A woman and her children have the right to seek prohibition against alienation or disposal of properties belonging to a Hindu undivided family (HUF) even when their estranged husband/father and in-laws/grandparents are alive, the Delhi high court has ruled.
"The children by birth acquire an independent right of ownership in coparcenary [joint inheritance] property and as a consequence of such an ownership, the possession and enjoyment of the property is common," the court said, setting at rest a prolonged controversy over the rights of a Hindu wife and her children over an ancestral HUF estate.
If the respondents (in-laws/grandparents and father/husband) do not lead the evidence rebutting the claim made by joint inheritors, a court cannot penalise the plaintiffs by dismissing their lawsuit.
Assuming that there is no coparcenary property as claimed by the respondent in-laws, the estranged woman and her children would be entitled to seeking an injunction against the respondents preventing sale of assets in which the husband/father has shareholding or ownership.
The court made the observations while hearing a case involving well-known Delhi businessman Kuldip Raj Narang. Radhika, the estranged wife of his only son Karun, said her husband was "controlling and owning a large number of assets along with his father" and wanted a share. The trial court rejected her lawsuit saying she and her children could not lead the evidence substantiating the charge that the Narangs' was an HUF set-up and Kuldip its 'karta' (head).
The Delhi high court, however, allowed Radhika and her children's appeal against the trial court's ruling that they had no right to seek maintenance from the 'karta' during his and his son's lifetime.
A bench of justices Manmohan and Mukul Mudgal said the question of Kuldip being 'karta' or his obligation to perform duties as 'karta' did not arise as he was neither a proper nor a necessary party and had been improperly made a respondent.
The judges asked the trial court to decide the plea in the light of the HC ruling.
Radhika's counsel DS Narula argued that her minor children had acquired an independent right of ownership by birth over Hindu parcenary property and until partition, each member co-owned the said property and could seek maintenance from it.
The Narang family has two ancestral properties on a 4.73-acre land and Karun gets Rs5 lakh a month as share from family income.