Ashok Bhan, A.K. Mathur
Whether the wife of a disqualified heir claims for inheritance of estate of her deceased father-in-law?
1. The schedule properties mentioned in the suit are the self-acquired properties of late Ramasami Konar.
2. The first defendant was the only son of Ramasami Konar and the plaintiff is the wife of the first defendant.
3. Wife of Ramasami Konar was already divorced and married with some other person and was residing separately.
4. On 10th October, 1972 the first defendant murdered his father, Ramasami Konar and was convicted under Section 302 IPC for life imprisonment.
5. The conviction of the first defendant was confirmed by the High Court but the High Court recommended the Government to reduce the sentence to the period already undergone. Consequently, the first defendant was released in July, 1975.
6. Meanwhile the plaintiff claimed that since the first defendant murdered his father, he was not entitled to succeed to the estate of his deceased father and she being the sole survivor, was entitled to all the properties left by the deceased Ramasami Konar.
According to the plaintiff, since her husband murdered her father in law, he must be deemed to have predeceased. She contented the provisions mentioned in section 25 & 27 of the Hindu Succession Act, that a person who commits murder shall be disqualified from inheriting property of the person murdered. And also if any person is disqualified from inheriting any property under this act, it shall devolve as if such person had died before the intestate.
She claimed to be the widow of the first defendant and claimed to be the owner of all the properties left by Ramasami Konar as coparcener. She therefore prayed that she may be granted the relief of declaration as she is entitled to inherit the entire estate of the deceased Ramasami Konar.
As against this it was contended by the first defendant that the suit was not maintainable as the plaintiff is not the legal heir of Ramasami Konar. It was alleged that all the properties acquired by the Ramasami, were joint family properties and the first defendant (here, the disqualified son) has acquired the same by survivorship.
The case first went to the trial court, where it was held that all the properties are joint family properties of the deceased Ramasami Konar and his disqualified son, (The first defendant), but since he had murdered his father, he is not entitled to claim any right on the property. The trial court however granted a decree for half a share to the plaintiff, as per the Proviso under Sec.6 of the Hindu Succession Act.
This matter was then taken up in appeal by defendant No. 1. The Lower Appellate Court also confirmed the findings of the Trial Court but modified the decree that it may be treated as preliminary decree. The Lower Court also held that first defendant must be treated as non- existent. The plaintiff became a Class I heir under Schedule 1 of the Hindu Succession Act and she was entitled to a share in the property. Hence the appeal was dismissed.
Aggrieved against this, the first defendant preferred a second appeal before the High Court. Now the High Court addressed two important issues in this case:
Firstly, whether the plaintiff can inherit the properties from the estate of her deceased father-in-law, Ramasami Konar and
Secondly, what is the effect of Sections 25 and 27 read with Section 6 & 8 of the Hindu Succession Act.
Finally, the Madras High Court in its judgement set aside the orders of the two lower courts and held that the plaintiff is not entitled to inherit the estate of the deceased, Ramasamy Konar. The court was of the view that since it cannot decide the rights of respondent No.1 (The disqualified son), they cannot decide upon the rights of the plaintiff who flows there from as his wife.
The court found it necessary to decide first if the respondent no.1 could succeed or inherit the estate of his deceased father and hence concluded that when son cannot succeed then the wife who succeeds to the property through the husband cannot also lay a claim to the property of her father-in -law. The appeal is thus dismissed.