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Kaithuami And Ors. V. Ralliani And Ors.

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
4 May 2022 6:26 AM GMT
Kaithuami And Ors. V. Ralliani And Ors.
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On 26th April 2022, the Supreme Court of India pronounced in favour of the Appellants in Kaithuami [L]. v. Ralliani & Ors. (2022) represented by Dua Associates for the past five years.A. Summary – Factual Background and Rounds of Litigation P.S. Dahrawka died in 1978 survived by wife Kaithuami along with one son and seven daughters. All the daughters were married and so Kaithuami...

On 26th April 2022, the Supreme Court of India pronounced in favour of the Appellants in Kaithuami [L]. v. Ralliani & Ors. (2022) represented by Dua Associates for the past five years.

A. Summary – Factual Background and Rounds of Litigation

P.S. Dahrawka died in 1978 survived by wife Kaithuami along with one son and seven daughters. All the daughters were married and so Kaithuami had been living separately, except for one daughter who got divorced in 1997 and came back to her home to take care of her mother. Subsequently, the only son passed away in 1980 after having made attempts to partition suit property without the consent of the mother, who was to inherit the property by way of an agreement in 1927. The genesis of this dispute can be traced back to March 1996 when the son, brought a law suit against the mother claiming inheritance rights over his father's property. Thereafter, following an extensive period of appeals and cross-appeals, pronouncements were made by the Sub-District Council Court, twice by the District Council Court ('DCC') along with two remands by the Gauhati High Court ('High Court') back to the DCC which was followed by a decision by the High Court in a second appeal. Final relief in the matter was provided by the Supreme Court of India ('SC') on 26 April 2022 setting aside the decision of the High Court November, 2007and upholding the DCC's decision of February, 2006 to divide the contested property between daughter and granddaughter.

Principal Submissions made by the Counsel for the Appellants, Mr. Robin Ratnakar David

1. The Bench recognized Mr. David's argument and based the judgment on the balancing of responsibilities while considering rights over inheritance, submitted that – "the High Court failed to take into consideration that under the Mizo Customary Law it is not only the rights which are inherited, but it is also the responsibilities which are inherited. It is submitted that the inheritance depends upon the responsibilities discharged by a legal heir towards his/her parents in their old age..." (Para. 13 @ Pg. 8 of the Judgment) The entire judgment can be accessed here.

2. Mr. David went on to highlight the fact that the husband and wife agreed they would inherit each other's property by way of a 1927 nuptial agreement. Hence, it was evident that upon the demise of the husband, the wife would inherit the suit property.

3. Another critical submission made by Mr. David was that the son had not taken care of the parents and family members and by extension his legal heirs were not entitled to the property.

B. Law Laid Down in Kaithuami

The present case is the only single instance where the Supreme Court of India sought to interpret inheritance provisions under Mizo Customary Law ('MCL'). The highlight of the judgment is the manner in which the Bench approaches Section 109 to determine who will inherit property of the deceased father, the owner of a self-acquired property. On second remand by the Gauhati High Court, the District Council Court emphasised on sub-clauses (3) and (10) of MCL, wherein it was observed that it would be the youngest son who would be entitled to inherit the property upon the demise of the father and in case the father was richer than the sons, the property would be divided proportionally between the sons. It was further clarified that there was no provision for married daughters to be entitled to any share as such. That said, under sub-clause (10) – a provision having an overriding effect – inheritance depends on the fulfillment of responsibilities carried out by the legal heir. Hence, the right of the divorced daughter to inherit the father's property, who came back to take care of her aging mother, could not be defeated. Thus, in this instance, the DCC entitled the daughter to share in ownership.

On appeals, the High Court through a Single Judge on the matter had held that the son was entirely entitled to the property by relying on sub-clause (3) which provides that the son would inherit property upon the father's demise by narrow construction. This particular judgment was assailed by the appellants which was accordingly then brought before the SC for consideration. The Bench in the present case heavily relied on Thansiami v. Lalruatkima and Ors. (2012), an earlier decision of the High Court delivered by Justice Madan B. Lokur, C.J. of the Court at the time, that had held that inheritance depended on the support of the deceased in old age and further went on to state that even natural heirs would not be entitled to inherit if they did not support their parents. With this, it was concluded to set aside the judgment of the High Court entitling the son in entirety and affirming the DCC's decision in the interest of the spirit of equity, paramount in MCL.

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