REVANASIDDAPPA V. MALLIKARJUN (2023), SCC Online SC 1087

INTRODUCTION: 

On 1 September 2023, a bench of three judges of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India led by Chief justice of India Dr. DY Chandrachud, delivered a very important judgement in the case of Revanasiddappa and another vs. Mallikarjun and Ors. The judgement answered a long-lasting legal confusion regarding the rights of inheritance born out of null and void or voidable marriages. In this case the Supreme court answered whether an illegitimate child is entitled to parents’ property or not? .and whether the child born out of void or voidable marriage, who is conferred with legislative legitimacy is entitled to parents’ ancestral property or not? This case also deals with if an illegitimate child is qualified to inherit the tribal property under section 16(3) of Hindu Marriage Act,1955.in this case the plaintiff (first wife of Shivasharanappa) filed a case before the Trial Court, in 2005, the court held that the plaintiff and defendants (illegitimate sons of Shivasharanappa)both are entitled to equal share of 1/6 each in ancestral property. The appellant not satisfied by the judgement of Trial Court approached the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka, the issue raised before the High court was whether the illegitimate child born out of void and voidable marriage are entitled to coparceners by virtue of the section 16(3) of Hindu Marriage Act,1955 and also if these illegitimate child are entitled to share at the time of partition between the coparceners? The High court held that upon partition when the first defendant got his share of the property then other coparceners would be entitled to share on his dying intestate but for the time being the other coparceners does not have any right in the said property.

In some previous cases like Jinia Keotin V. Kmar Sitaram Manjhi (2003), in Neelamma V. Sarojamma (2006) it was held that children born from void or voidable marriage can only inherit self-acquired property of their father.

In the case of Bharatha Matha and anr V. R Vijaya Renganathan and Ors, 2010 it was held that illegitimate child is only entitled to inherit their father’s self-acquired property and not his ancestral property.

In 2011, in the case of Revanasiddappa & Anr V. Mallikarjun & Ors. An amendment was made to section 16(30) of Hindu Marriage Act 1955.in this case it was held that an illegitimate child is entitled to inherit both self-acquired property of father as well as his ancestral property. This judgement was delivered by two judge bench led by Justice A. K. Ganguly and Justice G.S. Singhvi. 

But because of some disagreement with the verdict the matter was referred to a larger bench of the Supreme court.

In 2023, a three Judge bench led by Hon’ble Chief Justice of India Dr. D.Y Chandrachud, reversed its earlier judgement and held that an illegitimate child born out of void and voidable marriage is only entitled to inherit self-acquired property  of father and not a coparcener in ancestral property.

FACTS:

  1. Mr. Shivasharanappa had two Wifes before the commencement of Hindu Marriage Act 1955, but after the commencement of Hindu Marriage Act in 1955 his second marriage become void, the first wife of Shivasharanappa along with her two sons, filed a suit for partition of their share with respect to ancestral properties of Shivasharanappa. 
  2. The first wife (respondent in case) contended that Shivasharanappa, married the second wife, while his first marriage was subsisting, therefore, the children born out of the second marriage are not legitimate and are not entitled to any share in the ancestral property of Shivasbaranappa as they are not coparceners. 
  3. The court gave judgement in Favour of the first wife and said that she and her two sons are entitled to suit properties and therefore children from second marriage are also entitled to share in suit properties
  4. First wife made another appeal in the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka, the Hon’ble high Court held that illegitimate children born out of void or voidable marriage are not entitled to a share of coparcenary property by birth but are entitled to only some specific share of their father, which is ascertain upon division.
  5. Hon’ble high court also held that illegitimate children would be entitled to father dying intestate and not during his lifetime.
  6. Discontented by Hon’ble high court decision the appellants (illegitimate sons of Shivsharanappa)approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

ISSUES RAISED: in REVANASIDDAPPA VS. MAllIKARJUN  the main issue raised before the court was:

  1. Whether the child born out of void or voidable marriage is entitled to the property of their parents?
  2. Whether children born out of void and voidable marriage should be given rights and entitlement over ancestral property or not?
  3. Whether the children born out of void or voidable marriage is limited to only self-acquired property of their parents under section 16(3) of the Hindu Marriage Act?

CONTENTION:

Petitioner’s Arguments: –

The key contentions raised by the petitioner in the Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun case were:

The property given to the defendant was ancestral property, and not self-acquired property. So, the defendant should not be given a share in this ancestral property. The petitioner also contended that since it is ancestral property the defendant should not be given any property at all.

Petitioner also argued that since the property in question was ancestral and the defendant being an illegitimate child born out of void marriage he should not be entitled to ancestral property and should only have inheritance right over self-acquired property of parents.

Defendant’s arguments: –

The contention raised by the defendant was that the property in question was not ancestral property, but self-acquired property by their parents & hence they should be entitled to inherit that property.

Petitioner also contended that they should receive a share in that property as it was not ancestral property.

The petitioner in his contention tried to justify their entitlement to inherit a portion of the property in question.

RATIONALE:

The judgment delivered by the three Judge bench of the Supreme court in Revanasiddappa & Anr V. Mallikarjun & Ors. Bring a change in interpretation of Hindu marriage Act 1955 and Hindu succession Act 1976.

Section 16(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 confers legitimacy on children born from void or voidable marriages, irrespective of whether the marriage was annulled before or after their birth. such children born out of void or voidable marriage will have same right of legitimacy as is given to legitimate child under section 16(1). 

However, in some earlier Supreme Court rulings like Jinia Keotin (2003), Neelamma (2006) and Bharatha Matha (2010) it was held that even though section 16 of Hindu marriage Act 1955 give  legitimate rights to these children ,but section 16(3) of the same Act restricts their right of inheritance to only self-acquired property of parents and exclude then from inheritance of ancestral property .

The 2023 judgment by three judge benches of supreme court overruled these earlier decisions. It was held that children legitimized under Section 16 are entitled to inherit properties of their deceased parents’ this will include entire property, whether self-acquired or ancestral.

The court reasoned that the term “property” used does not qualify to either self-acquired or ancestral property as per section 16 of Hindu marriage Act, 1955.

The main intent behind such decision of supreme court is that a child should suffer due to invalidity of marriage of their parents. Denying inheritance right to the children born from void marriage would defeat the purpose of section 16 of Hindu marriage act 1955.

However, the court also clarifies that such children are not coparcener by birth as per Hindu Mitakshara joint family law.

 DEFECTS OF LAW:

There were some irregularities in interpretation of section 16 of Hindu marriage Act 1955 concerning the rights and position of children born from a void or voidable marriage because of which there was a lot of question regarding inheritance right of such children.

There was discrepancy because of dependency on annulment decree, because of timing in passing of annulment decree of the marriage, legislation face a lot of problems in categorizing children, creating problems in their inheritance rights.

Section 16 of Hindu marriage act 1955, states the legitimacy of the children born from void or voidable marriage. Section 16(1)& section16 (2) of Hindu marriage act states that children born out of void or voidable marriage before the decree of annulment is passed will have same right as legitimate children would have under section 16 (1).but at the same time section 16(3) states that children born from void or voidable marriage are only entitled to self-acquired property of parents and cannot inherit ancestral property.

There has been so much ambiguity with courts judgement regarding children from void or voidable marriage over the years in 2010, Bharatha Matha and Anr V. Ors, case it was held that child born out of void or voidable marriage are entitled to parents self-acquired property only and not ancestral property. This judgement was reversed in 2011 just one year after the verdict of court was passed, in case of Revanasiddappa V. Mallikharjuna SC held that child born out of void or voidable marriage have right to inherit self-acquired as well as ancestral property of parents. This judgement was overruled, and the case was transferred to a larger bench of the Supreme Court.

INFERENCES:

It can be inferred from the judgement of the Supreme court that the children born from void or voidable marriage are entitled to inherit only self-acquired property of parents and not ancestral property. illegitimate children even though they are given the same rights as a legitimate child would get under section 16(1) but in relations to acquisition of ancestral property illegitimate children are not entitled. They can inherit their parent’s property this decision will make sure that there is no injustice happening with the illegitimate child because void marriage is not their fault and at the same time this decision will ensure that rights of other members of family is not affected by such inheritance. This judgement by supreme court makes some relevant changes to Hindu Marriage Act 1955 and Hindu succession Act 1956 this made sure no child is denied of his rights, it also pointed out that laws are subject to changes as per the requirements and need of time this will ensure that justice is served and not denied. This case also breaks age old stigma associated with illegitimate children and improved their position in society. It can also be inferred by the judgement of Supreme court that the interpretation of section 16(3) should be based on constitution value of equality of status and opportunities as well as individual dignity.

REFRENCES:

  1. Hindu Marriage Act,1955, Bare ACT
  2. Hindu Succession Act ,1956, Bare Act
  3. Revanasiddappa vs Mallikarjun on 1 September, 2023 (indiankanoon.org)
  4. [Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1087…
    https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2023/10/03/supreme-court-roundup-september-2023-on-dspe-act-hiv-aids-guidelines-self-respect-secular-marriages/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *