Arunachala Gounder vs. Ponnuswamy

Decided by Supreme Court of India/ Civil Appeal No. 6659 of  2011 

Supreme Court, 20th January 2022.


This judgement arises from an appeal that was made in the Supreme Court against the  judgement of the High Court of Madras and trial court. A Hindu man (HM) passed away  intestate in the year 1949 and was survived by his only daughter who passed away intestate in  the year 1967 as well. HM had a brother (HB) who had five children (four daughters and one  son), one of his daughters (Plaintiff) filed the suit in question and contended that all her siblings  were equally entitled to a 1/5th share in the self-acquired property that HM left intestate after  his death in 1949. Both the courts (Trial Court & Madras High Court) believed that HM died  intestate before the act came into being and therefore his sole daughter did not have any right  legally to his property. According to both the courts HB’s son was the only legal heir to HM’s  property. The Apex Court set aside both these judgements and held that the right of a widow or  a daughter in a self-acquired property of Hindu man dying intestate is very well recognized  under the Hindu Law and such property cannot devolve by survivorship, and only be inherited.  Further the court also held that if such daughter dies intestate and issueless as well, then the  devolution of property should take place under Section 15 and Section 16 of the Hindu  Succession Act. Hence the Plaintiff won the case and the property was equally divided amongst  all the children of HB and not only his son. 


Establishing equality with regards to inheritance and property rights is the primary motive of  Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act. 

It is also necessary to look at the Hindu Succession Law before the act came into force. It should be noted that according to the Mitakshara System, women are heirs in the property if the devolution takes place as succession because under this system the right to inherit is derived from proximity of relationship. Also, only two modes of devolution of property are recognized under this system, namely – succession and survivorship. Succession only applies to a property which is held in absolute severalty (The condition of being owned by separate and individual right) by the last owner and survivorship dealt with joint family property. Hence it is important to understand that a daughter’s absolute right to her father’s self-acquired property existed much before the act came into play.
The SC analyzed the order of succession if a Hindu woman dies intestate without having any direct heirs. According to Section 15(2) if such a situation arises, and the daughter has inherited the property from her father or mother, the property would go to the father’s heirs and if the daughter inherited the property from father-in-law or husband it would go to the husband’s heirs.
Taking into consideration the above analysis, the Apex Court held that the daughter had absolute right over her father’s property and after her death the property would go back to its source because the daughter died after Section 15(2) of the Hindu Succession Act was enacted.


The judgement primarily focuses on the issue of whether a sole daughter can acquire her father’s self-acquired property if he dies intestate. The judgement also talks about the order of succession after the passing away of the daughter.

A daughter can inherit her father’s self-acquired property, ignoring the fact that the devolution  took place before the Hindu Succession Act.