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Uttam vs. Saubhag Singh (Supreme Court)
April, 27th 2016

Important law on concept of "ancestral property" under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and the formation of a HUF by the surviving members of the deceased explained

(a) The law, therefore, insofar as it applies to joint family property governed by the Mitakshara School, prior to the amendment of 2005, could therefore be summarized as follows:-

(i) When a male Hindu dies after the commencement of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, having at the time of his death an interest in Mitakshara coparcenary property, his interest in the property will devolve by survivorship upon the surviving members of the coparcenary (vide Section 6).

(ii) To proposition (i), an exception is contained in Section 30
Explanation of the Act, making it clear that notwithstanding anything contained in the Act, the interest of a male Hindu in Mitakshara coparcenary property is property that can be disposed of by him by will or other testamentary disposition.

(iii) A second exception engrafted on proposition (i) is contained in the proviso to Section 6, which states that if such a male Hindu had died leaving behind a female relative specified in Class I of the Schedule or a male relative specified in that Class who claims through such female relative surviving him, then the interest of the deceased in the coparcenary property would devolve by testamentary or intestate succession, and not by survivorship.

(iv) In order to determine the share of the Hindu male coparcener who is governed by Section 6 proviso, a partition is effected by operation of law immediately before his death. In this partition, all the coparceners and the male Hindu’s widow get a share in the joint family property.

(v) On the application of Section 8 of the Act, either by reason of the death of a male Hindu leaving self-acquired property or by the application of Section 6 proviso, such property would devolve only by intestacy and not survivorship.

(vi) On a conjoint reading of Sections 4, 8 and 19 of the Act, after joint family property has been distributed in accordance with section 8 on principles of intestacy, the joint family property ceases to be joint family property in the hands of the various persons who have succeeded to it as they hold the property as tenants in common and not as joint tenants.

(b) Applying the law to the facts of this case, it is clear that on the death of Jagannath Singh in 1973, the joint family property which was ancestral property in the hands of Jagannath Singh and the other coparceners, devolved by succession under Section 8 of the Act. This being the case, the ancestral property ceased to be joint family property on the date of death of Jagannath Singh, and the other coparceners and his widow held the property as tenants in common and not as joint tenants. This being the case, on the date of the birth of the appellant in 1977 the said ancestral property, not being joint family property, the suit for partition of such property would not be maintainable.


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