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Case Analysis on Danamma v Amar Singh

Backdrop of the Case
The present case is an appeal from the judgment of the High Court who while upholding the decision of the Trial Court, refused to hold the appellants as Coparceners due to being born before the date of the enactment of the Act. The appellants being the two daughters of Mr. Gurulingappa Savadi.

The other parties are two sons and wife, namely Arun, Vijay and Sumitra respectively. The suit of partition was filed by Amar (Arun’s son) on July 01, 2002. The appellants were not treated as Coparceners due to the two major reasons as stated in the plaint.

  1. Firstly, due to them being born prior to the enactment of Hindu Succession Act, 1956[i] and
  2. Secondly, them being married as a consequence have relinquished their right to inherit their property as their share has already been given to them as their dowry.

The major contentions of the appellants consisted that they should be given share in the property due to the fact that the Mr. Gurulingappa Savadi had died after the enactment of the Act of 1950. During the pendency of the partition suit the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005[ii] came into force which secured the rights of the appellants. Both the Trial Court and High Court ruled against the appellants therefore they approached the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution [iii].

The main issue before the Hon’ble Court comprised if after the successful enactment of Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005[iv] whether the Appellants would be entitled as Coparceners By birth at par with the sons and therefore be entitled to equal share as the sons do.

The Hon’ble Court analyzed the affect of Section 6 both pre and post amendment of the year 2005 as brought to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956[v]. It set aside the findings as propounded by the High Court and further stated that the amendments brought to the Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956[vi] were undoubtedly in the favor of Appellant.

The amendment gave the daughters an inherent right and the status of coparcener since birth at par with their male counterparts. The Court categorically stated that the Amended Act applies to living daughters of living coparceners with respect to the date of the Act coming into the force.

Analysis of the decision of the court
In the present case, after the death of the original coparcener in 2001 and thereafter the partition proceedings were initiated in the year 2002. No share was given to the appellants due to the fact that their father passed away before the enforcement of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005[vii].

The decision by the Trial Court and High Court was given on the lines of precedent laid down in the latest landmark judgment of Prakash v. Phulavati and thus the appellants were not granted share in the coparcenary property. [viii] The Apex Court while dealing with the present case though upheld the decision as propounded by the Supreme Court but successfully granted the appellants their share in the property. [ix]­

The Section 6 of the HSA, 1956[x] as before the amendment stipulated that if any coparcener dies leaving any female relative as per Class I of Schedule to the Act, his interest will delve through intestate succession and not by the way of survivorship.

Furthermore, explanation 1 to the aforementioned section prescribes the mechanism to ascertain the interest of a deceased coparcener which shall be done in the manner it would have been done right before his death irrespective of his capacity to claim partition. During the pendency of the present case, the amendment of 2005 came into force.

The amended provision categorically stated that on and from the date of the amendment being coming into force. It gave the daughter the status of coparcener right from her birth and the right is inherent in them. The Court held that the amendment was clearly in favor of the appellants, it being conferring the daughters the status of coparceners at par with the son.

The Court further in order to determine the effect of the Amendment being retrospective or prospective analyzed its judgment and the text of the Act and propounded that they both held the amendment to be having a prospective effect.

The Hon’ble Court in order to pronounce its judgment propounded that a partition is concluded only after the passing of the final decree and not the preliminary decree and thus stated that despite the suit being instituted in the year 2002 the daughters were entitled to the benefits as given to them by the Amendment to the Act.

The court while dealing with the present issue also acknowledged the fact that the Mitakshara law which inherently deals with law relating to HUF has undergone unparalleled changes in order to meets the standards of equality as enshrined in the Constitution of India [xi].

It further stipulated that a daughter would be treated as coparcener since birth at par with her male counterparts and she is also entitled to dispose of her coparcenary property. The court also cited the words of Roscoe Pound while stating the ardent need of the Amendment of 2005.

‘the law must be stable and yet it cannot stand still. Hence all thinking about law has struggled to reconcile the conflicting demands of the need of stability and the need of change.’[xii]
The judgment in the present case lead to numerous incongruities in the field of application of Section 6 of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005.[xiii]

As per the case of Prakash v Phulavati, if the father passes away prior to the date of amendment and any male coparcener filed a partition suit, their female counterparts will not be entitled for the same.[xiv] This position has been changed in the present case and female counterparts were also held to be entitled for share in the property in such circumstances.

While pertaining to scenarios wherein no such claim for partition is pending the deciding authority shall be the precedent of Prakash v Phulavati and this no share could be given to the female coparceners when the father died prior to the date of enactment of the Amended Act. The other major ambiguity comprised the fact that the female coparcener could still not file a suit of partition as has been held in Prakash v Phulavati and was entitled to share only if a male coparcener files the suit for the partition of coparcenary property as the act even after the amendment does not give any such right to the female coparceners.

This leads to a state of irreconcilability. As per the present case, if a suit for partition has been filed by a male coparcener which is granted by the Court, the female coparceners shall be entitled for their share irrespective of the date of death of their father. The amendment was given a strictly prospective effect depending on the date of the death of father irrespective of the existence of any suit of partition.[xv]

Judicial approach on the given issue in the previous judgments of the courts

The issue that has been elaborately dealt in the present case pertains to the rights of women as coparceners has always been a very dynamic aspect of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956[xvi]. The rights have been changed gradually in a manner to be gradually recognizing the rights of the female counterparts and conferring them the status of coparceners and their right to a share in property.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of V. Tulasamma & Ors. versus V. Sesha Reddi stipulated the scope of Sec 14(1) & (2) and her right to property was identified through her right to be maintained.[xvii]

The landmark judgment of the Commissioner of Wealth Tax v. Chander Sen, dealt with issue pertaining to the status of the share of the property after partition whether it amounts to coparcenary party or changes to self -acquired property.[xviii]

The Court after the co-joint reading of Sections 4,6 and 8 of HSA, 1956 and an analysis of the given issue held that it amounts to self-acquired property after the statutory interpretation.[xix] The Supreme Court in the case of Income Tax v. G. S. Mills dealt with the capability of women being given the position of Karta in a family and with respect to the issue at hand held that women could be made the Karta of the family.[xx]

The Apex Court while dealing with the issue in Sheela Devi v. Lal Chand held that the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 would be at a higher pedestal as compared to the Hindu Law and the former shall prevail in case of any disputes as the Act was enacted in order to confer right of property to the female heirs.[xxi]

In the case of Anar Devi and others v. Parmeshwari Devi and others, it was stipulated that for the determination of the undivided interest of the coparcener the same shall be dealt by the procedure of succession in the manner of notional partition.[xxii]

The Court to determine the above decision had relied on the judgment of Gurupad Khandappa Magdum v. Hirabai Khandappa Magdum which dealt with the intricacies of notional partition.[xxiii] The judgment stipulated to assume a partition to be taking place before the death of the coparcener for the determination of the undivided interest.

With respect to the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 the High Court of Bombay in the case of Vaishali Satish Ganorkar v. Satish Keshaorao Ganorkar stated that the amended act shall apply only to daughters born after the year of the amendment i.e. 2005.[xxiv]

The same was overruled by a larger bench further stating that the condition to be fulfilled for the application of the amended act is that both daughter and father should necessarily be alive on the date of the amendment coming into force.[xxv]

In the case of Badrinarayan Shankar Bhandari v. Om Prakash Shankar Bhandari, it has been categorically stated that the Clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 6 would have prospective effect and on the other hand other parts of sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) of Sec 6 would have retrospective application. [xxvi]

The Court in the present case while dealing with the issue whether daughters born before September 9, 2005 were also entitled to the benefits and rights being propounded by the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 analyzed various judgments.

Furthermore, the court stated that the amended Section applies to daughters born prior to June 17, 1956 or ones alive on the date of the enactment of the amended act of 2005. The above dictum has also been upheld by the High Courts of Orissa, Karnataka and Delhi. The above controversy was settled by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Prakash and Ors. v. Phulavati and Ors.[xxvii]

In Prakash’s case the Hon’ble Supreme Court referred to the Act itself which clearly stipulated that all the rights that have been conferred by the said amendment on the female coparceners have been done on and from the commencement of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005. Moreover, the court stated that the language used by the statute leave no scope for interpretation as they are extremely unambiguous.

It has been held by the Supreme Court in the case of Shyam Sunder v. Ram Kumar that any amendment brought to the Substantive provision of any act, it always has a prospective effect unless explicitly stated or by necessary implication otherwise. [xxviii] In the present case, no such provisions as to giving the amendment retrospective affect has been given and thus it will clearly have prospective effect only and the court held the findings of the High Court to be untenable.

Furthermore, while dealing with the major principle which was relied upon to pass the judgment in favor of the appellants, the court relied on the case of Ganduri Koteshwaramma and Anr. v. Chakiri Yanadi and Anr.[xxix]

In this case, it was held that a preliminary decree cannot abrogate the rights of daughters in the coparcenary property as the finality of a partition is achieved only by a final decree.

Approach of the legislature on the issue

Despite the Constitution of India being enshrined with the Right to Equality as a Fundamental Right, the Laws governing India for a very long time have suffered gross biasness on numerous grounds like gender, caste etc. The arena of right to property has been greatly effected by this biasness, this can be concluded after referring to the authoritative treatise of Mulla:

The law of inheritance was of later growth and, in general, applied only to property held in absolute severalty as distinguished from property held by the joint family. The fundamental conception of the Hindu joint family is a common male ancestor with his lineal descendants in the male line. Even under early Hindu law, the rights of sons were recognized and they acquired equal interest with the father in the ancestral property as coparceners.[xxx]

The evil of gender disparity is deep rooted especially in the property rights as the traditional inheritance Laws have been derived from ancient doctrines of Dayabhaga and Mitakshara.[xxxi] A lot of provisions have been carrying forward this biasness for example the system of Mitakshara Coparcenary wherein only males were considered to be coparceners. The Coparcenary had been restricted to patrilineal regime and consequently no share was given to the female members of the family.[xxxii]

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (then Prime Minister), stated his commitment to the reformation in the favor of rights of the females and subsequently led to the enactment of Hindu Succession Act, 1956.[xxxiii] This Act was further amended in the year 2005 to further grant rights to female coparceners. The amendment was made applicable on and from the date of the amendment coming into force. The same has been stated in the amended act without the scope of any kind of ambiguity.

The National Commission for Women in the month of July 2001 also made numerous suggestions with regards to the amendment of the said act and its requirement.[xxxiv]The arena of social justice demanded clear equality in the treatment of women in numerous and varied sphere of life. The

Law Commission of India in its 174th Report recognized this disparity and made a study of the amended State acts of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala wherein the doctrine of equality had been inculcated in the inheritance Laws.[xxxv]

It made an in-depth study in the rights of women originating from the ancient Laws till the present date and highlighted the points of ambiguity and disparity. The Commission suggested changes in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 in favor of the female heirs. Furthermore, the Law Commission of India in its 204th Report gave suggestions as to changes to be brought to the Eighth Schedule in order to abrogate redundancy in the provisions.[xxxvi]

The rules and provisions as laid down in the Act by the legislature requires various rules of interpretations. As a general rule, the provision is interpreted depending on the language and text of the provision. [xxxvii] In situations where any kind of ambiguity arises, the provision has to be given a rational meaning.[xxxviii]

The interpretation of various provisions also leads to conflicting conclusions, in situations like these the harmonious rule of interpretation needs to be adopted [xxxix] wherein both the language and intention of the legislature needs to be given importance to further the intention of the legislature.[xl] These rules of interpretation were also applied in the present case in order to interpret the language of the amended Act and determine its prospective effect.

The Ministry while amending the section 6 of HAS, 1956 stated that straight away abolishing the Hindu Mitakshara Coparcenary will prove to be very detrimental to the traditional Hindu beliefs and value systems as it forms an integral part of their religious sentiments.

On the point of expanding the scope of rights to women, the Ministry stated despite it being unacceptable to a certain class of people it is necessary to ensure the equal treatment being given to women and for furthering the ideals as enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution of India. In order to counter the major argument as to the dowry given to the daughter, the Ministry held that it is quite unreasonable to deem dowry as the daughter’s share in the family property as it does not comprise of immovable property as a general practiced and is very low when compared to the share that they actually deserve.[xli]

Thus, the amendment brought to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and the judgment that has been pronounced by the Supreme Court of India in the present case both clearly are in line with the intention of the legislature behind the enactment and amending of the Act. The Court in the present case though following the precedents laid propounded the object behind the enactment of the Amendment and gave the daughters their share of the property despite the suit being instituted prior to the date of enforcement of the Amendment. The court in the present case, delved into the reasoning behind the amendment and upheld the rights of the daughter by relying on the simplistic logic of the date of the passing of the decree.

Suggestions for the improvement of the current issue

The present case is a landmark authority for the determination of the rights of coparceners in cases where the amendment to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 during the pendency of the suit. The precedents and the text of the Act clearly state the prospective application of the Act. The court this delved into the technicalities of the case and its procedures and found a unique approach to the issue at hand and granted the inheritance right to the coparceners in furtherance of the ulterior motive behind the enactment of the Succession Act and amendments brought thereto.

The rights of female heirs though have been recognized by both the legislature and the Courts still need to go a long way to be implemented in its actual sense. There still is high level of lack of awareness among the people of India owing majorly to Lack of education and spread of awareness due to numerous reasons like the present economic condition of our country. People still are not aware of the rights and duties they have been enshrined and thus also fail to exercise them.

A lot of awareness programs and other methodologies need to be adopted to spread the word in every nook and corner of the Country. Moreover, there is greater tendency in the people of India to restrict themselves to their age-old belief systems and the status of daughters as paraya dhan is still practiced in India.

There is a need to rationalize the mindset of the people and make them realize the detrimental impact it is having on them. It has also been reported in the Economic Survey of 2017-18[xlii] that making women inherit the property at par with men has led to a greater rate of female feticide further showing how much essential it becomes for the concerned authorities to make people realize the importance of these Acts and Amendments and the greater need to be adapting to changes with the changing times.

The Courts or Legislature cannot on its own improvise the situation if the general people fail to accept and practice it, especially in a democratic country like India where every individual has the power to practice or do whatever he or she likes to a greater extent.

The other major drawback associated with the issue of rights of women to inherit their property is the suppression of the voice and will of the woman as the individual as a whole. Their opinion and willingness to take share in their coparcenary property is still not given enough importance. Numerous cases have been reported as to how brutally there are tortured and ill-treated by their husbands and in-laws in order to force them to get their share from the party of their fathers. [xliii]

She remains a mere tool to transfer the property from her father to her husband and still is unable to enjoy any benefits or rights emanating from that property and continue to remain in their state of vulnerability. This issue needs to addressed by the concerned authorities and such rules shall be enacted which gives the women the actual rights over the property.

End-Notes:
[i] Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
[ii] The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005.
[iii] Article 136, Constitution of India, 1950.
[iv] The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005.
[v] Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
[vi] Section 6, Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
[vii] Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005.
[viii] Prakash v Phulavati,(2016) 2 SCC 36.
[ix] Danamma @Suman Surpur V Amar Singh, (2018)3SCC 343.
[x] Section 6, Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
[xi] Constitution of India, 1950.
[xii] Danamma @Suman Surpur V Amar Singh, (2018)3SCC 343.
[xiii] Section 6, Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005.
[xiv] Prakash v Phulavati, (2016) 2 SCC 36.
[xv] Prakash v Phulavati, (2016) 2 SCC 36.
[xvi] Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
[xvii] V. Tulasamma & Ors. versus V. Sesha Reddi, (1977) 3 SCC 99.
[xviii] Commissioner of Wealth Tax v. Chander Sen, AIR 1986 SC 1753.
[xix] K. Pattabhi Rama Rao, LATEST TRENDS IN SUCCESSION AMONGST HINDUS, (17 January, 2020 5:00 pm) https://districts.ecourts.gov.in/sites/default/files/Article%20-%20Succession%20-%20%20SCJ%20-%20PDPL%20%20.pdf.
[xx] Income Tax v. G. S. Mills,(1982) 30 CTR All 27.
[xxi] Sheela Devi v Lal Chand, (2006) 8 SCC 581.
[xxii] Anar Devi and others v. Parmeshwari Devi and others, AIR 2006 SC 3332.
[xxiii] Gurupad Khandappa Magdum v. Hirabai Khandappa Magdum, AIR 1978 SC 1239.
[xxiv] Vaishali Satish Ganorkar v. Satish Keshaorao Ganorkar, AIR 2012, Bom 101.
[xxv] Sadashiv Sakharam Patil v. Chandrakant Gopal Desale, 2011 (5) Bom CR 726.
[xxvi] Badrinarayan Shankar Bhandari v. Om Prakash Shankar Bhandari, AIR 2014 Bom 151.
[xxvii] Prakash and Ors. v. Phulavati and Ors, (2016) 2 SCC 36.
[xxviii] Shyam Sunder v. Ram Kumar, (2001) 8 SCC 24.
[xxix] Ganduri Koteshwaramma and Anr. v. Chakiri Yanadi and Anr, (2011) 9 SCC 788.
[xxx] Satyajeet A. Desai, Mulla: Principles of Hindu Law, by (Vol II), , pg 277 Eighteenth edition,
[xxxi]Report of the Standing Committe of Parliament on Law and Justice, Sudarsana Natchiappan, https://hrln.org/admin/issue/subpdf/Report_of_the_Parliamentary_Standing_Committee_05May.pdf.
[xxxii] Supra, note 31.
[xxxiii] Report No. 174, Property Rights of Women: Proposed Reforms Under the Hindu Law, Law Commission of India 92017.
[xxxiv] Supra, note 31.
[xxxv] Report No. 174, Property Rights of Women: Proposed Reforms Under the Hindu Law, Law Commission of India 92017.
[xxxvi] Report No. 204, Proposal to Amend the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 as amended by Act 39 of 2005, Law Commission of India.
[xxxvii]RBI v. Peerless General Finance & Investment Co. Ltd, (1987) 1 SCC 424, p. 450, para 33.
[xxxviii] Kehar Singh v. State (Delhi Admn.), (1988) 3 SCC 609: 1988 SCC (Cri) 711.
[xxxix]S.Sundaram Pillai v. V.R. Pattabiraman, (1985) 1 SCC 591.
[xl] District Mining Officer v. Tisco, (2001) 7 SCC 358.
[xli]Report of the Standing Committe of Parliament on Law and Justice, Sudarsana Natchiappan, https://hrln.org/admin/issue/subpdf/Report_of_the_Parliamentary_Standing_Committee_05May.pdf.
[xlii] Sonia Ballotra, WOMEN’S INHERITANCE RIGHTS AND SON PREFERENCE, Tata Centre for Development at Ochicago.
[xliii]Shital Prakash Kharat, EFFECT OF THE HINDU SUCESSION (AMENDMENT) ACT 2005 – JUDICIAL RESPONSE, , SSRN-id2912662.

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