Omprakash & Ors.
Vs. Radhacharan & Ors.  INSC 899 (5 May 2009)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3241 OF 2009 [Arising
out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 460 of 2008] OMPRAKASH & ORS.
...APPELLANTS VERSUS RADHACHARAN & ORS. ...
S.B. Sinha, J.
Smt. Narayani Devi was married to one Dindayal Sharma in the year 1955. She
became widow within three months of her marriage.
Concededly, she was
driven out of her matrimonial home immediately after the death of her husband.
After that she never stayed in her matrimonial home. At her parental home, she
was given education. She 2 got an employment. She died intestate on 11.7.1996.
She had various bank accounts; she left a huge sum also in her provident fund
mother of Narayani, filed an application for grant of succession certificate in
terms of Section 372 of the Indian Succession Act. Respondents herein also
filed a similar application. It now stands admitted that all her properties
were self acquired.
question which arose for consideration before the courts below as also before
us is as to whether sub-Section (1) of Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act,
1956 (for short, "the Act") or sub-Section (2) thereof would be
applicable in the facts and circumstances of this case.
Section 15 of the Act
reads as under:
"15 - General
rules of succession in the case of female Hindus. - (1) The property of a
female Hindu dying intestate shall devolve according to the rules set out in
section 16.-- (a) firstly, upon the sons and daughters (including the children
of any pre-deceased son or daughter) and the husband;
(b) secondly, upon
the heirs of the husband;
(c) thirdly, upon the
mother and father;
(d) fourthly, upon
the heirs of the father; and (e) lastly, upon the heirs of the mother.
anything contained in sub- section (1),-- (a) 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 father; and (b) any 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
is no doubt or dispute that the properties of the deceased were self-acquired
ones and were not inherited from her parents' side.
Appellants before us
are her brothers, the original applicant being the mother of the deceased
having died. Respondents are the sons of sister of the Narayani's husband.
N.R. Choudhary, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant would
contend that in a case of this nature where the husband of the deceased or her
in-laws had not made any contribution towards her education or had not lent any
support during her life time, sub-Section (2) of Section 15 of the Act should
be held to be applicable. It was urged 4 that the Parliamentary intent as
contained in clause (a) of sub-Section (2) of Section 15 of the Act should be
the guiding factor for interpreting the said provision.
Arvind V. Savant, learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent,
however, would support the impugned judgment.
15 provides for the general rules of succession in the case of female Hindus.
It lays down the mode and manner in which the devolution of interest of a
female shall take place. Section 16 provides for the order of succession and
manner of distribution amongst the heirs of a female Hindu, stating that the
same shall be according to the rules specified therein. It reads as under:
the heirs specified in sub- section (1) of section 15, those in one entry shall
be preferred to those in any succeeding entry and those including in the same
entry shall take simultaneously.
Rule 2.--If any son
or daughter of the intestate had pre-deceased the intestate leaving his or her
own children alive at the time of the intestate's death, the children of such
son or daughter shall take between them the share which such son or daughter
would have taken if living at the intestate's death.
devolution of the property of the intestate on the heirs referred to in clauses
(b), (d) 5 and (e) of sub-section (1) and in sub-section (2) of section 15
shall be in the same order and according to the same rules as would have
applied if the property had been the father's or the mother's or the husband's
as the case may be, and such person had died intestate in respect thereof
immediately after the intestate's death."
has not been disputed that the respondents are the heirs and legal
representatives of Dindayal, husband of Narayani. Sub-Section (1) of Section 15
lays down the ordinary rule of succession. Clause (a) of sub- Section (2) of
Section 15 providing for a non-obstante clause, however, carves out an
exception viz. when the property is devolved upon the deceased from her
parents' side, on her death the same would relate back to her parents' family
and not to her husband's family. Similarly, in a case where she had inherited
some property from her husband or from her husband's family, on her death the
same would revive to her husband's family and not to her own heirs. The law is
silent with regard to self- acquired property of a woman. Sub-section (1) of
Section 15, however, apart from the exceptions specified in sub-section (2)
thereof does not make any distinction between a self-acquired property and the
property which she had inherited. It refers to a property which has vested in
the deceased absolutely or which is her own. The self-acquired property of a 6
female would be her absolute property and not the property which she had
inherited from her parents.
that view of the matter, we are of the opinion that sub-Section (1) of Section
15 of the Act would apply and not the sub-Section (2) thereof.
This is a hard case.
Narayani during her life time did not visit her in-laws' place. We will presume
that the contentions raised by Mr. Choudhury that she had not been lent any
support from her husband's family is correct and all support had come from her
parents but then only because a case appears to be hard would not lead us to
invoke different interpretation of a statutory provision which is otherwise
It is now a well
settled principle of law that sentiment or sympathy alone would not be a
guiding factor in determining the rights of the parties which are otherwise
clear and unambiguous.
In M.D., H.S.I.D.C.
and Ors. vs. Hari Om Enterprises and Anr [2008 (9) SCALE 241], this Court held:
"54. This Court
applied the doctrine of proportionality having regard to a large number of
decisions operating in the field. This Court, however, also put a note of
caution that no order should be passed only on sympathy or sentiment."
7 In Subha B. Nair
& Ors. vs. State of Kerala & Ors. [(2008) 7 SCC 210], this Court held:
"21. This Court
furthermore cannot issue a direction only on sentiment/sympathy."
In Ganga Devi vs.
District Judge, Nainital & Ors. [(2008) 7 SCC 770], this Court held:
"22. The court
would not determine a question only on the basis of sympathy or sentiment.
Stricto sensu equity as such may not have any role to play."
If the contention
raised by Mr. Choudhury is to be accepted, we will have to interpret
sub-section (1) of Section 15 in a manner which was not contemplated by the
Parliament. The Act does not put an embargo on a female to execute a will.
Sub-section (1) of Section 15 would apply only in a case where a female Hindu
has died intestate. In such a situation, the normal rule of succession as
provided for by the statute, in our opinion, must prevail.
aforementioned purpose, the golden rule of interpretation must be applied.
Court in Bhagat Ram (Dead) vs. Teja Singh [(1999) 4 SCC 86], held as under:
"6. On perusal
of the two Sub-sections we find that their spheres are very clearly marked out.
So far Sub-section (1), it covers the properties of a female Hindu dying
intestate. Sub-section (2) starts with the words 'Notwithstanding anything
contained in Sub-section (1)'. In other words, what falls within the sphere of
Sub-section (2), Sub- section (1) will not apply. We find that Section 15(2)(a)
uses the words 'any property inherited by a female Hindu from her father or
mother'. Thus property inherited by a female Hindu from her father and mother
is carved-out from a female Hindu dying intestate. In order words any property
of female Hindu, if inherited by her from her father or mother would not fall
under Sub-section (1) of Section 15. Thus, property of a female Hindu can be
classified under two heads : Every property of a female Hindu dying intestate
is a general class by itself covering all the properties but Sub-section (2)
excludes out of the aforesaid properties the property inherited by her from her
father or mother.
7. In addition, we
find the language used in Section 15(1) read with Section 16 makes it clearly,
the class who has to succeed of property of Hindu female dying intestate.
Sub-section (1) specifically state that the property of a female Hindu dying
intestate shall devolve according to the rules set out in Section 16. So, in
case Sub- section (1) applies, then after the death of Santi, Indro can not
inheritance by succession but it would go to the heirs of the pre-deceased
husband of Santi."
the aforementioned reasons, we find no merit in this appeal.
The appeal is
dismissed accordingly. However, in the facts and circumstances of this case,
there shall be no order as to costs.
[Dr. Mukundakam Sharma]