A man cannot claim right over the property inherited by his sister from her husband, as the brother can neither be considered to be her heir, nor her family, the Supreme Court has said. The apex court referred to the provision of the Hindu Succession Act, which lays down the general order of succession to the property of a female intestate, who dies after the commencement of the law.
“Language used in Section 15 clearly specifies that the property inherited from the husband and father-in-law, would devolve upon the heirs of the husband/father-in-law from whom she inherited the property,” a bench of justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi said.
The important view was expressed by the apex court while dismissing an appeal filed by a man, challenging the March 2015 order of the Uttarakhand High Court, holding him to be an unauthorised occupant in a property in Dehradun in which his married sister, who died, was a tenant. The bench noted that the property was taken on rent in 1940 by the father-in-law of the man’s sister and thereafter, the woman’s husband became its tenant. After the death of her husband, she became the tenant of the property.
“The first appellate court and the High Court, rightly held that the appellant (Durga Prasad) is neither an ‘heir’ as visualised under section 3 (a) of the UP Act XIII of 1972 (the UP Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent and Eviction) Act), nor ‘family’ within the meaning of Section 3 (g) of the act and that the appellant is in unauthorised occupation of the premises and is liable to be evicted. Upon death of Lalita (the sister), in terms of section 15(2)(b) of the Hindu Succession Act, in the absence of any son or daughter of the deceased Lalita, the tenancy would devolve upon the heirs of her husband,” the apex court said.
“In the facts of the present case, the appellant being the brother of deceased tenant, cannot be held to be the ‘family’, as the inclusive list given under the act clearly omits ‘brother and sister’ and the same cannot be read therein as the list has to be read and interpreted strictly,” it said.
Rejecting the petitioner’s claim that he was carrying on business in the property along with his sister and had been ordinarily living with her, the bench noted that “The appellant being the brother of the deceased Lalita, had no reason to normally reside with his married sister.” It observed that in her written statement filed in the release application, Lalita had not averred that Prasad was living with her and that he was taking care of her. The apex court, hence, directed the petitioner to hand over the vacant possession of the property to the landlord.
The landlord had earlier filed an eviction petition under the provision of the UP Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent and Eviction) Act, 1972, for release of the property from the tenant Lalita. Thereafter, the landlord approached the lower court, which allowed his appeal in October 2014, holding that during the pendency of the petition, Lalita had died and his brother, who has been substituted, was not a member of her ‘family’. Prasad had approached high court against the lower court’s order.