THE HON’BLE SRI JUSTICE B.N.RAO NALLA
CIVIL MISCELLANEOUS APPEAL No.271 OF 2009
Kavuri Lilliyamma, W/o.late Wilson
K.S.Joshua, S/o.late Satyanandam
THE HON’BLE SRI JUSTICE V.V.S.RAO
THE HON’BLE SRI JUSTICE B.N.RAO NALLA
CIVIL MISCELLANEOUS APPEAL No.271 OF 2009
JUDGMENT: (per Hon’ble Sri Justice V.V.S.Rao)
In this appeal under Section 384 of Indian Succession Act, 1925 the maternal aunt of K.Jeevan Rao is the appellant seeking one-third share of Rs.12,91,614/- lying in deposit in the name of her nephew Jeevan Rao in State Bank of India, Maruturi Branch, Prakasam District, the seventh respondent herein. S.A.O.P.No.18 of 2000 was filed by respondents 1 to 6 herein under Section 372 of the Indian Succession Act for grant of succession certificate in their favour with regard to the Bank deposit and balance in savings account of Jeevan Rao.
The following genealogy table would help understand the relationship between the parties.
Caleb David = K.S.Joshua
(son – died) (son – died on 31.5.1994) (son – P1)
= (Mariyamma )
(sons) (wife – died on 13.4.2003)
Vinay Kumar (P4) Hemanth Kumar (P2)
Vijaya Chandra Bose (P5) Sahan Kumar (P3)
Vidyasagar Kennedy (P6)
(unmarried son died on 23.6.2004 at the age of 36 years)
Mariyamma, Sundaramma and Sudarsanamma, (all of them died) and Lilliamma–appellant; herein are sisters. It is not disputed by the parties that Mariyamma was a Government employee. She worked as multipurpose health assistant (female) and retired on 31.05.1994. All the amounts she got towards retiral benefits were deposited by her in State Bank of India in the joint names of herself and her only son Jeevan Rao. Mariyamma died on 13.04.2003 and the Bank deposits stood transferred in the name of Jeevan Rao. He also died on 23.06.2004.
Joshua (Jeevan Rao’s paternal uncle), his two sons and three sons of late Caleb filed the succession O.P. Their case was that they are alone entitled to succeed to the estate of Jeevan Rao under Section 48 of the Indian succession Act, 1925 (Succession Act, for brevity) being relatives of father’s side. After publication of notice, Lilliyamma filed objection petition and she was impleaded as respondent No.2. She filed counter opposing the grant of succession in favour of respondents 1 to 6. Her case was that herself, Mariyamma, Sundaramma and Sudarsanamma are sisters, that after death of her three sisters, she is lone surviving heir and that she is entitled to 1/3rd share in the property left behind by Jeevan Rao.
In the enquiry before the Court below, fifth respondent gave evidence as P.W.1 besides marking thirty documents. Lilliyamma deposed as R.W.1. On considering the evidence, the Court below came to the conclusion that respondents 1 to 6 are in the nearest degree of kindred to late Jeevan Rao and are entitled to succeed to his estate. The Court relied on Section 48 of Succession Act.
Learned Counsel for appellant submits that the provisions in Part IV of Succession Act dealing with consanguinity do not make any distinction among lineal and collateral consanguinity and that the law does not make any distinction between the persons related to the deceased through mother or father. Per contra, learned Counsel for respondents 1 to 6 placing reliance on Sections 24 to 28 and 48 of Succession Act submits that when relatives standing in nearer degree of kindred to deceased are available, and such persons are related to father, those related to deceased though the mother are not entitled to succeed to the property of a person dying intestate. He placed reliance on Siril Christian v Monga Mura, Thevan K. v Mathukutty, Mary Dowling v Margaret Merwan and Ajit Datt v Ethel Walters.
Relevant provisions of law
In the matter of Christian intestate succession, the provisions in Parts IV and V of Succession Act constitute substantive law. Part IX of Succession Act contains regulatory procedure for grant and revocation of succession certificate. Sections 24 to 27 of Succession Act read as under.
24. Kindred or consanguinity.-Kindred or consanguinity is the connection or relation of persons descended from the same stock or common ancestor.
25. Lineal consanguinity.-(1) Lineal consanguinity is that which subsists between two persons, one of whom is descended in a direct line from the other, as between a man and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, and so upwards in the direct ascending line; or between a man and his son, grandson, great-grandson and so downwards in the direct descending line.
(2) Every generation constitutes a degree, either ascending or descending.
(3) A person’s father is related to him in the first degree, and so likewise is his son; his grandfather and grandson in the second degree; his great-grandfather and great-grandson in the third degree, and so on.
26. Collateral consanguinity.-(1) Collateral consanguinity is that which subsists between two persons who are descended from the same stock or ancestor, but neither of whom is descended in a direct line from the other.
(2) For the purpose of ascertaining in what degree of kindred any collateral relative stands to a person deceased, it is necessary to reckon upwards from the person deceased to the common stock and then downwards to the collateral relative, a degree being allowed for each person, both ascending and descending.
27. Persons held for purpose of succession to be similarly related to deceased.-For the purpose of succession, there is no distinction—
(a) between those who are related to a person deceased through his father, and those who are related to him through his mother; or
(b) between those who are related to a person deceased by the full blood, and those who are related to him by the half blood; or
(c) between those who were actually born in the lifetime of a person deceased and those who at the date of his death were only conceived in the womb, but who have been subsequently born alive.
Before we notice intestate succession and rules therefor in Chapters I and II to Part V of Succession Act, we need to understand the above provisions. If persons descend from the common ancestor the connection or relation of persons who descended from the same common ancestor or stock is explained as kindred consanguinity. If two persons descended in a direct line from the other or descended downwards they are related by lineal consanguinity and every ascending or descending generation constitutes a degree. In relation to a person, father and son are related in the first degree whereas his grandfather and grandson are related in the second degree and great grandfather and great grandson third degree and so on. The relationship between the two persons who descended from the same stock or ancestor but not in direct line from the other are said to be in collateral consanguinity. Section 27 of Succession Act does not make any distinction between the persons related to a deceased through his father or mother, between those related to deceased by full-blood or half-blood and between those who are actually born in lifetime of the deceased and those who at the time of his death were in the womb and born alive latter.
Schedule I to Succession Act sets out the degrees of kindred and Section 28 of Succession Act explains the Schedule. For better understanding, we may set out Schedule I and then consider Section 28 of Succession Act.
1 3 5
1 3 5
The above table is explained by three illustrations in Section 28 of Succession Act. The person who dies intestate and whose relatives are to be reckoned for the purpose of succession is shown along with persons in the first, second, third and fourth degree in ascending order and persons in first, second and third degree in descending order. In addition, it shows the persons, namely, uncle, first cousin, nephew, second cousin, son of second cousin and grandson of second cousin. Thus the persons who are in direct line from the same stock and common ancestor are included in the table. Further, among four degrees, grandson of brother and son of uncle are considered to be in equal degree being each four degrees removed and grandson of first cousin being in sixth degree of kindred. Schedule I to Succession Act nowhere speaks of maternal aunts. But, having regard to Section 27(a) of Succession Act for the purpose of succession, there cannot be distinction between those who are related to the deceased through his father and those who are related through his mother. We may now notice the rules of intestate succession contained in Chapters I and II of Part V of Succession Act.
The property of the person dying intestate devolves upon the wife or husband or upon those who are of the kindred of the deceased in the order and according to the Rules contained in Chapter II Part V of Succession Act. Section 33 contains the rule of succession when the intestate left behind a widow and lineal descendants. Sections 34 to 40 deal with distribution of shares where there are lineal descendants and Sections 41 to 49 deal with distribution rules where there are no lineal descendants. These sections deal with different situations like where intestate’s father is living, father is dead but mother, brothers and children are living, a situation where along with mother, brother, sisters, children are living etc. Section 48 is relevant for this case and it deals with the situation where intestate has left neither lineal descendants nor parent nor brother nor sister. The same with its illustrations reads as under.
48. Where intestate has left neither lineal descendant, nor parent, nor brother, nor sister.-Where the intestate has left neither lineal descendant, nor parent, nor brother, nor sister, his property shall be divided equally among those of his relatives who are in the nearest degree of kindred to him.
(i) A, the intestate, has left a grandfather, and a grandmother and no other relative standing in the same or a nearer degree of kindred to him. They, being in the second degree, will be entitled to the property in equal shares, exclusive of any uncle or aunt of the intestate, uncles and aunts being only in the third degree.
(ii) A, the intestate, has left a great-grandfather, or a great- grandmother, and uncles and aunts, and no other relative standing in the same or a nearer degree of kindred to him. All of these being in the third degree will take equal shares.
(iii) A, the intestate, left a great-grandfather, an uncle and a nephew, but no relative standing in a nearer degree of kindred to him. All of these being in the third degree will take equal shares.
(iv) Ten children of one brother or sister of the intestate, and one child of another brother or sister of the intestate, constitute the class of relatives of the nearest degree of kindred to him. They will each take one-eleventh of the property.
The four illustrations are indeed the rules of succession where deceased has no lineal descendants, parents or siblings. In other words, it deals with succession of intestate property by those related to the deceased by lineal or collateral consanguinity. From the table in Schedule I, all those mentioned in the first vertical column, are related to the deceased by lineal consanguinity and in vertical column 2 and thereafter are related to the deceased by collateral consanguinity having descended from the same stock or ancestor. One has to keep this in mind to appreciate the four specific rules of succession, in case where only collateral consanguinous heirs (respondents) survive the deceased. Before further analysing Section 48, we may refer to the case law.
In Siril Christian (supra), a Division Bench of Assam High Court was concerned with a question whether Hindu paternal uncle of the deceased Christian could inherit the property of the intestate. On the construction of Sections 41 to 48 of the Succession Act, the Division Bench held that such “wide proposition receives no support from any of the provisions of Succession Act” and observed as below.
Section 41 lays down that where an intestate has left no lineal descendants, the rules for the distribution of his property shall be those contained in Sections 42 to 48. Section 42 lays down that if the intestate’s father is living, he shall succeed to the property, Section 43 lays down that if the intestate’s father is dead, but the intestate’s mother is living and there are also brothers or sisters of the intestate living and there is no child living of any deceased brother or sister, the mother and each living brother or sister shall succeed to the property in equal shares. Section 48 lays down that where the intestate has left neither lineal descendant, nor parent, nor brother, nor sister, his property shall be divided equally among those of his relatives who are in the nearest degree of kindred to him.
None of these provisions contain any limitation based on religion. If it was the intention of the Parliament when enacting the Indian Succession Act, to exclude from succession persons of non-Christian denomination or religion, that important circumstance and fact would have found a place in Succession Act itself. On the other hand, a careful reading of the various provisions of Succession Act shows that succession or a right to succeed to the property is dependent on relationship and consanguinity.
In Thevan K (supra), Kerala High Court held that Indian Succession Act does not disentitle a non-Christian to inhere the property of Christian if former is a person kindred to the deceased. It was also observed that the religion of the claimant is not the crucial fact but it is the religion of the person dying intestate whose relations are to be reckoned for the purpose of succession. In Mary Dowling (supra), a question arose whether a sister through a different mother is entitled to succeed the estate of her stepbrother. Referring to General Manager, Gwalior Sugar Co. v Srilal and Arokyathammal v Mookayee alias Arokyathammal, S.N.Variava,J (as His Lordship then was) held as under.
Part IV of the Succession Act lays down that for purposes of succession there must be a relationship by blood. Before a person can claim to be an heir there must be some relationship through a common ancestor or from the same stock. Section 27 makes no difference to this rule. Section 27 also recognises the fact that there must be a relationship through a common ancestor or through a common stock. There can be no doubt that Section 27 would also govern Part V of the said Act. … To that extent, I do not accept the submission of Mr.Khambatta that Section 27 canot apply to cases under Section 37. However, what Mr.Kini’s submissions fails to realise is that under Section 27(b), the relationship must be a “relationship with the deceased”. Therefore, when Section 27(b) talks of full blood or half blood, it refers to relationship by full blood or half blood with the deceased.
In Ajit Datt (supra), a Division Bench of Allahabad High Court considered and held that, “an adopted son of Christian of Hindu origin comes within the purview of ‘lineal descendant’ or ‘lineal consanguinity’ and is entitled to inherit under Section 37 of the Indian Succession Act. In his concurring opinion, S.R.Singh, J held that, “adoption by a Christian couple of Hindu origin is neither opposed to any public policy nor interdicted by any statutory law or principle and philosophy of Christianity.” The decision is not much of assistance. Other three decisions referred to above, took the view that unless a person is related to the intestate by blood, such person cannot be treated as lineal descendant or lineal consanguinity. Indeed, Bombay High Court has taken a view that the relationship must be relationship with the deceased by blood, and that there must be relationship through a common ancestor or through a common stock. Therefore, a maternal aunt who is either younger or elder sister of the mother or mother’s cousin cannot be treated as being in relationship through a common ancestor or a common stock. In the case of paternal aunt, there being a relationship through common ancestor or common stock, the things would be different. As we presently discuss, this is made clear by the special rules of succession contain in Section 48, which deals with the intestate succession when the person has not left any lineal descendant or parents or siblings.
Section 48 contains – as noticed supra; four rules of succession, which are incorporated in a statute by way of illustrations. Rule 1 is a case, which speaks of the intestate succession by grandfather and grandmother being in second degree. They would be entitled to the property in equal shares exclusive of any uncle or aunt of the intestate, uncles and aunts being only in a third degree. This rule of succession is again subject to the condition contained in Illustration ‘A’ to the effect that, “no other relative standing in the same or a nearer degree of kindred to him”. It is also subject to the main provision, which stipulates that, “property shall be divided equally among those of his relatives who are in the nearest degree of kindred to him. This only means that in addition to grandfather and grandmother, if the deceased has left behind any relative in nearer degree kindred to him, the things would be different and the rule will not apply. Who will succeed to the property of the intestate would depend on the various rules contained in Sections 32 to 47. Rule 2 enables great grandfather or great grandmother and uncles and aunts to succeed to his property. This is again where there are no other relative standing in the same or nearer degree of kindred to him. Rule 3 contemplates a situation where the person left great grandfather and an uncle and a nephew in which case all of them take equal shares. This is again subject to the same rule as in Rules 1 and 2. If there is any relative standing nearer degree, the rule will not apply. Rule 4 i.e., Illustration IV contains rule of succession when the children of brother and sister survive the deceased. It is interesting to note that though the four rules in Section 48 visualises a situation where the deceased is survived by grandfather, grandmother, great grandfather. Great grandmother includes aunts, nephews and children of brothers and sisters, nowhere contemplates a rule as to succession by the sister of predeceased mother. Therefore, Section 48 or other rules in Chapter II as held by Bombay High Court in Mary Dowling (supra) are subject to the Rules in Part IV. So reading all the provisions together, it becomes clear that unless any of the relative is related through common ancestor or through common stock and also related by blood, no person can claim to be nearer degree of kindred of deceased. The maternal aunt thus is not one of the heirs contemplated under Section 27 or 48 of the Succession Act.
Counsel for appellant does not dispute that illustration (i), (iii) and (iv), have no application to the facts of the case. According to him, as there is no great grandfather or great grandmother, uncles and aunts take equal share and as Section 27 of Succession Act does not distinguish the persons related through mother or father, the maternal aunt is also entitled equally along with uncles of Jeevan Rao and his cousins. We are not able to accept the submission on a true construction of Sections 24 to 27, 32 and 48 of Succession Act. Uncles and aunts referred to in Rule 2 under Section 48 [illustration (ii)] means and refers to uncles and aunts related through marriage of the deceased and certainly excludes the maternal aunt. Secondly, the uncles and aunts in Rule 2 under Section 48 of Succession Act refers to those in lineal consanguinity being descendants in a direct line or in collateral consanguinity being descendants from the same stock of ancestors. The paternal uncles and first cousins fall in these two categories but a maternal aunt having no descendancy from direct line or common stock can never be treated as the relative governed by Section 48(ii) of Succession Act. There is yet another reason for this conclusion. A careful reading of illustrations (i) to (iii) would show that all the rules would be attracted and are applied only where there is no other relative standing in a nearer degree of kindred to the deceased. This only means that if there are relatives who are in nearer degree, those relatives in a distant degree are not entitled to succeed. As between paternal uncles and first cousins who are in the nearer degree, a maternal aunt is certainly not entitled to succession even if it is assumed for the sake of argument that illustration (ii) of Section 48 of Succession Act is attracted to the case.
In this connection, we may conveniently refer to the position in Administration of Estates Act 1925, as applicable to intestate succession in English Law, which deals with intestate succession. Part IV thereof provides for the manner in which the estate is to be distributed and provides for six possibilities. These are somewhat similar to the possibilities or situations, which may arise in matters of intestate succession in India. These are as follows.
“(i) The deceased is not survived by spouse but by children, grandchildren:
If the deceased is survived by children and not a wife, entire estate to the exclusion of other relatives will go to the children (lineal descendants).
(ii) The deceased is survived by both, spouse and children: If the deceased is survived by legally married wife and children, they take the property between them to the exclusion of any other relative.
(iii) The deceased is not survived by children but by wife, by a parent, by a brother or sister of the whole-blood or by children of brother or sister of the whole-blood. The wife is entitled to personally belongings of the deceased absolutely in addition to statutory legacy to a sum not exceeding 200,000 Pounds and interest thereon. In the other properties – both movable and immovable; the wife would be entitled to one–half of the balance absolutely. If parents survive, they take the balance absolutely and in their absence, brothers and sisters of whole-blood would take the share, which their parents would have taken.
(iv) The deceased is survived by spouse but not by children or by parent or by brother or sister of the whole-blood or by children of brother or sister. In this scenario, the surviving spouse takes the entire residuary estate absolutely regardless of its size.
(v) If the deceased is survived neither by spouse nor by issue but is survived by a specified relative, grandparents or some one who descended from grandparents or specified relatives. The distant relatives such as second cousin are not specified relatives. The residuary estate of the intestate is held in trust for the specified relatives of the intestate in the following order.
(a) Parents: Surviving parents take equal shares absolutely and if one parent survives, such parent takes absolutely.
(b) Brothers and sisters of the whole-blood.
(c) Brothers and sisters of the half-blood.
(d) Grandparents: Surviving parents take in equal shares absolutely.
(e) Uncles and Aunts of the whole-blood: An uncle or aunt of the whole-blood must be a brother or sister of the whole-blood of the parent of the intestate i.e., an uncle or aunt related by birth and not by marriage.
(f) Uncles and aunts of half-blood: Such an uncle or aunt must be a brother or sister of half-blood of a parent of the intestate.
Any of the above, who takes vested interest under particular paragraph excludes any one filing under a later paragraph. For example, if grandparents are surviving, they take the property absolutely to the exclusion of uncles and aunts of the whole-blood. If uncles and aunts of whole-blood are surviving, they take the property to the exclusion of uncles and aunts of the half-blood, which are related by marriage.
(vi) The deceased leaves no surviving spouse and no issue or other relative of the intestate, who attains a vested interest, as described above. In this situation, the State takes the entire estate as bona vacantia.”
Thus even in England, uncles and aunts related by marriage are alone considered as related to the persons dying intestate and maternal aunts are excluded from succession. Therefore, we do not find any merit in the appeal. We accordingly dismiss the same with costs.
(B.N.RAO NALLA, J)
 AIR 1964 Assam 58
 AIR 1990 NOC 47 (Kerala)
 AIR 1991 Bom 389
 AIR 2001 All 109
 AIR 1958 MP 133
 AIR 1959 Madras 180
 ‘English Private Law’ edited by Prof. Peter Birks, OUP 2000 – pp.512–519.
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