HomeLegal ColumnsHindu Undivided Family and Partition

Hindu Undivided Family and Partition

The law of property rights with regards to Hindus in India is dealt with in the Hindu Succession Act (The act). It deals with both, testamentary (with a will) and non-testamentary (without a will) succession. In case a will is made, the directions in the document are followed. The act then only talks about the procedure of the system. Non-testamentary succession however is a lot more complicated. It consists of an amalgamation of various religious and cultural roots along with modern influences. This essay will look to delve into that aspect of the act with special focus on Hindu Undivided Family and coparcenary rights post the 2005 amendments to the act.

What is a Hindu Undivided Family?

A Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) is a familial unit defined by a common ancestor and all his lineal male descendants along with their wives and unmarried daughters. A HUF includes all family members, specifically all male descendants from a common ancestor along with their mothers, wives, widows, and unmarried daughters, as noted in Surjit Lal Chhabda v. CIT[1]. A daughter remains part of her parents’ joint family until she marries, at which point she joins her husband’s Joint Hindu family. The case of Gur Narain Das v. Gur Tahal Das [2]clarified that even an illegitimate son of a male descendant is considered part of his Joint Hindu family. The leadership of the HUF rests with the ‘Karta, the eldest male member’ who ensures the welfare of junior and vulnerable members.

In Narendera Nath v. Commissioner of Wealth Tax[3], the Supreme Court clarified that the term ‘Hindu undivided family’ in the Wealth Tax Act corresponds to the Hindu joint family as understood in Hindu personal law, which can include a male member and his wife and daughters, without necessarily needing two male members. This indicates that an HUF can exist without ancestral property. Similarly, in Gowli Buddanna v. Commissioner of Income-Tax, Mysore[4], it was affirmed that an HUF could consist of a surviving male coparcener, his widowed mother, and sisters, thus underscoring the inclusive nature of HUFs under Indian law.

Hindu Undivided Family Property

HUF property includes assets collectively owned by a Hindu joint family, acquired through various means such as partition, gifts, wills, accretion, blending, and joint labor. The line between personal and HUF property is crucial. The self-acquired property of a Hindu male passes to his legal heirs as personal property, whereas the share of a deceased coparcener in HUF property, under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, goes to specific female or male relatives as separate property.

In V.D. Dhanwatey v. CIT[5], it was established that any property acquired by the Karta or a coparcener with the assistance of joint family property retains its status as HUF property. For property to be deemed self-acquired, it must be obtained without any help from joint family property. The Supreme Court emphasized that self-acquired property should be created without harming ancestral property. Therefore, it’s essential to demonstrate that no aid from ancestral or joint family property was used to claim a property’s status as separate.

Coparcenary System and Its Intricacies

Coparcenary, an essential term in Hindu Succession law, specifically deals with property matters within a Joint Hindu Family. Unlike the broader Joint Hindu Family, a coparcenary includes only male lineal descendants up to three generations from the last holder of the property. This group consists of the senior-most member, known as the ‘last holder,’ his son, grandson, and great-grandson, as noted in Sudarshan v. Narasimhulu.[6]

Every coparcener is related by blood or valid adoption. No one can become a coparcener through marriage or agreement, as coparcenary is a legal construct. Historically, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, excluded females from being coparceners. However, the 2005 amendment changed this, allowing females to receive the same share in the coparcenary property as males under Section 29A.

A coparcenary starts with the senior-most male member and needs at least two male members to exist or continue. Membership in a coparcenary is a birthright for male descendants within three generations from the last holder, making it a ‘right by birth’ in family property.

Coparcenary ends through partition, the death of all male members, or when only one male member survives. Property must exist within a coparcenary; it is inherited as joint family property by descendants. Before 2005, only males had the right to be coparceners, though an insane son could be a coparcener without the right to demand partition.

The rule of survivorship governs coparcenary property, meaning a coparcener’s interest in joint family property passes to surviving coparceners rather than through succession laws. This continuous addition and removal of coparceners by birth and death, respectively, causes fluctuations in each coparcener’s interest in the property.

Partition of Property in a Coparcenary

Partition in a coparcenary refers to the division of undivided ancestral assets owned by a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF). Upon partition, all coparceners—husband, sons, married/unmarried daughters—and members, such as the wife, receive equal shares of the assets, as established in CGT vs. N.S Getti Chettiar [7]. While no formal deed is required for partition, banks and tax authorities may demand one for confirmation.

When a coparcener dies, a deemed partition occurs, and their share goes to their legal heirs. Only coparceners can bequeath their shares through a will. While a wife is a member, she cannot make a will from her share but is entitled to it upon partition.

HUF property can come from various sources such as gifts, wills, accretions, and blending with joint family assets. However, self-acquired properties of ancestors aren’t considered HUF assets, hence after partition, an individual’s share from a larger HUF becomes part of his own HUF, not personal property.

Under the Income Tax Act, only complete partitions are recognized. After such a partition, coparceners or members wishing to reunite can form a new HUF without including all original members. If only one member remains or if a partition occurs, the HUF ceases to exist, and its assets merge into the remaining member’s individual or HUF assets. Typically, the eldest coparcener becomes the Karta, though another adult member can take on this role by mutual agreement. Upon the Karta’s death, the mother can act as the manager if the coparceners are minors.

An Analysis of the 2005 Amendment

The 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act (HSA) revolutionized women’s property rights, granting daughters coparcenary status in joint Hindu family property, thereby providing them with the same rights and liabilities as sons. This crucial change addressed the longstanding gender disparity in inheritance laws.


Previously, women’s property rights in Hindu law were limited and fragmented. Women could only possess stridhan, categorized into saudayika, which included gifts from relatives and gave women full ownership, and non-saudayika, comprising gifts from strangers and self-acquired property over which women had limited control. The Privy Council clarified these limited rights, defining them as “women’s estate,” meaning women held such property as limited owners. The Hindu Women’s Rights to Property Act, 1937, was the first legislative recognition of women’s property rights, primarily benefiting widows. It allowed them to claim partition as male owners, though with the condition of needing male members’ consent for property disposal. While a milestone, this Act was limited and maintained women’s subordinate status in property rights.

The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 aimed to improve women’s property rights, allowing them to inherit a portion of their father’s estate. However, it did not recognize daughters as coparceners in the joint family property, continuing the gender disparity since only sons were considered coparceners by birth.


The 2005 amendment aimed to rectify these inadequacies. By amending Section 6, it granted daughters coparcenary rights from birth, allowing them to inherit ancestral property and seek partition like sons. It also allowed daughters to become the Karta (manager) of the joint family property if they were the senior-most members, recognizing their leadership role.

The 2005 amendment also omitted Section 23, which discriminated against female heirs by restricting their right to seek partition in the dwelling house until the male heirs chose to do so. This section had severely limited women’s rights to reside in their family home. Additionally, Section 24, which divested certain widows of their rights upon remarriage, was also removed, ensuring equal treatment of all widows. Section 30 was amended to make it gender-neutral by changing the wording from “disposed by him” to “disposed by him or by her.” The amendment also made additions to the schedule under Class I heirs to provide equal treatment to the lineal descendants of daughters as those of sons.

In summary, the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act was a pivotal reform that substantially enhanced women’s property rights, ensuring daughters are recognized as coparceners with equal rights to ancestral property. This amendment, supported by various judicial pronouncements, marked a significant step towards gender equality in Hindu inheritance law.


Judicial pronouncements further clarified the retrospective applicability of this amendment. In Vaishali Satish Ganorkar v. Satish Keshaorao Ganorkar[8] the Bombay High Court initially held that the amendment applied only to daughters born after 2005. However, this was later challenged by a larger bench, and in Badrinarayan Shankar Bhandari v. Om Prakash Shankar Bhandari[9], it was held that the amendment is retroactive, applying to all daughters born before and after the enactment, provided they were alive at the time of the amendment.

The Supreme Court in Danamma @ Suman Surpur v. Amar Singh [10]upheld this view, ruling that daughters have coparcenary rights irrespective of whether their father was alive at the time of the amendment. The Court emphasized that the amendment ensures gender equality, aligning with the constitutional guarantee of equality under Article 14.

In Ganduri Koteshwaramma & Anr. v. Chakiri Yanadi & Anr, [11]the Supreme Court ruled that daughters’ rights conferred by the amendment must be recognized even in pending partition suits. Preliminary decrees in partition suits do not prejudice daughters’ rights, and courts are required to make necessary amendments in the final decree to restore these rights.

Analysis of Vineeta Sharma’s Case

The analysis of Vineeta Sharma’s case[12] highlights the Supreme Court’s definitive stance on gender equality in ancestral property rights under Hindu law. The Court, in its landmark judgment, affirmed that the amendment made on September 9, 2005, was to be considered as being a part of the act since 1956. This interpretation aligns with the principle of justice enshrined in the Constitution of India, ensuring daughters are not discriminated against in inheritance matters.

The judgment clarified that daughters’ rights to coparcenary property date back to their birth, extending to the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act in 1956. This retroactive application of the law was crucial in confirming daughters’ entitlement even in cases where their father had passed away before the amendment. Furthermore, the Court emphasized that coparcenary status is inherent to daughters and is not dependent on the father’s survival post-amendment. This stance reinforces equality by ensuring daughters’ entitlement to ancestral property on par with sons, regardless of their marital status or when their father passed away.

In conclusion, the Vineeta Sharma case represents a significant judicial endorsement of gender-neutral inheritance rights within Hindu joint families. By affirming daughters’ coparcenary rights retrospectively, the Supreme Court has rectified historical gender disparities, aligning legal provisions with constitutional principles of equality and justice.

[1] 1976 AIR 109

[2] 1952 AIR 225

[3] 1970 AIR 14

[4] AIR 1966 SC 1523,

[5] 1968 AIR 682

[6] (1902) ILR 25 MAD 149

[7] (1971) 82 ITR 599 (SC)

[8] AIR 2012 BOMBAY 101

[9] AIR 2014 Bom 151

[10] AIR 2018 SC 721

[11] AIR 2012 SC 169

[12] ( 2020) 9 SCC 1(SC)

Law Wire Team
Law Wire Teamhttps://lawwire.in/
Law Wire Team attempts to delve into pertinent (and sometimes not immediately pertinent) questions regarding socio-politics, Law and their interesting matrix.


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