Tag Archives: Hindu Succession Act

Mode of Proving – A Will

In Shashi Kumar Banerjee v. Subodh Kumar Banerjee, AIR 1964 SC 529, it was held as under:

        “The mode of proving a Will does not ordinarily differ from that of proving any other document except as to the special requirement of attestation prescribed in the case of a Will by Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act. The onus of proving the will is on the propounder and in the absence of suspicious circumstances surrounding the execution of the Will, proof of testamentary capacity and the signature of the testator as required by law is sufficient to discharge the onus. Where however, there are suspicious circumstances, the onus is on the propounder to explain them to the satisfaction of the Court before the Court accepts the will as genuine. Where the caveator alleges undue influence, fraud and coercion, the onus is on him to prove the same. Even where there are no such pleas but the circumstances give rise to doubts, it is for the prpounder to satisfy the conscience of the Court. The suspicious circumstances may be as to the genuineness of the signature of the testator, the condition of the testator’s mind, the dispositions made in Will being unnatural, improbable or unfair in the light of relevant circumstances or there might be other indications in the Will to show that the testator’s mind was not free. In such a case the Court would naturally expect that all legitimate suspicion should be completely removed before the document is accepted as the last will of the testator. If the propounder himself takes part in the execution of the Will which confers a substantial benefit on him that is also a circumstance to be taken into account, and the propounder is required to remove the doubts by clear and satisfactory evidence. If the propounder succeeds in removing the suspicious circumstances, the Court would grant probate, even if the Will might be unnatural and might cut off wholly or in part near relations.

A will is executed to alter the ordinary mode of succession and by the very nature of things it is bound to result in either reducing or depriving the share of natural heir. If a person intends his property to pass to his natural heirs, there is no necessity at all of executing a Will. It is true that a propounder of the Will has to remove all suspicious circumstances. Suspicion means doubt, conjecture or mistrust. But the fact that the natural heirs have either been excluded or a lesser share has been given to them, by itself without anything more, cannot be held to be a suspicious circumstance especially in a case where the bequest has been made in favour of an offspring. As held in PPK Gopalan Nambiar v. PPK Balakrishnan Nambiar, AIR 1995 SC 1852, it is the duty of the propounder of the Will to remove all the suspected features, but there must be real, germane and valid suspicious features and not fantasy of the doubting mind. It has been held that if the propounder succeeds in removing the suspicious circumstance, the Court has to give effect to the Will, even if the Will might be unnantural in the sense that it has cut off wholly or in part, near relations. Smt. Veena Chawla v. Mahendra Singh, 2019 (136) ALR 332.      

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Daughter – Coparcener by Birth

The law relating to a Joint Hindu Family governed by the Mitakshara law has undergone unprecedented changes. The said changes have been brought forward to address the growing need to merit equal treatment to the nearest female relatives, namely, daughters of a coparcener. The section stipulates that a daughter would be a coparcener from her birth, and would have the same rights and liabilities as that of a son. The daughter would hold property to which she is entitled as a coparcenary property, which would be construed as property being capable of being disposed of by her either by a will or any other testamentary disposition. These changes have been sought to be made on the touchstone of equality, thus seeking to remove the perceived disability and prejudice to which a daughter was subjected. The fundamental changes brought forward about in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 by amending it in 2005, are perhaps a realisation of the immortal words of Roscoe Pound as appearing in his celebrated treaties, The Ideal Element in Law, that “the law must be stable and yet it cannot stand still. Hence all thinking about law has struggled to reconcile the conflicting demands of the need of stability and the need of change”.

Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, as amended, stipulates that on and from the commencement of the amended Act, 2005, the daughter of a coparcener shall by birth become a coparcener in her own right in the same manner as the son. It is apparent that the status conferred upon sons under the old section and the old Hindu Law was to treat them as coparceners since birth. The amended provision now statutorily recognises the rights of coparceners of daughters as well since birth. The section uses the words in the same manner as the son. It should therefore be apparent that both the sons and the daughters of a coparcener have been conferred the right of becoming coparceners by birth. It is the very factum of birth in a coparcenary that creates the coparcenary, therefore the sons and daughters of a coparcener become coparceners by virtue of birth. Devolution of coparcenary property is the later stage of and a consequence of death of a coparcener. The first stage of a coparcenary is obviously its creation and is well recognised. One of the incidents of coparcenary is the right of a coparcener to seek a severance of status. Hence, the rights of coparceners emanate and flow from birth (now including daughters) as is evident from sub-sections (1)(a) and (b). Danamma v. Amar, (2018) 3 SCC 343

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Self Acquired Property – Character of Joint Family Property

The law on the aspect of blending is well settled that property separate or self acquired of a member of a joint Hindu family may be impressed with the character of joint family property if it is voluntarily thrown by the owner into the common stock with the intention of abandoning his separate claim therein; but to establish such abandonment, a clear intention to waive separate rights must be established. Clear intention to abandon separate rights in the property must be proved. Even abandonment cannot be inferred from mere allowing other family members also to use the property or utilization of income of the separate property out of generosity to support the family members. S. Subramanian v. S. Ramasamay, (2019) 6 SCC 46.

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Ancestral Property – According to Mitakshara Law

It is settled that the property inherited by a male Hindu from his father, father’s father or father’s father’s father is an ancestral property. The essential feature of ancestral property, according to Mitakshara Law, is that the sons, grandsons, and great grandsons of the person who inherits it, acquire an interest and the rights attached to such property at the moment of their birth. The share which a coparcener obtains on partition of ancestral property is ancestral property as regards his male issue. After partition, the property in the hands of the son will continue to be the ancestral property and the natural or adopted son of that son will take interest in it and is entitled to it by survivorship. Shyam Narayan Prasad v. Krishna Prasad¸ (2018) 7 SCC 646.

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Widow Remains Legal Representative Even After Remarriage

Widow even after remarriage continues to be the legal representative of her husband as there is no provision under the Hindu Succession Act or any other law laying down that after remarriage she does not continue to be the legal representative. The right of succession accrues immediately on death of her husband and in the absence of any provision, she cannot be divested from the property vested on her due to remarriage.
Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Manjuri Bera v. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., AIR 2007 SC 1474, while considering the question as to whether a married daughter could maintain a claim petition in terms of Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act and whether she would be entitled to any compensation as she was dependent upon the deceased, considered the provisions of Sections 166 and 168 of the Motor Vehicles Act and Section 2(11) of the Code of Civil Procedure and relying upon the earlier observations of the Court in Custodian of Branches of BANCO National Ultramarion v. Nalini Bai Naique, (1989) 2 SCR 810, observed that the definition contained in Section 2(11) of the Code of Civil Procedure in inclusive in character and its scope is wide, it is not confined to legal heirs only. Instead it stipulates that a person who may or may not be legal heir competent to inherit the property of the deceased can represent the estate of the deceased person. It includes heirs as well as persons who represent the estate even without title either as executors or administrators in possession of the estate of the deceased. All such persons would be covered by the expression ‘legal representative’. As observed in Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation v. Ramanbhai Prabhatbhai, (1987) 3 SCR 404, a legal representative is one who suffers on account of death of a person due to motor accident and need not necessarily be a wife, husband parent and child.
Delhi High Court in Ram Kishan v. Meena Kumari, 2011 ACJ 1211, has held that remarriage will not deprive a person from claiming compensation for the death of her/his spouse. United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Smt. Baby, 2017 (2) AWC 1181.

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Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 – Effect on Prior Partitions

The legislature has expressly made the amendment applicable on and from its commencement and only if death of the coparcener in question is after the amendment. Thus no other interpretation is possible in view of the express language of the statute. The proviso keeping dispensations or alienations or partitions prior to 20.12.2004 unaffected can also not lead to the inference that the daughter could be a coparcener prior to the commencement of the Act. The proviso only means that the transactions not covered thereby will not affect the extent of coparcenary property which may be available when the main provision is applicable. Similarly, Explanation has to be read harmoniously with the substantive provision of Section 6(5) by being limited to a transaction of partition effected after 20.12.2004. Notional partition, by its very nature, is not covered either under the proviso or under sub-section (5) or under the Explanation.
Interpretation of a provision depends on the text and the context. Normal rule is to read the words of a statute in ordinary sense. In case of ambiguity, rational meaning has to be given. In case of apparent conflict, harmonious meaning to advance the object and intention of legislature has to be given.
Normal rule is that a proviso excepts something out of the enactment which would otherwise be within the purview of the enactment but if the text, context or purpose so require a different rule may apply. Similarly, an explanation is to explain the meaning of the words of the section but if the language or purpose so require, the explanation can be so interpreted. Rules of interpretation of Statutes are useful servants but difficult masters. Objects of interpretation is to discover the intention of the legislature.
The proviso to Section 6(1) and sub-section (5) of Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act clearly intend to exclude the transactions referred to therein which may have taken place prior to 20.12.2004 on which date the bill was introduced. Explanation cannot permit reopening of partitions which were valid when affected. Object of giving finality to transactions prior to 20.12.2004 is not to make the main provision retrospective in any manner. The object is that by fake transactions available property at the introduction of the Bill is not taken away and remains available as and when right conferred by the Statute becomes available and is to be enforced. Main provision of the amendment in Sections 6(1) and (3) is not in any manner intended to be affected but strengthened in this way.
The rights under the amendment are applicable to living daughters of living coparceners as on 09.09.2005 irrespective of when such daughters are born. Disposition or alienation including partitions which may have taken place before 20.12.2004 as per law applicable prior to the said date will remain unaffected. Any transaction of partition effected thereafter will be governed by the Explanation. Prakash v. Phulavati, (2016) 2 SCC 36.

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