SC held, Married Hindu Woman Can Enter ‘Family Settlement’ with Parental Side Heirs

Kashish Jain

Badlu, a tenure holder of agricultural land, had two sons Bali Ram and Sher Singh. Sher Singh passed in 1953, childless leaving his wife, Jagno widowed. Post his death, Jagno inherited the share of her late husband which was equivalent to half of the agricultural property owned by Badlu.

In 1991, Jagno’s brother’s sons filed a lawsuit claiming a decree of declaration as the owners in possession of said agricultural property. They claimed that Jagno, who shared half of the entire property, settled the land in their favour. Taking cognizance of the written statement in which Jagno acknowledged this claim, the Trial Court passed consent decree.

Later, the descendents of Jagno’s husband’s brother, Bali Ram filed a suit stating that the decree was illegal which was dismissed. It was subsequently dismissed by the High Court as well.

The heirs of Bali Ram appealed in the Supreme Court, contending that Jagno, a married woman was not competent to enter into ‘family dispute’ with her own brother’s heirs.

Issues of the case:

  1. Whether Decree dated 19.08.1991 passed in Civil Suit NO. 317 of 1991 required registration under Section 17 of the Indian Registration Act, 1908
  2. Whether the defendant Nos. 1 to 3 (Jagno’s brother’s sons) were strangers to defendant No. $ (Jagno) so as to disqualify her from entering into an family arrangement with Defendant No.s 1 to 3.

The Court held that as the consent decree dated 19.08.1991 relate to subject matter, there was no need whatsoever to register it under section 17(2) of the Registration Act and it was covered by the exclusionary clause.

The Bench comprised of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy.

In an attempt to answer the Second issue, the bench referred to the cases of Ram Charan Das v. Girjanandini Devi and Ors and the case of Kale and Ors v. Deputy Director of Consolidation. The former discussed the concept of family with regard to which a family settlement could be entered. The latter expanded the term ‘family’ to be understood in a wider sense.

The court thus noted that every party benefiting from a family settlement must be related to one another in some way and have some semblance of a claim.

While making reference to Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, the court held that heirs of the female spouse cannot be held to be strangers. The Court then refuted to find merit in the submission of the appellants (the descendants of Bali Ram) that the respondents (the descendants of Jagno’s brother) were excluded from or strangers to the family.

Thus, the Court held that a Married Hindu Woman can enter into a Family settlement with her heirs in her Parental Family.

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