The Court ruled that, according to Section 15(1)(d) of the Hindu Succession Act, a Hindu woman’s father’s heirs are protected by individuals entitled to intestate succession of a Hindu woman’s land.
The Supreme Court ruled that if a woman’s father’s heirs are included as individuals who can succeed under the Hindu Succession Act, then it cannot be argued that they are strangers with respect to the woman and not members of the family (Khushi Ram & Ors vs Nawal Singh & Ors).
Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy ruled that under Section 15(1)(d) of the Hindu Succession Act, the heirs of a Hindu woman’s father are protected by persons entitled to intestate succession of a Hindu woman’s land.
An analysis of Section 15(1)(d) suggests that the heirs of the father are protected by the heirs who may succeed. If a woman’s father’s heirs are included as an individual who may succeed, it should not be considered that they are strangers and not the family members qua (sic) the woman, the Court held.
The decision came in a case involving the estate inherited by a widow, Jagno after her husband died without any children. After the Hindu Succession Act was introduced, Jagno became the absolute owner of half of the property of the suit in 1956 by virtue of Section 14.
She then joined a family settlement, settling the land in favor of the sons of her brothers.
In 1991, her brother’s sons filed a civil case before the Sub-Judge Court in which Gurgaon applied for a decree confirming ownership of the property in question.
Jagno did not oppose this point and lodged a written statement acknowledging the situation of the sons of her brother. Therefore, on August 19, 1991, the trial court passed a consent order in favor of Jagno’s brother’s sons.
The children of her late husband’s brother (plaintiff-appellants) did, however, disapprove of such a transfer.
The same was challenged, but the trial court, district court, and the High Court dismissed their suit, resulting in the present appeal before the Supreme Court. 0
They argued that with the descendants of her brother, i.e., her paternal side, a Hindu widow cannot constitute a joint Hindu family.
It has been suggested that a family settlement should only take place between members who have a prior title or a pre-existing right to settle the proposed land.
The respondents claimed that no narrow definition should be given to the word “family” for the purpose of family resolution and that it should be given a wider meaning to include individuals who are related by all means.
The Court relied on Section 15(1)(d) of the Hindu Succession Act to hold that a Hindu woman’s father’s heirs are not aliens but are ‘family’.
“In the current context, Smt. Jagno, who was a widow of Sher Singh, who died in 1953, had succeeded to half share in the farm production and she was the owner when she entered into an agreement. We, thus, do not find any merit in the application of learned judge for the appellants that the defendants-respondents were strangers to the family,” the Court ruled.