Order of Succession among Cognates under Hindu Succession Act, 1956

A person is said to be a cognate of another if the two related by blood or adoption but not wholly through males. They may be related through one or more females. Titus a mother’s brother’s son and a brother’s daughter’s daughter are cognates.

Thus cognates indicate those heirs who are related to the intestate through one or more females. Cognates do not include the widows of any persons related to the intestate by blood or adoption. The definition is confined to the relatives by blood or adoption.

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The degrees of relationship can go to any extent so that a cognate howsoever remote to the intestate is entitled to succeed as heir.

Order of Succession among Cognates:

Clause (d) of Section 8 does not give a list of cognates or specify the order in which they are entitled to succeed, but section 12 lays down certain rules which are determinative of the order of succession among the cognates. Section 12 runs as follows:—

“The order of succession among agnates or cognates, as the case may be shall be determined in accordance with the rules of preference laid down here under:

Rule 1:

Of two heirs, the one who has fewer or no degrees of ascent is preferred.

Rule 2:

Where the number of degrees of ascent is the same or none, that heir is preferred who has fewer or no degree of descent.

Rule 3:

Where neither heir is entitled to be preferred to the other under Rule 1 or Rule 2 they take simultaneously.

Agnates in ascending and descending lines may be explained with the help of the following diagram:

In the above diagram P stand for propositus. S Stand for son, SS for Son’s son, SSS for son’s son’s son, SSSS for son’s son’s son’s son and SSSD for son’s son’s son’s daughter. They all are agnates of P in descending line and S, SS and SSS are heir of class I of the schedule but SSSS and SSSD are not but they are simply agnates, as there is no limit as to degrees for descending agnates.

Here P stands for propositus. F stands for father, FF for father’s father, FFF for father’s father’s father and FFM for father’s father’s mother.

All are agnates in ascending line of P.

In ascending line there is no limit as to degrees.

All the collaterals of the agnates in ascending and descending lines are also agnates.

Cognates are such relatives who are related through females. They may be in ascending or descending lines, which may be explained as under:

In the above illustration P stands for Propositus. S stands for son, SS for son’s son, SSD for son’s son’s daughter and SSDS for son’s son’s daughter’s son and D for daughter, DD for daughter’s daughter, DDS for daughter’s daughter’s son, DDDS for daughter’s daughter’s daughter’s son and DDDD for daughter’s daughter’s daughter’s daughter. In this case SSDS, DD, DDS, DDDS and DDDD are cognates to each other.

In the above illustration P stands for propositus. M for mother, F for father, FM for father’s mother, FMF for father’s mother’s father, MF for mother’s father, MFF for mother’s father’s father, MFM for mother’s father’s mother and MFFM for mother’s father’s father’s mother. In this case MF, MFF, MFM, MFFM and FMF are cognates of P in the ascendants line:

Computation of Degrees:

Section 13 defines degrees and provides the method of its computation. It runs as follows:

“(1) For purpose of determining the order of succession among agnates or cognates, relationship shall be reckoned from the intestate to the heirs in terms of degrees of ascent or degrees of descent or both, as the case may be.

(2) Degrees of ascent and degrees of descent shall be computed inclusive of the intestate.

(3) Every generation constitutes a degree either ascending or descending.”

In the computation of degree of relationship between the intestate and his agnates and cognates the intestate or propositus will be taken as the starting point. Therefore, the intestate himself counts as the first degree, his father or mother as the second degree and so on upward in the ascending line.

Similarly in descending line, his son or daughter will be computed the second degree and so on downwards. In the case of collaterals also there are degrees of ascent and also of descent. Every generation in ascending line or descending line constitutes a degree.

No Preference on the Ground of Sex:

A male heir cannot be preferred to a female heir on the ground of sex. The equality between the two has been maintained.


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