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What is the Rule of Doctrine of Relation Back under Hindu Adoption Laws?

This theory was based on a doctrine that there should be no hiatus in the continuity of the line of adoptive father. The doctrine has got the relevance with respect to succession of the property of the adoptive father.

The rule had two exceptions:—

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(1) That any lawful alienation effected by a female heir since the death at the adoptive father and before the date of adoption was binding on the adopted son.

(2) That if the property by inheritance went to a collateral, the adoption could not divest the property which was vested in the heir of the collateral.

In Sripad Gonjam v. Datta Rant Kashi Nath, Supreme Court has explained the meaning of the doctrine of relation back in the following words, “when a widow adopts a son to her husband, doctrine makes sonship retrospective from the moment of the death of the late husband.”

The adopted son is deemed to have born on the date of the death of the adoptive father. The proposition that emerge are that (1) a widow’s adoption cannot be stultified by an anterior partition of the joint family and the adopted son can claim a share as if he were begotten and was alive when the adoptive father breathed last. In an old case, Sir Lionel, C.J., summerised the law as follows:—

(1) It is a rule of Hindu law that an adoption dates back to the date of the death of the father.

(2) There is no reason why an adopted son should be placed in position inferior to that of the posthumous son, the heir of a disqualified person and the absent coparcener.

(3) The right of the adopted son to demand partition, has been recognised.

(4) As adoption divests an estate of inheritence, it would be unjust to the adopted son the right of claiming repartition when the rule of survivorship applies. It is settled law that an adoption made by a widow to her deceased husband after the death of the collateral does not entitle the adopted son to come in as an heir of the collateral. In 1954, the Supreme Court took the opposite view and held that property once vested in the collateral cannot be divested by the subsequent adoption.

Further in Nivrutti Kushaba Binnar and others v. Sakhabai, Bombay High Court has explained the meaning of the doctrine of relation back. According to this doctrine when son was adopted by a female after husband’s death, as per customs and tenets of the Hindu Law, than it must be held that he was born in the adopted family at the time of death of male member.

Limitation:

The principles of Relationship Back applies only when the claim made by the adopted son relates to the estate at his adoptive father and it is the interest of the adoptive father with the adopted son is entitled to take as on the date of his death. This principles does not apply when the claim made by the adopted son relates to the estate at the collateral.

With respect to the estate of a collateral the governing principles is that inheritance can never be in abeyance, and that one’s it devolves on a person who is a nearest heir under the law; it is their after not liable to be divested. The principle of Relation Back is subject to limitation by which if the property by inheritance goes to a collateral and a son is adopted after the death of the collateral, the adoption does not divest the property which has vested in the heir of the collateral.

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