Will the rights conferred to the daughters by the recent SC ruling only be limited to natural born daughters or be extendable to adopted daughters as well and more
By Sunil Tyagi
The Supreme Court, on August 11, delivered a landmark judgment in the case of Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma by providing equal coparcenary rights to daughters as similar to the sons in the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) properties. This ruling will have an impact on the present and future estate and succession planning for HUFs. Here’s what you need to know about the judgment.
How does the recent judgment impact the current position of coparcenary right of daughters in HUF properties?
Daughter’s rights have been enlarged by virtue of the recent judgment of the apex court. Daughters will now have equal coparcenary rights in HUF properties even if they were born before the 2005 amendment to The Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The coparcenary right of a daughter shall not be affected even if her coparcener father demised prior to the 2005 amendment to HSA. The rights and liabilities of a coparcener son and a coparcener daughter shall henceforth, be on equal footing under the HSA.
What was the position of coparcenary right of daughters prior to the 2005 amendment to HSA?
Prior to the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 daughters had no claim in the ancestral property of their family. Earlier, coparcenary property was confined only to the male members of the family. On the death of a male Hindu, the interest in the ancestral property devolved by survivorship upon surviving members of the coparcenary. Post 2005 amendment, daughter’s born or adopted on or after September 9, 2005 were to be considered as a coparcener in the ancestral property and were provided with the same rights and liabilities as conferred to a coparcener son under the HSA.
Will the rights conferred to the daughters by the recent SC ruling would only be applicable for inheritance of coparcenary property or are they extendable to self-acquired properties of their father?
The coparcenary rights conferred to daughters by the recent SC ruling would only be applicable for inheritance of the coparcenary property. As regards to the rights of a daughter in the self-acquired property of her father, the provisions of HSA shall continue to govern.
The self-acquired property of the father would devolve either by testamentary succession or intestate succession. If a father executes a valid will as to whom the property should be bequeathed on his death, it is referred to as testamentary succession. In the absence of a valid will, the property of the father shall pass to his legal heirs by laws of intestate succession. In case of intestate succession, daughters have an equal right to father’s property as a son.
Whether coparcenary right of a daughter would continue to subsist in the event of her getting married?
The coparcenary right will continue to remain with the daughter regardless of her marital status.
What are conditions on which the plea of oral partition of coparcenary property would be considered as valid by the court?
In accordance with the SC ruling, only in exceptional cases the plea of oral partition of coparcenary property may be considered as valid. An oral partition may be accepted to be valid if supported by public documents which should manifest the same effect as that of a decree passed by a court. Keeping in view the provisions of HSA, SC held that plea of partition based on oral evidence alone will not be accepted by the court.
Is a daughter entitled to claim partition of the HUF property on her father’s death?
A daughter being a coparcener enjoys the right to claim partition. By the enforcement of 2005 amendment to HSA, a daughter is entitled to claim partition of HUF property.
Whether partitions/dispositions, alienations of property occurred before the 2005 amendment in HSA can be reopened by a daughter?
As per the SC judgment, the conferment of equal coparcenary rights to daughters will have no effect on the partitions/dispositions and alienations concluded or taken place before December 20, 2004 and such partitions or testamentary dispositions cannot be reopened by a coparcenary daughter.
What should happen in cases where grandfathers or fathers bought properties in the name of their wives or daughters to save tax?
Under the provisions of HSA, a woman’s property includes all properties (movable or immovable) obtained through inheritance or devise, or at a partition, or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance, or by gift from any person, whether a relative or not, before, at or after her marriage and also covers her self-acquired property. Therefore, any property bought in her name would be construed as a gift to her and shall devolve as per rules of succession prescribed for Hindu women under succession laws.
Whether by virtue of this ruling, daughter, grand-daughter or great granddaughter will be equally bound to follow the obligation under the Hindu Law to discharge any such debt and can be sued by a creditor against debt contracted prior to the 2005 amendment to HSA?
After the enforcement of 2005 amendment to HSA, courts do not have the power to proceed against a son, grandson or great grandson (born or adopted prior to 2005 amendment) for the recovery of any debt due from his father, grandfather or great-grandfather on the ground of pious obligation under Hindu Law or to discharge the aforesaid debt.
However, any debt accrued towards obligation before the commencement of the 2005 amendment is liable to be discharged by a son, grandson or great grandson against the claim raised by any creditor.
By the virtue of the SC ruling, daughter, granddaughter or great granddaughter will now be equally bound to follow the pious obligation under the Hindu Law and discharge debt in relation to it. The liability of any debt accrued towards pious obligation or claim by a creditor before the commencement of 2005 amendment can be raised against such daughter, grand-daughter or great granddaughter.
Whether the coparcenary right conferred to daughters by the recent ruling would only be limited to natural born daughters or be extendable to adopted daughters?
The coparcenary rights conferred to daughters by the recent ruling is applicable to both naturally born and adopted daughters regardless of them being born or adopted prior to 2005 amendment to HSA.
The author is Senior Partner, ZEUS Law, a corporate commercial law firm. One of its areas of specialization is real estate advisory and litigation practice.