|AIR 1983 SC 846, 1938 SC (3) 20
|Date of Judgement
|5th May, 1983
|Supreme Court of India
|Wassan Singh & Others
|J. O.Chinnappa Reddy, D.A. Desai
|Hindu Law – Property Inheritance
FACTS OF THE CASE
-Smt. Dipo (the plaintiff), Wassan Singh and others (the defendants), and Bua Singh (the decedent whose property is in dispute) are the parties involved in this case. The central figure in this case, Bua Singh, passed away in 1952. He owned a number of properties, the ownership and inheritance of which became a point of contention in court.
-The petitioner, Smt. Dipo, who is also Bua Singh’s sister, asserted that she was the closest heir to the late brother. She brought legal action to reclaim the assets that belonged to her deceased brother Bua Singh.
-Smt. Dipo’s claim to the land was disputed by the respondents, who were Smt. Dipo’s paternal uncle’s sons.
a) They contended against Smt. Dipo’s relationship with Bua Singh as a sister in part one of their argument.
b) They asserted that they were preferred heirs in accordance with local custom even though Smt. Dipo was thought of as Bua Singh’s sister because the entire parcel of land was Bua Singh’s family property.
-The categorization of Bua Singh’s holdings played a key role in the conflict. The trial court found that while some of the properties in dispute were not ancestral, the majority of them were when Bua Singh owned them.
-The trial court ruled that Smt. Dipo was only entitled to succeed to Bua Singh’s non-ancestral property by using the custom that sisters were barred by collaterals in cases involving ancestral property.
-Smt. Dipo filed an appeal to the District Judge in Amritsar after being dissatisfied with the trial court’s ruling with the intention of presenting it in forma pauperis (as a destitute person). But the District Judge rejected this appeal on the basis that Smt. Dipo failed to personally present it as required by Order 33, Rule 3. In addition, the defendants filed an appeal, which was also rejected.
-Smt. Dipo appealed to the High Court of Punjab and Haryana once more. However, the High Court denied this second appeal on the grounds that it was time-barred. This occurred because a copy of the trial court’s decision had not been submitted with the second appeal’s memorandum within the allotted time frame.
-Smt. Dipo then challenged the High Court’s ruling to the Supreme Court of India via special leave.
-The primary issue was to determine Bua Singh’s legitimate heir, who had passed away in 1952. Smt. Dipo claimed that she was Bua Singh’s closest heir and that she was therefore entitled to his holdings.
-The court had to determine if the disputed properties were ancestral or not. Due to the fact that under Hindu family law, there are different laws for inheritance for these two sorts of properties, customary law was essential in making this decision.
-The court had to determine whether collaterals (relatives descended from a common ancestor) or the sister (Smt. Dipo) had preference rights to inherit the properties in the context of customary law.
-The presenting of appeals and timely submission of papers were procedural issues relating to the filing of appeals, and the plaintiff (Smt. Dipo) was required to prove compliance with these requirements.
The Petitioner, Smt. Dipo brought a lawsuit to reclaim ownership of the assets owned by her deceased brother Bua Singh, who had died in 1952. She maintained her right to Bua Singh’s property inheritance and claimed to be the closest heir. The main defence put out by Smt. Dipo was that she was Bua Singh’s sister. She needed to prove that she was Bua Singh’s sister in order to prove that she was the rightful heir. The petitioner further claimed that in accordance with the local customary law, sisters were preferential heirs to non-ancestral property in the hands of the propositus (the person through whom the inheritance is traced) but collaterals (relatives in the paternal line other than the direct descendants) were not. They contended that the disputed estates were not completely ancestral ones. She claimed that because some of the estates were not hereditary, she should have the right to receive them as the preferred successor.
The respondents, who were Ganda Singh’s sons and Bua Singh’s paternal uncle, refuted the claim made by the petitioner that she was Bua Singh’s sister and the closest heir. They contested her claim to Bua Singh’s property. According to the respondents, according to local customary law, they were Bua Singh’s preferred heirs to his property. They understood the custom to mean that collaterals like them had a right to inherit their ancestor’s property, but sisters were not given preference in such circumstances. The respondents asserted that Bua Singh owned all of the disputed properties as his ancestral property. They argued that they were entitled to the full inheritance, disputing the petitioner’s claim that part of the properties was not ancestral.
The Court ruled that the inheritance from paternal ancestors exclusively pertains to the male issue (sons and their descendants) of the propositus (the person through whom the inheritance is traced), and is not deemed “ancestral property” for female offspring. However, it is treated as the absolute property of the propositus and not ancestor property for all other relatives. The Supreme Court noted that Bua Singh was the last male owner of the land and had no male issue, despite the lower courts classifying the majority of the in-question properties in his possession as “ancestral properties” because they originally belonged to his forefathers. As a result, no survivor of a joint family, whether a descendant or not, could inherit the property through survivorship.
The court held that the properties, which were defined as ancestral by the lower courts regarding other relations, such as collaterals, should not be treated as ancestral property in light of the absence of male issues and surviving joint family members. Instead, one should consider Bua Singh’s ownership of these properties to be absolute. Because the estates were not ancestral with regard to collaterals like the defendants (sons of Bua Singh’s paternal uncle), the court determined that Smt. Dipo, who claimed to be the sister of Bua Singh, was the favoured heir in this instance.
The court ruled in favour of Smt. Dipo for all the contested properties, overturning the verdicts and decrees of the lower courts, including the High Court. The court further ordered the defendants (the respondents) to pay the government’s court costs associated with the lawsuit, appeal, second appeal, and Supreme Court appeal. In conclusion, the Supreme Court determined that Smt. Dipo was Bua Singh’s legal heir to all of his assets because there was no male issue and no living joint family members, therefore the assets should not be regarded as ancestral in terms of collateral.
This Article is written by G Parinitha of St. Joseph’s College of Law, Intern at Legal Vidhya