The Chhattisgarh High Court, Bilaspur in an appeal filed under Section 96 of the Civil Procedure Code challenging the judgment and decree passed by First Additional District Judge, Raigarh held that a widow belonging to a Gond Tribal community is entitled to inherit succession of her husband's property as per the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.

Justice Narendra Kumar Vyas was dealing with a suit filed by the son of the widow for a permanent injunction against the widow's other son to whom the widow had transferred her share of her husband's property. The High Court observed –

"Even on record the plaintiff has not brought any evidence to establish custom which denies the widow and daughter to inherit the succession in the property. As such, it is held that widow is entitled to inherit succession as per Hindu Succession Act though they are tribals which itself does not oust them from the purview of application of Hindu Succession Act."

The Court while relying upon the case of Labishwar Manjhi v. Pran Manjhi and Others (2000) 8 SCC 587 also stated that the judgment passed by the Trial Court is against the judgment of the Supreme Court.

Advocate Himanshu Pandey appeared on behalf of the appellant.

Advocate R.V. Rajwade appeared for the respondents.

Facts of the Case –

The respondent had filed a civil suit for the declaration that the sale deed dated September 30, 2003, was not binding upon them. It was contended that the plaintiff i.e., the respondent, and defendants i.e., appellants are Gond tribals and as per their custom, defendants cannot inherit succession and in the Gond community widow and daughter are only entitled to get maintenance as they have no right over the property being not governed by Hindu Law. It was further contended that a total of 112 khasra numbers situated in Khadgaon, P.H. No. 1 of Tahsil Kharsiya District – Raigarh were registered in the name of Kushal Singh and Bhuteshwar Singh. After the death of both these persons, the names of legal representatives were recorded in the revenue record but fraudulently the widow of Kushal Singh got registered her name in the revenue record. Plaintiff never objected to recording the name of the defendant in the revenue record due to the love and affection between mother and son. The defendant was never in possession of the suit property and had not done any agricultural work over there.

After getting provoked by the defendant, his mother filed an application for partition before the Tahsildar in the month of June 2003. The plaintiff at that time filed an appeal before the Sub Divisional Officer and obtained the Stay Order. The Trial Court considered the evidence and materials on record. Thereafter, the Trial Court decreed the suit for declaration and permanent injunction in favour of the plaintiff granting holding that defendant no. 2 is not in possession of the suit property and therefore the sale deed executed in favour of defendant no. 1 is not binding upon the plaintiff.

Defendant no. 1 i.e., the appellant being aggrieved by the judgment and decree of the Trial Court preferred an appeal in the High Court contending that the Court has committed gross error in holding that the parties are not governed by the Hindu Law in matters of succession.

The High Court after hearing the contentions made by both parties noted –

"From the evidence it is quite vivid that the parties though admittedly belong to the tribals but they are still continuing with the customary tradition of Hindu customs such as worship of God, Fere at time of marriage, Pinddan at the time of death of family member which clearly establishes that they belong to Hindus. The plaintiff's witness No. 1 has admitted in cross-examination that they perform Pinddan on death of anybody and admitted that PW/2 performs Shrad ceremony, this evidence clearly proves that they are performing customs of Hindus not Gond. In view of such position it cannot be said that Section 2(2) of the Hindu Succession Act excludes the present parties from application of Hindu Law."

The Court further noted that "Sub-section 2 only excludes members of the Scheduled Tribe. As per the finding recorded in the present case though they originally belong to Gond community they are Hindus and they follow Hindu tradition. Therefore, this Court is not hesitant to hold that Sub-section 2 of the Hindu Succession Act will not apply to exclude the parties from application of Hindu Succession Act. The trial Court fell in to error in recording the finding that they are not governed by Hindu Law."

The Court therefore concluded and held –

"Defendant No. 2 being full owner of the suit property as prescribed in Schedule B of the plaint has very much right to succeed the property and consequently to dispose off according to her convenience, therefore, sale deed executed in favour of defendant No. 1 was legal and justified."

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court.

Cause Title – Beer Singh v. Pratap Singh

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