Shreya Vidyarthi v. Ashok Vidyarthi AIR 2016 SC 139/ MANU/SC/1465/2015

Insurance Act, 1938
S. 39: Nomination by policy holder – Rights of Nominee – Joint family property(HUF) – Insurance Amount received by nominee/wife – Such amounts constitute the entitlement of all legal heirs of deceased. [Hindu Succession Act, 1956; S.6, Specific Relief Act, 1963]

Facts: In 1937, Sri Hari Shankar Vidyarthi married Smt Savitri Vidyarthi, the mother of the respondent-plaintiff. Subsequently, in the year 1942, Hari Shankar Vidyarthi was married for the second time to Smt. Rama Vidyarthi. Out of the second marriage, two daughters, Smt. Srilekha Vidyarthi and Smt. Madhulekha Vidyarthi, defendants, were born. Shreya Vidyarthi is the adopted daughter of Srilekha Vidyarthi and also the legatee/ beneficiary of a Will left by Madhulekha Vidyarthi.

The second widow had managed the day to day affairs of the family. The second wife was a nominee of an insurance policy and was also receiving monthly maintenance from a trust, out of the funds she purchased a suit property but it was contended by the plaintiff that the suit property is a joint family property having being purchased out of joint family funds.

Issue: Whether the suit property, as described above, was purchased by sale deed dated 27.9.1961 by Rama Vidyarthi from the joint family funds or out of her own personal funds.

Held: The Hon’ble Court held that, while there can be no doubt that a Hindu widow is not a coparcener in the HUF of her husband and therefore, cannot act as karta of the HUF after the death of her husband, the two expressions i.e. karta and manager, may be understood to be not synonymous and the expression “manager” may be understood as denoting a role distinct from that of the karta. Hypothetically, in case of HUF where the male adult coparcener has died and there is no male coparcener surviving or as in the facts of the present case where the sole male heir is a minor, in such a situation obviously, the HUF does not come to an end, the mother of the male coparcener can act as the legal guardian of the minor and also look after his role as the Karta in her capacity as minor’s legal guardian. Such a view has been affirmed by the Calcutta High Court in the case of Sushila Devi Rampuria v. ITO.

The materials on record indicate that the natural mother of Ashok Vidyarthi, had played a submissive role in the affairs of the joint family and the step mother had played an active and dominant role in managing the said affairs. Therefore, the same can be very well understood to be in her capacity as the guardian of the sole surviving minor male co-parcener.

In light of the above the Apex Court has observed that the High Court has rightly held that suit property was joint family property and the appeal was accordingly dismissed.

Editorial: The concept of HUF and property jointly held explained.

“All things in the universe are of divine origin and deserve to be loved; it has, however, to be borne in mind that the love of the whole includes the love of the parts.”