Arunachala Gounder (Dead) By Lrs V. Ponnusamy, (2022) 11 SC 520

Author- Huda Zehra, a student at unity degree college, Lucknow

Under the Hindu Succession Law, the inheritance right of woman was limited only to their marriage and the right of daughter and son are not equal. Due to the 2005 amendment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, daughters got the equal rights and duties as sons. This supreme amendment peels off the gender equality and discriminating provisions from the personal law of the Hindus. In the amendment of 2005, it was concluded that the daughter of the coparcener has the same birth right to become a coparcener like his son. In the landmark case of Arunachala Gounder (Dead) by Lrs. V. Ponnusamy, the Supreme Court of India gave its judgement in January, 2022 and held that if any male person dies without making a will (intestate) and he has any self-acquired property, then that property would get off by inheritance and its delegation will not be done by process of survivorship. Moreover, daughter of such male person will have the right to inherit that self-acquired property.

Facts of the case-

  • There was a person Guruntha Gounder who was a father of two sons, named as Marappa Gounder and Ramasamy Gounder. Marappa Gounder had only one daughter who was Kupayee Ammal whereas other son Ramasamy Gounder predeceased his brother and had one son ( Guruntha Gounder) and four daughters ( Thangammal, Ramyeeammal, Elayammal, Nallammal).
  • When the Marappa Gounder died, his only daughter Kupayee Ammal inherited his father’s self acquired property. Main dispute about the delegation of property arose when Kupyee Ammal died issueless (without child) in 1967.
  • It was said that Guruntha Gounder (son of Ramasamy Gounder) will hold on the property but one of the sister of Guruntha Gounder named Thangammal filed a petition on the trial court stating that as Kupayee Ammal died intestate and issueless so they all are legal heir and each equally entitled for 1/5th share in the property of Marappa Gounder. Though Thangammal started this litigation but she couldn’t survive to see the end of it, therefore her daughter Arunachala took over this litigation i.e., she started representing Thangammal.
  • There was an issue regarding the death date of Marappa Gounder, as per plaintiff he was died on April 14, 1957 and defendant claimed the date as April 15, 1949. The trial court confirmed the death date of Marappa Gounder as April 15, 1949 and and same date was considered by the High Court of Madras also.Both the courts dismissed the petition and held that the property will be delegate to the only son of Ramasamy Gounder by the process of suvivorship and the appellant holds no right to file a petition.
  • Dissatisfied by the decision of both the courts, the appellant approched to the Supreme Court to challenge it.

Issues involved in the case-

  1. What is the nature of the property and how would the succession of property takes place?
  2. Before 1956, wheather sole surviving daughter was entitled to her deceased father’s self acquired property?
  3. How will the property devolve after the death of the daughter?

Arguments on behalf of Appellants: 

  • The property of Marappa Gounder was self-acquired in nature rather than a joint family property as he purchased it from the Court Auction on 15 December 1938. It was also argued that if any hindu person died intestate by leaving his sole surviving daughter behind then his whole self acquired property will simply delegate to his daughter (Kupayee Ammal) by the way of succession rather than survivorship. It was conclude on the basis of Mitakshara Law in which the law of inheritance only depends on the relationship of proximity rather than his brother’s children.
  • The appellant also contended that daughter is fully qualified to inherit the self aquired property of her father and it was said that if any hindu male person died leaving his sole surviving daughter behind, his sepearte property will be pass on to his daughter through the way of succession.

Arguments on behalf of Respondent:

  • On the other side it was said that the property that Marappa Gounder had purchased from the Court Auction was from the family’s funds, hence it was not self acquired property but joint property. When he died he had no son of his own and hence no coparcener was there, therefore his brother’s son (Guruntha Gounder) will be the coparcener and all the property will be inherited by him.
  • Further, Marappa Gounder was died in 1949, before the enforcement of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 hence, the daughter of the deceased could not be cosidered as a legal heir of her father’s property. It is consider that Guruntha Gounder (son of Ramasamy Gounder) is one and only legal heir of the whole property.

Interpretation of the court- 

By considering the appeal, the Supreme Court said that the property of Marappa Gounder was self acquired property and therefore his only daughter Kupayee Ammal would inherit his father’s self acquired property rather than the law of survivorship.

The court referred various religious text of Hindus which includes dharmashatras, dharmasutras, smritis, shrutis, Mitakshara school of law, Commentaries etc., to deliver its judgement in this case. The court also considers the case of Katama Natchiar V. The Rajah of Shivagunga, 1863, in which the court held that if any male hindu died intestate then the property will dwell by the law of inheritance means that the property will firstly pass to his widow, daughters and parents. Some of the other cases which the court reflected was State Of Punjab v. Balwant Singh & Ors. And Bhagat Ram (dead) by L.R. v. Teja Singh (dead) by L.R.

By giving reference of above mentioned cases and other commentaries of Hindu law, the court said that after the death of Kupayee Ammal in 1967 i.e., after the enforcement of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 her acquired property will be dwell by the process of succession. After the introduction of Hindu Succession Act there was a complete equality between men and women in terms of property. 

As per Section 15 (2)(a) of Hindu Succession Act, 1956, if any female acquired the property by the way of inheritance fro mother or father in the absence of male issue thenit shall dwell upon to the heirs of the father. So now after Kupayee death his property will pass to the Marappa’s heirs and Marappa’s heirs were his brother’s remaining 5 children ( one son and four daughters). Now both male and female have equal right to acquire the property hence , the daughters of Ramasamy Gounder being the Class- I heirs were also get the 1/5th part each in the property. Therefore, the property that Kupayee had inherited after Marappa’s death went back to its source.

The Arunchala Gounder case has successfully clarified the provision about the daughter’s right to inherit her father’s self acquired property. The trial court and High court of Madras fails to satisfy the plaintiff because they only focuses upon the codified laws and provisions of Hindu Law. The appeal was made in the apex court i.e., The Supreme Court which gave judgement after looking upon the uncodified aspects of the Hindu law which were very mandatory. The court also take the reference of all the ancient texts, commentaries, judgements and others. This case successfully answered all the questions such as wheather sole surviving daughter of the deaceased was entitled to her father’s self acquired property or not  and how will the property devolve after the death of the daughter? As the society is developing and modernizing, the importance of the Law of Succession is increasing. Courts should keep all the laws updated so that injustice cannot be done to anyone.

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