New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that
children born out of a live-in relationship cannot inherit
ancestral property, but only the self-acquired property of
"A child born of void or voidable marriage is not
entitled to claim inheritance in ancestral copercenary
property but is entitled only to claim share in self-acquired
properties, if any," the apex court said in an order.
A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar
passed the order while quashing a Madras High Court judgement
which took the view that children born out of live-in
relationships were entitled to a share in ancestral property.
In the instant case, a dispute arose whether the two
children of Rengammal 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.
"In the instant case, respondents (claimants) had not
pleaded at any stage that the suit land was a self-acquired
property of Muthu Reddiar," the apex court said.
"It is evident from the record that Mutthu 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.
Muthu`s relatives had contended that Rengammal was
already married to one Alagarswami Reddiar and hence the
purported live-in-relationship was void and neither she nor
her children can stake claim for a share in the property.
A civil court and the first appellate court both ruled in
favour of Muthu`s relatives on the ground that Rengammal was
already married to Alagarswami and hence her illegitimate
children were not entitled to any share in ancestral property.
However, the High Court took the view that mere live-in
relationship between two parties would lead to presumption of
marriage and decided the case in favour of Rangammal.
Interpreting the Hindu Marriage Act, the apex court said
that Section 16 recognised the right of a child to inherit
properties of their illegitimate parents, provided it was
"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.
"They cannot, however, 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
apex court said citing an earlier judgement in the PEK
Kalliana Amma (1976) case.