Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wife's brother not legal heir toher husband: SC

The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman's brother could neither be part of his sister's matrimonial family nor claim right over property inherited by his sister from her husband.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi ordered Durga Prasad, who had claimed to be part of the family of his widowed sister to inherit tenancy rights over a prime property in Dehradun, to vacate the premises within four weeks or face contempt of court.

The property was rented out to one Hem Ram Sharma in 1940. After Sharma's death, his son Baldev inherited the tenancy rights. On Baldev's death, his wife Lalita became the tenant. Lalita died in 2013. The deceased had no children and died intestate (without a will). Her brother Durga Prasad claimed tenancy rights on the ground that he was part of the family and also a legal heir as he had been living with his sister in the rented premises and running a medical business with her.

Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Banumathi looked into the UP Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent and Eviction) Act, 1972 to understand whether the deceased woman's brother could qualify either as a member of her family or her legal heir. "Durga Prasad is neither an 'heir' nor falls under the definition family as per Section 3 of the UP law," the bench said.

Finding that the deceased was a Hindu woman, the court decided to examine it according to provisions of Hindu Succession Act. "Language used in Section 15 of Hindu Succession Act clearly specifies that the property inherited from the husband and father-in-law would devolve upon the heirs of husband/father-in-law from whom she inherited the property," the bench said.

"Since Durga Prasad does not fall under the category of 'heir' of Lalita's husband, the tenancy of the suit premises will not devolve on him (Durga Prasad) nor can he be called an heir," Justices Misra and Banumathi said.

Examining the other aspect -whether Durga Prasad formed part of the family, the bench said, "He being brother of the deceased tenant, he cannot be held to be '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."

Rejecting Prasad's argument that he had been living with his sister for a long period to lay claim to the rented property, the SC said, "He being the brother of deceased Lalita had no reason to normally reside with his married sister. Be it noted, in her written statement filed in the release application, Lalita had not averred that her brother Durga Prasad was living with her and that he was taking care of her."

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