The Supreme Court has ruled that children born of void or voidable marriages can inherit their parent’s share in a joint Hindu family property under the Mitakshara Law. However, they won’t have rights to property belonging to other family members.
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- Void or Voidable marriage
- Two major schools of Hindu law
- SC’s Ruling
- Supreme Court Rulings Regarding Daughter’s Inheritance
Void or Voidable marriage
- A voidable marriage is initially valid but can be annulled due to certain defects or conditions.
- Annulment is possible if one party chooses to do so.
- A void marriage is considered invalid right from the beginning.
- It is as if the marriage never legally existed.
Two major schools of Hindu law
- The Mitakshara Law is a traditional Hindu legal system that primarily governs rules of inheritance and property rights within a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF).
- The Mitakshara law of succession applies to the entire country except West Bengal and Assam.
- The term “Mitakshara” is derived from the name of a commentary written by Vijnaneswara, which explains the Yajnavalkya Smriti, an ancient Hindu legal text.
- The Mitakshara school of Hindu law is observed in various parts of India and is further subdivided into several regional schools, including the Benares school, the Mithila school, the Maharashtra school, and the Dravida school.
- Under Mitakshara law, a son automatically acquires an interest in the ancestral property of the joint family by birth.
- All the members of the joint family enjoy coparcenary rights during the lifetime of the father.
- The specific share of a coparcener is not defined and cannot be disposed of by them.
- While a wife cannot demand a partition of the joint family property, she has the right to a share in any partition that occurs between her husband and her sons.
- The term “Dayabhaga” is derived from a text of the same name written by Jimutavahana, which is a significant work in the Dayabhaga legal tradition.
- The Dayabhaga school of Hindu law is primarily observed in the regions of Bengal and Assam.
- Under the Dayabhaga law, a son does not automatically have ownership rights by birth but acquires them upon the death of his father.
- Sons do not enjoy coparcenary rights during the lifetime of their father.
- The share of each coparcener is defined, and they have the ability to dispose of their share.
- In this school of law, women do not have the same rights as in the Mitakshara tradition, as sons cannot demand a partition during the lifetime of the father, who is considered the absolute owner.
- The Supreme Court’s verdict was influenced by a 2011 judgment in Revanasiddappa vs. Mallikarjun.
- This earlier judgment established the right of children born from void or voidable marriages to inherit their parents’ property, whether self-acquired or ancestral.
- The case revolved around an amendment in Section 16(3) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
- Children born from void or voidable marriages must first determine their parent’s share in ancestral property.
- This involves a “notional partition” to calculate the portion the parent would have received before their death.
- Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 grants legitimacy and inheritance rights to such children.
- These children are recognized as “legitimate kin” under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, which governs inheritance.
- They cannot be considered illegitimate when inheriting family property.
- The court noted that the 2005 Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act allows a deceased person’s share in a joint Hindu family, under the Mitakshara law, to be inherited through testamentary or intestate succession.
- This amendment expanded inheritance rights, granting equal succession rights to women and men.
Supreme Court Rulings Regarding Daughter’s Inheritance
Arunachala Gounder v. Ponnusamy, 2022
- The SC ruled that the self-acquired property of a Hindu male who dies intestate (without a will) will devolve by inheritance and not by succession.
- It stated that this property shall be inherited by the daughter, in addition to the property acquired through coparcenary and obtained through partition.
Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma, 2020
- In this case, the SC held that a woman or daughter should be considered a joint legal heir alongside a son.
- Daughters can inherit ancestral property equally as male heirs, regardless of whether their father was alive before the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, came into effect.
-Source: Indian Express