In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India held that a daughter coparcener would have equal coparcenary rights in Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) properties regardless of whether the father coparcener passed away before or after 9th September 2005. The three-judge bench, led by Justice Arun Mishra, opined that Section 6 of the amended Hindu Succession Act bestowed upon the daughter an equal coparcenary status, along with its rights and liabilities, akin to a son coparcener. This right of the daughter was one bestowed by her birth, and would remain unaffected by the date of the father's demise.1
The present pronouncement of the Apex Court, in Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma, arose from an impugned judgment of the Delhi High Court, where the High Court had noted that conflicting judgments of the Supreme Court in Prakash v, Phulavati, Mangammal v. T.B. Raju and Danamma @ Suman Surpur & Anr. v. Amar had unsettled the law surrounding Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act. In Prakash v. Phulavati, the Supreme Court had opined that if the coparcener father had passed away prior to 9th September 2005, then the surviving daughter would not have coparcenary rights to the joint family property. The Court, in Mangammal, reasserted this position on Section 6. In Danamma, the Court held that the Hindu Succession Amendment Act conferred an equal coparcener status on both daughters and sons of the deceased. The Court said that on and from the commencement of the Amendment Act, the daughter coparcener, by birth, would be granted the same status as the son. In Danamma, the Court said that the coparcenary rights of the daughter would not be lost if only a preliminary and not a final decree had been passed in the partition suit. The Court, in Vineeta Sharma, clarified that “if a daughter is alive on the date of enforcement of the Amendment Act, she becomes a coparcener with effect from the date of the Amendment Act, irrespective of the date of birth earlier in point of time”.2 Thus, the Court overruled Phulavati and Mangammal's ratio where it required both daughter and coparcener to be living on 9th September 2005, to attract the 2005 Amendment. It partly overruled the conflicting views of Danamma where it relied on Phulavati, but it affirmed the law of the case with regard to partition.
In this judgment, the court affirmed the retroactive application of the amended Section 6. The amendment conferred rights on daughters based on the antecedent event of their birth, and while operating in futuro. The Court further states that, “under the amended section 6, since the right is given by birth, that is an antecedent event, the provisions operate concerning claiming rights on and from the date of Amendment Act”.3 Thus, the date of the father's demise, in the context of the date of the enactment of the amendment, loses its previous importance.
The Court, while referring to the pending suits and appeals on this question of law before High Courts, stated that pending matters be resolved at the earliest and suggested a period of six months for the same. The Court, in a bid to address concerns regarding on-going disputes, clarified that notional partition under Section 6 of the Act did not bring about an actual partition. It stated that, “Notwithstanding that a preliminary decree has been passed the daughters are to be given share in coparcenary equal to that of a son in pending proceedings for final decree or in an appeal”.
In light of this landmark judgment, a relatively unencumbered path has been cleared for Courts across the country to resolve pending matters around Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act.
1 CIVIL APPEAL NO. DIARY NO. 32601 OF 2018.
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