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Whether a daughter belonging to a Schedule Tribe entitled to a share in the compensation of land on the survivorship basis under the Hindu Succession Act?

Court name – Supreme Court

Judgement Name – Kamla Neti (Dead) through LRs v. The Special Land Acquisition Officer & Ors. , CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6901 OF 2022

Judgement date – December 9,2022

Judges/bench – M.R. Shah, Krishna Murari

 

Introduction –

A member belonging to a scheduled tribe community claiming their rights under Hindu Succession Act is subject to some conditions.  This case deals with the rights of a tribal woman to acquire property under the Hindu Succession Act. Besides, she is claiming her share in her father’s property. A question of law is challenged here, whether the Hindu Succession Act provisions would apply to a Schedule tribe member.

 

Brief facts of the Case –

In the present case, the Appellant/Petitioner is a tribal woman claiming her share in compensation of the land on a survivorship basis under the Hindu Succession Act. She referred to the Reference Court under Section 30 of the Land Acquisition Act and claimed 1/5th share in the amount of compensation. The reference court rejected her claim on the grounds that she is a tribal woman and the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act will not be applicable on her. The High Court of Orissa confirmed the order passed by the Reference Court. Hence, the present appeal against the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court.

 

Contentions of the Appellant/Petitioner –

The appellant’s Contentions were:

  • Being a daughter, she shall be entitled to a share in the compensation amount even applying the Hindu Succession Act provisions.
    The denial of the right to succession to Scheduled Tribe women would deprive the right under Article 21 (right to livelihood ) of the Constitution of India.
  • To deny the equal right to the Scheduled Tribe woman/daughter would be gender- discrimination. Further, a daughter cannot be deprived of joint family property rights, as all coparceners have an equal share.

 

Contentions of the Respondent –

The respondent’s Contentions were:

  • The provisions of the Hindu Succession Act shall not be applicable as the appellant is a member of a Scheduled Tribe. Therefore, neither would she have any right of survivorship in the joint family property nor be entitled to compensation.
  • The appellant is not entitled to receive any share in the suit property under Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act.
  • As per Section 2(2) of the Hindu Succession Act, the Act shall not apply to the Scheduled Tribe.
  • In a conflict between the law and equity, the law would prevail. Additionally, it was argued from the respondent side that the legislature amends the law and not the Court.

 

Principles and observations of the Court –

(a) Principle 1 The Court said it is not fair to deny tribal women the right to equal share in their father’s property when the same is available to non-tribal women. It suggests that the Centre amends the Hindu Succession Act, considering the right to equality given under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
(b) Principle 2 The appellant’s claim of survivorship cannot be accepted as it would be similar to amending the law, and It is for the legislature to amend the law and not the Court.
(c) Principle 3 Furthermore, It observed that the law would prevail whenever there is a conflict between the law and equity. Equity cannot supersede the law.

 

Judgement held –

After hearing both sides, The Supreme Court held that as the appellant is a member of a Schedule tribe, the Hindu Succession Act will not be applicable, as per Section 2(2) of the Hindu Succession Act. It confirmed the orders passed by the Courts below and held the judgement in favor of the respondent. While dismissing the appeal, it also directed the Central government to make necessary amendments to the Hindu Succession Act, taking into consideration the constitutional ethos.

 

Opinion –

I endorse the directions made by the apex court. It is rightly observed in the above case that there should not be any discrimination. Whether the woman is tribal or not, it should not affect her right to acquire property. Everyone should have equal rights as mandated by the Constitution of India. The legislature should make essential amendments as suggested by the Court to ensure proper justice.

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