Hindu female must be in possession of the property in order to claim rights under Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act: Supreme Court

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Today, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice CT Ravikumar heard the matter of M. Sivadasan (dead) Through LRs. & Ors. vs. A. Soudamini (dead) Through LRs. & Ors. In this case, a civil appeal arising out of a suit filed for partition and mesne profit in Kerala claiming ancestral rights over the property. It reiterated that a Hindu female must be in possession of the property in order to claim rights under Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act 1956. As per Section 14(1) of the Act, “Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner.” While hearing the matter, the bench observed that “Section 14 sub-Section (1) had no application in this case. The essential ingredient of Section 14 sub-Section (1) is possession over the property.”

Earlier, the trial court, appellate court, and High Court ruled against the plaintiffs stating that the woman from whom they seek to derive their rights was never in possession of the property; hence, Section 14(1) was not applicable. While delivering the judgment, the bench referred to the decision of its previous judgment, Ram Vishal (dead) by lrs. and Ors. vs. Jagan Nath & Another. It stated that “As has been held by this Court, a pre-­existing right is a sine qua non for conferment of a full ownership under Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act. The Hindu female must not only be possessed of the property but she must have acquired the property. Such acquisition must be either by way of inheritance or devise, or at a partition or “in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance” or by gift or by her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by prescription…”

Along with this, the Supreme Court bench also observed the scope of Special Leave Jurisdiction, “It is true that leave has been granted in this case. Nevertheless, the settled legal position remains that even after leave is granted and appeal is admitted, the appellants must show that exceptional and special circumstances exist to reverse the findings, or grave injustice will be done if the decision under challenge is not interfered with.” The top Court further gave the judgment stating that “the judgment of the Trial Court and First Appellate Court, affirmed by the High Court in second appeal…is upheld and the present appeal is hereby dismissed.”