Revanasiddappa & Anr. V/s Mallikarjun & Ors. [Civil Appeal No 2844 of 2011]
The Supreme Court has held that once children born from a void marriage (or a voidable marriage which has been declared to be nullity) are declared to be legitimate by sub- sections (1) and (2) of Section 16, they cannot be discriminated against and will be on par with other legitimate children for the purpose of all the rights in the property of their parents, both self-acquired and ancestral.
The three-judge bench of Chief Justice Of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, J B Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra has observed that in terms of sub-section (1) of Section 16, a child of a marriage which is null and void under Section 11 is statutorily conferred with legitimacy irrespective of whether (i) such a child is born before or after the commencement of Amending Act 1976; (ii) a decree of nullity is granted in respect of that marriage under the Act and the marriage is held to be void otherwise than on a petition under the enactment.
“In terms of sub-section (2) of Section 16 where a voidable marriage has been annulled by a decree of nullity under Section 12, a child ‘begotten or conceived’ before the decree has been made, is deemed to be their legitimate child notwithstanding the decree, if the child would have been legitimate to the parties to the marriage if a decree of dissolution had been passed instead of a decree of nullity,” the court said.
The court held that Section 6 of the HSA 1956 continues to recognize the institution of a joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara law and the concepts of a coparcener, the acquisition of an interest as a coparcener by birth and rights in coparcenary property. By the substitution of Section 6, equal rights have been granted to daughters, in the same manner as sons as indicated by sub-section (1) of Section 6
Section 6 of the HSA 1956 provides for the devolution of interest in coparcenary property. Prior to the substitution of Section 6 with effect from 9 September 2005 by the Amending Act of 2005, Section 6 stipulated the devolution of interest in a Mitakshara coparcenary property of a male Hindu by survivorship on the surviving members of the coparcenary.
The exception to devolution by survivorship was where the deceased had left surviving a female relative specified in Class I of the Schedule or a male relative in Class I claiming through a female relative, in which event the interest of the deceased in a Mitakshara coparcenary property would devolve by testamentary or intestate succession and not by survivorship. In terms of sub-section (3) of Section 6 as amended, on a Hindu dying after the commencement of the Amending Act of 2005 his interest in the property of a Joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara law will devolve by testamentary or intestate succession, as the case may be, under the enactment and not by survivorship.
As a consequence of the substitution of Section 6, the rule of devolution by testamentary or intestate succession of the interest of a deceased Hindu in the property of a Joint Hindu family governed by Mitakshara law has been made the norm
“Section 8 of the HSA 1956 provides general rules of succession for the devolution of the property of a male Hindu dying intestate. Section 10 provides for the distribution of the property among heirs of Class I of the Schedule. Section 15 stipulates the general rules of succession in the case of female Hindus dying intestate. Section 16 provides for the order of succession and the distribution among heirs of a female Hindu,” the court said.
While providing for the devolution of the interest of a Hindu in the property of a Joint Hindu family governed by Mitakshara law, dying after the commencement of the Amending Act of 2005 by testamentary or intestate succession, Section 6 (3) lays down a legal fiction namely that ‘the coparcenary property shall be deemed to have been divided as if a partition had taken place’. According to the Explanation, the interest of a Hindu Mitakshara coparcener is deemed to be the share in the property that would have been allotted to him if a partition of the property has taken place immediately before his death irrespective of whether or not he is entitled to claim partition.
For the purpose of ascertaining the interest of a deceased Hindu Mitakshara coparcener, the law mandates the assumption of a state of affairs immediately prior to the death of the coparcener namely, a partition of the coparcenary property between the deceased and other members of the coparcenary. Once the share of the deceased in property that would have been allotted to him if a partition had taken place immediately before his death is ascertained, his heirs including the children who have been conferred with legitimacy under Section 16 of the HMA 1955, will be entitled to their share in the property which would have been allotted to the deceased upon the notional partition, if it had taken place.