Adoptee, his children, and their right to inherit adoptive family's property: What the Supreme Court held
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Adoptee, his children, and their right to inherit adoptive family's property: What the Supreme Court held

Shruti Mahajan

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.

Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta
Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta

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.

Since the succession has opened after the death of Laxman on 10th January, 1987, therefore, succession has to be in accordance with the Act and not as per Hindu law as all text, rule or interpretation of Hindu law prior to commencement of the Act have ceased to have any effect unless expressly provided for in the said Act.
Supreme Court

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,

Since there is no provision of denying the rights of succession to the natural born son of an adoptee father, therefore, the succession will be in terms of the provisions of the Act alone.
Supreme Court

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.

"In view of the provisions of the Act which do not make any distinction between the son born to a father prior or after adoption of his father and that there is no provision which bars the natural born son to inherit the property of his natural father, therefore, the High Court has rightly upheld the rights of the sons of Laxman."

Supreme Court

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.

[Read Judgment]

Kalindi Damodar Garde vs Manohar Laxman Kulkarni.pdf
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