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  • The doctrine of relation back was prevalent in uncodified old Hindu law, according to which a son adopted by a widow relates back to the widow's deceased husband, and the son is entitled to the estate of his deceased adoptive father.
  • Previously, it was necessary for a widow to obtain her husband's consent before adopting a child. In 1956, HAMA lifted the restriction on a widow's adoption requiring her husband's permission.
  • The new Act has repealed the relation back principle, but only for the limited purpose of vesting and divesting land.
  • There were some flaws in the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act that the Supreme Court corrected in some cases. In those cases, the Supreme Court rightly said that a widow's adopted son applies to the deceased husband of the widow.


As children grow older, they develop a positive sense of identity, as well as a sense of psychosocial well-being. They gradually form a self-concept (how they perceive themselves) and self-esteem. They eventually learn to be at ease with themselves. Adoption can complicate normal childhood issues like attachment, loss, and self-image. Adopted children must reconcile and integrate their birth and adoptive families.

Children who were adopted as infants are influenced by their adoption for the rest of their lives. Children who are adopted later in life understand adoption at a different developmental stage. Those who have experienced trauma or neglect may recall such events, which complicates their self-image even more.

Adoption is a concept in which a child is transferred from the family in which he is born to another family, granting the son new rights, duties, and status while severing all ties with the previous family. The doctrine of relation back was prevalent in uncodified old Hindu law, according to which a son adopted by a widow relates back to the widow's deceased husband, and the son was entitled to the estate of his deceased adoptive father.

However, according to the provisions of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, the doctrine was repealed.


Previously, it was necessary for a widow to obtain her husband's consent before adopting a child. While making an adoption by a widow, the consent of the nearest sapinda was required, because a woman was incapable of independent judgement. The woman who was adopting did not need the consent of the senior female member who is also a widow.

A Hindu widow had the right to adopt a son or daughter for herself under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956. Section 8 of the Act recognises this as well. A window could adopt as long as she was of sound mind and not a minor.

If a widow had a Hindu son, grandson, or great grandson living at the time of the adoption, she could not adopt a son. In addition, if she was adopting a daughter, the daughter was required to not have a Hindu daughter or a son living at the time of the adoption. There was a requirement of a 21-year age difference between the woman (adopter) and her adopted son.


In 1956, HAMA removed the requirement that a widow's adoption to be approved by her spouse. A child adopted by a widow without her husband's permission will be treated as the widow's deceased husband's son even after the legislation is passed. If there are more than one widow, one of them can adopt without the agreement of the other widows.

According to section 12 of the aforementioned Act, the notion of connecting back has been abolished.

Previously, the adopted kid was considered a member of the adoptive family from the date of his adoptive father's death, but under the current law, pursuant to proviso (c) of section 12 of HAMA, the adopter is considered a member of the adoptive family from the date of the actual adoption.

Only for the restricted purpose of vesting and divesting land, the new Act has repealed the principle of relation back. The idea of relation back still exists in the sense that when a widow adopts a kid, the adopted child inherits the widow's deceased husband's relationship and (the deceased husband) becomes the child's adoptive father.


It was claimed in a leading case of the Supreme Court that in Sawan v. Kalawanti [A.I.R. 1987 S.C. 398],the Supreme Court's decision had resulted in the resuscitation of the doctrine of relation, but this was not particularly persuasive. The facts of the case were that Ramji Das died and left behind a widow, Smt. Bhagwani, who inherited her husband's property as a limited owner. Smt. Kalawanti, her grand-niece, was afterwards the beneficiary of a gift deed she executed. Sawan Ram, Ramji Das' collateral, protested the gift's validity, saying that it was made without any legal requirement and that he was Ramji Das' nearest reversionary heir.

The trial court ruled in favour of the collaterals and declared the gift void. Kalawanti filed an appeal, and while the case was pending in court, Bhagwani adopted a son named Deep Chand and died afterwards. Sawan filed a new lawsuit against Kalawanti to reclaim custody of the land. Deep Chand, the adopted son, filed a lawsuit to assert his rights to the bestowed property, claiming that it was previously a gift made by her adoptive mother prior to the Act's passage. As of the day of his adoption, he became the son not only of his adoptive mother, but also of her deceased husband, and so his right to the property was restored.

As a result, he became a member of the joint family, and his claim to the property was restored. The critics claim that the decision revived the doctrine because the adopted son gained the right to the bestowed property after the donation was pronounced void.

However, this is not the case because the adopted son did not have the right to contest the widow's gift prior to her act of adoption. As a result, the doctrine cannot be considered to have been revived.

The Supreme Court ruled in the case that Section 12 clause (c) of HAMA departs from Hindu law by stating that the adopted child shall not be deprived of any property that was invested in him prior to adoption. In one example, a widow who was a limited owner of the estate after her husband died and before the Hindu Succession Act became an absolute owner of the property of her husband vested in her, and she could not be deprived of any of her rights in the property by adopting a child. Only after her death will the adopted child be able to assert his rights.

Krishnamurthi v. Dhruwaraja (1962 AIR 59, 1962 SCR (2) 813)

A was the father and B was his son. Both were the coparceners in a Hindu Joint Family. B died leaving his widow- X. A’s surviving coparcener acquired B’s interest by survivorship. Later, A also died and the property was inherited by collateral C. The property passed through many hands and ultimately, Krishnamurthy became the absolute owner by inheritance. Then the widow X adopted a son Dhruwaraja who sued to recover the property from Krishnamurthy. On the basis of the Doctrine of relation Back, the adopted son claimed that he was legally in existence when B died. He argued that he could divest the estate of his adoptive father, already vested in A and his heirs. The Court recognised the claim of the adopted son on the basis of the Doctrine of Relation Back.

Banabai And Others Wasudeo, Rajesh And Ors Vs Parwatibai And Ors Second Appeal No. 515 of 2021 with Civil Application No. 12064 of 2021

The Court ended a property dispute in which an adoptive son sold properties belonging to his adoptive mother's late husband. Kausalyabai adopted Shivaji in the year 1973. Sopanrao, her husband, died in 1965. Parwatibai was their only child.Both, Shivaji's mother and daughter opposed Shivaji's claim to the property. Shivaji contended that he should be treated as the child of his adoptive parents. He claimed that, with the exception of blood ties for the purpose of marriage, all of the child's ties in the natural family would be severed as of the date of adoption, and he claimed the same right, privilege, and obligation in the adoptive family.

The High Court noted that section 12 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956 abolished the principle of relation back as a result of adoption. The single judge regarded it as an admitted position that Kausalyabai's husband died in 1965, many years before the adoption of her son Shivaji. Shivaji was adopted by her on March 24, 1993, according to the adoption deed. As a result, it is clear that her adopted son Shivaji was not present when her husband died intestate in 1965. The succession began for the first time in 1965. According to Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Kausalyabai, as widow, and Parwatibai, as daughter, would each receive one-half interest in the suit property left behind by Sopanrao. Furthermore, the court stated that since Kausalyabai died during the pendency of the suit in 2013, her share would pass to her daughter Parwatibai and adopted son Shivaji. In accordance with Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956. Given this legal situation, plaintiff No. 2/daughter Parwatibai would receive her share of 12 from her mother's share of 14, for a total share of 34 (112 + 14), whereas adopted son Shivaji would receive a 14 share in the property. The judge also declared Shivaji's sale deeds null and void to the extent of Parvatibai's 3/4th share.


In India, widows have a desire and need to earn a decent living and become goal-oriented. Widows had suffered greatly, especially in the early days, and widowhood had become a stigma for them. Although, as the world progresses, people's minds progress as well, widows still face the same old problems when they visit a rural area. They face a variety of problems, but the majority of them can be alleviated by bearing their own expenses, obtaining employment opportunities, becoming involved in farming and agricultural practices, providing education to children, fighting for their rights, establishing an autonomous household, and establishing a social circle through membership in organisations.

In the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, there were some infirmities that were corrected in some of the cases by the Supreme Court. In those cases, the Supreme Court rightly said that a widow's adopted son relates to the deceased husband of the widow. When a widow adopts a child, she brings in a member to the family and all the rights of the child in his birth family are replaced by the family of his adoption.

Thus, all the ties of the child are severed with the previous family and replaced by new rights created in the adoptive family. As soon as the child is adopted by a widow, he becomes the child of the widow and also the child of her deceased husband. The adopted child does not have the right to divest the estate of any person vested in him. This interpretation of the Supreme Court does not revive the doctrine of relation back.

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