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Supreme Court lawsuit over the vexed legal question of whether children out of wedlock

The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its verdict on a 2011 lawsuit over the vexed legal question of whether children out of wedlock were entitled to a share of their ancestors’ property under Hindu law. A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwal and Manoj Misra heard submissions from several lawyers on the plea, which has been pending since 2011.

The Supreme Court will also decide whether the share of these children is limited only to the self-acquired property of their parents under Section 16(3) of the Hindu Marriage Act. These issues were referred to a larger bench by a two-judge bench of the apex court on 31 March 2011.

“The question that arises on the facts of this case is whether illegitimate children are entitled to a share in the joint (family) property or whether their share is limited only to the self-acquired property of their parents under Section 16(3) of the Hindu Marriage Act ,” the court said as it referred the case to a larger bench.

Void or voidable marriage

The court said the provision makes it very clear that a child of a “void or voidable marriage” can only claim rights to his parents’ property and no one else.

The court disagreed with the apex court’s earlier findings that such children would have no right to the ancestral properties of their parents.

“With changing social norms of legitimacy in every society, including ours, what was illegitimate in the past can be legitimate today. The concept of legitimacy is based on social consensus, in the formation of which various social groups play a vital role… in a changing society, the law cannot afford to remain static…,” it said.

Under Hindu law, parties to a void marriage do not have the status of spouses. Under the law, husband and wife have the status of a voidable marriage. In a void marriage, no declaration of nullity is required to annul the marriage. While a declaration of nullity is required in a void marriage

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