Legal Heirship Certificate not for Property Transfer

About Legal Heirship Certificate

Legal Heirship Certificate serves the basic purpose of identifying the relationship of the heirs to the deceased person.

The Certificate is issued by the revenue officers of the executive government – in Kerala it is the Tahsildar – based on the enquiry made by his junior revenue official – the Village Officer.

The Certificate can be used for drawing an amount not exceeding Rs five lakh as of now.  If the amount to be drawn is more the legal heirs have to approach a civil court to declare them as legal heirs so as to receive such an amount.

The certificate prima facie establishes the relationship the heirs had with the deceased but it is not a conclusive proof for determining the legitimate heirs to any disputed estate of the deceased.

When there is a dispute in regard to the legitimacy of the successor, the only course left for the legal heirs in settling the matter is to file a suit in the civil court and get its decision.

Statutory basis of heirship certificate

The Clause 261 of the Kerala Village Manual and G.O.(MS)No.359/67/RD dated 10.08.1967 are the sources under which the Legal Heirship Certificate is being issued in Kerala.

The Clause 261 of the Manual provides that the heirs of a deceased person shall produce Legal Heirship Certificate issued by the Tahsildar for receiving the savings deposited by the deceased with the Government or other institutions or other eligible amounts due to the deceased from the Government or other institutions.

The government order numbered G.O.(MS)No.359/67/RD dated 10.08.1967 deals with Standing Orders on issuance of certificates and under the head ‘Heirship Certificates’. It provides that, under the provisions of the Kerala Financial Code, Volume 1, pay, leave salary and other emoluments due to and claimed on behalf of a deceased Government servant can be paid without the production of the usual legal authority, but on production of an heirship certificate issued by the Tahsildar in whose jurisdiction the Government Servant lived and died or was drawing his pay etc. or in whose jurisdiction the heirs of the deceased live, provided the amount due to the deceased Government Servant does not exceed Rs.1 lakh (as amended by G.O. (Ms) No. 136/2007/RD dated 27.04.2007). The amount has been raised to five lakh and that is in force as of now.

The government order G.O.(MS)No.359/67/RD dated 10.08.1967 further provides that as per Part III of the Kerala Service Rules, the arrears of pension of a deceased pensioner can be paid to the heirs of the deceased to the extent of Rs.1 lakh on production of an heirship certificate issued by a Tahsildar under the State Government in whose jurisdiction the pensioner lived and died or was drawing his pension or in whose jurisdiction the heirs of the deceased live.

Apart for the aforesaid purposes, the said Government Order also authorises the Taluk Tahsildars to issue heirship certificates in regard to disbursement of compensation to the parties concerned under the third-party insurance scheme or under directions to parties by liquidators and Co-operative Societies, banks and other institutions after such enquiries into the right and title of the claimants as may be deemed sufficient and after observing the procedure as above.

The Clause 261 of the Kerala Village Manual and G.O. (MS)No.359/67/RD dated 10.08.1967 states that the heirship certificates are issued for receiving amounts/monitory benefits of such nature and limit specified therein, due and claimed on behalf of a deceased person. It is not intended to be issued for the purpose of sale of immovable property.

Procedure for obtaining the Certificate

The government order further provides that the heirship certificates should be issued by the Tahsildars on applications put in by the claimants concerned and after enquiring into the claims through the village officers concerned and speaks of other formalities like publication in gazette, calling for objections, enquiry into objections etc.

No specific application form is prescribed to apply for the certificate. But the application in plain paper should indicate necessary details required for issuing such a certificate and include necessary documents, including the death certificate of the deceased.

The certificate is issued based on local enquiry by the Village Officer and a Gazette notification inviting objections from others against the issue of the certificate. It is being used for claims relating to pension, gratuity and such other service benefits when the deceased had already not selected a nominee for receiving such claims.

Certificate not to be used for transfer of immoveable property

In Renuka K.K. v State of Kerala and others [2018 (5) KHC 601], the Kerala High Court considered the question as to whether Legal Heirship Certificate can be issued to deal with an immovable property. After referring to Clause 261 of the Kerala Village Manual and G.O.(MS)No.359/67/RD dated 10.08.1967, this Court held as under: –

“5….The heirship certificates are intended specifically for movable assets; the value of which is less than Rs.5,000/-. This is the specific purpose for which heir-ship certificates are issued even as per G.O. [MS] No.359/67/RD dated 10.08.67. 6. In such circumstances, there cannot be any issuance of a Legal Heirship Certificate to deal with an immovable property. The fact that contemporaneous Gazette notification shows the issuance of such certificate, even in the case of immovable properties cannot persuade this Court to pass an order against the specific clause restricting the issuance of heir-ship certificate only in the case of assets valued less than Rs.5,000/-. The satisfaction of the prospective purchaser cannot be a reason for this Court to direct issuance of a certificate against the terms of the power conferred.

However, the petitioner could very well apply for mutation, in which a similar enquiry would be conducted; as is provided under Rule 27 of the Transfer of Registry Rules, 1966 [for brevity, the Rules]. Or else, the petitioner would have to obtain a letter of administration either from the Administrator General or approach a Court of competent jurisdiction. However sub-section (2) of Section 212 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 makes inapplicable sub-section (1) of Section 212 in the case of intestacy inter alia of Hindus. Hence the mutation and the prior deed should establish the title of the petitioner, especially when the mutation is granted under Rule 27 of the Rules after conducting an enquiry, which is akin to that conducted for issuance of the Legal Heir-ship Certificate.”

Legal Heirship Certificate not intended for property transfer

In short there is no provision under the Kerala Village Manual and G.O.(MS)No.359/67/RD dated 10.08.1967 to issue legal heirship certificate to deal with an immovable property.

Above all, the Legal heirship Certificate is issued with an instruction that it cannot be used for transfer of immoveable property. The amount that can be received as per the certificate now is five lakh.

Legal Heirship Certificate has some sanctity

The Legal Heirship Certificate however has some sanctity in revealing the legal heirs of the deceased.

This is because it is being issued by the revenue department based on some enquiry by the village Office, examination of the existing records, testimonies of the neghobours of the deceased, and above all Gazette notification inviting objections.

Further reading

  1. Premalatha Subhash v State of Kerala : WP(C) NO. 13305 OF 2021
  2. Renuka K K v State of Kerala: 2018 (5) KHC 601