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SC backs daughters’ equal right to HUF property

Shishir Sinha New Delhi | Updated on August 11, 2020 Published on August 11, 2020

The right is by birth, and a daughter has same rights/liabilities as a son, rules Apex Court

The Supreme Court has reiterated that a daughter can claim an equal share of parental property. This will be applicable even if the father had died before the enforcement of the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act.

A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah said that “the provisions contained in the substituted Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 confer the status of coparcener on the daughter born before or after the amendment in the same manner as a son with same rights and liabilities.”

This means the 2005 amendment can be used restrospectively. It, however, remains to be seen how this ruling will affect succession in the corporate sector.

Valli Arunachalam, who has been fighting for a board seat on the Murugappa Group’s holding firm, welcomed the judgment terming it “indeed a great day for all Indian women. The judgment further reinstates faith in the judicial system by making it loud and clear that daughters can no longer be deprived of their rights to ancestral property, no matter when they were born. Women in the patriarchal system have been fighting an uphill battle for long to get equal rights in all spheres — succession, work and social status.”

But Rishabh Shroff, Partner with Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas law firm, feared that as, after the 2005 amendment, many Hindu fathers would move swiftly to cash out daughters from their HUFs and many will be dissolved or partitioned. The real impact on family businesses will not be too much as most businesses today are owned directly or, more recently, via trusts or holding companies. It may affect personal wealth, but family-owned companies will not be very affected.”

Conflicting verdicts

The issue was referred to a larger Bench in view of the conflicting verdicts rendered by two Division Benches of the apex court in 2016 (Section 6 is not retrospective in operation) and 2018 (it applies retrospectively).

Today, the court observed that since the right in coparcenary is by birth, it is not necessary that the father coparcener should be living as on September 9, 2005, when the amendment to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 came into effect.

“The rights can be claimed by the daughter born earlier, with effect from September 9, 2005 as provided in Section 6(1) as to the disposition, or alienation, partition or testamentary disposition which had taken place before 20 day of December, 2004,” the Bench said. On December 20, 2004, the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha.

Cases pending

The Bench noted that many petitions on this issue are pending in various High Courts and subordinate courts. It expressed concern over the delay in settling the matter due to the legal imbroglio caused by the conflicting decisions.

The Bench quoted from a ruling of 1996: “A common saying is worth pressing into service…. A son is a son until he gets a wife. A daughter is a daughter throughout her life.… The eligibility of a married daughter must be placed on a par with an unmarried daughter (for she must have been once in that state)... to claim the benefit... (Otherwise, it would be) unfair, gender-biased and unreasonable, liable to be struck down under Article 14 of the Constitution... It suffers from twin vices of gender discrimination inter se among women on account of marriage.”

 

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Published on August 11, 2020
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