The Bombay High Court recently denied relief to a man claiming sole right over ancestral property left behind after the death of both his parents and ruled in favour of his sister who is claiming her right over the said property.
Appellant Jagannath Undre has an elder sister Yaminabai. She had filed a suit seeking a declaration of her rights in the said ancestral property. The suit was dismissed by the trial court and later the decision was reversed by District Judge, Pune.
Justice Sandeep K Shinde heard Undre’s appeal and held that the appellate district court was correct in law in reversing the order of dismissal by the trial court and dismissed the appeal. The court held that inherited property of a widow covered under the Hindu Succession Act shall devolve upon her children i.e., sons and daughters.
Waman Undre died on April 15, 1944, leaving behind wife Shantabai, daughter Yamunabai (plaintiff) and son Jagannath (defendant). After the death of Waman, only Jagannath’s name alone was entered into the records of rights of the suit property. At the time, he was a minor and, therefore, the name of his mother was mentioned as natural guardian.
However, Shantabai at about 65 years of age became mentally unstable and left the house in 1972. She died before the suit was filed by her daughter. Resultantly, only the plaintiff and the defendant are the heirs of the late Waman Undre.
Defendant’s lawyer Utkarsh Desai argued that when Waman Undre died in 1944, as per the prevailing laws of succession, only male members of the family were having rights in the ancestral property and, therefore, mutation entry was correctly recorded in his client’s name alone.
The court examined the provisions of Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act, 1937 and Hindu Succession Act, 1956: “Undersection (2) of Section 3 of Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act, 1937 when a Hindu governed by any school of Hindu law other than Dayabhaga dies having at the time of his death interest in Hindu joint family property, his widow shall have the same right, widow shall have in the property the same interest as the deceased had. However, such interest shall be limited interest known as Hindu woman’s estate.”
“Any property possessed by female Hindu whether acquired before or after the commencement of the Act shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner,” Justice Shinde held.
The court concluded that the appellate court had recorded the finding of fact and law correctly-
“Thus, in view of the provisions of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the Appellate Court has held that the mother of the plaintiff and the defendant became absolute owner of her share in the suit property which was the limited interest or Hindu woman’s estate.”
In the case in hand, it is not in dispute that the mother of the plaintiff and the defendant had died after 1956 and, therefore, her interest in the property would devolve as per the scheme in terms of Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Thus, her property will devolve upon her sons, daughters and husband, the court noted and dismissed the appeal.