The Supreme Court on May 17, 2010, in the case of Bharatha Matha & Anr. v. R. Vijaya Renganathan & Ors., has held that child born out of live-in-relationship is not entitled to claim inheritance in Hindu ancestral joint family property but can only claim a share in parents self-acquired property.
The ruling was passed by a Division Bench comprising of Justices B. S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar while quashing a Madras High Court judgment, which took the view that children born out of live-in relationships were entitled to a share in ancestral property.
In this case, a dispute arose whether the two children of Rangammal, born on account of a live-in relationship with a bachelor Muthu Reddiar, were entitled to a share in the latter's ancestral property after his death.
The respondents (claimants) had not pleaded at any stage that the suit land was a self-acquired property of Muthu Reddiar, the Bench said.
"It is evident from the record that Muthu Reddiar did not partition his joint family properties and died issueless/intestate in 1974. Therefore, the question of inheritance of coparcenary property by the illegitimate children, who were born out of the live-in relationship, could not arise," it said.
The appellants had contended that Rangammal was already married to one Alagarswami Reddiar and hence the purported live-in-relationship was void and neither she nor her children could stake claim for a share in the property.
A Trial Court and the first appellate court both ruled in favour of the appellants on the ground that Rangammal was already married to Alagarswami and hence her illegitimate children were not entitled to any share in ancestral property.
However, the Madras High Court took the view that a live-in relationship between two parties would lead to the presumption of marriage and ruled in favour of Rangammal.
Referring to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the apex court said Section 16 recognised the right of a child to inherit properties of their illegitimate parents, provided it was self-acquired.
In view of the legal fiction contained in Section 16, the illegitimate children for all practical purposes, including succession to the properties of their parents, have to be treated as legitimate. But they cannot succeed to the properties of any other relation on the basis of this rule, which in its operation, is limited to the properties of the parents, the court held.