The 51-page judgment by Supreme Court bench also deals with the issue of whether such property transfers to the daughter after the death of her father, who died without a will, by inheritance or shall transfer on to “father’s brother’s son by survivorship”.
In a major verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that daughters are entitled to inherit self-acquired, other properties of male Hindu father dying without a will and get preference over other collateral members of the family.
The verdict came on an appeal against the Madras High Court verdict dealing with rights of Hindu women and widows in property under the Hindu Succession Act.
The judgment was passed by a bench of Justices SA Nazeer and Krishna Murari. The court dealt with the legal issue concerning the right of a daughter to inherit the self-acquired property of her father in the absence of any other legal heir.
“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 and not by survivorship, and a daughter of such a male Hindu would be entitled to inherit such property in preference to other collaterals (such as sons/daughters of brothers of deceased father),” the bench said.
The 51-page judgment for the bench by Justice Murari also dealt with the question of whether such property will transfer to the daughter after the death of her father, who died without a will, by inheritance or shall transfer on to “father’s brother’s son by survivorship”.
“Right of a widow or daughter to inherit the self-acquired property or share received in the partition of a coparcenary property of a Hindu male dying intestate is well recognized not only under the old customary Hindu Law but also by various judicial pronouncements,” the judgment passed by the bench said.
Referring to the legal provision, it said the legislative intent was to remedy the limitation of a Hindu woman who could not claim an absolute interest in the properties inherited by her but only had a life interest in the estate so inherited.
“Section 14 (I) converted all limited estates owned by women into absolute estates and the succession of these properties in the absence of a will or testament would take place in consonance with Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956…,” the bench said.
If a female Hindu dies intestate, 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, the bench further noted.
“The basic aim of the legislature in enacting Section 15(2) (of the Hindu Succession Act) is to ensure that inherited property of a female Hindu dying issueless and intestate, goes back to the source,” the court said.
The bench also set aside the trial court and the high court’s findings dismissing the partition suit of the daughters.
“Since the property in question was admittedly the self-acquired property of a father despite the family being in a state of jointness upon his death intestate, his sole surviving daughter will inherit the same by inheritance and the property shall not devolve by survivorship,” the apex court said.
“Thus, the impugned judgement and decree dated March 01, 1994, passed by the Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court vide judgment and order dated January 21, 2009, are not liable to be sustained and are hereby set aside,” the court said.
(With inputs from PTI)