Daughters’ Equal Rights to Coparcenary Property: An introduction into the decision of the Supreme Court

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On August 11, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of the daughter to her share in coparcenary property. This right was held to be enforceable irrespective of the fact as to whether the coparcener’s father was alive during the passing of the 2005 Amendment.

Introduction of the Matter to the Supreme Court 

The matter was brought before the Supreme Court as a result of contracting judgements passed by separate benches of the Apex Court in previous judgements. Several High Courts have adjudicated upon matters under the same, and finally, the matter was referred to the Apex Court. The judgements were passed in the following cases: 

Prakash v. Phulavati 

In this matter, the dispute was regarding the share of the daughter in the coparcenary property. The plaintiff sought a share in the coparcenary property equal to the share of her brothers. The contention was that the daughter is entitled to a share in the self-acquired property of her father. The contention of the defendants, on the other hand, was that the daughter would not be entitled to any share in the property under Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act. The Defendants claimed that the 2005 Amendment would not be applicable in this matter as the father had passed away before the 2005 Amendment was enforced. The Apex Court held that in order for the 2005 Amendment to be applicable, the father must be alive at the time of the Amendment. Hence, the Plaintiff was not entitled to a share in the property. 

Danamma v. Amar

A petition was filed by two daughters for a share in their father’s property which was being divided equally between his widow and two sons. The contention of the Respondent was that the 2005 Amendment will not apply to the two daughters as they were born before the Amendment and that the father had died before the year 2005. The Apex Court in this matter held that the right of the coparcener starts to exist on the very birth of the coparcener and that the 2005 Amendment can be applied retrospectively. 

Judgement passed by the Apex Court 

The matter was referred to a three-Judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah. It was observed by the bench that

The provisions contained in substituted section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 confer the status of coparcener on the daughter born before or after amendment in the same manner as a son with same rights and liabilities.”

The Supreme Court held that the right to coparcenary property as provided by the 2005 Amendment is based on birth. Hence, the right exists irrespective of the timeline. The Court held that the date and time of the father’s death are not relevant to determine the rights of the daughter. The Judgement is considered to be a landmark judgement. The judgement brought about equality in the matters of family property and provided that the same rights to the daughters of the family as has been enjoyed by the sons since the enforcement of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. 

Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005

The Amendment Act was enforced on September 5, 2005. The Act omitted Section 4 and amended Section 6. While amending Section 6, the Amendment Act sought to include daughters as coparcenary and sought to provide the same rights to daughters as was provided to sons. It states that a daughter will have the same rights as coparceners from the time of their birth. 

The Amendment, as provided by Act of 2005, is to be applied retrospectively. In other words, the act shall apply irrespective of the timeline of the birth of the daughters.  The Amendment Act was considered to be a historical move in order to bring about equality and discourage any form of discrimination. 

Conclusion

The Judgement passed by the Supreme Court eliminates any of the contradiction in earlier judgements. The matter of the application of the 2005 Amendment has been under consideration of all the courts and parties to disputes often alter the interpretation of the Amendment to their own benefit. Hence, the amendment gave way to arbitrariness and confusion. The decision of the Supreme Court ensures uniformity in the application of the same and has paved the way for a just and fair decision and safeguards the rights of the female coparceners in the family.


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