Case Analysis: Danamma v. Amar Singh

In the Supreme Court of India

Civil Appeal Nos. 188-189 of 2018

(Arising out of SLP (C) Nos. 10638-10639 of 2013)

AppellantsDanamma
RespondentsAmar and Ors.
Citation2018(4)ADJ406
Decided On01.02.2018
BenchA.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ.

Introduction

Gender inequality has been a prevalent issue in society with the effects of its existence being faced by a host of individuals in modern society as well. A number of legislations and interpretations by the legislature and the judiciary respectively have been observed in this field and relentless efforts to correct the inequality prevalent around us have been made.

The legislative discrepancies, misinterpreted laws and mistakenly overlooked discriminatory pieces of legislation still cause a lot of discomfort and uneasiness to the common populace. A similar interpretation of the Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 marked another step in the endeavour to help individuals exercise the equality talked about in the constitution. Using the lack of proper interpretation of this section of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 answering whether daughters could be denied their share in property on the ground that they were born prior to the enactment of the Act, refused to give the appellants in the case their due share.

The Honourable Supreme Court of India in the case passed a landmark judgement, thus removing the ambiguity from the section in relation to coparcener status of the appellants in the case. The same has been discussed in detail in the article below.

Facts

In this case, the appellants were the daughters of Mr Gurulingappa Savadi and Sumitrai and were amongst the four children with of Arun Kumar and Vijay (the respondents).The respondents filed a suit against the appellant for the partition of property on July 01, 2002 claiming 1/15th share in the properties wherein it was contended that the respondents and the widow of Gurulingappa

Savadi were in joint possession of the properties as coparceners and some other properties mentioned in the plaint were acquired out of the joint family nucleus in the name of Shri Gurulingappa Savadi. It was also pleaded that Appellants were not the coparceners in the concerned  joint family as they were born before  the enactment of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (Act) and that they were married daughters and at the time of their marriage they had received gold and money and had, hence, relinquished their share.

When the matter was heard in the trial court, it opined in favour of the respondents, stating that the appellants could not be coparceners as they were born prior to the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The decision of the trial court was challenged in the year 2008 in the Honourable High Court wherein this view of the trial court was upheld by the High Court in the impugned judgment dated January 25, 2012 thereby confirming the decree dated August 09, 2007 passed in the suit filed for partition. Aggrieved by the same, the Appellants filed a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court of India under Article 136 of the Constitution.

Issues

The issues involved and questions of law answered are as follows:

  1. Whether the Appellants, daughters of Gurulingappa Savadi, could be denied their share on the ground that they were born prior to the enactment of theAct and, therefore, cannot be treated as coparceners?
  2. Whether, with the passing of Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, the Appellants would become coparcener “by birth” in their “own right in the same manner as the son” and are, therefore, entitled to equal share as that of a son?

Judgement

The Hon’ble Supreme Court after giving due appreciation to the facts and the matters of law involved in the case opined that Mitakshara law has undergone tremendous amount of change and the  said changes have been brought forward to address the growing need to merit equal treatment to the nearest female relatives, namely daughters of a coparcener, the bench further opines that the section 6[1] of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 without doubt secures the decision of the issue in the favour of the Appellants as due to the 2005 amendment, the act now endows the status of coparcener both on the daughter of the coparcener and the same on the daughter of the propositus as well. This status is of the same manner as the son of the propositus and provides the same rights and liabilities in the coparcener properties as she would have had if it had been son.

Further the court, in pursuance of the opinion of the judges with regard to section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, the honourable court decided that the since the Gurulingappa Savadi , who was propositus of the concerned joint family property in the matter passed away  leaving behind two sons, two daughters and a widow, both the Appellants would be entitled to 1/5th share each in the said property. Plaintiff (Respondent No. 1)who was son of Arun Kumar (Defendant No. 1)was given  1/5th share, which was to be divided into five shares on partition i.e. between Arun Kumar, his wife, his two daughters and son/Plaintiff (Respondent No. 1)which would entitle , the Respondent No. 1 to 1/25th share in the property in this matter.

Analysis

As was opined in Miss C.B. Muthamma v. U.O.I. and ors[2]where Krishna Iyer, J., speaking for the Court made the observation that, “save where the differentiation is demonstrable, the rule of equality must govern.” The rule of equality long was at a pause in case of providing the daughters of coparceners the status of coparceners in family property which this landmark judgement has removed.

The judgement passed by the apex court in the matter was long due and stands as another step in the quest for achieving equitable treatment and equality in its truest sense in the country. The decision by the Trial Court and High Court was opined on the lines of precedent laid down in the latest landmark judgment of Prakash v. Phulavati[3] wherein there was  ‘neither any express provision for giving retrospective effect to the amended provision nor necessary intendment to that effect ‘and thus the appellants were not granted share in the coparcenary property.

A similar opinion was held by the Bombay High Court in Vaishali Satish Gonarkar v. Satish Keshorao Gonarkar[4]had observed that  the provision cannot be made applicable to all daughters born even prior to the amendment, when the Legislature itself specified the posterior date from which the Act would come into force.

In light of the amended act, the daughter of a coparcener should by birth become a coparcener as is in the case of the son in her own right.

In case of the old Hindu law the intent of making the son the coparcener since birth was evident as was the case with the new amended legislation of the Hindu Succession Act 1956 in the year 2005. It recognised the rights of coparceners of daughters as well since birth.

The Section in question uses the words in the same manner as the son. It should therefore have been apparent to both the previous courts that both the sons and the daughters of a coparcener have been conferred the right of becoming coparceners by birth.

The present Court observed that the suit for partition was filed in the year 2002. However, for the duration of the pendency of the suit, Section 6 of the Act was amended and the decree by the Trial Court was passed in the year 2007.

Thus, the rights of the Appellants got crystallized in the year 2005 and this event should have been kept in mind by the Trial Court as well as by the High Court. There was no dispute that the suit property which belongs to the joint family, share will devolve upon the Appellants as well.

As has been observed in Kehar Singh v. State (Delhi Admn.)[5]The‘Normal Rule’ is to read the words of a statute in an ordinary sense. In case of ambiguity, rational meaning has to be given.’ The Trial Court and the High Court should have followed the nominal rule to render justice to the appellants and opined in consonance with the view taken by the same High Court in Sadashiv Sakharam Patil v. Chandrakant Gopal Desale[6] wherein the matter was referred to the Full Bench and the judgment of the Full Bench is reported as Badrinarayan Shankar Bhandari v. Omprakash Shankar Bhandari[7] and the Full Bench held that clause (a) of Sub-section (1) of Section 6 would be prospective in operation whereas Clause (b) and (c) and other parts of Sub-section (1) as well as Sub-section (2) would be retroactive in operation. It held that amended Section 6 applied to daughters born prior to June 17, 1956 the date on which Hindu Succession Act came into force) or thereafter (between June 17, 1956 and September 8, 2005) provided they are alive on September 9, 2005 i.e. on the date when Amended Act, 2005 came into force. Orissa, Karnataka and Delhi High Court have also held to the same effect.’

It is thus realised that the trial court and the high court had not fully appreciated the facts and the statutory provisions involved in the case.

Conclusion

Such judgements as has been made by the learned bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan need to be increasingly made. The parity between the genders in fields is staggering with women being devoid of rights as basic as the status of coparcener in family property to be a birthright as is the case with male heirs. Such judgements are shocking revelations to the society of only the surface modernisation of the country.

There is a need for law and the legal system to keep pace with the positive changes and development in the society, thus there is a need for judges to provide more inclusive interpretations of law as has been observed in this case.


[1] Devolution of interest in coparcenary property.-(1) On and from the

commencement of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 (39 of

2005), in a Joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara law, the daughter

of a coparcener shall,-

(a) by birth become a coparcener in her own right the same manner

as the son;

(b) have the same rights in the coparcenary property as she would

have had if she had been a son;

(c) be subject to the same liabilities in respect of the said

coparcenary property as that of a son,

[2] Miss C.B. Muthamma, I.F.S. vs Union Of India (Uoi) And Ors. on 17 September, 1979,AIR 1979 SC 1868 a

[3] Prakash and Ors. v. Phulavati and Ors. MANU/SC/1241/2015 : (2016) 2SCC 36

[4] MANU/MH/0090/2012 : AIR 2012 Bom 110

[5] MANU/SC/0241/1988 : (1988) 3 SCC 609: 1988 SCC (Cri) 711

[6] MANU/MH/1094/2011 : 2011 (5) Bom CR 726

[7] MANU/MH/1278/2014 : AIR 2014 Bom 151

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