-By Snehi Suryash
In recent judgement, the SC on Tuesday ruled that a daughter has coparcener(equal) right to ancestral property by birth. Even if the father dies before the coming into existence of in the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act in 2005.
Three-judges bench held that rights under the amendment are applicable to living daughters of living coparceners as on 9 September 2005, irrespective of when such daughters are born.
The court held that a daughter will have equal rights over the property of her father in a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF). It is guaranteed by the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, irrespective of whether she or her father were alive at the time of that landmark amendment.
Holding that a daughter’s right over her father’s property is absolute, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra held that:
“Daughters must be given equal rights as sons, Daughter remains a loving daughter throughout life. Daughter shall remain a coparcener throughout whole life, irrespective of whether her father is alive or not.”
Why is the life-status of father important?
This simply means that even if the father of a woman in a Hindu Undivided Family had passed away prior to the amendment in 2005, she would still be entitled to an equal share of her father’s property.
There had been conflicting judgments from the courts as to whether the 2005 amendment applied even in cases where the father had died prior to its coming into force on 9 September 2005. This new judgment puts to rest the conflict, and clarifies that it applies in all cases.
This also means that the law applies in retrospect to all daughters before the 2005 amendment. Where the daughter by birth would become equal share holders.
What happens if the daughter died prior to the amendment?
Even if the daughter had died before the amendment, she would be the rightful claimant to the property of her father in a Hindu Undivided Family. In this specific case, the children of the daughter would be the entitled to the property.
What is the effect of the 2005 Amendment?
Under the old law of Hindu succession, daughters did not have rights in the family property of their fathers, and could only inherit property from their husbands’ side. These gender-discriminatory rules continued into the Hindu Succession Act 1956, which codified the Hindu personal law on inheritance.
Prior to 2005, there were several amendments to the Hindu Succession Act to give inheritance rights to women. But even after this, daughters didn’t have equal rights as sons.
The 2005 amendment finally brought daughters at par with sons, by holding that the daughter of a coparcener i.e.(someone who has a right to ancestral property), would become a coparcener in her own right, just like a son & have the same rights in the ancestral property of an HUF as a son.
The case background:
This essentially meant that whether a daughter can be denied her share in the property. On the ground that she was born prior to the enactment of the Act and, therefore, cannot be treated as a coparcener.
One of the cases arose out of a judgement delivered by the Delhi High Court. Where observed conflict of opinion between two previous cases heard by the Supreme Court with regard to the interpretation of Section 6 of HMA, 2005.
In Prakash v. Phulavati, the SC held that the rights under the amendment apply to living daughters of living coparceners as on September 9, 2005. Irrespective of when they were born. This mean if the father passed away before the set date then the living daughter will not have any right over the parental property.
In the other case, Danamma v. Amar, the Supreme Court had held that the 2005 amendment confers upon the daughter equal property rights in the same manner as the son.
The Delhi High Court had however followed SC’s judgement in the Prakash v. Phulavati case. And held that the plaintiff will not have equal property rights, as her father passed away prior to the set date of September 9, 2005.
In November 2018, a three-Judge SC Bench headed by Justice AK Sikri noted that the matter needed to be heard by a three-Judge Bench.