This article is written by Shivani Nair, from Manipal University Jaipur. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the topic of reunion under the Hindu Law and who can reunite along with its effect and landmark judgments on the topic.
Reunion is the process by which families that have been divided after partition, to be united again. However, the term ‘reunion’ under Hindu Law means a situation when the status of the family which was joint earlier is established again, after its partition. Despite having a complete partition, it is possible to have a reunion under the Hindu law, among the Hindu Undivided Family.
Reunion under the Hindu Law
A text, of Brihaspati, being a leading text states that “He who, being once separated dwells again through affection with father, brother or paternal uncle, is termed reunited with him.” According to Mitakshara and Dayabhaga, the reunion cannot take place with any person other than the father, brother or paternal uncle.
In the case of the Mayukha and the Mithila schools of Hindu Law, the terms of “father, brother and paternal uncle” are merely used as an informative and illustrative sense, and thus a reunion can be instituted with others if they were a part of the original partition. It is a process by which, the parties that have been separated once, can again constitute together to form a Joint Hindu Family. It is not necessary that all the property should be brought back to be reunited. Thus, it gives the option for the estate to be reunited, if not all.
Who can Reunite?
Any person who was a coparcener originally in the joint status of the family can be part of the reunion. Reunification takes place by the virtue of Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
Following are the conditions for the parties to reunite:
- A partition is an essential condition for a reunion- No reunion can take place if there was no partition in the first place.
- The intention to reunite in any case is an essential factor which must not be overlooked. Reunion shall not take place if there is no intention of the parties to reunite. Such intention to reunite must be communicated clearly. Where a person merely live together without having an intention to reunite, it is necessary to note that such a person shall also not constitute to be a part of the reunion.
- The reunion can take place only if the person has separated with his father, brother or paternal uncle but not with anyone else other than them, which is the case of Mitakshara but in the Mithila school, it can be with anyone, provided that they are a part of the original partition that had taken place and thus have the shares, individually under their name.
- The reunion must be unilateral, i.e. there must be consent of each and every person who is a coparcener. The consent of the parties or the coparceners, shall not constitute to be formal agreements but merely consensual agreements which may be either oral or written or even by their conduct, depicting their agreements which are not mandatory to be registered.
- The reunion must be of effect only by the parties, who had been a part of the partition.
- There must be a property involved in the case of the reunion; as reunion does not merely mean living together as tenants.
- A minor cannot reunite, as he is not a competent party to the contracts. The minor cannot be a party, either on his own or as someone on behalf of him.
- The rules which are special for the inheritance will not take place in the reunited property but will only be applicable in case of the separate property which the reunited person holds.
The intention of the reunion is to bring about the amalgamation of the interests of the parties in the Hindu Undivided Family and therefore, it creates a right on all the parties involved. In the case of reunion, it is possible that some of the properties and some of the people involved in the partition may be left out or choose not to be a part of the reunion at all. This means that there is a chance of a partial reunion. Therefore, the interest has to be clearly established.
Effects of Reunion in the Hindu Law
The very first effect of reunion is to give the members of the family the same status as before the partition as a part of the Hindu Undivided Family. The second effect of the reunion is that the property, which had been in separate hands, will now fall back to the single joint Hindu family rather than the individual holders of the property.
Another effect is that, initially when the family was undivided, there was no ascertainment of the individual shares. However, even after reunion, the ascertainment of the shares of an individual remains with him.
Succession in Cases of Reunion
The following are the effects in the succession after a reunion:
- Through the reunion, only the exclusive rights of the property which one had acquired of his share; after the partition, such rights get destroyed. He now acquires the position of the joint-tenant before the partition, sole-tenant after the partition, and that of a tenant-in-common after reunion.
- Where there has been a reunion amongst persons mentioned expressly under the Brihaspathi text, i.e., the father, the brother or the paternal uncle, it is important to note that the inheritance law is applicable to them as in the case of the death of any one of whom is a part of the reunion.
- If the person who now acts in the capacity of the reunited coparcener dies, then the issue he leaves behind or the successor he leaves behind or is in the womb, now becomes the owner of his share.
- There is no mention of the survivorship in case of reunion.
The burden of proof that the partition took place, lies upon the person who is pleading for the reunion in the Court of law. It requires compelling evidence to decide what the proof is and to prove that there is a requirement for the reunion of the parties. Not only that, but the evidence needs to be cogent in order to prove that there was a partition and also to prove that there was a meeting of the minds in case of the reunification of the property into a Joint Hindu Family.
The reunion is only possible in case of the parties who were there during the preliminary partition. Therefore, an adopted son cannot be the one to institute a reunion, whether or not he lives with his father and jointly holds the shares of the father.
Points of Distinction between the Mitakshara and the Dayabhaga Laws
- The birth of a son in the family leads to him getting the property right at his birth from his father. After turning into an adult, he can demand the property from his father even if his father is alive.
- He can prevent his father from an unauthorized alienation by having an opinion in the ancestral property.
- A coparcener does not have a right to alienate his share and after his death if he does not have a successor, his property gets transferred to his brother.
- The widow of the coparcener only has the right to the maintenance and has no right in the partition.
- The unity of the ownership is the essence of the coparcenary.
- The successor has no right in the family property as long as the father of the successor is alive.
- The father being the sole and absolute owner of the property, can deal with it the way he fathoms.
- Male or Female adults have the right to demand a partition and can alienate the property.
- The widow can demand partition after being a coparcener with her late husband’s brother.
- Possession is the essence of unity and not ownership.
Landmark Cases related to Reunion under Hindu Law
In the case of Ram Narain v. Pan Kuer, 1935, the decision was held by the Privy Council which stated that in a Hindu family, where the rules are governed by Mitakshara the only valid reunion possible is between a father and a son, a paternal uncle and a nephew and between a brother and brother, that too only in the case of it being parties to the original partition.
But according to the rules of Vyavahara Mayukha, which shows its prominence in the state of Gujarat, Bombay, the Konkan areas, which holds great significance in the Mithila states that the text that is written in Brihaspati is not exhaustive but merely illustrative and inclusive. Therefore, one does not solely have to stick to the wordings given under the text of Brihaspati.
Thus, this is expressly stated in the Vyavahara Mayukha that the reunion can take place between the person and the wife, the paternal grandfather, a brother’s grandson, a paternal uncle’s son and the rest of the people being originally a part of the partition.
The question that arose was whether a sister can be a party to the reunification? The answer for which the court stated was that there had to be a constitutional nicety. This means that the law of the reunion, pertains to the uncodified Hindu law. Thus, the topic of the reunion does not fall within the ambit of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and goes much beyond it.
In the case of Commissioner of Income Tax v. Vaijyapuri Chettiar and Another, the conditions for a valid reunion were laid down. The court, in this case had held that the following conditions are precedent in case of a valid reunion under the Hindu Law:
- There must have existed a previous state where there was already in union. The reunion among any persons would only take place if they were related to each other and were part of the previous union before the partition and were members to partition.
- There must have been a partition without which it is impossible to have a reunion.
- The reunion must have been in effect by the parties who were in the partition or by any of the few parties who were a part of the partition.
- A junction of the estate must be in the line, during a reunion. Merely living together as tenants does not comprise reunion.
- Reunion must intend to restore the status quo, which means the existing state of affairs, before the partition.
In the case of Bhagwan Dayal v. Reoti Devi, the Supreme Court held that, if there is a separation of a Joint Hindu Family; the family or any of its members can agree to reunite as a Joint Hindu Family but the reunification can only take place for general reasons which would apply in many cases under the Mitakshara law of schools of Hindu Law. Though such reunion is very rare in occurrence, it must be proved and the party who has the burden of proof is the one who is appealing for the reunification of the estate into a Joint Hindu Family.
The court also states that for the unification, there must be parties that have an interest in the estate and that there was an agreement between the parties who were initially a part of the partition, that they wanted to reunite the estate as a Joint Hindu Family estate. This agreement, though has to be proved in the eyes of law, does not have to be expressed or formal. They can be implied and oral agreements that they consent to be the parties of the reunification of the estate. But such a conduct in case of implied agreement must be of such incontrovertible character that the court can predict that this was a consensual agreement in the matter of the estate.
Therefore, it can be stated that the reunion is just a tool to bring back the family into a whole as a Joint Hindu Family or the Hindu Undivided Family after the partition had taken place. The status quo is restored after the reunion and before the partition making it a tool for the unification of the divided family. Therefore, though it has been a rare occurrence. Reunion helps in bringing back the family as one despite the families having individual identities.
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