Brief of the Case
Supreme Court held In the case of Prakash & Ors vs. Phulavati & Ors that the text of the amendment itself clearly provides that the right conferred on a ‘daughter of a coparcener’ is ‘on and from the commencement of Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005’. Section 6(3) talks of death after the amendment for its applicability. In view of plain language of the statute, there is no scope for a different interpretation than the one suggested by the text of the amendment. An amendment of a substantive provision is always prospective unless either expressly or by necessary intendment it is retrospective. In the present case, there is neither any express provision for giving retrospective effect to the amended provision nor necessary intendment to that effect. On this finding, the view of the High Court cannot be sustained.
Facts of the Case
According to the case of the plaintiff, the suit properties were acquired by her late father Yeshwanth Chandrakant Upadhye by inheritance from his adoptive mother Smt. Sunanda Bai. After the death of her father on 18th February, 1988, she acquired the share in the property as claimed. The suit was contested mainly with the plea that the plaintiff could claim share only in the self acquired property of her deceased father and not in the entire property. During pendency of the suit, the plaintiff amended the plaint so as to claim share as per the Amended Act 39 of 2005. The trial court partly decreed the suit to the extent of 1/28th share in certain properties on the basis of notional partition on the death of her father and in some of the items of property, no share was given, while 1/7th share was given in some other properties.
The respondent-plaintiff preferred first appeal before the High Court with the grievance that the plaintiff became coparcener under the Amendment Act 39 of 2005 and was entitled to inherit the coparcenary property equal to her brothers, apart from contentions based on individual claims in certain items of property. The stand of the defendants-appellants was that the plaintiff could not claim any share in self acquired property of the members of the joint family and that the claim of the plaintiff had to be dealt with only under Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 as it stood prior to the amendment by Act 39 of 2005.
High court held that the amendment was applicable to pending proceedings even if it is taken to be prospective. The defendants-appellants have questioned the judgment and order of the High Court with the contention that the amended provision of Section 6 has no application in the present case. Father of the plaintiff died on 18th February, 1988and was thus, not a coparcener on the date of commencement of the Amendment Act. The plaintiff could not claim to be “the daughter of a coparcener” at the time of commencement of the Act which was the necessary condition for claiming the benefit.
Contention of the Appellants
The ld counsel for the appellants submitted that the 2005 amendment was not applicable to the claim of a daughter when her father who was a coparcener in the joint hindu family died prior to 9th September, 2005. This submission is based on the plain language of the statute and the established principle that in absence of express provision or implied intention to the contrary, an amendment dealing with a substantive right is prospective and does not affect the vested rights. If such a coparcener had died prior to the commencement of the Amendment Act, succession opens out on the date of the death as per the prevailing provision of the succession law and the rights of the heirs get crystalised even if partition by metes and bounds does not take place. It was pointed out that apparently conflicting provision in Explanation to Section 6(5) and the said Section was required to be given harmonious construction with the main provision. The explanation could not be read in conflict with the main provision.
It is also submitted that the Explanation was merely a rule of evidence and not a substantive provision determining the rights of the parties. Date of a daughter becoming coparcener is on and from the commencement of the Act. Partitions effected before 20th December, 2004 remain unaffected as expressly provided. The Explanation defines partition, as partition made by a registered deed or effected by decree of a court. Its effect is not to wipe out a legal and valid partition prior to the said date, but to place burden of proof of genuineness of such partition on the party alleging it. In any case, statutory notional partition remains valid and effective.
Contention of the Respondents
The ld counsel of the respondents submitted that the amendment being piece of social legislation to remove discrimination against women in the light of 174th Report of the Law Commission, the amendment should be read as being retrospective as interpreted by the High Court in the impugned judgment. A daughter acquired right by birth and even if her father, who was a coparcener, had died prior to coming into force of the amendment, the shares of the parties were required to be redefined. It was submitted that any partition which may have taken place even prior to 20th December, 2004 was liable to be ignored unless it was by a registered deed of partition or by a decree of the Court. If no registered partition had taken place, share of the daughter will stand enhanced by virtue of the amendment.
Held by High Court
High Court held that the amendment was applicable to pending proceedings even if it is taken to be prospective.
Held by Supreme Court
Supreme Court held that the text of the amendment itself clearly provides that the right conferred on a ‘daughter of a coparcener’ is ‘on and from the commencement of Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005’. Section 6(3) talks of death after the amendment for its applicability. In view of plain language of the statute, there is no scope for a different interpretation than the one suggested by the text of the amendment. An amendment of a substantive provision is always prospective unless either expressly or by necessary intendment it is retrospective. In the present case, there is neither any express provision for giving retrospective effect to the amended provision nor necessary intendment to that effect. Requirement of partition being registered can have no application to statutory notional partition on opening of succession as per un amended provision, having regard to nature of such partition which is by operation of law. The intent and effect of the Amendment will be considered a little later. On this finding, the view of the High Court cannot be sustained.
Further, Contention of the respondents that the Amendment should be read as retrospective being a piece of social legislation cannot be accepted. Even a social legislation cannot be given retrospective effect unless so provided for or so intended by the legislature. In the present case, the legislature has expressly made the Amendment applicable on and from its commencement and only if death of the coparcener in question is after the Amendment. Thus, no other interpretation is possible in view of express language of the statute.
Further, the proviso to Section 6(1) and sub-section (5) of Section 6 clearly intend to exclude the transactions referred to therein which may have taken place prior to 20th December, 2004 on which date the Bill was introduced. Explanation cannot permit reopening of partitions which were valid when effected. Object of giving finality to transactions prior to 20th December, 2004 is not to make the main provision retrospective in any manner. The object is that by fake transactions available property at the introduction of the Bill is not taken away and remains available as and when right conferred by the statute becomes available and is to be enforced. Main provision of the Amendment in Section 6(1) and (3) is not in any manner intended to be affected but strengthened in this way. Settled principles governing such transactions relied upon by the appellants are not intended to be done away with for period prior to 20th December, 2004. In no case statutory notional partition even after 20th December, 2004 could be covered by the Explanation or the proviso in question.
Finally, Supreme Court held that the rights under the amendment are applicable to living daughters of living coparceners as on 9th September, 2005 irrespective of when such daughters are born. Disposition or alienation including partitions which may have taken place before 20th December, 2004 as per law applicable prior to the said date will remain unaffected. Any transaction of partition effected thereafter will be governed by the Explanation.
Accordingly, appeal of the revenue allowed.