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In a judgment delivered on Friday, the Supreme Court has held that the natural born children of a person who was subsequently adopted have the right to inherit his share in the property of the adoptive family.
The Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta opined that the question of succession involved would be governed by the Hindu Succession Act and not by the texts, rules or interpretation of the Hindu Law.
In this regard, the Bench observed that Section 4 of the Hindu Succession Act provides for the Act to have an overriding effect over "all text, rule or interpretation of Hindu law or any custom or usage as part of that law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act."
The overriding effect of the Act came into play in the instant case since the Act came into force in 1956, whereas the facts of the case date back to 1935.
In 1935, one Laxman was given into adoption to one Saraswati. At the time of such adoption, Laxman already had three sons. Subsequent to his adoption, his daughter, Kalindi, was born. Laxman passed away in 1987 when the question of succession and inheritance arose.
In this backdrop, the Court opined that the question of succession posed was to be governed by the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act, since the same arose after the commencement of the Act.
The dispute concerns inheritance of Laxman's share in the property of his adoptive family. His daughter Kalindi contended that the three sons born to Laxman prior to his adoption would not be entitled to Laxman's share in adoptive family's property. Rather, she contended that they would only be entitled to inherit Laxman's share in the property of Laxman's natural family.
Kalinidi argued that since she was born to Laxman after his adoption, only she and her mother would be entitled to Laxman's share in the adoptive family's property.
The Bombay High Court had ruled against Kalindi's contention, finding that the three sons would be entitled to inherit the property, even though born prior to Laxman's adoption, as per the provisions under Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act.
The Supreme Court, in turn, concurred with the High Court ruling, observing that,
In this regard, the Court pointed out that the Hindu Succession Act does not distinguish between children born before the adoption of their father and those born after such adoption.
The Apex Court held that since the three sons and the daughter, Kalindi, were all born to Laxman and his wife Padmavati, they were "agnates" and Class I heirs as per the Schedule laid down under the Hindu Succession Act. Finding that the High Court has not erred in its judgment, the Supreme Court too, upheld the right of Laxman's sons to inherit his property.
The Court therefore, dismissed the appeals filed by Laxman's daughter Kalindi and upheld the High Court decision.