Supreme Court on the Right Conferred on a Daughter of a Coparcener

17. The text of the amendment itself clearly provides that the right conferred on a “daughter of a coparcener” is “on and from the commencement of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005”. Section 6(3) talks of death after the amendment for its applicability. In view of plain language of the statute, there is no scope for a different interpretation than the one suggested by the text of the amendment. An amendment of a substantive provision is always prospective unless either expressly or by necessary intendment it is retrospective. [Shyam Sunder v. Ram Kumar, (2001) 8 SCC 24, paras 22 to 27] In the present case, there is neither any express provision for giving retrospective effect to the amended provision nor necessary intendment to that effect. Requirement of partition being registered can have no application to statutory notional partition on opening of succession as per unamended provision, having regard to nature of such partition which is by operation of law. The intent and effect of the amendment will be considered a little later. On this finding, the view of the High Court cannot be sustained.

18. The contention of the respondents that the amendment should be read as retrospective being a piece of social legislation cannot be accepted. Even a social legislation cannot be given retrospective effect unless so provided for or so intended by the legislature. In the present case, the legislature has expressly made the amendment applicable on and from its commencement and only if death of the coparcener in question is after the amendment. Thus, no other interpretation is possible in view of the express language of the statute. The proviso keeping dispositions or alienations or partitions prior to 20-12-2004 unaffected can also not lead to the inference that the daughter could be a coparcener prior to the commencement of the Act. The proviso only means that the transactions not covered thereby will not affect the extent of coparcenary property which may be available when the main provision is applicable. Similarly, Explanation has to be read harmoniously with the substantive provision of Section 6(5) by being limited to a transaction of partition effected after 20-12-2004. Notional partition, by its very nature, is not covered either under the proviso or under sub-section (5) or under the Explanation.

19. Interpretation of a provision depends on the text and the context. [RBI v. Peerless General Finance & Investment Co. Ltd., (1987) 1 SCC 424, p. 450, para 33] Normal rule is to read the words of a statute in ordinary sense. In case of ambiguity, rational meaning has to be given. [Kehar Singh v. State (Delhi Admn.), (1988) 3 SCC 609 : 1988 SCC (Cri) 711] In case of apparent conflict, harmonious meaning to advance the object and intention of legislature has to be given. [District Mining Officerv. TISCO, (2001) 7 SCC 358]

20. There have been number of occasions when a proviso or an explanation came up for interpretation. Depending on the text, context and the purpose, different rules of interpretation have been applied. [S. Sundaram Pillai v. V.R. Pattabiraman, (1985) 1 SCC 591]

21. Normal rule is that a proviso excepts something out of the enactment which would otherwise be within the purview of the enactment but if the text, context or purpose so require a different rule may apply. Similarly, an explanation is to explain the meaning of words of the section but if the language or purpose so require, the explanation can be so interpreted. Rules of interpretation of statutes are useful servants but difficult masters. [Keshavji Ravji & Co. v. CIT, (1990) 2 SCC 231 : 1990 SCC (Tax) 268] Object of interpretation is to discover the intention of legislature.

22. In this background, we find that the proviso to Section 6(1) and sub-section (5) of Section 6 clearly intend to exclude the transactions referred to therein which may have taken place prior to 20-12-2004 on which date the Bill was introduced. Explanation cannot permit reopening of partitions which were valid when effected. Object of giving finality to transactions prior to 20-12-2004 is not to make the main provision retrospective in any manner. The object is that by fake transactions available property at the introduction of the Bill is not taken away and remains available as and when right conferred by the statute becomes available and is to be enforced. Main provision of the amendment in Sections 6(1) and (3) is not in any manner intended to be affected but strengthened in this way. Settled principles governing such transactions relied upon by the appellants are not intended to be done away with for period prior to 20-12-2004. In no case statutory notional partition even after 20-12-2004 could be covered by the Explanation or the proviso in question.

23. Accordingly, we hold that the rights under the amendment are applicable to living daughters of living coparceners as on 9-9-2005 irrespective of when such daughters are born. Disposition or alienation including partitions which may have taken place before 20-12-2004 as per law applicable prior to the said date will remain unaffected. Any transaction of partition effected thereafter will be governed by the Explanation.

Supreme Court
Prakash & Ors. v. Phulavati & Ors. (2016) 2 SCC 36