Ram Vs. Teja Singh  Insc 596 (6 November 2001)
Banerjee & K.G. Balakrishnan K.G. Balakrishnan, J.
No. 1 is allowed.
appeal was finally heard and allowed on 31.3.1999 by a Bench consisting of one
of us (Hon. U.C. Banerjee, J.) and another learned Judge of this Court. That
decision is reported in 1999(4) SCC 86 = AIR 1999 SC 1944 = 1999 237 ITR 364 [Bhagat
Ram(Dead) Versus Teja Singh].
only respondent in the appeal was Teja Singh. He was served with the notice
issued from this Court but he did not choose to appear and defend the appeal. Teja
Singh died on 1.12.1986. But no steps were taken to implead the legal heirs of Teja
Singh. The original appellant Bhagat Ram also died and his legal
heirs/representatives were brought on record on 20.11.1985. When the appeal was
heard by this Court on 31.3.1999, it was not brought to the notice of this
Court that Teja Singh had already passed away on 1.12.1986. After the appeal
was disposed of, the legal heirs of Teja Singh filed an application to get
themselves impleaded in this appeal for an opportunity of hearing.
Court, however, thought it expedient to offer an opportunity of hearing by
reason of the factum of the original respondent being not heard at the time of
the disposal of the appeal and it is on this score that we permitted Mr. Jaspal
Singh, learned senior counsel appearing for the newly added respondents to put
forth the submissions and address arguments before this Court. We did also
allow Mr. Rakesh Dwivedi, the learned senior counsel appearing in support of
the appeal to address the Court. After hearing both sides, we, however, find
that there is no reason to take a different view as reflected in the earlier
Order of this Court dated 31st March, 1999.
short facts necessary for proper understanding of the case are thus:- One Kehar
Singh was the owner of the land admeasuring 280 kanals and 18 marlas in the
village Antowali (now in Pakistan). He died prior to partition of India. His widow, Smt. Kirpo and two
daughters Smt. Santi and Smt. Indro migrated to India. In lieu of the property owned by Kehar Singh in Pakistan, his widow, Kirpo was allotted some
land in India.
died on 25.12.1951 leaving behind her two daughters Smt. Santi and Smt. Indro.
They inherited the property equally. Smt. Santi died in 1960. The property left
by her was thereafter mutated in the name of her surviving sister, Smt. Indro.
The original appellant, Bhagat Ram (deceased) who had entered into an agreement
with Smt. Indro on 12.3.1963, filed a suit for specific performance, which was
decreed in his favour. The original respondent in the appeal, Shri Teja Singh
(deceased) is the brother of Smt. Santis pre-deceased husband. He filed a suit
alleging that, on the death of Smt. Santi in 1960, the property in question
devolved on him by virtue of clause (b) of Sub-section (1) of Section 15 of the
Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The Trial Court decreed the suit filed by Teja
Singh. The appeal filed against the said decree was dismissed.
Ram (deceased) then preferred the second appeal before the High Court, which
was also dismissed. The High Court held that the property held by Smt. Santi on
her death devolved on Teja Singh who was the brother of the pre-deceased
husband of Smt. Santi. However, on appeal, this Court by its Judgment dated
31.3.1999 held that the property held by Smt. Santi was the property inherited
by her from her mother; therefore, clause (a) of sub-Section (2) of Section 15
is the relevant provision which governed the succession and Teja Singh had no
right in the property left by Smt. Santi and that it would only devolve on her
sister Smt. Indro.
relevant Section in the Hindu Succesion Act, 1956 reads as follows:-
General rules of succession in the case of female Hindus. –
The property of a female hindu dying intestate shall devolve according to the
rules set out in Section 16, -
upon the sons and daughters (including the children of any pre-deceased son or
daughter) and the husband;
upon the heirs of the husband
upon the mother and father,
upon the heirs of the father; and
upon the heirs of the mother.
Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-Section (1), -
any property inherited by a female Hindu from her father or mother shall
devolve, in the absence of any son or daughter of the deceased (including the
children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) not upon the other heirs referred
to in sub-Section (1) in the order specified therein but upon the heirs of the
property inherited by a female Hindu from her husband or from her father-in-law
shall devolve, in the absence of any son or daughter of the deceased (including
the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) not upon the other heirs
referred to in sub- section (1), in the order specified therein, but upon the
heirs of the husband.
learned senior Counsel for the respondents Mr. Jaspal Singh contended that Smt.
Santi acquired property from her mother Smt. Kirpo who died on 25.12.1951 and
at that time Smt. Santi had only a limited right over this property, but by
virtue of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, she became the full owner
of the property and, therefore, on her death, the property held by her would be
inherited by her legal heirs as per the rule set out in Section 15 (1) of the
Act. The learned Senior Counsel further contended that prior to the Hindu
Succession Act, Smt. Santi had only a limited right, but for Section 14(1) of
the Act, it would have reverted to the reversioners and such a limited right
became a full right and, therefore, the property is to be treated as her own
property. He also contended that Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act will
have only prospective operation and, therefore, the words used in Section 15(2)(a)
viz. any property inherited by a female Hindu are to be construed as property
inherited by a female Hindu after the commencement of the Act.
not find any merit in the contention raised by the Counsel for the respondents.
Admittedly, Smt. Santi inherited the property in question from her mother. If
the property held by a female was inherited from her father or mother, in the
absence of any son or daughter of the deceased, including the children of any
pre-deceased son or daughter, it would only devolve upon the heirs of the
father and, in this case, her sister Smt. Indro was the only legal heir of her
father. Deceased Smt. Santi admittedly inherited the property in question from
her mother. It is not necessary that such inheritance should have been after
the commencement of the Act.
intent of the Legislature is clear that the property, if originally belonged to
the parents of the deceased female, should go to the legal heirs of the father.
So also under clause (b) of sub-Section 2 of Section 15, the property inherited
by a female Hindu from her husband or her father-in-law, shall also under
similar circumstances, devolve upon the heirs of the husband. It is the source
from which the property was inherited by the female, which is more important
for the purpose of devolution of her property. We do not think that the fact
that a female Hindu originally had a limited right and later, acquired the full
right, in any way, would alter the rules of succession given in sub-section 2
of Section 15.
question of similar nature was considered by this Court in Bajya vs. Smt. Gopikabai
and another AIR 1978 SC 793. In that case, the suit land originally belonged to
G, son of D. G died before the settlement of 1918 and thereafter, his land was
held by his son, P who died in the year 1936. On Ps death, the holding devolved
on Ps widow, S. S died on November 6, 1956, and thereupon dispute about the
inheritance to the land left behind by S arose between the parties. The
plaintiff claimed that she being the daughter of T, a sister of the last male
holder, P was an heir under Section 15 read with Section 2(II)(4)(iv) of the
Schedule referred to in Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, whereas
the defendants claimed as sapindas of the last male holder under Mitakshara
Law. Speaking for the Bench, Hon. R.S. Sarkaria, J. held that the case would
fall under clause (b) of sub-Section 2 of Section 15 because S died issueless
and intestate and the interest in the suit property was inherited by her from
her husband and the property would go to the heirs of the husband.
State of Punjab vs. Balwant Singh and others and Chand Singh and others vs. Balwant
Singh and another AIR 1991 SC 2301 also, a question of similar nature was
considered. In that case, the female Hindu inherited the property from her
husband prior to Hindu Succession Act and she died after the Act. On being
informed that there was no heir entitled to succeed to her property, the
Revenue authorities effected mutation in favour of the State. There was no heir
from her husbands side entitled to succeed to the property. Plaintiff, who was
the grandson of the brother of the female Hindu claimed right over the property
of the deceased. The High Court held that the property inherited by female
Hindu from her husband became her absolute property in view of Section 14 and
the property would devolve upon the heirs specified under Section 15(1). The
above view was held to be faulty and this Court did not accept that. It was
held that it is important to remember that female Hindu being the full owner of
the property becomes a fresh stock of descent. If she leaves behind any heir
either under sub-section (1) or under sub-section (2) of Section 15, her
property cannot be escheated.
Amar Kaur vs. Smt. Raman Kumari and others AIR 1985 Punjab and Haryana, 86, a contra view was
taken by High Court of Punjab and Haryana. In this case, a widow inherited
property from her husband in 1956. She had two daughters and the widow gifted
the entire property in favour of her two daughters. One of the daughters named Shankri
died without leaving husband or descendent in 1972. Her property was mutated in
favour of her other sister. At the time of death of Shankri, her husband had
already died leaving behind another wife and a son. They claimed right over the
property left by the deceased female Hindu. In paragraph 4 of the said
judgment, it was held as under:
succeeded to life estate, which stood enlarged in her full ownership under
Section 14(1) of the Act.
smaller estate merged into larger one, the lesser estate ceases to exist and a
new estate of full ownership by fiction of law came to be held for the first
time by Smt. Shankari. The estate, which she held under Section 14(1) of the Act,
cannot be considered to be by virtue of inheritance from her mother or father.
In law it would be deemed that she became full owner of this property by virtue
of the Act.
these facts it is to be seen whether Section 15(1) of the Act will apply or Section
15(2) of the Act will apply. Section 15(2) of the Act will apply only when
inheritance is to the estate left by father or mother, in the absence of which
Section 15(1) of the Act would apply.
not think that the law laid down by the learned Single Judge in the above said
decision is correct. Even if the female Hindu who is having a limited ownership
becomes full owner by virtue of Section 14(1) of the Act, the rules of
succession given under sub-Section 2 of Section 15 can be applied. In fact, the
Hindu Succession Bill 1954 as originally introduced in the Rajya Sabha did not
contain any clause corresponding to sub-Section (2) of Section 15. It came to
be incorporated on the recommendations of the Joint Committee of the two Houses
reason given by the Joint Committee is found in Clause 17 of the Bill, which
reads as follows:
revising the order of succession among the heirs to a Hindu female, the Joint
Committee have provided that, properties inherited by her from her father reverts
to the family of the father in the absence of issue and similarly property
inherited from her husband or father-in-law reverts to the heirs of the husband
in the absence of issue. In the opinion of the Joint Committee such a provision
would prevent properties passing into the hands of persons to whom justice
would demand they should not pass.
source from which she inherits the property is always important and that would
govern the situation. Otherwise persons who are not even remotely related to the
person who originally held the property would acquire rights to inherit that
property. That would defeat the intent and purpose of sub-Section 2 of Section
15, which gives a special pattern of succession.
Court in its Judgment dated 31.3.1999 held that clause (a) of sub-section (2)
of Section 15 is the appropriate rule to be applied for succession of the
property left by the deceased Smt. Santi and we find no reasons to take a
different view. Thus, the appeal is allowed. Parties to bear their respective
costs. Revised decree be drafted showing the newly added respondents on the
November 6, 2001.