Married woman’s heirs on her parental side not strangers for the purposes of succession under Hindu Succession Act: Supreme Court

The Apex Court has recently pronounced that when a woman’s parent heirs are included as people who may possibly succeed under Hindu Succession Act, then it cannot be held that they are strangers and not the members of the family with respect to the female.

A Division Bench ruled that under Section 15(1)(d) of the Hindu Succession Act, the heirs of the father of a Hindu female are covered by persons entitled to inherit the property of a female Hindu.

This order was passed in a case related to the property inherited by a woman after her husband passed away without any children. After enforcement of the Hindu Succession Act by the virtue of Section 1, the woman became the full owner of the half share of the suit property.

Later, she entered into a family settlement and settled the land in favour of her brothers’ sons.

Her brother’s sons filed a lawsuit in 1991 before the court that claimed a declaration decree as owners in possession of the land in question.

The woman did not contest this claim and filed a written statement that accepted the case of her brother’s sons. Therefore, the trial court passed a decree of consent in favour of the woman’s brother’s sons in 1991.

However, her late husband’s brother’s children were not in favour of this transfer.

They challenged the same but their suit was rejected by the trial court, district court and the High Court which resulted in the present appeal before the Supreme Court.

They argued that a Hindu widow cannot constitute a Joint Hindu Family with the descendants of her brother.

It has been argued that family settlement can only take place between the members who have previous title or pre-existing right in the property proposed for settlement.
The respondents argued that the term “family” should not be used for the purpose of family settlement. It should not be given any narrow meaning and should be given a broader meaning to cover the members who are by any means related.

The Court relied on Section 15(1)(d) of the Hindu Succession Act and held that the heirs of the father of a Hindu female are not strangers but are ‘family’.

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