The Bombay High Court has held that the stepson of a Hindu citizen dying intestate cannot claim inheritance over his property.
Justice SC Gupte passed the judgment in a chamber summons taken out in a partition suit involving partition of ancestral property jointly owned by the parties in the suit.
During the pendency of the suit, one of the defendants (No.14), who was said to be one of the coparceners having right to the ancestral property, died. Although his heirs were brought on record, in an order dated December 12, 2011, the suit was dismissed against those defendants who had remained unserved. Since both the defendants were added during the pendency of the suit, they were not served. Hence, the suit against them stood dismissed.
The present chamber summons was taken out by a third-party applicant, named Yansh Bahadur Sabhajit Yadav who claimed to be the stepson of defendant no.14.
Submissions and Final Judgment
It was argued on behalf of the applicant that he deserves to be impleaded as a party in the matter just like the other heirs. The applicant also sought separate share and possession of the 1/9th share that the original defendant (no.14) had in these properties and also a stay on redevelopment of three buildings which are a part of the suit property.
The applicant, who appeared in person, relied on the definition of ‘child’ under clause 15B of Section 2 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, which includes ‘stepchild’ as well as adopted child. He also submitted that since the word ‘son’ is not defined under the Hindu Succession Act, the definition of ‘child’ under the Income Tax Act should be used.
The court did not accept the applicant’s submissions and pointed out why he does not have any claim over the said properties.
“The claim is clearly preposterous. In the first place, the Applicant must show that he is entitled to succeed to the estate of the deceased either as a relative specified in class-I and if there be no such relative, then as a relative specified in class-II, of the schedule under Hindu Succession Act read with Section 8 of that Act. It is important to note that the controversy involves a claim to the property of a male Hindu dying intestate. The schedule to the Hindu Succession Act refers to heirs in class-I and class-II within the meaning of Section 8 of that Act. A son is included in class-I of the schedule.
The Applicant, as son of the wife of the deceased from her first marriage, cannot claim as a son of the deceased. The expression “son” appearing in the Hindu Succession Act does not include a step-son. The expression “son” not having been defined under the Hindu Succession Act, the definition of “son” under the General Clauses Act may be appropriately referred to. In clause (57) of Section 2 of the General Clauses Act, the expression “son” includes only an adopted son and not a step-son. Even otherwise “son” as understood in common parlance means a natural son born to a person after marriage. It is the direct blood relationship, which is the essence of the term “son” as normally understood”, Court said.
The applicant then relied on a judgment of the Bombay High Court in the case of Rama Ananda Patil v Appa Bhima Redekar, in support of his submission that a stepson is entitled to succeed to the property of the deceased.
The court held that the said judgment was delivered in an entirely different set of facts and had no application to the said case.
Referring to the case of Lachman Singh v Kripa Singh And Ors, Justice Gupte noted: “The Supreme Court in that case held that a step-son or a step-daughter of a female Hindu dying intestate are not covered by the expression “son” or “daughter” in Section 15(1)(a) of the Hindu Succession Act. They could merely be said to be falling under either Section 15(1)(b) or Section 15(2) of the said act. In any event, as noted above, there is no warrant for construing the provisions of Section 15, either sub-section (1) or (2) or any of the clauses therein, for our purposes. In our case, the applicable provision is Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act.”
Thus, the chamber summons were dismissed and the applicant was directed to pay a cost of Rs.50,000 to be divided equally between five sets of defendants within six weeks.