The Supreme Court of India (Supreme Court) vide its judgment dated 20 January 2022 in the case of Arunachala Gounder (Dead) by LRs v Ponnusamy and Ors.,  has held that even in cases prior to enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (1956 Act), if a Hindu male dies intestate leaving behind self-acquired property, such self acquired property would devolve by inheritance and its devolution shall not be by way of survivorship. Further,the daughter of such a Hindu male would be entitled to inherit such self-acquired property.


  • The matter before the Supreme Court was one where a Hindu man, Marappa Gounder had a self acquired property. Marappa Gounder died leaving behind a daughter, Kupayee Ammal. Marappa Gounder also had a younger brother, one Ramasamy Gounder who had pre-deceased him. The daughter, Kupayee Ammal died issueless and the property was then acquired by the five heirs of her uncle (Ramasamy Gounder) in a share of 1/5th These five heirs were Guranatha Gounder (son of Ramasamy Gounder) and his four heirs (Defendant Nos. 1-4 herein)

  • One of the heirs of Gunanatha Gounder, being his daughter Thangammal (Appellant ) filed a suit for partition of the suit property before the Ld. Trial Court. The   Trial Court concluded that Marappa Gounder died on 15 April  1949 and therefore, the suit property would devolve upon the sole son of Ramasamy Gounder by way of survivorship and the Appellant  had no right to file the suit for partition. The  Ld. Trial Court, thus, dismissed the suit.

  • The High Court of Judicature at Madras confirmed the findings recorded by the Ld. Trial Court in first appeal, as regards the date of death of Marappa Gounder. The High Court thus affirmed the decree dismissing the suit for partition , thereby holding that the property would in fact devolve by way of survivorship.

  • Aggrieved by such dismissal of the suit for partition, the Appellant approached the Supreme Court.


The following issues were framed by the Supreme Court:

  1. What is the nature of the property and what would be the course of succession if it is a separate property as opposed to undivided property?

  2. Whether a sole daughter could inherit her father's separate property dying intestate? And if so - what would be the order of succession after the death of such daughter?


  • The Appellants contended that the property was purchased through court auction sale by Marappa Gounder on 15 December 1938 and was thus his independent property. Therefore, the said independent property was never considered as joint family property and would devolve by succession upon his daughter. It was contended that this would be in accordance with the Law of Mitakshara, wherein the law of inheritance depends on proximity of relationship.

  • The Appellants further contended that under Hindu Law, a daughter is not disqualified from inheriting the separate property of her father. It was contended that when a male Hindu dies leaving behind only a daughter, his separate property would devolve upon the daughter through succession and the property will not devolve upon the brother's son through survivorship.


  • The Respondents contended that the property in question was purchased by Marappa Gounder in court sale but through family funds, thus, making it a joint property of the family. Accordingly, it was contended that upon Marappa Gounder's death without a male heir, Ramasamy Gounder's son inherited the property as a coparcener.

  • The Respondents further contended that Marappa Gounder's death was confirmed in the year 1949. Accordingly, the succession to his properties would open in 1949 when the daughter of Marappa Gounder, Kupayee Ammal, had no right to inheritance in her deceased father's property. Thus, the property devolved upon the son of Ramasamy Gounder.


  • Allowing the appeal, the Supreme Court noted that the suit property was admittedly the self-acquired property of Marappa Gounder despite the family being in a state of jointness upon his death intestate. Therefore, Kupayee Ammal, his sole surviving daughter, would inherit the same by way of inheritance and the property shall not devolve by way of survivorship.

  • To arrive at this conclusion, the Supreme Court referred to customary Hindu Law as well as judicial pronouncements and observed that the right of a widow or daughter to inherit the self-acquired property or share received in the partition of a coparcenary property of a Hindu male dying intestate, is well recognized not only under the old customary Hindu Law but also various judicial pronouncements.

  • To hold that a daughter was capable of inheriting her father's separate property as per customary Hindu Law, the Supreme Court observed the following:

    1. Mitakshara School of Law: Inheritance by succession is recognised by the Mitakashara school of law, but such inheritance by succession is limited to the property separately owned by an individual, male or female and includes females as heirs to such property. Prior to the enactment of the Hindu Law of Inheritance (Amendment) Act, 1929 (1929 Act), Bengal, Benares and Mithila sub-schools of Mitakshara recognised only five female relations as being entitled to inherit. These were the relations of widow, daughter, mother paternal grandmother and paternal great-grand mother.

    2. The Madras subschool of Law: The heritable capacity of female heirs is also recognised by the Madras subschool in the form of son's daughter, daughter's daughter and the sister, as also recognised in the 1929 Act.

    3. The Bombay School of Law: The heritable capacity of a large number of female heirs is also recognised by the Bombay school of Law, including a half -sister, father's sister and women married into the family such as stepmother, son's widow, brother's widow and also many other females classified as "bandhus."

  • The Supreme Court also pondered upon the legislative change ushered in by the enactment of the 1956 Act. It observed that the legislative intent behind enacting Section 14(I) of the 1956 Act was to address the the limitation imposed on a Hindu woman, who was not previously permitted in law to claim absolute interest in the properties that were inherited by her. Thus, her claim was limited to only a life interest in the property she so inherited. The Supreme Court observed that the order of succession after the death of Kupayyi Ammal will be in accordance with the 1956 Act as she died in 1967, much after the enactment of the 1956 Act.

  • Lastly, the Supreme Court described the scheme of sub-section (2) of Section 15 of the 1956 Act. It was observed that if a female Hindu dies intestate without leaving any issue, then the property inherited by her from her father or mother would go to the heirs of her father whereas the property inherited from her husband or father-in-law would go to the heirs of the husband. The Legistaure's fundamental objective is thus to ensure that inherited property of a female Hindu dying issueless and intestate, goes back to the source. Accordingly, Thangammal (and other daughters of Ramasamy Gounder) were held entitled to 1/5th share each in the suit property.


Through this judgment, the Supreme Court has examined in  detail the root of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and the rather progressive stance of the customary Hindu Law and its recognition of females as rightful heirs in different capacities of properties of their fathers. This judgment thus clarifies that the rule of succession would operate in line with the rule of proximity and the entitlement of the sole surviving daughter to her father's separate properties, even as far back as before the enactment of the 1956 Act, stands crystallised and legitimised through very many texts, commentaries and judicial precedents.

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