Ammal Vs. Muthuvenkatarama Iyengar & Anr  INSC 206 (3 April 1998)
V. Manohar, D.P. Wadhwa
O R D
appellant is the daugher-in-law of the deceased Gomathi Ammal. Venkatarama Iyengar,
the husband of the appellant was the only son of Gomathi Ammal and her husband Sesha
Iyengar. He died prior to the death of Gomathi Ammal. Venkatarama Iyengar and
the appellant have no children. The husband of Gomathi Ammal also died long
prior to her death.
appellant filed a suit for declaration of ownership and possession of
properties left by Gomathi Ammal who died intestate. The respondent, claiming
to be the son of Gomathi Ammal's brother, contested the suit on the ground that
Gomathi Ammal made a will in his favour.
will has not been accepted either by the trial Court or by the first appellate
Court or by the High Court in second appeal. The only reason why the High Court
has allowed the second appeal is on the ground that the appellant is not an
heir of her mother-in-law under the Hindu Succession Act.
finding proceeds on a misconception of the provisions of the Hindu Succession
act. Section 15 of the Hindu Succession act provides general rules of
succession in the case of female Hindus. Under sub-section (1), the property of
a Hindu female dying intestate shall devolve
upon the sons and daughters(including the children of any pre-deceased son or
daughter) and the husband;
upon the heirs of the husband. Gomathi Ammal does not have any heirs falling
under (a). Therefore, we have to examine who are the heirs of her husband.
heirs of a male Hindu are set out in the Schedule to the Hindu Succession Act.
Heirs in class I include a widow of a pre- deceased son. The appellant fits
this description. But the High Court has held that when Sesha Iyengar, the
husband of Gomathi Ammal died, their son Venkatarama Iyengar was alive.
appellant cannot be called the widow of a pre- deceased son.
order to decide who are the heirs of a female Hindu under category (b) of
Section 15(10, one does not have to go back to the date of the death of the
husband to ascertain who were his heirs at that time. The heirs have to be
ascertained not at the time of the husband's death but at the time of the wife's
death because the succession opens only at the time of her death. Her heirs
under Section 15(1) (b) will have to be ascertained as if the succession to her
husband had opened at the time of her death. Thus, if at the time of Gomathi Ammal's
death, there is any heir of her husband who fits the description in the
schedule of being the widow of his pre-deceased son, she will be one of the
heirs entitled to succeed. The status of the heir must be determined at the
time of the death of the female whose heirs are being ascertained. The
appellant was the widow of a pre-deceased son on the date when Gomathi Ammal
the learned single Judge was not right in coming to the conclusion that the
appellant is not an heir of Gomathi Ammal.
appeal is, therefore, allowed. the impugned order of the High Court is set
aside and the suit filed by the plaintiff is decreed with costs.