Author: Lovish Singal.
(2009) 15 SCC 66
NAMES OF THE PARTIES
Justice S.B. Sinha;
Justice Mukundakam Sharma.
Before this case there was no law to specify the devolution of self-acquired property of Hindu woman dying without leaving any will behind her. This case has evolved as a result of the absence of provision in law which mentions about the devolution of self-acquired property of Hindu women dying without leaving any will behind her.
The case of Omprakash v. Radhacharan is a dispute arising under the section 15 of Hindu Succession Act 1956 which talks about devolution of property of Hindu women dying intestate. Section 15 (1) talks about how the property shall be devolved to a Hindu woman dying intestate, it doesn’t mention that the law written in this clause will be applied to what kind of property whether the property should be self-acquired or inherited. Section 15 (2) (a) talks about how the inherited property from father or mother shall be devolved to a Hindu woman dying intestate. Section 15 (2) (b) talks about how the inherited property from parents- in laws shall be devolved to a Hindu woman dying intestate. So, there is no law which talks about how the self- acquired property of a Hindu woman dying intestate shall be devolved.
This case says that Section 15(1) of Hindu Succession Act, 1955 will apply to situations where a Hindu woman dies intestate leaving her self-acquired property behind her.
After reading this case analysis, the reader will get an in depth understanding of how the self- acquired property of a married Hindu woman dying intestate devolves as per Indian Succession Act, 1955.
- The parents of Narayani Devi educated her and she started working as an employee soon after completing her education.
- In the year 1955 she got married to a man named Dindayal Sharma and within 3 months of marriage her husband died.
- Within a span of a few months she as a result of her employment acquires a lot of property without receiving any kind of support from her in-laws.
- When everything was back on track in her life after her husband’s death, she also left the world on 11th of July, 1966 she died.
- Before she died she accumulated a lot of wealth in her bank accounts and in her provident fund as well but as her death was totally unpredictable in such a young age there was no “will” made by her as to whom her property shall be transferred after her death.
- Her mother and her in-laws both filed for a succession certificate, this is the point where dispute arises.
- The issue in this case was that by whom the property of Narayani shall be inherited whether by her parents or parents in law?
- Will the self-acquired property of a Hindu woman dying intestate come under the scope of the term “property”, mentioned in Section 15(1) of Hindu Succession Act 1956?
- Which rule of interpretation should be applied while interpreting Section 15 of Hindu Succession Act 1956, whether literal rule or golden rule?
The appellant side contended that as no contribution in the education of Narayani was made by her husband nor his parents only her own parents contributed in her education because of which only she able to get work and earn so section 15(2)(a) shall be applied considering the intention of the legislator that is woman cannot acquire property on their own so they didn’t make any particular law about it, which is the application of golden rule of interpretation. But the respondent side contended that as the property of Narayani is not inherited by her parents or husband or parent in laws so Section 15(2) (A) nor Section 15(2) (B) shall not apply and in this scenario Section 15(1) will apply which doesn’t specifically mention that the property of Hindu woman dying intestate should be self-acquired or inherited and so it will be applicable in this situation.
Justice S.B Sinha mentioned that in this case it is not of dispute that whether the respondents are legal heirs of Narayani’s husband Dindayal or not, he mentions it because if section 15(1) is applied then the property will be inherited by the legal heirs of Dindayal. Justice S.B Sinha also mentions that it is not dispute that whether the property of Narayani is inherited from parents or parent in laws or husband because it has been established that it is self-acquired property, it was mentioned because if the property is inherited from Husband or parent in laws then section 15(2)(B) will apply and the property will be inherited by parent in laws of Narayani Or it the property is inherited from Narayani’s parents then it will be inherited by her parents, So, Section 15(2) (A) and Section 15 (2) (B) is not applicable in this situation.
It was mentioned by justice S.B Sinha that “The law is silent with regard to self- acquired property of a woman”, here he meant that there is no law which talks about devolution of self- acquired property of a Hindu woman dying intestate. She has not received any support for her education from her parent in laws or neither they allowed her to stay in their home but still the property will be inherited by them because of application of Section 15(1) because section 15(2)(A) cannot be applied just because of emotions, when there is a conflict between emotions and law the law shall prevail so it will not be presumed that in the case no support to education was given by in laws of Hindu women it would amount that her self-acquired property will be considered as inherited property from her parents just because they contributed towards her education.
The intention of the legislature was not considered, only the literal meaning of the legislation was taken into consideration. So, the literal rule of interpretation was applied.
To support the part that in case of conflict between emotions and law, the law shall prevail few cases have been referred.
In M.D., H.S.I.D.C. and Ors. v. Hari Om Enterprises and Anr1, it was held that the Supreme Court cannot pass an order based only on sympathy or sentiment.
In Subha B. Nair & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Ors.2, it was held that the Supreme Court cannot issue a direction based only upon sentiment or sympathy.
In Ganga Devi v. District Judge, Nainital & Ors.3, it was held that the Supreme Court cannot determine a question based only upon sympathy or sentiment.
The decision of the court is not an appropriate one although it is in conformity with the some of the previous judgements like in Bhagat Ram v. Teja Singh4, it was held that as Section 15(2) contains the words “notwithstanding” it is a non- obstante clause so it is totally separate from Section 15(1), whatever is written under Section 15(1) does not affect Section 15(2) and vice versa. So, as Section 15(2)(a) says that ‘the property inherited by a Hindu woman from her father or mother if she dies interstate’ so it is very much clear that this provision will not affect Section 15(1).
The judgment is not in accuracy with previous judgements where it was held by the supreme court that when the literal interpretation of a statute doesn’t provide justice the golden rule of interpretation is to be applied that is to seek the intent of the legislator behind the concerned provision like in U.P. Bhoodan Yagna Samiti, U.P vs Braj Kishore & Ors5 on 9 September, 1988, The Central India Spinning Weaving and Manufacturing Corporation vs The Municipal Committee, Wardha on 18 December, 1957.
The judgement is in conformity with the literal interpretation of Section 15(1). So, it is not in conformity with the golden interpretation of Section 15. According to article 141 of constitution of India this judgment will be binding upon all the courts in India so any self-acquired property of Hindu woman dying intestate will be inherited by her husband or in-laws even if they have no contribution in her education. Only if judges would have done a golden interpretation of Section 15 of Hindu Succession Act, then any self-acquired property of Hindu woman dying intestate will be inherited by her parents because they are the ones who have contributed to her education.
In Kamal Nath Khopkar v. Union of India6, writ petition filled in Supreme Court the petitioner contends that Section 15 of Hindu Succession Act is discriminatory against Woman because if a Hindu man dies intestate his property will go class 1 heirs or in other words the concerned property will go to son then daughter then widow then mother according to section 8 but according to Section 15(1) if a Hindu Woman dies interstate her property will first go to her sons and daughters and husband then heirs of husband then if will go to her mother and father. So, Section 15 is gender biased which is violation of Article 15 of Constitution of India. If this PIL is granted then Section 15 of Hindu Succession Act will be amended to eliminate the discrimination that is to say if a Hindu woman dies interstate the first preference will be given to class 1 heirs like in the case where Hindu male dies interstate.
The self-acquired property of a Hindu woman dying intestate will be inherited by heirs of her husband (parent in laws), if at the time of her death neither of her children nor children of pre diseased son or daughter nor husband is alive.
This case helps us to understand the importance of using gender-neutral words in legislations and how much stereotypes in the mind of legislator can affect the laws in a country as while drafting Hindu Succession Act as legislator didn’t even though the women can also acquire property on her own so accordingly, he didn’t make any specific law about the inheritance of self-acquired property of a Hindu woman dying intestate.
In this case judges are not ignoring any fact; they are just not considering the golden rule of interpretation which it was supposed to in order to provide justice to the people for whom the law is made for. This case will impact the parents of Hindu woman dying intestate having self-acquired property as the parents are the once having contribution in the education of their daughter and when she acquires property on her own and gets married if she dies without a will then her parents who has contributed in her education will not get any share if any of her children (children of predeceased children) or husband or even her in laws are alive.
The self-acquired property of a Hindu woman dying intestate will come under the scope of the term “property”, mentioned in Section 15(1) of Hindu Succession Act 1956. So, the self-acquired property of a Hindu woman dying intestate will be inherited by heirs of her parents in laws, if at the time of her death neither of her children nor children of pre diseased son or daughter nor husband is alive.
- 2008 (9) SCALE 241.[↩]
- (2008) 7 SCC 210.[↩]
- (2008) 7 SCC 770.[↩]
- (1999) 4 SCC 86.[↩]
- AIR 1988 SC 2239.[↩]
- [WP(C) 1517/2018].[↩]
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