Tag Archives: share in the property

Children, Issue and Heirs

The expressions “children”, “issue” and “heirs” would ordinarily be not synonymous but sometimes they may carry the same meaning. All the aforementioned terms have to be given their appropriate meanings.

In P. Ramanatha Aiyar’s Advanced Law Lexicon at p. 2111, it is stated:

“There is doubtless a technical difference in the meaning of the two words ‘heirs’ and ‘children’, and yet in common speech they are often used as synonym. The technical distinction between the terms is not to be resorted to in the construction of a will, except in nicely balanced cases.

‘When the general term “heirs” is used in a will, it will be construed to mean “child” or “children”, if the context shows that such was the intent of the testator.’

Where the words ‘children’ and ‘heirs’ are used in the same instrument in speaking of the same persons, the word ‘heirs’ will be construed to mean ‘children’; such usage being treated as sufficient evidence of the intention to use the word ‘heirs’ in the sense of ‘children’.”

 Heirs may be lineal or collateral. When we say that the will was a carefully drafted document, evidently, the guarantor thereof was aware of the fact that as thence some of the sons having not been married, the question as to who would be their heirs was uncertain.

If they did not have any issue, the properties in terms of the law as then existing might have passed on to their brothers.

 Whether the expression “heirs” would, thus, mean legal heirs, the question specifically came up for consideration in N. Krishnammal v. R. Ekambaram, (1979) 3 SCC 273, wherein it was stated:

“It is well settled that legal terms such as ‘heirs’, used in a will must be construed in the legal sense, unless a contrary intention is clearly expressed by the testator.”

Referring to an earlier decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Angurbala Mullick v. Debabrata Mullick, 1951 SCR 1125, it was  opined that the expression “heirs” cannot normally be limited to issues and it must mean all persons who are entitled to the property held and possessed by/or under the law of inheritance. In that case, the widow would not have been entitled to inherit the property of her husband as she was not an heir. However, she became an heir by reason of the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act.

The decision in N. Krishnammal v. R. Ekambaram, (1979) 3 SCC 273 is binding. The meaning of the expression “heir” in the context of the Hindu Succession Act has been considered therein. The expression “heir” would mean a legal heir. In construing a document, the Court cannot assign any other meaning. A document as is well known must be construed in its entirety.  When a document is not uncertain or does not contain an ambiguous expression it should be given its literal meaning. Only when the contents are not clear the question of taking recourse to the application of principles of construction of a document may have to be applied. It is also not a case where there exists any inconsistency between an earlier and later part of the document. What is necessary for a true, proper and effective construction of the will in question is to give effect to the intention of the propounder of the will. Bay Berry Apartments (P) Ltd. v. Shobha, (2006) 13 SCC 737.

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Mode of Proving – A Will

In Shashi Kumar Banerjee v. Subodh Kumar Banerjee, AIR 1964 SC 529, it was held as under:

        “The mode of proving a Will does not ordinarily differ from that of proving any other document except as to the special requirement of attestation prescribed in the case of a Will by Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act. The onus of proving the will is on the propounder and in the absence of suspicious circumstances surrounding the execution of the Will, proof of testamentary capacity and the signature of the testator as required by law is sufficient to discharge the onus. Where however, there are suspicious circumstances, the onus is on the propounder to explain them to the satisfaction of the Court before the Court accepts the will as genuine. Where the caveator alleges undue influence, fraud and coercion, the onus is on him to prove the same. Even where there are no such pleas but the circumstances give rise to doubts, it is for the prpounder to satisfy the conscience of the Court. The suspicious circumstances may be as to the genuineness of the signature of the testator, the condition of the testator’s mind, the dispositions made in Will being unnatural, improbable or unfair in the light of relevant circumstances or there might be other indications in the Will to show that the testator’s mind was not free. In such a case the Court would naturally expect that all legitimate suspicion should be completely removed before the document is accepted as the last will of the testator. If the propounder himself takes part in the execution of the Will which confers a substantial benefit on him that is also a circumstance to be taken into account, and the propounder is required to remove the doubts by clear and satisfactory evidence. If the propounder succeeds in removing the suspicious circumstances, the Court would grant probate, even if the Will might be unnatural and might cut off wholly or in part near relations.

A will is executed to alter the ordinary mode of succession and by the very nature of things it is bound to result in either reducing or depriving the share of natural heir. If a person intends his property to pass to his natural heirs, there is no necessity at all of executing a Will. It is true that a propounder of the Will has to remove all suspicious circumstances. Suspicion means doubt, conjecture or mistrust. But the fact that the natural heirs have either been excluded or a lesser share has been given to them, by itself without anything more, cannot be held to be a suspicious circumstance especially in a case where the bequest has been made in favour of an offspring. As held in PPK Gopalan Nambiar v. PPK Balakrishnan Nambiar, AIR 1995 SC 1852, it is the duty of the propounder of the Will to remove all the suspected features, but there must be real, germane and valid suspicious features and not fantasy of the doubting mind. It has been held that if the propounder succeeds in removing the suspicious circumstance, the Court has to give effect to the Will, even if the Will might be unnantural in the sense that it has cut off wholly or in part, near relations. Smt. Veena Chawla v. Mahendra Singh, 2019 (136) ALR 332.      

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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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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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