In recent years, the Supreme Court has regularly taken a gender-neutral stance on property division between daughters and sons. The judiciary is steadily working to make succession law more accommodating to women. On August 11, 2020, a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court declared in Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma that daughters and sons had equal coparcenary rights in an undivided Hindu household (HUF). In this conclusion, the Supreme Court clarified two aspects:

  • Coparcenary rights are acquired by daughters on their birth; and

  • Fathers need not have been alive when the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act 1956 was passed.

Latest Supreme Court Judgment on Parents’ Property

The 2005 amendment granted sons and daughters of coparceners equal status. Prior to the 2005 amendment, only male descendants (i.e., sons) of coparceners were granted coparcenary privileges. Despite the fact that the 2005 amendment intended to offer sons and daughters equal rights, the ambiguities in the language prompted the Supreme Court to issue different verdicts on this matter.

Until the Vineeta Sharma judgment, equal status was granted only to daughters whose fathers  were alive when the amendment came into force on 9 September 2005. The Supreme Court upheld this view in 2015. However, in 2018 the Supreme Court issued a contradictory ruling in Danamma v Amar, granting two daughters of a coparcener rights in their father's property even though he had passed away in 2001.

According to the decision in Vineeta Sharma, equal rights conferred on daughters of coparceners by the 2005 amendment apply from birth, irrespective of when their father dies. The Supreme Court has clarified that the 2005 amendment applies retrospectively and not only in cases where the father was alive on the date on which the 2005 amendment took effect.

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Latest Supreme Court Judgments On Ancestral Property 2023

Vineeta Sharma's ruling has significant consequences for the distribution of ancestral property. This supreme court judgement on will of ancestral property is subject to the stipulation that the ancestral property was not partitioned by the father prior to December 20, 2004. A daughter can now claim an interest in the property as long as it is still ancestral property and has not been partitioned as of this date.

As per Hindu Law, a person automatically acquires the right to his or her share in the ancestral property at the time of their birth. An ancestral property is the one which is inherited up to four generations of male lineage. A property is regarded ancestral under two conditions - if it is inherited by the father from his father, that is the grandfather after his death; or inherited from the grandfather who partitioned the property during his lifetime. In case, the father acquired the property from grandfather as a gift, it will not be regarded as an ancestral property.

Even during his father's lifetime, a son might claim his share in an ancestral property In any instance, the petitioner for a piece of the property must demonstrate his succession. The statute, however, excludes from the Class I heirs a stepson (the son of the other parent with another partner, deceased or otherwise).

The court, in some cases, allows a stepson to inherit the father’s property. For instance, in a case addressed by the Bombay High Court, the applicant was the son of a deceased Hindu woman’s issue with her first husband. The woman acquired the property from her second husband who did not have any legal heir except his wife. The court upheld the stepson’s claim and declared that after the woman’s death, her son - the stepson of the second husband - could claim his succession over the property. This decision was made when the nephews and grand-nephews of the deceased second husband claimed title to the property.

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Supreme Court Judgments On Father's Property

According to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, a son or a daughter has the first right as the Class I heirs over the self-acquired property of his or her father if he dies intestate (without leaving a will). As a coparcener, an individual also has the legal right to acquire his or her share in an ancestral property. But in certain situations, a son may not receive his share in his father’s property. These situations include a father bequeathing his property to someone else by way of will. 

The Supreme Court has time and again given progressive decisions and has made devolution of property a more equitable arrangement.

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