Category: Case Commentary
Paper Code: CC-NC-01
Page Number: 458 - 460
Date of Publication: February 10, 2021
Citation: Namrata Chakrabarty, Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma, 1, AIJACLA, 458, 458-460, (2021).
Details Of Author(s):
Namrata Chakrabarty, Advocate, Gauhati High Court
The Supreme Court of India
Civil Appellate Jurisdiction
Civil Appeal No.
Diary No.32601 Of 2018
Vineeta Sharma (Appellant)
Rakesh Sharma & Ors. (Respondents)
Decided on 11 August, 2020
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was a brave attempt to codify the Hindu Law of Succession and to keep it in line with emerging schools of thought on equitable inheritance. To acquire the constitutional goal of equality between women and men, the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 was passed, endowing the same coparcenary rights to daughters as the sons.
However, in the middle of the judgments of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Prakash v. Phulavati and Danamma v. Amar, there was significant uncertainty on the issue if the application of the 2005 amendment was retrospective or prospective. When the situation came before a three-member bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma & Ors. case, the Apex Court established that the judgment in the Prakash v. Phulavati case, did not construe the law appropriately and that the application of the 2005 amendment act was retroactive, therefore putting to rest a long-time debate concerning the date of bestowment of the benefits of the 2005 amendment.
The suit from where the appeal arose, was filed by Smt.Vineeta Sharma-Plaintiff/Appellant (hereinafter Plaintiff) against her two brothers Mr. Rakesh Sharma-Defendant No.1 and Mr. Satyendra Sharma- Defendant No.2 and Mrs. Rameshwari Sharma Defendant No.3 (hereinafter, Defendants). Defendant No.3 is the mother of the Plaintiff and Defendants Nos.1 and 2.
Sh. Dev Dutt Sharma, bought a piece of land of 250 square meters, New Delhi yards from DLF Housing and Development Ltd (hereafter referred to as suit property). The property has two and a half floors, which were built by Sh. Dev Dutt Sharma, guy. He moved with his family to the suit property and inhabited the first floor. The Ground Floor and a one-room apartment constructed on the terrace were rented out to different lessees, Bank of Baroda was one of them. A petition on eviction was lodged by Shri Dev Dutt Sharma against the aforesaid bank and while the suit was awaiting settlement, he expired on 11th December, 1999, intestate. He had three sons (one unmarried son died on 1st July, 2001), one daughter, and a wife. After his death, Plaintiff claimed for one-fourth share in the property stating that she had equal rights in it since she was the daughter. She also stated that she often visited her parental home and had a few movable items stored there too. Through a legal notice on 17th October, 2001 she demanded for partition of the property and when the same was repudiated by the Defendants asserting that post her marriage, she was no longer a member of the Joint family, she filed the suit.
In Prakash & Other v. Phulavati & Others, the Apex Court decided that, regardless of when the daughters are born, the amendment rules apply prospectively to living daughters of living coparceners as of 9.9.2005. But, in Danamma Suman Surpur v. Amar, the Court gave the privileges of a coparcenary to a daughter of a coparcener who had died long before 9.9.2005.
This developed a difference in legal interpretation and the issue was referred to a larger bench for determination in the case named Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma. The Supreme Court determined the reference in a landmark judgment of 11 August.
After debating the legislation on the formation of Mitakshara coparcenary and the significance of the rights of members of the coparcenary under Hindu law, the Bench decided to maintain the right of the daughters under the 2005 Amending Act to be retroactive in place of perspective. The Court finally determined as follows:
(i)The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 granted the status of coparcener to a daughter in the same way as a son with the same rights and obligations.
(ii) The daughter born earlier with effect from 9.9.2005 may claim the rights with savings as provided for in Section 6(1) concerning the disposition or expulsion, partition, or testamentary disposition which occurred before 20 December 2004.
(iii) Since the right of coparcenary accrues from birth, it is not vital for the father coparcener to be living as of 9.9.2005.
(iv) The legal fact of the partition which was originally established as enacted by the proviso to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 did not have any effect on the real partitioning or dissolution of the coparcenary. The fiction was just to determine the proportion of the deceased coparcener when a female successor, Class I as defined in the 1956 Schedule to the Act, or male relative of such female, survived him.
The Supreme Court's view of Sec.6 as decided is a pragmatic decision and a pleasant one. In consequence, a daughter can no longer be classified on a different basis from a son since the 2005 law. The Court explained that for the daughter to be eligible to assert her coparcenary privilege, the father does not need to be alive on the date of the 2005 Amendment. The judgment also explains the purpose behind the adoption of a special concept of 'partition' and holds that oral partitions and unregistered memorandums should be regarded only in extraordinary cases and after the discharge of a strong standard of proof to protect the rights of daughters in sham transactions that could be set up to display partition. As far as self-acquired property is involved, daughters are class I heirs and eligible to an equal share of any intestate succession as that of a son. The daughters would also therefore have an equitable claim to ancestral properties and the Joint Family property of their father as a result of this ruling. In fostering gender equality, the judgment will go a huge way. This decision may have a substantial effect on the proceedings, particularly in cases where the final verdict has yet to be passed and in cases where the object of a dispute is the coparcenary domain.