Category Archives: Family Law

‘Mother’ and ‘Stepmother’ – Status of

In Kirtikant D. Vadodaria v. State of Gujarat, (1996) 4 SCC 479, it was held as under:

“The expressions ‘mother’ and ‘stepmother’ have not been defined either in the Criminal Procedure Code or in the General Clauses Act, 1897. These expressions have also not been defined by the Hindu Law or the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 or by any other law. All that the explanation attached to Section 20 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 provides is that the expression ‘parent’ includes a childless stepmother. On a conspectus view of dictionary meaning of the two expressions – ‘mother’ and ‘stepmother’ in various dictionaries, it clearly emerges that there is inherent distinction between the status of a ‘mother’ and ‘stepmother’ and they are two distinct and separate entities and both could not be assigned the same meaning. The expression ‘mother’ clearly means only the natural mother who has given birth to the child and not the one who is the wife of one’s father by another marriage.

A stepmother is one who is taken as a wife by the father of the child other than the one from whom he is born or who has given birth to him. This clearly goes to show that the woman who gives birth to a child and another woman who is taken by the father as his ‘other’ wife are two distinct and separate entities in the eyes of law and who in common parlance are known and recognized as real ‘mother’ and ‘stepmother’. That being so, another woman who is taken as a wife by the father of the child cannot be given the status of a mother to the child born from another woman as there is no blood relation between the two”. Ajay Singh Maurya v. State of Uttarakhand, 2016 (150) FLR 920.

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Family Settlement – Essentials of

To put binding effect and the essentials of a family settlement in a concretized form, the matter may be educed into the form of following propositions:
(1) The family settlement must be bona fide one so as to resolve family disputes and rival claims by a fair and equitable division or allotment of properties between the various members of the family.
(2) The said settlement must be voluntary and should not be induced by fraud, coercion or undue influence.
(3) The family arrangement may be oral even in which case no registration is necessary.
(4) It is well settled that registration would be necessary only if the terms of the family arrangements are reduced into writing. Here also, a distinction should be made between a document containing the terms and recitals of a family arrangement made under the document and a mere memorandum prepared after the family arrangement had already been made either for the purpose of the record or for information of the Court for making necessary mutation. In such a case the memorandum itself does not create or extinguish any rights in immovable properties and therefore does not fall within the mischief of Section 17(2) of the Registration Act and is, therefore, not compulsorily registrable.
(5) The members who may be parties to the family arrangement must have some antecedent title, claim or interest, even a possible claim in the property which is acknowledged by the parties to the settlement. Even if one of the parties to the settlement has not title but under the arrangement the other party relinquishes all its claims or titles in favour of such a person and acknowledges him to be the sole owner, then the antecedent title must be assumed and the family arrangement will be upheld and the courts will find no difficulty in giving assent to the same.
(6) Even if bona fide dispute, present or possible, which may not involve legal claims are settled by a bona fide family arrangement which is fair and equitable is final and binding on the parties to the settlement. Smt. Rama Devi v. Mahendra Pal, 2016 (114) ALR 852.

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Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 – Effect on Prior Partitions

The legislature has expressly made the amendment applicable on and from its commencement and only if death of the coparcener in question is after the amendment. Thus no other interpretation is possible in view of the express language of the statute. The proviso keeping dispensations or alienations or partitions prior to 20.12.2004 unaffected can also not lead to the inference that the daughter could be a coparcener prior to the commencement of the Act. The proviso only means that the transactions not covered thereby will not affect the extent of coparcenary property which may be available when the main provision is applicable. Similarly, Explanation has to be read harmoniously with the substantive provision of Section 6(5) by being limited to a transaction of partition effected after 20.12.2004. Notional partition, by its very nature, is not covered either under the proviso or under sub-section (5) or under the Explanation.
Interpretation of a provision depends on the text and the context. Normal rule is to read the words of a statute in ordinary sense. In case of ambiguity, rational meaning has to be given. In case of apparent conflict, harmonious meaning to advance the object and intention of legislature has to be given.
Normal rule is that a proviso excepts something out of the enactment which would otherwise be within the purview of the enactment but if the text, context or purpose so require a different rule may apply. Similarly, an explanation is to explain the meaning of the words of the section but if the language or purpose so require, the explanation can be so interpreted. Rules of interpretation of Statutes are useful servants but difficult masters. Objects of interpretation is to discover the intention of the legislature.
The proviso to Section 6(1) and sub-section (5) of Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act clearly intend to exclude the transactions referred to therein which may have taken place prior to 20.12.2004 on which date the bill was introduced. Explanation cannot permit reopening of partitions which were valid when affected. Object of giving finality to transactions prior to 20.12.2004 is not to make the main provision retrospective in any manner. The object is that by fake transactions available property at the introduction of the Bill is not taken away and remains available as and when right conferred by the Statute becomes available and is to be enforced. Main provision of the amendment in Sections 6(1) and (3) is not in any manner intended to be affected but strengthened in this way.
The rights under the amendment are applicable to living daughters of living coparceners as on 09.09.2005 irrespective of when such daughters are born. Disposition or alienation including partitions which may have taken place before 20.12.2004 as per law applicable prior to the said date will remain unaffected. Any transaction of partition effected thereafter will be governed by the Explanation. Prakash v. Phulavati, (2016) 2 SCC 36.

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Family Arrangement

In Appovier v. Ramasubba Aiyan, (1866) 11 MIA 75, Lord Westbury took a view that the partition covers both, a division of right and a division of property. This is also reiterated in Girja Bai v. Sadashiv Dhundiraj, (1916) 43 IA 151. When the members of undivided family agreed amongst themselves either with respect to a particular property or with reference to entire joint estate that it shall thenceforth be the subject of ownership in certain defined shares, then the character of undivided property and joint enjoyment is taken away from the subject matter so agreed to be dealt with, and in the estate, each member has thenceforth a definite and certain share which he may claim the right to receive and to enjoy in severalty although the property itself has not been actually severed and divided.
In Raghubir v. Moti, (1913) 35 All 41 PC and Anurago Kuer v. Darshan Raut, AIR 1938 PC 65, the partition by agreement was explained by observing, that, if there be a conversion of joint tenancy of an undivided family into a tenancy of common of the members of that undivided family, the undivided family becomes a divided family with reference to the property, i.e., subject to agreement and that is a separation in interest and in right, although not immediately followed by a de facto actual division of subject matter. This may, at any time, be claimed by virtue of the separate right. This was also held in Amrit Rao v. Mukundrao, (1919) 15 Nag LR 165.
The “family arrangements” also stand and enjoy same status. It is an agreement arrived by members of family, either by compromise doubtful or disputed rights, or by preserving a family property or by avoiding litigation for the peace and security of family or saving its honour. A severance of joint status may result , not only from an agreement between the parties but from any act or transaction which has the effect of defining their shares in the estate. Among all the coparceners, it has been held that an agreement between all of them is not essential so as to result in disruption of joint status though it is required for the actual division and distribution of property, held jointly. A definite and unambiguous indication of intention by one member to separate himself from family and to enjoy his share in severalty will amount to a division in status. Ram Bilas v. Raj Kumar, 2014 (125) RD 660.

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Coparcenary Property

Coparcenary property means the property which consists of ancestral property and a coparcener would mean a person who shares equally with others in inheritance in the estate of common ancestor. Coparcenary is a narrower body than the joint Hindu family and before the commencement of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, only male members of the family used to acquire by birth an interest in the coparcenary property. A coparcener has no definite share in the coparcenary property but he has an undivided interest in it and one has to bear in mind that it enlarges by deaths and diminishes by births in the family. It is not static. It was further held that so long, on partition an ancestral property remains in the hand of a single person, it has to be treated as a separate property and such a person shall be entitled to dispose of the coparcenary property treating it to be his separate property but if a son is subsequently born, the alienation made before the birth cannot be questioned. But, the moment a son is born, the property becomes a coparcenary property and the son would acquire interest in that and become a coparcener.
In M. Yogendra v. Leelamma N., (2009) 15 SCC 184 it was held as under:
“It is now ell settled in view of several decisions of this Court that the property in the hands of a sole coparcener allotted to him in partition shall be his separate property for the same shall revive only when a son is born to him. It is one thing to say that the property remains a coparcenary property but it is another thing to say that it revives. The distinction between the two is absolutely clear and unambiguous. In the case of former any sale or alienation which has been done by the sole survivor coparcener shall be valid whereas in the case of a coparcener any alienation made by the karta would be valid.” Rohit Chauhan v. Surinder Singh and Others, (2013) 9 SCC 419.

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Partition of – Joint Property

It is a settled principle of law that once a partition in the sense of division of right, title or status is proved or admitted, the presumption is that all joint property was partitioned or divided. Undoubtedly the joint and undivided family being the normal condition of a Hindu family, it is usually presumed, until the contrary is proved, that every Hindu family is joint and undivided and all its property is joint. This presumption, however, cannot be made once a partition (of status or property), whether general or partial, is shown to have taken place in a family. Kesharbai v. Tarabai Prabhakarrao Nalawade, 2014 (3) AWC 2732.

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Words “Family” and “Household”

“Household” and “Family” are not synonymous to each other and both the provisions would take its colour, in reference to the context it has been used, keeping in view the object and purpose sought to be achieved. According to Concise Oxford English Dictionary ‘family’ means a group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit; a group of people related by blood or marriage; the children of a person or couple; all descendants of a common ancestor.
Black’s law dictionary defines ‘family’ as (i) A group of persons connected by blood, by affinity or by law especially within two or three generations (ii) A group consisting of parents and their children (iii) A group of persons who live together and have a shared commitment to a domestic relationship.
According to Law Lexicon term ‘family’ may be said to have a well defined, broad and comprehensive meaning in general, it is one of great flexibility and is capable of many different meanings according to the connection in which it is used. Thus, it may be ‘children’, ‘wife and children’, ‘blood relations’ or the ‘members of the domestic circle’. According to the context, it may be of narrow or broad meaning as intention of the parties using the word, or as the intention of law using it, may be made to appear.
In its ordinary and primary sense the word ‘family’ signifies the collective body of persons living in one house or under one head or manager or one domestic Government. What constitutes a family in a given set of circumstances or in a particular society depends upon the habits and ideas of persons constituting that society and the religious and socio-religious customs of the community to which such persons may belong.
According to Law Lexicon ‘family’ may include even domestic servants and sometimes persons who are merely boarders.
On the other hand the term “household” means the collection of individuals who normally eat food prepared in the same kitchen. In Black’s Law Dictionary household has been mentioned belonging to the house and family as well as a family living together or a group of people who dwell under the same roof and in the Law Lexicon it has been described as number of persons dwelling under the same roof and composing a family and by extension all who are under one domestic head.
The term ‘family’ and ‘household’ are capable of wide and varying meaning and same cannot be left to be assigned a meaning in its general terms and the same has to be interpreted in reference to the context it has been used keeping in view the overall object and purpose sought to be achieved. Indrapal Singh v. State of U.P. and Others, (2014) 1 UPLBEC 379 (FB)

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Divorce by Mutual Consent – Cooling off period

Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 states as under:
13-B. Divorce by mutual consent.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act a petition for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce may be presented to the district court by both the parties to a marriage together, whether such marriage was solemnized before or after the commencement of the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 1976, on the ground that they have been living separately for a period of one year or more, that they have not been able to live together and that they have mutually agreed that the marriage should be dissolved.
(2) On the motion of both the parties made not earlier than six months after the date of the presentation of the petition referred to in sub-section (1) and not later than eighteen months after the said date, if the petition is not withdrawn in the meantime, the court shall, on being satisfied, after hearing the parties and after making such inquiry as it thinks fit, that a marriage has been solemnized and that the averments in the petition are true, pass a decree of divorce declaring the marriage to be dissolved with effect from the date of the decree.
In a recent judgment of the Supreme Court – Devinder Singh Narula v. Meenakshi Nangia, it was held as under:
Section 13-B itself provides for a cooling off period of six months on the first motion being moved, in the event the parties change their minds during the said period. Accordingly, after the initial motion and the presentation of the petition for mutual divorce, the parties are required to wait for a period of six months before the second motion can be moved and at that point of time, if the parties have made up their minds that they would be unable to live together, the court, after making such inquiry as it may consider fit, grant a decree of divorce declaring the marriage to be dissolved with effect from the date of the decree.
It is no doubt true that the Legislature had in its wisdom stipulated a cooling off period of six months from the date of filing of a petition for mutual divorce till such divorce is actually granted, with the intention that it would save the institution of marriage. It is also true that the intention of the legislature cannot be faulted with, but there may be occasions when in order to do complete justice to the parties it becomes necessary for this Court to invoke its powers under Article 142 in an irreconcilable situation. In fact, in Kiran v. Sharad Dutt, (2000) 10 SCC 243, which was considered in Anil Kumar Jain v. Maya Jain, (2009) 10 SCC 415, after living separately for many years and 11 years after initiating the proceedings under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the parties filed a joint application before the Court for leave to amend the divorce petition and to convert the same into a proceeding under Section 13-B of the Act. Treating the petition as one under Section 13-B of the Act, the Court by invoking its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution granted a decree of mutual divorce at the stage of the SLP itself. In different cases, in different situations, the Court has invoked its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution in order to do complete justice between the parties.

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Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, Section 16 – Presumption Under

In a recent judgment of the Allahabad High Court (Phool Chand v. Joint Director of Consolidation),it was  held as under:

“The presumption under the Section is that if the deed is signed by the person giving and the person taking in adoption the provision has been complied with. It is the person challenging the factum of adoption who has to disprove the adoption. A mere plea that the deed is not genuine is not sufficient to rebut the presumption under Section 16 of the Act. Under such circumstance, the plea that the requirements of Section 11 of the Act had not been satisfied are not made out and hence loose all significance with the registration of the deed of adoption.”

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