In the instant case (as mentioned by the author)
Whether a sole daughter could inherit her father’s separate property dying intestate? And if so, what would be the order of succession after the death of such daughter?
What did the Supreme Court conclude?
A two-judge bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari which went into ancient Hindu commentaries on inheritance as well as previous decisions by courts, said “from the above discussions, it is abundantly clear that a daughter was in fact capable of inheriting the father’s separate estate…From the… discussions, it is clear that ancient text as also the Smritis, the Commentaries written by various renowned learned persons and even judicial pronouncements have recognised the rights of several female heirs, the wives and the daughter’s being the foremost of them”.
It said “right of a widow or daughter to inherit the self-acquired property or share received in partition of a coparcenary property of a Hindu male dying intestate is well recognised not only under the old customary Hindu Law”, and added “if a property of a male Hindu dying intestate is a self-acquired property or obtained in partition of a co-parcenery or a family property, the same would devolve by inheritance and not by survivorship, and a daughter of such a male Hindu would be entitled to inherit such property in preference to other collaterals”.
The court also said that if a female Hindu dies intestate without leaving any issue, then the property inherited by her from her father or mother would go to the heirs of her father whereas the property inherited from her husband or father-in-law would go to the heirs of the husband. In case a female Hindu dies leaving behind her husband or any issue, then Section 15(1)(a) of the Hindu Succession Act will come into operation and the properties left behind including the properties which she inherited from her parents would devolve simultaneously upon her husband and her issues.
Applying this to the facts of the case, the court said the succession of the suit properties opened in 1967 upon death of Kupayee Ammal and therefore, the 1956 Act shall apply. Thereby Ramasamy Gounder’s daughter’s being Class-I heirs of their father too shall also be heirs and entitled to 1/5th Share in each of the suit properties.
How did the court reach the conclusion?
Tracing the sources of customary Hindu law on inheritance, the court discussed Mitakshara law and looked into among others to ‘Vyavastha Chandrika’, a digest of Hindu Law by Shyama Charan Sarkar Vidya Bhushan which quoted ‘Vrihaspati’ as saying ‘the wife is pronounced successor to the wealth of her husband; in her default, the daughter. As a son, so does the daughter of a man proceed from his several limbs. How then, should any other person (b) take her father’s wealth?”.
The SC also noted that the book quoted Manu as saying “the son of a man is even as himself, and the daughter is equal to the son. How then can any other inherit his property, notwithstanding the survival of her, who is, as it were, himself.”
The top court also examined privy council judgments.