Vineeta Sharma vs Rakesh Sharma

( Supreme court in civil appeal No. Diary no. 32601 of 2020)

(2020) 9 SCC 1

Facts:

The lawsuit concerns the Hindu Succession Act of 2005’s coparcenary right of the daughter in ancestral property. The Hindu Succession(Amendment) Act, 2005 gave the daughters coparcenary rights by birth as well as the authority to change the survivorship rule with “testamentary” and “intestate” rules.

Comprehensive guidelines for the succession and inheritance of property among Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs are established under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. In a Hindu undivided family, Section 6 of the 1956 Act allows for the devolution of ancestral property to the male lineage for up to four generations.

This survivorship provision was discriminatory and went against Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. The Amendment Act became operative on September 9, 2005. Following the modification, females are granted coparcenary rights in ancestral property by birth, as stated in Section 6(1)(a). It gave widows and daughters the same property rights as sons, albeit with some liability.The provisions of this Act applied both retrospectively and prospectively because a new provision stated that the daughters’ rights would not invalidate or affect any property transactions involving alienation, partition, or testamentary disposition that occurred prior to December 20, 2004, the day the Amendment Bill was introduced and brought before the Rajya Sabha.

In the case of Prakash & Ors v. Phulvati & Ors, the Supreme Court ruled that the Act’s provision would take effect prospectively and grant the coparcenary right to a live coparcener’s daughter as of September 9, 2005.Thus, in order to receive the benefits of coparcenary rights, both the mother and father had to be living as of September 9, 2005.

The Supreme Court ruled in Danamma Suman Surpur & Anr. v. Aman & Ors. that the Act’s provisions were retroactively applicable and granted the daughters the coparcenary power in 

property. It means that the daughter who has taken birth before the enactment of the Amending Act of 2005.

In this instance, the father, Shri Dev Dutt Sharma, had one wife, one daughter, and three sons. He passed away on December 11, 1999, and one of the sons, who was single, also passed away on July 1, 2001. Vineeta Sharma, the daughter, claimed a one-fourth share in the coparcenary property, but other family members refused her claim because her father passed away in 1999—prior to the passage of the Amendment Act of 2005—and because she would no longer be a part of the joint Hindu family following her marriage.

Then Vineeta Sharma brought a suit for her coparcenary rights against her brothers and her mother (respondent). The Honourable Delhi high Court disposed the appeal and said that sec 6 of Hindu succession act,2005 will not applicable  to the appellant as the father was not alive on 9th September 2005. Then the Vineeta(appellant) made an appeal in the supreme court.

Issues raised:

Does the coparcener have to be living as of September 9, 2005?

Is it possible for a daughter born before September 9, 2005, to be eligible for coparcenary rights?
Is Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Amendment Act of 2005 applicable retroactively or prospectively?

Contention on behalf  of appellant 

Arguments advanced by Shri R. Venkataramani 

According to the rulings in the Phulvati and Danamma cases, Section 6 of the Succession Act (Amendment Act 2005) has a prospective character.
A daughter can only have a coparcenary interest over property if there is a living coparcener.
Because the daughter will be viewed as a coparcener prior to 2005, there will be “enormous uncertainty” in how the legislation will be applied. The Parliament didn’t want to revisit the past; instead, it wanted to take a forward-looking strategy. 

Arguments advanced by Shri V.V.S. Rao

Daughters born before or after 2005 are deemed “coparceners” by Section 6(1)(a), which states that a daughter is a coparcener by birth. Both the son and the daughter have the same rights to coparcenary property as of the start of the Act of 2005. The daughter’s coparcenary property rights will only be granted as of September 9, 2005. A daughter of a coparcener cannot be affected or have any influence over an oral or written transaction of alienation, disposition, or partition in the past.In order for the daughter to be eligible to inherit and become a coparcener, she must be alive on the amendment date and there must be a coparcener who is now alive. 

Arguments advanced by Shri Amit Pai

Section 6 includes all living daughters of coparceners, irrespective of the fact whether he is alive or not on the date of the amendment.

Argument advanced by Shri Sameer Srivastava 

The goal of the Amended Act, which is to put the daughter and son on equal footing, will be defeated if it becomes necessary for both the coparcener and the daughter to be living on the day of modification. Curiosity arises because daughters are born with coparcenary rights. However, adoption may be the one exception to this rule.

Contention on behalf of Respondent 

Arguments advanced by Shri Tushar Mehta on behalf of Union of India

The Succession Act is not retrospective in character, but rather retroactive. The daughter is not implied to be the daughter of a live coparcener in Section 6. The terms of the act can be affected even if the coparcener was not living on September 9, 2005.

Argument advanced by shri Sridhar Potaraju  on behalf of respondent 

The Amendment Act is applicable with retroactive effect. Daughter has been a coparcener since the Act’s inception. In a statutory division, a property becomes self-acquired, meaning that the coparcenary right ceases to exist. Therefore, the amendment shouldn’t have any impact on any transactions from the past or present.

Rationale :

Arun Mishra J. wrote the ruling, which declared that daughters born before or after the modification will be considered coparceners in the ancestral property. The court overturned the Phulvati decision and declared that, although being a coparcener is not a requirement, the previous coparcener must still be alive.

According to the Succession Act’s section 6(1)(a) and section 6(1)(b), the girls are coparceners by birth and have the same rights to the coparcenary property as their son. And the clauses in Section 6(1) make it impossible to consider the idea that the coparcener, through whom the daughter is claiming the court also overturned the Danamma judgment, which held that girls had the same rights over coparcenary property as sons.

The court decided that even if the notional partition had occurred prior to September 9, 2005, a daughter would still be entitled to her own share of the Joint Hindu Family Property since the notional partition was intended to determine each coparcener’s share and was not a real partition. Thus, under such circumstances, the coparcenary property will not vanish. It ordered that the court cases pertaining to this topic that are still ongoing be resolved in three months.

As of September 9, 2005, it was unequivocally decided that, under section 6 of the Succession Act, girls inherited coparcenary rights in ancestral property by birth, regardless of the father’s health.The daughter is entitled to the property even if she is not alive since it will transfer to her legal heir. Any attempt to deny the daughter her right to the property by a fake partition will not be accepted. 

Defects in law :

Since the Supreme Court explicitly stated that the daughter has the same rights to the coparcenary property as the son, there were no legal flaws. Additionally, as of September 9, 2005, the daughter has coparcenary rights in ancestral property by birth, regardless of the father’s condition.

The daughter’s lawful heirs are entitled to the property even if she is not around to inherit it.
The Hindu Succession Act of 2005 gave daughters an equal right to property, and this case paved the way for litigation involving daughters’ property rights.

Inference :

The ruling in this case has put an end to the vague and imprecise interpretation of Section 6 of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, which sought to give females the same rights as sons over family property. The ruling aligned with the spirit of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution of 1950, which guarantees the right to equality.

However, this ruling’s applicability is restricted because it only applies to Hindu undivided families or ancestral property—not to self-acquired property. Nowadays, very few Hindu undivided families remain in existence, as the majority have been dissolved. As a matter of fact, these inheritance rights are mostly registered in the names of the patriarchal male lineage. 

Thus, it can be said that this case has paved the way for other cases involving daughters’ property rights under the Hindu Succession Act, 2005, giving them the same rights as sons and allowing them to approach the court to seek justice if their rights are violated.

Name- Tejaswinee Mohanty 

College name – SOA national institute of law 

LL.B(H) 1st year