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Thursday, April 6, 2017

“allocation of shares as regards to the properties found to be joint family properties”.= On the date of death of Fuchan Mahto, his son Mithu Sao did not have any male issue. However, the joint family in question can be understood to have continued with Mithu Sao as the 'Karta' and the property continued to belong to the joint family. ; Thus after 1961 Puniya Devi being the widow of Fuchan Mahto had 1/8th plus 1/72th share in the joint family property, namely, 10/72th share. Puniya Devi died in the year 1967 leaving behind her daughter Ugni Devi and the children of her predeceased son Mithu Sao. Ugni Devi will be entitled to receive one-half share of Puniya Devi i.e. half of 10/72th share i.e. 10/144th share. The remaining 10/144th share that would go to the branch of Mithu Sao will have to be divided amongst 8 heirs of Mithu Sao, namely, the widow and the seven children.- In view of the above, it will be necessary to modify the decree passed by the learned trial Court as affirmed by the High Court by holding that the appellants – defendants are entitled to 38.1% share in the joint family property instead of 37.5% as ordered by the courts below.


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1110 OF 2006

ORS.                                 ...APPELLANTS


THR. LRS. & ORS.                ...RESPONDENTs



1.          The appellants are the defendants in a partition suit  filed  by
the respondents, as plaintiffs,  seeking  partition  of  various  properties
specifically mentioned in Schedule 'B' and Schedule 'C' of the plaint.
2.          At the outset, the following genealogical  table  is  being  set
out to enable a clear and easy understanding of the facts and  the  findings
with regard to the entitlement of the parties that would be  arrived  at  in
the course of the deliberations that follow.
|Fuchan Mahto – died 1940                                              |
|Wife Puniya Devi – died 1967                                          |
|!                                                                     |
|------------------------------------                                  |
|!                                !                                    |
|     |Mithu Sao (son)      |Ugni Devi (daughter)                     | |
|     |(died 1961)          |(died 1995)                              | |
|     |!                    |!                                        | |
|     |!                    |–-------------------------------         | |
|     |!                    |!         !            !                 | |
|     |!                    |                                         | |
|     |!                    |                                         | |
|     |!                    |                                         | |
|     |!                    |                                         | |
|     |                     |Jagar-  |Parasnath        |Dharamnath    | |
|     |                     |nath    |(Appellants)     |              | |
|     |                     |        |                 |              | |
|     |          !                                     |              | |
|     |–------------------------------                 |              | |
|     |!                              !                |              | |
|       Temni (1st wife)            |Bilaso Devi (2nd Wife)          | |
|!                                  |!                               | |
|–---------------------             |–-------------------------      | |
|!          !         !             |!         !       !      !      | |
|Ramnath    |Kashinath  |Buchwa     |Govardhan |Jagdish|Baldeo |Sarita | |
|(Appellants)                       |(Respondents)                   | |
|                |          |        |          |       |       |       | |

3.          The case of the respondents  plaintiffs  is  that  Fuchan  Mahto
(died in 1940), the common ancestor of the parties had a son Muthu  Sao  who
died in the year 1961.  Mithu Sao had two wives, namely,  Temni  (1st  wife)
and Bilaso Devi (2nd wife).  At the time of  the  filing  of  the  suit  for
partition Temni (1st wife) was no more. The defendants in the suit  Ramnath,
Kashinath Buchwa are the sons and daughter  of  Mithu  Sao  and  Temni  (1st
wife) whereas the plaintiffs Govardhan, Jagdish, Baldeo and Sarita  are  the
sons and daughter of Mithu Sao and Bilaso Devi (2nd  wife),  who  is  a  co-
4.          According to the plaintiffs,  they  along  with  the  defendants
constituted a joint  Hindu  Mitakshra  family  which  owned  ancestral  land
recorded  under  Khata  No.19  of  village  Lapanga  in  the   district   of
Hazaribagh.  It is the case of the plaintiffs that  the  joint  family  also
acquired lands in several other  villages  in  the  name  of  one  or  other
members of the joint  family.  According  to  the  plaintiffs,  the  parties
continued  in  joint  possession  of  the  properties,  both  ancestral  and
subsequently acquired.  As the members of  joint  family  had  increased  it
became inconvenient to continue to remain  joint.   Hence  the  suit  for  a
decree of partition was filed.
5.          The defendants contested the suit, inter  alia,  on  the  ground
that there was no  unity  of  title  and  possession  between  the  parties.
According to the defendants, after the death of Mithu sao in the  year  1961
or even before his death there was disruption in the family  on  account  of
the fact that Mithu Sao had married twice.  There were  serious  differences
in the family and the children of the first wife Temni separated from  Mithu
Sao.  It is the case of the defendants that after the  death  of  Mithu  Sao
the children of first wife and second wife again separated.  The  defendants
pleaded that as there was no joint family in existence both the parties  had
separate earnings and only the ancestral lands of Khata No.19 are  available
for partition, major portion of which had been acquired  by  the  Government
and compensation amount had been  evenly  distributed  amongst  the  parties
according to their respective shares.   According  to  the  defendants,  the
other items of the Schedule property are self-acquired properties which  are
not liable to be partitioned.
6.          The learned trial  Court  decreed  the  suit  holding  that  the
plaintiffs are entitled to the extent of 63-1/2 paise share in the  Schedule
'B' property; items 1 to 8 of village Labaga in Schedule 'C';  items  1  and
2 of village Rasda in Schedule 'C'; and items 1 to 8 of  village  Hafuwa  in
Schedule 'C' properties and 12 paise share in the  properties  mentioned  in
Item No.9 of village Hafuwa in  Schedule  'C'  properties.   The  defendants
appellants, on the other hand, were found to be entitled  to  the  remaining
37-1/2 paise in the Schedule 'B' property  and  items  1  to  8  of  village
Labaga; items 1 and 2 of village Rasda; and items 1 to 8 of  village  Hafuwa
in Schedule 'C' properties.   By the said decree which has been affirmed  in
appeal by the High Court, so far as the property mentioned in item  No.9  of
Schedule 'C' is concerned, 12 and 11 paise share therein in  favour  of  the
plaintiffs and department have been granted.   As  the  said  property  i.e.
item No.9 of Schedule 'C' pertain to  23 paise share of  the  five  sons  of
Muthu Sao in property purchased by  them  along  with  other  persons  by  8
different sale deeds, the said property is not the  subject  matter  of  the
present appeal in  its truncated form, as indicated earlier.
7.          This Court while issuing notice in the present  appeal  confined
the area of scrutiny to the question of “allocation of shares as regards  to
the properties found to  be  joint  family  properties”.   In  view  of  the
aforesaid limited notice, the  issue  with  regard  to  the  shares  of  the
respective parties in the joint family properties  alone  will  have  to  be
determined  in  the  present  appeal  and  no  question  of  reopening   the
concurrent  findings  of  the  learned  forums  below  with  regard  to  the
existence of joint family and the holding of properties jointly can arise.
8.          We have heard the learned counsels for the parties.
9.          Fuchan Mahto died in the year 1940.  At the time of  his  death,
the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, 1937 (hereinafter referred  to  as
“the 1937 Act”) was in force.   Section  3(2)  of  the  1937  Act  which  is
relevant for the present case provided as follows:
“3(2) When a Hindu governed by any  school  of  Hindu  law  other  than  the
Dayabhaga school or by customary law dies having at the time  of  his  death
an interest in a Hindu joint family property, his widow  shall,  subject  to
the provisions  of sub-section (3), have in the property the  same  interest
as he himself had.”

10.         Under Section 3(2) of the 1937  Act,  on  the  death  of  Fuchan
Mahto his widow/wife Puniya Devi became entitled to a  share  in  the  joint
family  property.   However,  the  share  of  Puniya   Devi   would   remain
undetermined till such time when there is a partition in the  family.   This
is what has been held by this Court in Potti  Lakshmi  Perumallu  vs.  Potti
Krishna Venamma[1].  The relevant paragraph in  the  said  judgment  to  the
above effect is extracted below:
“According to the theory underlying the Hindu law the widow  of  a  deceased
Hindu is his surviving half and, therefore, as long as she is alive he  must
be deemed to continue to exist in her person. This surviving half had  under
the Hindu law texts no right to claim a partition of  the  property  of  the
family to which her husband belonged.  But the Act  of  1937  has  conferred
that right upon her.  When the Act says that she will have  the  same  right
as her husband had it clearly  means  that  she  would  be  entitled  to  be
allotted the same share as her husband would have been entitled  to  had  he
lived on the date on which she claimed partition.”

11.         On the date of death of Fuchan Mahto, his son Mithu Sao did  not
have any  male  issue.   However,  the  joint  family  in  question  can  be
understood to have continued with Mithu Sao as the 'Karta' and the  property
continued to belong to the joint family.  The above view would find  support
from the decision of this Court in Gowli Buddanna v. Commissioner of  Income
Tax, Mysore, Bangalore[2], relevant portion of which is extracted below:

Property of a joint family therefore  does  not  cease  to  belong  to  the
family merely because the family is represented by a single  coparcener  who
possesses rights which an owner of property may possess.   In  the  case  in
hand the property which yielded the income originally belonged  to  a  Hindu
undivided family.  On the death of Buddappa  the  family  which  included  a
widow and females born in the family was represented by Buddanna  alone  but
the property still continued to belong to that undivided family  and  income
received therefrom was taxable as income of the Hindu undivided family.”

12.         The position, therefore, prior to the coming into force  of  the
Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was that the joint family continued on the  death
of Fuchan Mahto with Mithu Sao as the sole coparcener and the  joint  family
properties continued to belong to the family  and  furthermore  Puniya  Devi
continued to have a share in the property.
13.         At this  stage,  the  provisions  of  Section  6  of  the  Hindu
Succession Act, 1956 will require  a  specific  notice  which  is  extracted

“6.         Devolution of interest in coparcenary  property.-  when  a  male
Hindu dies after the commencement of this Act, having at  the  time  of  his
death an interest in a Mitakshara coparcenary property, his interest in  the
property shall devolve by survivorship upon the  surviving  members  of  the
coparcenary and not in accordance with this act:

Provided that, if the deceased had left  him  surviving  a  female  relative
specified in class-1 of the Schedule or a male relative  specified  in  that
class who claims through such female relative, the interest of the  deceased
in the Mitakshara coparcenary property  shall  devolve  by  testamentary  or
intestate succession, as the  case  may  be,  under  this  Act  and  not  by

      Explanation.1 – For the purposes of this section, the  interest  of  a
Hindu Mitakshara coparcener shall be deemed to be the share in the  property
that would have been allotted to him if a  partition  of  the  property  had
taken place immediately before his death, irrespective  of  whether  he  was
entitled to claim partition or not.

      Explanation 2.- Nothing contained  in  the  proviso  to  this  section
shall be construed as enabling a person who has separated himself  from  the
coparcenary before the death of the deceased or any of his  heirs  to  claim
on intestacy a share in the interest referred to therein.”

14.         After the death of Mithu Sao in the  year  1961,  following  the
provisions of Section 6 of  the  Hindu  Succession  Act,  1956,  a  notional
partition just before the death of Mithu  Sao  will  have  to  be  presumed.
There would, therefore, be 8 sharers in the joint family properties and  the
share of each one of them would be as follows:
|Mithu Sao             |1/8                  |
|Bilaso Devi (wife)    |1/8                  |
|Puniya Devi(mother)   |1/8                  |
|Ramnath (son)         |1/8                  |
|Kashinath (son)       |1/8                  |
|Goverdhan (son)       |1/8                  |
|Jagdish (son)         |1/8                  |
|Baldeo (son)          |1/8                  |

            Insofar as Bilso Devi, the wife of Mithu Sao is  concerned,  she
would be entitled to 1/8th share of the joint  family  properties  upon  the
notional partition being given effect to.  The  share  of  the  widow  of  a
Hindu male coparcener following a notional partition has been recognized  by
this Court in Gurupad Khandappa Magdum versus Hirabai Khandappa  Magdum  and
others[3]. Paragraph 9 and 14 of the  report  in  Gurupad  Khandappa  Magdum
(supra) may be usefully noted herein below:
“9.         The next step, equally important  though  not  equally  easy  to
work out,  is  to  find  out  the  share  which  the  deceased  had  in  the
coparcenary property because after all, the plaintiff has a  1/6th  interest
in that share. Explanation 1 which contains the formula for determining  the
share of the deceased creates a fiction by providing that the interest of  a
Hindu Mistakshara coparcener  shall  be  deemed  to  be  the  share  in  the
property that would have  been  allotted  to  him  if  a  partition  of  the
property had taken place immediately before his death. One must,  therefore,
imagine a state of affairs in which a little prior to Khandappa's  death,  a
partition of the coparcenary property was effected  between  him  and  other
members of the coparcenary. Though the plaintiff, not  being  a  coparcener,
was not entitled to demand partition yet, if a partition were to take  place
between her husband and his two sons, she would be  entitled  to  receive  a
share equal to that of a son. (see Mulla's Hindu  Law,  Fourteenth  Edition,
page 403, para 315). In a partition between  Khandappa  and  his  two  sons,
there would be four sharers in the coparcenary property,  the  fourth  being
Khandappa's wife, the plaintiff. Khandappa would have therefore got a  1/4th
share in the coparcenary property on the hypothesis of a  partition  between
himself and, his sons.
                                xxx  xxx  xxx
14.         The interpretation which we are placing upon the  provisions  of
section  6   its  proviso  and  explanation  I  thereto  will  further   the
legislative intent in regard to the  enlargement  of  the  share  of  female
heirs, qualitatively  and  quantitatively.  The  Hindu  Law  of  Inheritance
(Amendment) Act, 1929 conferred  heirship  rights  on  the  son's  daughter,
daughter's daughter and  sister  in  all  areas  where  the  Mitakshara  law
prevailed. Section 3 of the Hindu Women's  Rights  to  Property  Act,  1937,
speaking broadly, conferred upon the Hindu widow the right  to  a  share  in
the joint family property as also a right to demand partition like any  male
member of the family. The Hindu Succession Act,  1956  provides  by  section
14(1) that any property  possessed  by  a  female  Hindu,  whether  acquired
before or after the commencement of the Act, shall be held by her as a  full
owner thereof and not as a limited owner. By restricting  the  operation  of
the fiction created  by  Explanation  I  in  the  manner  suggested  by  the
appellant, we shall be taking a retrograde step, putting  back  as  it  were
the clock of social reform which has enabled the Hindu Woman to  acquire  an
equal status with males in matters  of  property.  Even  assuming  that  two
interpretations of Explanation I are reasonably  possible,  we  must  prefer
that interpretation which will further the intention of the legislature  and
remedy the injustice from which the  Hindu  women  have  suffered  over  the
                                                       [underlining is ours]

15.         Next aspect of the case is with regard to  the  1/8th  share  of
Mithu Sao and the devolution of the said share to the surviving  members  of
the joint family.  In this regard, it can be  held  without  any  difficulty
that under the proviso to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession  Act,  1956  the
share of Mithu Sao in the joint family property  (1/8th)  would  devolve  by
intestate succession, in the absence of a will, in the following manner.
|Bilaso Devi    |_1__     |=   |_1__         |
|               |8x9      |    |72           |
|Puniya Devi    |_1__     |=   |_1__         |
|               |8x9      |    |72           |
|Ramnath        |_1__     |=   |_1__         |
|               |8x9      |    |72           |
|Kashinath      |_1__     |=   |_1__         |
|               |8x9      |    |72           |
|Goverdhan      |_1__     |=   |_1__         |
|               |8x9      |    |72           |
|Jagdish        |_1__     |=   |_1__         |
|               |8x9      |    |72           |
|Baldeo         |_1__     |=   |_1__         |
|               |8x9      |    |72           |
|Buchwa Devi    |_1__     |=   |_1__         |
|               |8x9      |    |72           |
|Sarita         |_1__     |=   |_1__         |
|               |8x9      |    |72           |

16.         Thus after 1961 Puniya Devi being the widow of Fuchan Mahto  had
1/8th plus 1/72th share  in  the  joint  family  property,  namely,  10/72th
share.  Puniya Devi died in the year 1967 leaving behind her  daughter  Ugni
Devi and the children of her predeceased son Mithu Sao.  Ugni Devi  will  be
entitled to receive one-half share of  Puniya  Devi  i.e.  half  of  10/72th
share i.e. 10/144th share.  The remaining 10/144th share that  would  go  to
the branch of Mithu Sao will have to be divided amongst  8  heirs  of  Mithu
Sao, namely,  the  widow  and  the  seven  children.   Thus,  the  aforesaid
10/144th share would devolve in the following manner.
|Bilaso Devi      |_1_    |x |_10_   |=  |_10_  |
|                 |8      |  |144    |   |1152  |
|Ramnath          |_1_    |x |_10_   |=  |_10_  |
|                 |8      |  |144    |   |1152  |
|Kashinath        |_1_    |x |_10_   |=  |_10_  |
|                 |8      |  |144    |   |1152  |
|Goverdhan        |_1_    |x |_10_   |=  |_10_  |
|                 |8      |  |144    |   |1152  |
|Jagdish          |_1_    |x |_10_   |=  |_10_  |
|                 |8      |  |144    |   |1152  |
|Baldeo           |_1_    |x |_10_   |=  |_10_  |
|                 |8      |  |144    |   |1152  |
|Buchwa Devi      |_1_    |x |_10_   |=  |_10_  |
|                 |8      |  |144    |   |1152  |
|Sarita           |_1_    |x |_10_   |=  |_10_  |
|                 |8      |  |144    |   |1152  |

17.         Consequently the share of  each  of  the  parties  would  be  as
|Bilaso Devi |_1_  |+|_1__ |+    |_10_ |= |14.76%  |
|            |8    | |72   |     |1152 |  |        |
|Ramnath     |_1_  |+|_1__ |+    |_10_ |= |14.76%  |
|            |8    | |72   |     |1152 |  |        |
|Kashinath   |_1_  |+|_1__ |+    |_10_ |= |14.76%  |
|            |8    | |72   |     |1152 |  |        |
|Goverdhan   |_1_  |+|_1__ |+    |_10_ |= |14.76%  |
|            |8    | |72   |     |1152 |  |        |
|Jagdish     |_1_  |+|_1__ |+    |_10_ |= |14.76%  |
|            |8    | |72   |     |1152 |  |        |
|Baldeo      |_1_  |+|_1__ |+    |_10_ |= |14.76%  |
|            |8    | |72   |     |1152 |  |        |
|Buchwa Devi |_0_  |+|_1__ |+    |_10_ |= |2.25%   |
|            |0    | |72   |     |1152 |  |        |
|Sarita      |_0_  |+|_1__ |+    |_10_ |= |2.25%   |
|            |0    | |72   |     |1152 |  |        |
|Ugni Devi   |_10_ | |     |     |     |= |6.94%   |
|            |144  | |     |     |     |  |        |

            Thus calculated the share of the appellants would be :
14.76 (Ramnath) + 14.76 (Kashinath) + 2.25 (Buchwa Devi)  +  6.94  (LRs.  of
Ugni Devi) = 38.1%

18.         In view of the above, it will be necessary to modify the  decree
passed by the learned trial Court as affirmed by the High Court  by  holding
that the appellants – defendants are entitled to 38.1% share  in  the  joint
family property instead of 37.5% as ordered by the courts below.

19.         The appeal consequently  is  allowed  to  the  extent  indicated
above and with the aforesaid  modification  of  the  decree  passed  by  the
learned trial Court as affirmed by the High Court.

                                    (RANJAN GOGOI)

                                    (ASHOK BHUSHAN)

APRIL 06, 2017.

[1]   (1965) 1 SCR 26
[2]   (1966) 3 SCR 224
[3]   (1978) 3 SCC 383

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