In a recent landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India, in the case of Revanasiddappa and Anr v. Mallikarjun and Ors , delivered a significant ruling concerning the rights of children born out of void or voidable marriages in Hindu joint family property under the Mitakshara system of law. The three-judge bench, led by Hon’ble Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, ruled that children born from such marriages are entitled to a share in the property of their deceased parents.
This judgment marks a significant departure from previous interpretations of the Hindu Marriage Act  and the Hindu Succession Act  and has profound implications for the legal rights of such children. In this article, we will explore the consequences of this judgment, the legal context surrounding it, and its impact on the Hindu joint family property system.
The genesis of this legal problem lies in the conflict of interpretations surrounding Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA), which deals with the legitimacy of children born from void or voidable marriages. Section 16(1) and Section 16(2) of the HMA bestow legitimacy upon children born from void and voidable marriages, respectively. However, Section 16(3) of the same Act creates an exception, stating that such children shall not have rights in the property of any person other than their parents.
The controversy surrounding this issue gained prominence due to differing opinions rendered by coordinate benches of the Supreme Court. The 2010 decision in Bharatha Matha and anr v. R Vijaya Renganathan & Ors  held that children born from void or voidable marriages were entitled to inherit only their father’s self-acquired property, excluding ancestral coparcenary property. However, in 2011, the Supreme Court, in an earlier round of the present appeal in Revanasiddappa vs Mallikarjun , deviated from this precedent and asserted that such children have a claim to both self-acquired and ancestral property. This disagreement led to the matter being referred to a larger bench.
Before delving into the implications of the recent Supreme Court judgment, it is crucial to comprehend the concept of invalid marriages in Hindu law. In Hindu law, marriage is considered a sacred union, and its validity is an essential factor in determining the legal rights and status of the parties involved. Hindu marriages can be broadly classified into two categories: valid and invalid. Valid marriages conform to the essential conditions prescribed under Section 5 of the HMA and other relevant legal provisions, including the consent of both parties, the absence of prohibited relationships, and compliance with necessary rituals and ceremonies. In such marriages, the offspring are generally entitled to inherit ancestral property.
Invalid, i.e., void or voidable marriages, under Section 11 and Section 12 of the HMA, respectively, are those unions that do not meet the essential legal conditions for a valid Hindu marriage. Void marriages can occur due to various reasons, including bigamy, child marriage, prohibited degrees of relationship, marriages in violation of the said relationship, non-compliance with essential rituals, or other violations of the Hindu Marriage Act. Voidable marriages, on the other hand, are marriages that can be annulled at the request of one of the parties involved due to certain legal defects or fraud.
Historically, children born out of void or voidable marriages were considered illegitimate and were often denied any claim to the ancestral property of their parents’ joint Hindu family. This discriminatory practice has long been a contentious issue, prompting the Supreme Court to reevaluate the legal rights of such children.
The case of Revanasiddappa vs Mallikarjun  revolves around the rights of a child born out of an invalid marriage within a Hindu joint family setup. The primary issue before the Supreme Court was whether such a child can claim a share in the ancestral property of the Hindu joint family, even if the marriage of their parents is deemed invalid.
The court recognized that the child should not be made to suffer due to the invalidity of their parent’s marriage. Denying them a share in the ancestral property would be detrimental to their welfare. The Supreme Court emphasized the legitimacy conferred upon children of void or invalid marriages by statutory provisions. The court cited Section 16(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, which states that in the case of a voidable marriage that is subsequently annulled, a child begotten before the annulment is deemed to be legitimate. This provision extends the same rights and legitimacy under Section 16(1) to children born from marriages declared void as if they were born from valid marriages.
However, it is essential to note that the Supreme Court clarified that these rights are limited to the properties of the child’s parents. In cases of invalid marriages, the man and woman do not have the status of husband and wife under Hindu law. Consequently, the child’s rights are restricted to the inheritance of their parents’ property, and they do not possess the right to claim other coparcenary shares.
The Supreme Court, in its wisdom, took a progressive stance and provided much-needed clarity on this contentious issue. The ruling underscores the principle that every child, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, has an inherent right to their parental property within the framework of Hindu law. The judgment has far-reaching implications and reflects a departure from the traditional interpretation of Hindu law. This decision emphasizes the principle of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
The landmark judgment promotes social justice and seeks to rectify historical injustices that may have been perpetuated by traditional interpretations of Hindu law. It ensures that children born in complex family situations are not disadvantaged. It underscores the importance of protecting the rights of vulnerable individuals, particularly children, and ensuring their access to ancestral property. The Supreme Court judgment of 2023 is a step in the right direction, heralding a more inclusive and equitable interpretation of Hindu law in contemporary India. It underscores the principle that law cannot remain static and must adapt to contemporary understandings of family and kinship. While it brings much-needed clarity to the legal landscape, it also raises the need for continued legal education and awareness to ensure that these rights are effectively asserted and protected in practice.
 Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
 Hindu Succession Act, 1956
 (2010) 11 SCC 483
 (2011) 11 SCC 1