The Apex Court held that there is no bar under the Indian Succession Act upon devolution of property of an Indian Christian upon a foreign national by succession.
The said dicta was pronounced by the Supreme Court in the matter of B.C. Singh Vs. J.M. Utarid, Civil Appeal No. 6935 of 2011 decided on 08.05.2018.
The bone of contention in the present case was whether the Defendants who claimed to be distant kindred of the co-owner of the suit property (the Plaintiff’s wife) could be considered the legal heirs of such co-owner in the presence of a sibling who was a Pakistani national.
In a suit for possession of the suit property and damages, the Plaintiff had claimed that the Defendant and his two sons were mere licensees in respect of the suit property and that their licence had been terminated by a notice. On the other hand the Defendants contended that they were now co-owners of the suit property along with the Plaintiff as they were the relatives of the co-owner of the suit property i.e. Plaintiff’s wife. Since the Plaintiff’s wife had died issueless and her surviving sister – Ida Utarid being a Pakistani National was not entitled to succeed to the property of the deceased, the Defendants had succeeded to a portion of the co-owner’s share.
The said suit came to be dismissed by the trial court. The Plaintiff challenged the decree in first appeal which was allowed. The decree was carried in second appeal which reversed the decision of the first appellate court.
It was observed by the Apex Court that the Plaintiff’s wife was admittedly an Indian Christian. Therefore, the Indian Succession Act, 1925 would be applicable to the succession of the property left by her. The Apex Court went on to hold that this Act does not bar the succession of property of any Indian Christian by a person who is not an Indian national. There is no prohibition for succession of the property in India by a foreign national by inheritance.
The Apex Court held that the Plaintiff being a co-owner already had half share in the property. He is further entitled to succeed to half of the share in his wife’s property as provided under Section 33(b) read with Section 35 of the Indian Succession Act, being the husband. Thus, he holds 3/4th share in the entire property. The Court further held that the in the absence of a lineal descendant, father or mother, by virtue of section 47 of the Indian Succession Act, the property shall be divided equally between his brothers and sisters and the child or children of such of them as may have died before him, such children taking equal shares only the shares which their respective parents would have taken if leaving at the intestate death. Therefore, in the present case the 1/4th share shall devolve upon the sibling of the deceased wife of the Plaintiff – Ida Utarid irrespective of her status as a Pakistani National.