The Supreme Court on May 6, 2005, in the case of Vellikannu v. R. Singaperumal & Anr., has held that a person who is guilty of committing the murder cannot be treated to have any relationship whatsoever with deceased’s estate and when the 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 ruling was passed by a Division Bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhan and A.K. Mathur.
In this case, the scheduled properties were the self-acquired properties of late Ramasami Konar and the first defendant was the only son of Ramasami Konar and the plaintiff was the wife of the first defendant. On October 10, 1972, the first defendant murdered his father and was convicted under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for life imprisonment. Since the first defendant murdered his father, he was not entitled to succeed to the estate of his deceased father and the plaintiff claimed that she was alone entitled to all the properties left by the deceased.
The Trial Court by an order dated March 31, 1980, held that all the properties are joint family properties of the deceased Ramasami Konar and first defendant. The first defendant having murdered his father is not entitled to claim any right under Section 6 read with Sections 25 & 27 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, but as per proviso to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, plaintiff is entitled to a decree for half share.
This matter was taken up in appeal by the defendant. The Lower Appellate Court also confirmed the finding 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 nonexistent. 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.
Further, in appeal before the Madras High Court, the court took a different view and set aside the decrees passed by both the above courts. The court observed that since plaintiff claims as a widow of the defendant and he is disqualified, same disqualification equally applies to her for she cannot claim through murderer husband. Aggrieved with the said decision, the plaintiff moved the Supreme Court.
- Whether, when the sole male survivor had incurred the disqualification can he still claim the property by virtue of Mitakshara School of Hindu Law?
- Whether his wife who succeeds through the husband can succeed to the property?
As per Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, if a male Hindu dies after commencement of the Act, an interest in Mitakshara coparcenary property shall devolve by survivorship upon the surviving members of the coparcenary and not in accordance with the Act. The son acquires by birth or adoption a vested interest in all coparcenary property as a member of a joint family. The ownership of coparcenary is in the whole body of coparceners. The share of a member of coparceners may fluctuate from time to time but his right by way of survivorship in coparcenary property in Mitakshara law is a settled proposition.
The Court answered above mentioned issues in the negative. As was held in Kenchava Kom Sanyellappa Hosmani and Anr. v. Girimallappa Channappa Somasagar, the murdered should be treated as non-existent and not as one who forms the stock for a fresh line of descent. This principle totally disinherits the son who has murdered his father.
This position of law was incorporated by way of Section 25 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Section 27 of the Hindu Succession Act makes it clear that if any person is disqualified from inheriting the property under the Act, it shall be deemed as if such person had died before the intestate. That means he will be deemed to have predeceased him. A person who is guilty of committing the murder cannot be treated to have any relationship whatsoever with deceased’s estate. Once the son is totally disinherited then his whole stock stands disinherited. The First Defendant is totally disqualified by virtue of Sections 25 and 27 of the Hindu Succession Act and as such the wife can have no better claim in the property of the deceased.