Atma Singh vs Gurmej Kaur (D) And Ors. on 13 September, 2017

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REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO.11094 OF 2017
(arising out of SLP(C)No.22154 of 2012)

ATMA SINGH             … APPELLANT

VERSUS

GURMEJ KAUR (D)  ORS.           … RESPONDENTS

J U D G M E N T

ASHOK BHUSHAN, J.

1. This appeal has been filed against the judgment

of the Punjab  Haryana High Court dated 14.07.2009

by   which   the   High   Court   has   dismissed   the   Regular

Second Appeal filed by the appellant.

2. The   facts   of   the   case   are   not   in   dispute   and

lie   in   a   very   narrow   compass.     The   appellant   has

filed Civil Suit No. 220 of 2001 for a declaration

that   the   plaintiff   is   the   owner   and   in   joint
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
BALA PARVATHI
possession   of   the   half   share   of  the  land   owned   by
Date: 2017.09.20
10:28:12 IST
Reason:

Pal Singh deceased son of Narain Singh. Narain Singh
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had   three   sons   namely   Atma   Singh,   the   appellant,

Mohan   Singh,   respondent   No.5   and   Pal   Singh.     The

defendant   No.1,   Gurmej   Kaur   was   wife   of   Narain

Singh.   Narain Singh, who was the owner of land in

dispute  died   in  the  year   1952   intestate.     He   left

behind   his   above   three   sons   and   wife   Gurmej   Kaur.

Gurmej Kaur immediately after death of Narain Singh

remarried   with   one   Inder   Singh.   Pal   Singh,   son   of

Narain   Singh   died   in   the   year   1972   intestate.     He

was not married and so had no children.   Estate of

Pal Singh was mutated in favour of Gurmej Kaur, his

mother.     Thereafter,   Suit   No.   220   of   2001

was   filed   by   the   appellant.     The   Trial   Court

dismissed   the   suit   holding   that   defendant   No.   1,

Gurmej   Kaur   being   the   real   mother   of   deceased   Pal

Singh   and   she   being  Class   I  heir   shall   succeed   to

Pal Singh after his death.  The appeal was filed by

the   appellant,   which   too   was   dismissed   on

07.02.2006,   against   which   second   appeal   was   filed.

The   High   Court   in   its   judgment   reaffirmed   the

decision of Court below.   The High Court held that
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although after death of Narain Singh, Gurmej Kaur,

on   account   of   her   re­marriage   will   loose   right   in

estate   of   Narain   Singh   but   have   every   right   to

inherit the estate of her son, Pal Singh in terms of

Section  8   of   the   Hindu   Succession   Act,   1956.     The

plaintiff appellant aggrieved by the judgment of the

High Court have come up in this appeal.

3.  Learned counsel for the appellant in support of

the   appeal   contends   that   after   re­marriage,   Gurmej

Kaur   loses   her   right   to   inherit   the   property   of

Narain   Singh   as   well   as   his   lineal   descendants.

Hence she was not entitled to inherit the estate of

Pal Singh. It is submitted that Courts below did not

advert to The Hindu Widow’s Re­Marriage Act, 1856,

which   clearly   dis­entitle   the   defendant   No.1   to

inherit  the  estate   of   Pal   Singh.     It   is  submitted

that in the year 1972 when Pal Singh died, the Hindu

Window’s   Re­Marriage   Act,   1856   was   in   force   and

defendant   No.1   was   not   entitled   to   inherit   the

property of Narain Singh i.e. property of father of

the deceased  but was entitled to inherit the estate
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of Pal Singh.

4. Learned counsel for the respondent refuted the

submission   of   the   counsel   for   the   appellant   and

contended that the provisions of the Hindu Widow’s

Re­Marriage   Act,   1856   are   no   longer   applicable   in

view   of   the   overriding   effect   given   to   the   Hindu

Succession   Act,   1956   under   Section   4   of   the   1956

Act.     He   submits   that   the   defendant   No.1   being

natural mother of Pal Singh has rightly been held to

inherit his estate under the 1956 Act.

5. We have considered the submissions made by the

learned   counsel   for   the   parties   and   perused   the

records.

6. The   issue   to   be   considered   in   the   present

appeal   is   as   to   whether   the   Hindu   Widow’s

Re­Marriage   Act,   1856   dis­entitles   the   defendant

No.1   to   inherit   the   estate   of   Pal   Singh.     For

answering   the   aforesaid   issue,   we   need   to   examine

the provisions of the Hindu Widow’s Re­Marriage Act,

1856.

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7. The   Hindu   Widow’s   Re­Marriage   Act,   1856   was

enacted   to   remove   all   legal   obstacles   to   the

marriage of the Hindu Widows.   The Act was enacted

to   render   re­marriage   valid   to   legalize   the

legitimacy of the children.  It conferred a benefit

on those who could not marry but at the same time

imposes a restriction on them.  Section 2 of the Act

on which reliance have been placed is as follows:­

“2  Rights   of   widow   in   deceased   husband’s
property   to   cease   on   her   re­marriage.­All
rights   and   interests   which   any   widow   may
have in her deceased husband’s property by
way   of   maintenance,   or   by   inheritance   to
her husband or to his lineal successors, or
by   virtue   of   any   will   or   testamentary
disposition   conferring   upon   her,   without
express permission to  re­marry,   only   a
limited interest in such  property,   with
no power of alienating the same,  shall
upon   her   re­marriage   cease   and   determine  
as   if   she   had   then   died;   and   the   next
heirs of  her   deceased   husband,   or   other
persons   entitled   to   the   property   on   her
death,   shall   thereupon   succeed   to   the
same.”

8. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was enacted to

amend   and   codify   the   law   relating   to   intestate

succession among Hindus.  Section 4 of the Act gave
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the enactment an overriding effect.   Section 4 is

quoted as below:­

“4.   Overriding   effect   of   Act.­
(1)   Save   as   otherwise   expressly
provided in this Act,­ 

(a) any text, rule or interpretation
of Hindu law or any custom or usage
as   part   of   that   law   in   force
immediately   before   the   commencement
of   this   Act   shall   cease   to   have
effect with respect to any matter for
which provision is made in this Act; 

(b)   any   other   law   in   force
immediately   before   the   commencement
of this Act shall cease to apply to
Hindus   in   so   far   as   it   is
inconsistent   with   any   of   the
provisions contained in this Act.” 

9. In   the   present   case,   we   have   to   decide   the

right of inheritance of the estate, which was left

by Pal Singh, who died in the year 1972.  Pal Singh

died intestate and succession is to be governed by

Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, which

is as follows:­

“8.  General   rules   of   succession
in the case of  males.—The property
of  a  male  Hindu  dying 
intestate shall devolve according to
the provisions of this Chapter—
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(a)  firstly,   upon   the   heirs,
being the  relatives   specified   in
class I of the Schedule;

(b) secondly, if there is no heir
of class I,  then   upon   the   heirs,
being the relatives  specified   in
class II of the Schedule;

(c)  thirdly, if there is no heir
of any of the  two   classes,   then
upon the agnates of the  deceased;

and

(d) lastly,   if   there   is   no
agnate, then upon  the   cognates
of the deceased.

10. The mother  being  Class  I  heir under Section 8

and there being no other class I heir  available to

succeed mother, she naturally succeed the estate of

Pal   Singh   by   virtue   of   Section   8   read   with   the

Schedule, Class I. Whether provision of Section 2 of

the   1856   Act   dis­entitles   the   defendant   No.1   to

succeed the estate of Pal Singh, is the submission

forcefully   put   up   by   learned   counsel   for   the

appellant.  It is submitted that on re­marriage, the

widow   ceases   to   have   any   right   of   maintenance   or

inheritance to her husband or his lineal successors.
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It   is   submitted   that   Pal   Singh   being   lineal

successor of husband of defendant No.1, she is also

dis­entitled to succeed the estate of Pal Singh.

11. The   consequence   of   Section   2   on   the   right   of

widow,   who   remarries   has   been   clearly   enumerated.

Section   2   provides   that   all   rights   and   interests,

which any widow may have in her deceased husband’s

property or to his lineal successors shall upon her

re­marriage cease and determine  as if she had then

died.   Thus, on re­marriage, the widow is divested

with any right which she may have in the husband’s

property or property of husband’s lineal successors.

In the present case, re­marriage took place in the

year 1952.   Thus, the widow has lost any right in

the   property   of   her   husband   or   any   lineal

descendants   on   re­marriage.     Section   2   further

provides   that   on   cessation   and   determination   of

rights   of   widow,   the   next   heirs   of   her   deceased

husband   or   other   persons   entitled   to   the   property

shall succeed the same.  The effect of Section 2 was

thus   confined   to   rights   which   the   widow   was
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possessing at the time of re­marriage.

12. In the present case, the succession has opened

in the year 1972 when Pal Singh died.  The question

which had cropped up in the present case regarding

succession of estate of Pal Singh and succession of

Pal Singh’s estate shall be governed by Section 8 of

the   Hindu   Succession   Act,   1956.   By   Section   8,   the

mother i.e. defendant No.1 being described in Class

I   of   the   Schedule   shall   inherit   the   property

excluding   other   heirs.     Even   after   re­marriage   of

defendant No.1, the defendant No.1 shall continue to

be the mother of Pal Singh, who was born to her from

her   first   husband   Narain   Singh.     Succession   under

Section  8   to   the   estate  of   Pal   Singh   by  defendant

No.1   shall   not   be   controlled   or   prohibited   by

Section   2   of   the   Hindu   Widow’s   Re­Marriage   Act,

1856.   It is true that all rights in her husband’s

property   or   property   of   lineal   successors   of   her

husband   were   lost   by   a   widow   on   her   re­marriage.

But   Section   2   shall   not   govern   or   regulate   any

future succession to which she may be entitled under
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law.     The   Hindu   Widow’s   Re­Marriage   Act,   1856   has

been   subsequently   repealed   by   the   Hindu   Widow’s

Re­Marriage (Repeal) Act. 1983.  Even though, in the

year 1972, the 1856 Act was in force but as noted

above,   the   said   provision   shall   not   control   the

succession as ordained by Section 8 of the 1956 Act.

13. Coming to Section 4 of the 1956 Act, where an

overriding effect has been given to the 1956 Act to

any   other   law   in   force   immediately   before   the

commencement   of   the   1956   Act   in   so   far   as   it   is

inconsistent with any of the provisions contained in

the 1956 Act.   Even for the arguments sake, it is

accepted   that   Section   2   of   the   1856   Act   have   any

cascading   effect   on   the   right   of   widow,   the   same

shall   be   treated   to   have   overridden   by   virtue   of

Section 8 read with Schedule to the 1956 Act.

14. Learned   counsel   for   the   respondent   has   also

placed   reliance   on   the   judgment   of   this   Court   in

Smt.   Kasturi   Devi   vs.   Deputy   Director   of

Consolidation   and   others,   (1976)   4   SCC   674,  this

Court   while   considering   the   Hindu   Succession   Act,
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1956   held   that   mother   cannot   be   divested   of   her

interest in her son’s property either on the ground

of unchastity or remarriage. One Madhua died in the

year 1960 whose wife was Kasturi. Kasturi remarried

with one Lekhraj in the year 1963. Karua who was son

of Madhua and Kasturi died in the year of 1970. The

question arose about the inheritance of property of

Karua.   The   claim   of   Kasturi,   the   appellant   was

rejected   by   the   High   Court   against   which   she   has

filed the appeal. This Court has held that Kasturi

could not have been divested of her right to inherit

estate   of   her   son.   In   paragraph  3   of   the   judgment

following was held:

“3.  We   may   now   examine   the
contentions raised by counsel for the
appellant.   Counsel   submitted   that
assuming   that   Kasturi   had   remarried
Lekhraj she had acquired an absolute
interest   in   the   property   and   no
question   of   divestment   of   the
property  could  arise  in  view  of  the
provisions   of   the   Hindu   Succession
Act.   Secondly,   it   was   argued   that
Kasturi   in   the   instant   case   put
forward her claim for inheritance not
as widow of Madhua but as mother of
Karua, because it was the property of
Karua   which   was   in   dispute.   In   the
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view   that   we   take   in   the   present
appeal, it is not necessary at all to
decide   as  to  whether   or  not  Kasturi
would be disinherited or divested of
the   property   even   after   having
acquired   an   absolute   interest   under
the   Hindu   law.   This   is   a   moot
question   and   not   free   from
difficulty. We will, however, assume
for the sake of argument that as wife
of   Madhua   Kasturi   might   be   divested
of   her   interest   on   her   remarriage
with   Lekhraj.   It   is   plain,   however,
in this case that the dispute arises
over   the   property   of   Karua   and   qua
Karua’s   property,   Kasturi   claimed
inheritance   not   as   a   widow   of   her
husband  Madhua  but   as  the  mother   of
Karua.   The   Deputy   Director   of
Consolidation   seemed   to   think   that
the bar of inheritance would apply to
a mother as much as to a widow and on
this ground he refused to accept the
claim   of   the   appellant.   Learned
counsel for the respondents supported
the   stand   taken   by   the   Deputy
Director   of   Consolidation.   We   are,
however,   unable   to   agree   with   the
view taken by the Deputy Director of
Consolidation   which   appears   to   be
contrary  to  the  written  text  of  the
Hindu   Law.   Mulla   in   his   Hindu   Law,
14th   Edn.   while   describing   the
incidents   of   a   mother   regarding
inheritance   under   clause   (iii)
observed at p. 116 as follows:

“(iii) Unchastity and remarriage.—
Unchastity of a mother is no bar to 
her succeeding as heir to her son, 
nor does remarriage constitute any 
such bar.”
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A large number of authorities have
been   cited   in   support   of   this
view.   We   find   ourselves   entirely
in   agreement   with   this   view.   Our
attention has not been invited to
any   text   of   the   Hindu   Law   under
which   a   mother   could   be   divested
of   her   interest   in   the   property
either on the ground of unchastity
or   remarriage.   We   feel   that   the
application of bar of inheritance
to the Hindu widow is based on the
special   and   peculiar,   sacred   and
spiritual relationship of the wife
and   the   husband.   After   the
marriage,   the   wife   becomes   an
absolute   partner   and   an   integral
part   of   her   husband   and   the
principle on which she is excluded
from inheritance on remarriage is
that   when   she   relinquishes   her
link with her husband even though
he   is   dead   and   enters   a   new
family,   she   is   not   entitled   to
retain   the   property   inherited   by
her. The same, however, cannot be
said of a mother. The mother is in
an   absolutely   different   position
and that is why the Hindu Law did
not   provide   that   even   the   mother
would   be   disinherited   if   she
remarried.

15. We thus are of the view that Section 2 of the

1956 Act in no manner affect the right of defendant

No.1 to succeed the estate of her son Pal Singh and

after the death of Pal Singh, she was rightly held
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to   succeed   the   properties   of   Pal   Singh.     The   suit

filed by the plaintiff has been correctly dismissed

by all the Courts below.   We thus do not find any

merit in this appeal and the same is dismissed.

……………………..J.

( A.K. SIKRI )

……………………..J.

NEW DELHI,     ( ASHOK BHUSHAN )
SEPTEMBER 13, 2017.
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ITEM NO.1501 COURT NO.6 SECTION IV

S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A
RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS

Civil Appeal No(s).11094/2017

ATMA SINGH Appellant(s)

VERSUS

GURMEJ KAUR (D) AND ORS. Respondent(s)

Date : 13-09-2017 This appeal was called on for
pronouncement of judgment today.

For Appellant(s) Mr. Surabhi Aggarwal, Adv.

Mr. Ambreesh Kumar Aggarwal, AOR

For Respondent(s) Mr. Pallav Mongia, Adv.

Mr. Pankaj Singh, Adv.

Mr. Jasmine Damkewala, AOR

Ms. Nidhi, AOR

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ashok Bhushan pronounced
the judgment of the Bench comprising Hon’ble
Mr.Justice A.K. Sikri and His Lordship.

Appeal is dismissed in terms of signed
Reportable judgment.

Pending applications, if any, stand disposed
of.

(B.PARVATHI) (MALA KUMARI SHARMA)
COURT MASTER COURT MASTER

(Signed reportable judgment is placed on the file)

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