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Report No. 136

2.14. Section 14(1), Hindu Succession Act.-

An instance of conflict of decision which fortunately came to be resolved by the Supreme Court (after a time lag of nearly 25 years) may be referred to at this stage. The case related to section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and interpretation of the words "full owner" occurring in that section. Section 14(1) of the Act reads as under:-

"(1) Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner.

Explanation.-In this sub-section, 'property' includes both movable and immovable property acquired by a female Hindu by inheritance or devise, or at a partition, or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance, or by gift from any person, whether a relative or not, before, at or after her marriage, or by her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by prescription, or in any other mariner whatsoever, and also any such property held by her as stridhana immediately before the commencement of this Act."

The problem that had arisen before the High Courts can be best narrated from the opening paragraph of the judgrmant of the Supreme Court:1

"Under the same Iaw (a) in an identical fact-situation, a Hindu widow who has inherited property in Orissa or Andhra Pradesh would be a 'limited owner' and would not become an 'absolute owner' thereof, whereas, if she has inherited property in Madras, Punjab, Bombay or Gujarat, she would become an 'absolute owner'. That is to say, in a situation where a Hindu widow regains possession of a property (in which she had a limited ownership) subsequent to the commencement of the Act (b) upon the re-transfer of the very same property to her by the transferee in whose favour she had transferred it prior to the commencement of the Act. This incongruous situation has arisen because of an interpretation and application of section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act (Act).

In the context of the aforesaid fact-situation the High Courts of Orissa (c), and Andhra Pradesh (d), have proclaimed that she would be only a 'limited owner' of such property on such re-transfer whereas the High Courts of Madras (e), Punjab (f), Bombay (g), and Gujarat (h), have taken a contrary view and have pronounced that she would become an 'absolute owner' of such a property in the aforesaid situation. We have therefore to undertake this exercise to remove the unaesthetic wrinkles from the face of law to ensure that a Hindu widow has the same rights under the same law regardless of the fact as to whether her property is situated within the jurisdiction of one High Court or the other."

Ultimately, the Supreme Court held that the widow would be entitled as full owner in the above circumstances.

1. Jagannathan Pillai v. Kunjithapadam Pillai, (1987) 2 SCC 572 (575).

(a) Section 14(1) of Hindu Succession Act of 1956.

(b) The Act came into force on June 17, 1956.

(c) Ganesh Mahanta v. Sukria Bezva, AIR 1963 Ori 167: 39 Cut LT 474.

(d) Venkatarathnam v. Palamma, (1970) 2 Andh WR 264.

(e) Chinnakolandai Gourdan v. Thanji Gounder, ILR (1966) 1 Mad 326: AIR 1965 Mad 497: (1965) 2 MLJ 247.

(f) Teja Singh v. Jagat Singh, AIR 1964 Punj 403.

(g) Ramgolvda Aunagozvda v. Bhausaheb, ILR 52 Bom I: AIR 1927 PC 227.

(h) Bai Champa v. Chandrakanta Hiralal Dahyabhai Sodagar, AIR 1973 Guj 227.

Conflicts in High Court Decisions on Central Laws - How to Foreclose and how to Resolve Back

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