SUPREME COURT CLARIFIES THE COMPLEX ISSUES INVOLVED IN PARTITION / DIVISION OF MITAKSHARA COPARCENARY PROPERTY
A Two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice C. T. Ravi Kumar and Sanjay Kumar passed a Judgment dated 01-09-2023 in the matter of Dehra vs. Vishal and Anr. Civil Appeal No. 4494 / 2010 and clarified and resolved the complex issue pertaining to the division of Mitakshara coparcenary property following the death of the deceased.
(i) That the aforesaid Appeal filed before the Supreme Court by one, Dehra (Appellant) against Vishal and Keja Bai (Respondents), challenged the decision of the Hon’ble High Court of Chhattisgarh (High Court) that partially allowed the Appeal in favour of the Appellant and reduced his Share in his Coparcenary Property in Second Appeal No. 891 of 199
(ii) One, Phannuram Sahu (hereinafter referred to as Deceased) passed away on 22.06.1959, thereby, leaving behind surviving interests in Mitakshara Coparcenary properties, which included agricultural land measuring 24.64 acres in Village Dhaneli, along with house properties. His first wife, Dukalhin Bai, had a daughter named Kesar Bai, and his second wife, Ganga Bai, had a son named Vishal and a daughter named Keja Bai. Both wives of Phannuram predeceased him.
(iii) The Deceased’s daughter, Kesar Bai asserted that a Partition occurred on 12.03.1964 amongst the Deceased’s son, Vishal, his nephew, Ramnath and his sister-in-law, Manbat Bai. As per the said Partition, Vishal, who received the Deceased’s 1/3rd share in the Coparcenary Properties, rejected Kesar Bai’s request for partition and allocation of her individual share.
(iv) Aggrieved, the Deceased’s daughter, Kesar Bai initiated a Partition Suit in Civil Suit No. 146A of 1991 in the Ld. Court of the First Civil Judge, Division-II, Raipur (Trial Court). In this Suit, she sought her share in the Coparcenary Properties and mesne profits. Tragically, Kesar Bai passed away on 17.06.1988, and her son, Derha Ram, the present Appellant, inherited her estate through a registered Will dated 16.12.1980.
(v) After considering the issues slated for trial and reviewing the evidence, both oral and documentary, the Trial Court issued a Decree on 06.11.1996, affirming that Derha was entitled to a 1/3rd share in the agricultural land mentioned in the Suit and a 1/3rd share in the two house properties. Furthermore, the Trial Court determined that the Appellant should receive mesne profits at a rate of ₹400 per annum from 1979 until separate possession is granted to him.
(vi) Dissatisfied with the Trial Court’s Decree on 06.11.1996, the Deceased’s other son and daughter, Vishal and Keja Bai filed Civil Appeal No. 6A of 1998 before the Ld. District Judge-III, Raipur (Appellate Court). However, vide Order dated 13.04.1999, the Appellate Court dismissed the Appeal in entirety.
(vii) Aggrieved by the Appellate Court’s Order dated 13.04.1999, the Respondents, Vishal and Keja Bai filed Second Appeal No. 891 of 1999 before the High Court of Chhattisgarh.
(viii) The High Court, vide Order dated 31.03.2009, partially allowed the Second Appeal and determined that the Appellant would be entitled to a 1/6th share in the Suit Properties, comprising of the agricultural land and two dwelling houses. Aggrieved by the High Court Order dated 31.03.2009 reducing the share in the Coparcenary Properties, the Appellant- Derha filed Civil Appeal No. 4494 / 2010 before the Supreme Court.
TRIAL COURT FINDINGS:
The Trial Court case involved the division of Mitakshara Coparcenary Property. The original Plaintiff- Kesar Bai filed a Partition Suit demanding her rightful share and passed away during the trial. Her son inherited her estate and was granted a 1/3rd share in the Coparcenary Property comprising of an agricultural land and two residential properties, as well as mesne profits.
HIGH COURT FINDINGS:
The High Court reviewed a case involving the inheritance of Mitakshara Coparcenary Property. After examining the issues presented for trial and reviewing the oral and documentary evidence, the High Court passed a Judgment on 31.03.2009. In its Judgment, the High Court partially allowed the Second Appeal, modifying the trial court’s decision. It held that Derha Ram, the Appellant, would be entitled to a 1/6th share in the Suit Properties, which included the agricultural land and two residential houses. This adjustment reduced Derha Ram’s share compared to the Trial Court’s ruling.
SUPREME COURT OBSERVATIONS:
Aggrieved by the Order dated 31.03.2009 of the High Court, the Appellant filed Special Leave Petition SLP(C) No. 027119 / 2009 which was registered on 09-10-2009 as Civil Appeal 4495 of 2010, thereby challenging the reduction in his share as determined by the High Court.
(1) Initially, the Supreme Court, by an Order dated 09.10.2009, directed both Parties to maintain the status quo as of that date.
(2) During the hearing, the Appellant’s Counsel argued that the Properties in question were not coparcenary properties, but instead, joint properties held by the Deceased and his brothers. However, the Apex Court dismissed this argument as the original Plaintiff, Kesar Bai, had stated in her initial claim that the Properties were ancestral. Subsequently, the Bench found it inappropriate for the Plaintiff’s son and heir to take a stance contradictory to that of the Plaintiff.
(3) Further, the Bench also addressed the argument that Manbat Bai, i.e. the Deceased’s sister-in-law, would not have been allotted a share at the time of Partition on 12.03.1964, if the properties were coparcenary. The Apex Court explained that they could not assess the legality of her share allocation without sufficient information about Manbat Bai’s husband’s circumstances. Additionally, the Plaintiff- Kesar Bai herself had filed a Suit arguing that the properties were ancestral. The Bench deemed the partition to be valid, as it had never been contested.
(4) Further, the Bench held that once it was established that the Properties subject to the Partition Suit were Coparcenary Properties, the only issue remained was that: how these Properties should be divided among the Deceased’s legal heirs following his death in 1959, after the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The Supreme Court held that Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (for brevity, ‘the Act of 1956’) (Devolution of Interest in Coparcenary Property) would govern this situation, as rightly noted by the Chhattisgarh High Court and the Bench further referred to Section 8 of the Act of 1956 (General Rules of Succession in the case of Males).
(5) The Bench relied on legal precedents such as Gurupad Khandappa Magdum vs. Hirabai Khandappa Magdum and others [(1978) 3 SCC 383], Shyama Devi (Smt) and Others vs. Manju Shukla (Mrs) and Another [(1994) 6 SCC 342] to conclude that the Deceased’s share had to be determined as of the date of his death. As he had two brothers, his entitlement would have been a 1/3rd share in the Coparcenary Properties, if a partition had occurred before his death. Such a partition indeed took place in 1964, and the Deceased’s 1/3rd share was allotted to his only son, Vishal. However, Vishal was also a coparcener in his own right in a separate coparcenary with his father, entitling him to a share by birth. Therefore, he would be entitled to a share by birth of one-half of the 1/3rd share allotted to the Deceased. The other one-half of the 1/3rd share belonged to the Deceased and, as he died intestate, the same would devolve upon his Class I heirs, who, at the time of his death, were his daughter and Plaintiff-Kesar Bai and his son-Vishal and another daughter-Keja Bai, the Respondents herein. The Deceased’s other-half of the 1/3rd share would be divided equally among them, resulting in 1/6th share for each.
(6) Consequently, the final division of the Deceased’s entire 1/3rd share in the Coparcenary Properties would be as follows:
(i) Vishal would be entitled to 4/6th share [i.e. (½) + 1/3rd of ½ share i.e. (1/6)],
(ii) Kesar Bai would be entitled to receive 1/6th share (i.e. 1/3rd of ½ share)
(iii) Keja Bai would be entitled to receive 1/6th share (i.e. 1/3rd of ½ share).
Thus, based on aforesaid observations, the Apex Court’s judgment in this case provided a comprehensive resolution to the complex issue of the division of Mitakshara Coparcenary Property following the death of the Deceased-Phannuram Sahu. The Supreme Court precisely applied the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, and established a clear framework for determining the shares of the legal heirs, by upholding the Chhattisgarh High Court’s decision, in accordance with the principles of notional partition. Thus, this judgment not only resolved the specific case but also provided valuable legal guidance on the intricate matter of the partition / division of the Mitakshara coparcenary property under the Act, serving as a reference for future cases involving similar issues.
As a result, the Bench upheld the Chhattisgarh High Court Order dated 31.03.2009 that reduced the share of the Appellant to a 1/6th share in the Suit Properties and thereby, dismissed the Appeal as the same was devoid of merit.
The Indian Lawyer
 Section 6 of the Act of 1956 as interpreted by the Chhattisgarh High Court in Para No. 9 of the aforesaid Judgment: “Section 6 stipulated that when a male Hindu died after the Act’s commencement, having an on interest in Mitakshara coparcenary property, that interest would devolve by survivorship upon the surviving members of the coparcenary. However, the proviso to the section stated that if the deceased left behind a surviving female relative specified in Class I of the Schedule or a male relative specified in that class claiming through such a female relative, the interest of the deceased would devolve by testamentary or intestate succession under the Act, not by survivorship. Explanation 1 clarified that the interest of a Hindu Mitakshara coparcener should be deemed to be the share that would have been allotted to him in a notional partition immediately before his death, regardless of his entitlement to claim such partition.”
 Section 8 of the Act of 1956 as interpreted by the Chhattisgarh High Court in Para No. 10 of the aforesaid Judgment: “Which elaborated on intestate succession in the case of males. It provided that the property of a male Hindu, dying intestate, shall devolve firstly upon Class I heirs, secondly upon Class II heirs, thirdly upon the agnates of the deceased, and lastly upon the cognates of the deceased”.