Joint family property distributed on intestacy principles under Section 8 of Hindu Succession Act ceases to be joint family property-Supreme Court

In a recent judgment Supreme Court has held that prior to 2005 amendment, after joint family property has been distributed in accordance with section 8 on principles of intestacy, the joint family property ceases to be joint family property in the hands of the various persons who have succeeded to it as they hold the property as tenants in common and not as joint tenants.

Case Law Details:
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2360_of 2016

Uttam (Appellant) vs. Saubhag Singh & Ors (Respondents)
Coram: Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice R.F. Nariman
Date of Judgment: 02/03/2016

Important Case Laws covered:
Commissioner of Wealth Tax, Kanpur and Others v. Chander Sen and Others, (1986) 3 SCC 567
Bhanwar Singh v. Puran, (2008) 3 SCC 87 
G.K. Magdum v. H.K. Magdum, (1978) 3 S.C.R. 761
State of Maharashtra v. Narayan Rao Sham Rao Deshmukh and Ors., (1985) 3 S.C.R. 358
Shyama Devi (Smt) and Ors. v. Manju Shukla (Mrs) and Anr., (1994) 6 SCC 342
Dharma Shamrao Agalawe v. Pandurang Miragu Agalawe (1988) 2 SCC 126
Sheela Devi v. Lal Chand, (2006) 8 SCC 581
Rohit Chauhan v. Surinder Singh (2013) 9 SCC 419

Brief Facts of the Case:
In the present case, Initially, in the year 1998, the appellant filed a suit for partition of ancestral property claiming 1/8th share before Civil Judge, Devas, Madhya Pradesh against his father and his father’s three brothers. The appellant claimed that, being a coparcener, he had a right by birth in the said property in accordance with the Mitakshara Law.  However, all four brothers, including the appellant’s father claimed that the suit property was not ancestral property, and that an earlier partition had taken place by which the appellan’s father had become separate. The Trial Court that the property was ancestral property, and there was evidence to suggest earlier partition of the said property.

However, the First Appellate Court in 2005 allowed the appeal  holding that on the death of appellant’s grandfather in 1973, his widow Mainabai being alive, appellant’s grandfather share would have to be distributed in accordance with Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 as if the said Jagannath Singh had died intestate. Thus in view of applicability of Section 8,  the joint family property had to be divided accordance with rules of intestacy and not survivorship. Therefore, no joint family property remained to be divided when the suit for partition was filed by the appellant and that since the appellant’s father being a Class I heir was alive, the appellant had no right to sue for partition.

High Court also dismissed the appeal of the appellant holding in view of the sections 4,6, 8 of Hindu Succession Act, 1956, grand-son has no birth right in the properties of grand-father and he cannot claim partition during lifetime of his father.

Law Summarized by the Apex Court: 

The Apex Court summarized the law related to joint family property governed by the Mitakshara School, prior to the amendment of 2005, as under:-

(i) When a male Hindu dies after the commencement of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, having at the time of his death an interest in Mitakshara coparcenary property, his interest in the property will devolve by survivorship upon the surviving members of the coparcenary (vide Section 6).

(ii) To proposition (i), an exception is contained in Section 30 Explanation of the Act, making it clear that notwithstanding anything contained in the Act, the interest of a male Hindu in Mitakshara coparcenary property is property that can be disposed of by him by will or other testamentary disposition.

(iii) A second exception engrafted on proposition (i) is contained in the proviso to Section 6, which states that if such a male Hindu had died leaving behind a female relative specified in Class I of the Schedule or a male relative specified in that Class who claims through such female relative surviving him, then the interest of the deceased in the coparcenary property would devolve by testamentary or intestate succession, and not by survivorship.

(iv) In order to determine the share of the Hindu male coparcener who is governed by Section 6 proviso, a partition is effected by operation of law immediately before his death. In this partition, all the coparceners and the male Hindu’s widow get a share in the joint family property.

(v) On the application of Section 8 of the Act, either by reason of the death of a male Hindu leaving self-acquired property or by the application of Section 6 proviso, such property would devolve only by intestacy and not survivorship. (vi) On a conjoint reading of Sections 4, 8 and 19 of the Act, after joint family property has been distributed in accordance with section 8 on principles of intestacy, the joint family property ceases to be joint family property in the hands of the various persons who have succeeded to it as they hold the property as tenants in common and not as joint tenants.

The Court held that on the death of the appellant’s grandfather in 1973, the ancestral joint family property devolved by succession under Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act and thus ceased to be joint family property on the date of death of the grandfather and his widow held the property as tenants in common and not as joint tenants.

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