned counsel for the appellants that the defendants-respondents were strangers to the family," the Court ruled. The Bench also stated that since the decree of declaration of owning the property was for the same property, no registration for the property was required, as it is otherwise required by Section 17(2)(iv) of the Hindu Succession Act. This simply means that as heirs of the father of the female, they are not strangers, and they can inherit her property as well.
The word family in the law cannot be given a narrow meaning, the court observed after Jagno's nephews (her brothers sons) stated the same. The Court also cleared that since the decree of declaration on the property has already declared rights on the property, registration for the same is not required, as it is usually required under Section 17 of the Indian Registration Act. This ruling also drove the nail on the point that the definition of family must be understood in a broader and wider sense.