The court successfully put an end to a long-running inheritance dispute that had spanned decades. The daughter is qualified for inheritance property, which can be self-acquired or a share obtained in the partition of coparcenary property, according to the apex court. The case included a property dispute involving Marappa Gounder, who died in 1949 and left behind a daughter, Kupayee Ammal, who died issueless in 1967. Ramasamy Gounder, Marappa's brother, was left by a son Gurunatha Gounder and four daughters. Thangammal, one of the four daughters, had filed a lawsuit claiming a fifth portion of Marappa Gounder's property.
Facts of the original case: Arunachala Gounder(Dead) by Lrs.(Appellant) Vs Ponnusamy and Ors.(Respondent) [Supreme Court]
Thangammal, Ramasamy Gounder's daughter, filed a partition suit, alleging that the plaintiff and defendant namely, Elayammal and Nallammal, and one Ramayeeammal, are sisters of Gurunatha Gounder, and that all five of them are Ramasamy Gounder's offspring. The aforementioned Ramasamy Gounder had an older brother named Marappa Gounder. Ramasamy Gounder predeceased his brother Marappa Gounder, who died on April 14, 1957, left behind a single daughter, Kuppayee Ammal, who died in 1967 without issue.
The plaintiff/appellant also claimed that after Marappa Gounder died, his property was inherited by Kuppayee Ammal, and that after her death in 1967, all five children of Ramasamy Gounder, namely Gurunatha Gounder, Thangammal (Original Plaintiff now represented by legal heir), Ramayeeammal, Elayammal, and Nallammal, were heirs in equal of Kuppayee and each had a one-share.
Gurunatha Gounder died, leaving heirs and legal representatives in defendants 1 to 4 (Respondents herein). Ramayeeammal died, leaving defendants 7 to 9 in his wake. Thangammal, the plaintiff-appellant, died, leaving behind appellant nos. 1, 3, and 4 herein, and Appellant no. 1, Arunachala Gounder, who has been represented by appellant nos. 1, Venkatachalam, and appeallant no. 2, A. Mottaiyappan, since her death.
The defendant-respondents' defence was that Marappa Gounder died on 11.05.1949, not
14.04.1957, as the plaintiff-appellant claimed, and that according to the provisions of Hindu Law in effect prior to 1956, Gurunatha Gounder was Marappa Gounder's sole heir, and that he descended the suit properties and was in ownership and enjoyment of them, and that after his death, the respondents herein continued as legal owners.
It is an uncontested truth amongst the parties that the subject property, i.e., the suit property, was purchased independently by Marappa Gounder in 1938 through a Court auction and hence was his autonomous property. However, there was a disagreement amongst the parties about Marappa Gounder's death date. The plaintiff – appellant claimed a death date of 14.04.1957, while the defendant – respondent claimed a death date of 15.04.1949.
After considering the evidence presented by the parties, the Trial Court concluded that Marappa Gounder died on April 15, 1949, and that the suit asset would transfer to the the only son of deceased Ramasamy Gounder, Marappa Gounder's deceased brother, by survivorship, and that the plaintiff-appellant had no right to file the suit for partition. In the first appeal, the High Court affirmed the Trial Court's findings, particularly as to the date of Marappa Gounder's death in 1949, and the decree dismissing the petition for partition was affirmed, ruling that the property would pass to the defendant by survivorship.
Ø When the case addressed to the Supreme Court, the country's highest court was faced with two questions. Is it possible for an only daughter to inherit her father's property if he died intestate, and if so, what is the line of succession following her death?
The court ruled that the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 should be applied to the question of succession in the case, which was only opened after Kupayee Ammal's death in 1967. Thangammal, the appellant, is thereafter defined as an heir and is entitled to one-fifth of the bequest. If a female Hindu dies intestate and without children, the property she acquired from her father or mother will belong to the father's heirs, according to the ruling. And the property she acquired from her husband or father-in-law would pass to the heirs of her spouse.
According to the Hindu Succession Act, if a female Hindu die leaving a husband, the properties passed on to the husband and her children would include the inheritance from her parents. The Mitakshara legislation, according to the Supreme Court, recognises inheritance by succession of property possessed by an individual, whether male or female. Various subschools of law have included multiple female relatives to determine heir to the bequest over time. The court ruled that it is abundantly evident that a daughter was capable of receiving the father's separate inheritance after examining various similar earlier legal stipulations. "...since the property in question was undoubtedly the self-acquired property of a father notwithstanding the the family being in a state of commonality at the time of his death intestate, his sole remaining daughter will pass down the same by inheritance and the entity shall not regress by survivorship," the apex court said. "As a result, the impugned judgement and decree dated March 1, 1994, passed by the Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court by decision and order of January 21, 2009, are not eligible to be maintained and are hereby set aside," it stated.
The SC further pointed out that Manu has described in the Book as saying, "A man's son is equivalent to himself, and his daughter is equivalent to the son." How, then, can anybody else inherit his property despite her survival, who is, in a sense, himself?"
This article is written by Tanishq Chandel, of Amity Law School.