Ancestral property is a species of coparcenary property. Ancestral property is that property which is acquired by unobstructed heritage. (See above.) If property is acquired by obstructed heritage, it is not ancestral property. The various types of ancestral property differ from one another as regards the source from which such property is obtained, and may be classified under the following six heads:
A. Property inherited from a paternal ancestor
B. Property inherited from a maternal grand-father
C. Property inherited from collaterals or from females
D. Share allotted on partition
E. Property obtained by gift or will from a paternal ancestor
Each of these is discussed below.
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A. Property inherited from a paternal ancestor:
Property inherited by a male Hindu from his father, father’s father, or father’s father’s father, is ancestral property. The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the person inheriting such property acquire an interest in it by birth.
Thus, the term ancestral property is confined to property descending to the father from his male ancestor in the male line, and it is only in that property that the sons (and now, the daughters) acquire an interest jointly with, and equal to that of, their father. (Venkateswarlu v. Chinna Raghavalu, 1955 Andhra W.R. 39). Property inherited from other relatives would, therefore, not be ancestral property.
Thus, if X inherits property from his father’s father, it is ancestral property as regards his issues. If X has no son or daughter when he inherits such property, he holds the property as the absolute owner thereof, and he can deal with the property in any manner he may choose to. If, however, such a person comes into existence subsequently, he becomes (or she) entitled to an interest in such property by the mere fact of his (or her) birth, and X cannot claim to hold the property as an absolute owner; nor can he deal with it as he likes.
B. Property inherited from a maternal grand-father:
The principle of Hindu Law governing property inherited from a maternal grand-father is reflected in the following two decisions of the Privy Council.
In Venkayyamma vs. Venkataramanyamma (1905 25 Mad. 678), two brothers, who were living as a joint family, inherited some property from their material grand-father. When one of them died, leaving a widow, the question arose as to whether his share in the property passed to his widow by succession or to his brother by survivorship. The Privy Council held that the property which the brothers had inherited was joint property in their hands, and that the undivided interest of the deceased passed, on his death, to his brother by survivorship, and not to the widow.
However, in a later decision (Mohammad Hussain Khan vs. Babu Kishya Nandan Sahai, 1937 64 I.A. 250), the Privy Council reversed its earlier ruling, and held that such property is not ancestral property. The effect of this decision is that property inherited by a daughter’s son from his maternal grand-father is not ancestral property in his hands, but is his separate property.
C. Property inherited from collaterals or from females:
As seen above, the only property that can be called ancestral property is that which has been inherited by a person from his father, father’s father, or father’s father’s father. Therefore, property inherited by a person from his collaterals, such as brother, uncle, etc., or property inherited by him from a female, e.g., his mother, will be his separate property.
D. Share allotted on a partition:
The share obtained by a coparcener on a partition of ancestral property is ancestral property as regards his issues. They take an interest in it by birth, whether they are in existence at the time of the partition or are born subsequently, 4s regards other relatives, however, such a share is separate property. So, if the coparcener dies without leaving any issue, it will pass to his heirs by succession.
E. Property obtained by gift or will from a paternal ancestor:
Where a Hindu makes a gift of his self-acquired or separate property to his son, or bequeaths it to him under a will, the question that arises is whether such property is the separate property of the son, or whether it is ancestral in his hands as regards his (his son’s) male issues.
This question had been differently answered by the different High Courts, with the result that there was a considerable diversity of judicial opinion on this subject. However, the Supreme Court has now expressed its view on this point in Arunachala Mudalier v. Muruganatha (1954 S.C.R. 243).
The Court observed, in that case, that it is not possible to hold that such property must necessarily and under all circumstances, rank as ancestral property in the hands of the donee (or legatee). Rather, it must be seen whether the donor intended that the donee should take it exclusively for himself or that the gift would be for the branch of the family.
This decision of the Supreme Court thus makes it clear that there is no presumption either way; it is a question of fact in each case, to be decided after considering all the circumstances of the case.
Accumulations and accretions of income of ancestral property are ancestral property. (Ramanna v. Venkata, 1888 11 Mad. 246) So also, property purchased or acquired out of the income or with the assistance of ancestral property, would be ancestral property. (Lal Bahadur v. Kanhia Lal, 1907 29 All. 244). The same can be said as regards property purchased out of the sale proceeds of ancestral property or obtained in lieu of such property.
It may also be noted that children, grandchildren and great grandchildren acquire a vested interest, not only in the income and accretions of ancestral property which accrued after their birth, but also in that which accrued before their birth.