Daughters entitled to inherit self-acquired properties of father if no will, rules Supreme Court
The ruling, issued in response to an appeal against the Madras High Court verdict, addressed the property rights of Hindu women and widows under the Hindu Succession Act.
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the daughters of a male Hindu who died intestate would be entitled to inherit the father's self-acquired and other possessions, as well as priority over other collateral members of the family. The ruling, issued in response to an appeal against the Madras High Court verdict, addressed the property rights of Hindu women and widows under the Hindu Succession Act.
According to a bench of justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari, if a property of a male Hindu dying intestate (without a will) is a self-acquired property or obtained in the partition of a coparcenary or a family property, the same would devolve by inheritance rather than survivorship, and a daughter of such a male Hindu would be entitled to inherit such property in preference to other collaterals.
The court debated the legality of the daughter inheriting her father's self-acquired property in the absence of any other lawful successor. In the 51-page decision for the bench, Justice Murari addressed whether such property will fall on to the daughter through inheritance following the death of her father, who died without a will, or if it will devolve on to "father's brother's son by survivorship."
According to the legal provision, the legislative objective was to rectify the limitation of a Hindu woman who could not claim an absolute interest in the assets inherited by her but only had a life interest in the estate so inherited. If a female Hindu dies intestate, the property inherited from her father or mother goes to the descendants of her father. In contrast, the property inherited from her husband or father-in-law goes to the husband's heirs, according to the law. "The legislature's primary goal in adopting Section 15(2) (of the Hindu Succession Act) is to guarantee that inherited property of a female Hindu dying issueless and intestate be returned to the source," it added.
In dealing with the circumstances of the case, the bench overturned the trial court and high court's rulings rejecting the daughters' partition claim.