The law on the aspect of blending is well settled that property separate or self acquired of a member of a joint Hindu family may be impressed with the character of joint family property if it is voluntarily thrown by the owner into the common stock with the intention of abandoning his separate claim therein; but to establish such abandonment, a clear intention to waive separate rights must be established. Clear intention to abandon separate rights in the property must be proved. Even abandonment cannot be inferred from mere allowing other family members also to use the property or utilization of income of the separate property out of generosity to support the family members. S. Subramanian v. S. Ramasamay, (2019) 6 SCC 46.
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It is settled that the property inherited by a male Hindu from his father, father’s father or father’s father’s father is an ancestral property. The essential feature of ancestral property, according to Mitakshara Law, is that the sons, grandsons, and great grandsons of the person who inherits it, acquire an interest and the rights attached to such property at the moment of their birth. The share which a coparcener obtains on partition of ancestral property is ancestral property as regards his male issue. After partition, the property in the hands of the son will continue to be the ancestral property and the natural or adopted son of that son will take interest in it and is entitled to it by survivorship. Shyam Narayan Prasad v. Krishna Prasad¸ (2018) 7 SCC 646.
‘Ouster’ does not mean actual driving out of the co-sharer from the property. It will, however, not be complete unless it is coupled with all other ingredients required to constitute adverse possession. Broadly speaking, three elements are necessary for establishing the plea of ouster in the case of co-owner. They are: (i) declaration of hostile animus, (ii) long and uninterrupted possession of the person pleading ouster, and (iii) exercise of right of exclusive ownership openly and to the knowledge of other co-owner. Nagabhushanammal v. C. Chandikeswaralingam, 2016 (3) AWC 2721.
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.
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.
The concept of Joint Hindu Family and its Karta is quite ancient and an integral part of the way of living and customary rules of society among Hindus. In India and particularly among Hindus the family bonds are not only very strong but they have given right to a society who believe in a Joint Family even going to the extent of concept of village community. In the concept of property, there have been three layers, i.e. Patriarchal Family, Joint Family and Village Community. The patriarchal family is headed by father and consists of his offsprings. The Joint family may include within itself the members, related to each other, though not having common ancestors and goes beyond the family flowing from father himself. It is said that unlike England, where the concept of ownership, as a rule, is single, independent and unrestricted, and it may be joint, but the presumption is to the contrary. It may be restricted but only in special instances and under special provisions. The situation in India is totally different. Here the joint ownership is normally the rule and may be presumed to succeed until contrary is proved. If an individual holds property in severalty, in the next generation, it will relapse into a stand of joint-tenancy. A Hindu may start with nothing and may make a self acquired fortune by dint of his own labour, capacity and merits and he is the absolute owner of estate but in a couple of generations his offsprings would ramify in a joint family, like a banyan tree which also stands as a single shoot. If the property is free from hands of its acquirer, it will become fettered in the hands of his heirs.
The “patriarchal family” may be defined as a group of natural or adoptive descendants, held together by subjection to the eldest living ascendant, father, grandfather, great-grandfather. Whatever be a formal prescription of law, the head of such a group is always in practice, despotic; and he is the object of respect , if not always of affection, which is probably seated deeper than any positive institution. Manu says, “three persons, a wife, a son, and a slave, are declared by law to have in general no wealth exclusively their own; the wealth which they may earn is regularly acquired for the man to whom they belong. “ Narada says, “he is of age and independent, in case his parents be dead; during their lifetime he is dependent, even though he may have grown old.”
The “joint family” is normally a transitional form from “patriarchal family” at the death of common ancestors or head of the house. If the family chooses to continue united, the eldest son would be the natural head. The former one was head of family by natural authority, the latter can only be so by a delegated authority. He is the primus but inter pares. An undivided Hindu family thus is ordinarily joint not only in estate but in food and worship. The presumption therefore, is that members of a Hindu family are living in a state of union unless contrary is established. This presumption however varies inasmuch as it is stronger in case of real brother than in case of cousin. However, there is no presumption that a family because it is joint, possesses joint property. Under Mitakshara Law, possession of property is not a necessary requisite for constitution of a joint family, though where persons live together joint in food and worship, it is difficult to conceive of their possessing no property whatsoever, such as ordinary household articles which they would enjoy in common. Smt. Ramwati v. Dharmdas, 2013 (120) RD 842.