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Supreme Court's Landmark Verdict in Vineeta Sharma v/s Rakesh Sharma and the Evolution of Daughter's Inheritance Rights in Hindu Succession Law

Vineeta Sharma V. Rakesh Sharma Civil Appeal No. 32601 of 2018
Bench: Justices Arun Mishra, M.R. Shah and Abdul Nazeer.

In a significant and groundbreaking verdict, the Supreme Court delivered a momentous judgment on August 11th, 2020, in the case of Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma, effectively dismantling male chauvinism prevalent in the division of Hindu ancestral property. This landmark ruling resolved the legal complexities surrounding the inheritance rights of daughters, asserting their entitlement to an equal share of properties inherited from fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers under the Hindu Succession Act of 1956.

The judgment, spanning an extensive 122 pages, holds immense importance and is widely regarded as a progressive milestone. It substantially expands the circumstances under which a daughter can successfully claim partition against her male relatives, ensuring her rightful share.

This verdict establishes a solid legal precedent and was a necessary step to address the prevailing disparity of opinions regarding a daughter's rights as a coparcener, particularly in determining the circumstances under which these rights can be rightfully asserted.

However, it is crucial to note that the court clarified that the Amendment Act of 2005 would not have retrospective effects, meaning that daughters who were alive at the time of the amendment, even if born before it, would not be granted inheritance rights under the amended provisions. This clarification was made to define the scope and application of the law in a manner consistent with legal principles and precedents.


  • The case revolves around a property dispute filed before the Delhi High Court.
  • The plaintiff, referred to as the appellant, is the daughter of the deceased property owner.
  • The appellant's father had a property with a house on it, where he lived with his family and also rented out a portion of it.
  • The appellant claimed a 1/4th share in the property as one of the legal heirs since her father passed away without leaving a will.
  • She also argued that the property had never been treated as a Hindu undivided family property.
  • Additionally, the appellant sought a sum of 40 lakhs.
  • Justice Mehta ruled in favor of the appellant, acknowledging her entitlement to the property.
  • The case involves the interpretation of Section 6 of the Amendment Act of 2005, which deals with the retrospective application of the law.
  • This case is among several others aiming to determine the retrospective application of Section 6.


  • Whether the right under the 2005 amendment act shall be applicable to daughters who were born before the date of the enforcement of the act or not?
  • Whether the right in coparcenary property, as per amendment in 2005, is available to the adopted daughters or not?
  • Whether section 6 of the amendment acts of 2005 is applied retrospectively or not?


  • Section 6 of Hindu Succession (amendment) act, 2005:
  • Section 6 of the 2005 amended Hindu succession act deals with the devolution of interests of the coparcener in the coparcenary property.

Learned Solicitor General of India, Mr. Tushar Mehta, who appeared as counsel on behalf of the Union of India, argued as follows:

Basing his argument on equality under the constitution, he argued that the denial of rights to the daughters is discriminatory in nature.

He argued that the amendment act of 2005 to section 6 should not be seen as retrospective; rather, it is retroactive in its operation as the amended section allows the daughters of the coparceners to become property owners with rights.

He also argued that any such right over the coparcenary property would not affect the previous partition that took place before 20-12-2004, that is when the bill was before the Rajya Sabha.

He also contended that the Mitakshara law of coparcenary has led to discrimination of these daughters on the ground of gender. It was thus, oppressive and had also taken away the equality guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

Learned counsel, Mr. Venkataramani, Amicus Curiae argued as follows:
It was argued that coparcenary right was conferred on the daughters only through the amendment act of 2005 to section 6 and not prior to the amendment.

In that way, he contended the rulings in the Phulavati case and Danamma case has to be held valid, and according to these rulings, section 6 of the act is prospective alone, and the rights and liabilities to the daughters is prospective and not retrospective in nature.

The Supreme Court's Bench in this case referred to various principles of Hindu law, including codified and customary laws such as Coparcenary and Joint Hindu Family. They discussed unobstructed and obstructed heritage and analyzed a catena of judgments. The Court observed that joint Hindu family property is considered unobstructed heritage, where the right to partition is absolute and is given to a person by virtue of their birth. On the other hand, a separate property is obstructed heritage, where the right to ownership and partition is obstructed by the death of the owner.

The Supreme Court held that the right to partition in the case of a daughter is by birth, which falls under unobstructed heritage. It is immaterial whether the father coparcener was alive or dead on the date when the amendment was enacted. The Court overruled the judgment of Phulavati v. Prakash and clarified that coparcenary rights pass from the father to his living daughter, rather than from a living coparcener to a living daughter.

By overruling the Phulavati and Danamma judgments, the Court ruled that the provisions of Section 6 of the Act are neither prospective nor retrospective, but rather retroactive in nature. The Court explained the principles of prospective, retrospective, and retroactive laws, stating that the application of a retroactive law depends on features or occurrences drawn from a past event.

The Court stated that Section 6(1)(a) of the Act incorporates the definition of Mitakshara coparcenary's unobstructed heritage, and since the right is conferred by birth, it is considered an antecedent case. The provision applies from the date of enactment of the Amendment Act, making it retroactive. The Court emphasized that Section 4 of Section 6 clarifies that the provisions of Section 6 are not retrospective. This approach by the Court addressed the gap in the law.

The court analyzed various perspectives to come to a conclusion in this case. It took note of the nature of coparcener's rights in the Joint Hindu family and how a person becomes a coparcener after the death of one of the elders or other coparceners in the lineal descendants in a family. They referred that these rights shall exist only till the time of partition and until the family gets divided and coparceners are given their part at the time of the division of family property. In that way, the court observed a few points before coming to its results.

It stated that there is a legal fiction that is created through the amendment act of 2005, which ultimately treated the daughters to be coparceners at the time of birth itself and from the date of commencement of this act, they become coparceners irrespective of whether father if such daughter is alive or not. This is because of the fact that, as the rights are conferred by the act from the date of her birth itself, the fact of her father's presence or absence is not at all required. Through this observation, it rejected the view that daughters shall become coparceners only on the death of their father.

With respect to the position of the adopted daughters of the coparcener, the court observed that there is no contention or dispute with the prevailed custom that a male child should only be adopted and not the female child. The terms of the legislature directly denote the coparcenary rights shall be vested as soon as the daughter is born after the amendment act. Since it requires the concept of right by birth, the adoption should be distinguished from the others. Hence, there should be an unobstructed heritage.

The brief of the court's decision or the verdict has been provided in paragraph 129 of the judgment. The core of that paragraph states as follows.

In a major question of retrospective effect of the substituted section 6 of the 2005 act, they answered that the rights and liabilities of the daughter should be the same as that of a son who was born before or after the amendment of 2005.

The daughter shall have the rights over the same unless there is a partition or alienation that took place prior to this effect.

It noted that there is no precondition of the father's existence required to become the coparcener.

All the decrees pending on the question of whether the legal fiction created under the 1956 act shall be effectuated or not should be decided on more reliance on the amended section keeping the earlier section only for the determination of shares of class 1 heirs.

Thus, in order to uphold the very essence and the nature of the principle of equality under the constitution of India, the court decided that the amended act shall have retrospective effect and shall apply accordingly.

Written By: Arpita Tiwari, Fourth Year BLS LLB, KES College of Law, Mumbai University.

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