oppn parties Stepson Not Entitled To Inheritance if Hindu Dies Intestate

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Stepson Not Entitled To Inheritance if Hindu Dies Intestate

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
The Bombay High Court has ruled that a stepson cannot be a claimant to share in the property of a Hindu man who dies intestate. The court refused to entertain the plea of the petitioner that since the Income Tax Act, 1961 defined a “child” as including stepson and even adopted son, he should be made a party to the case. The court categorically said that “the claim is clearly preposterous. In the first place, the Applicant must show that he is entitled to succeed to the estate of the deceased either as a relative specified in class-I and if there be no such relative, then as a relative specified in class-II, of the schedule under Hindu Succession Act read with Section 8 of that Act. It is important to note that the controversy involves a claim to the property of a male Hindu dying intestate. The schedule to the Hindu Succession Act refers to heirs in class-I and class-II within the meaning of Section 8 of that Act. A son is included in class-I of the schedule. The Applicant, as son of the wife of the deceased from her first marriage, cannot claim as a son of the deceased. The expression “son” appearing in the Hindu Succession Act does not include a step-son. The expression “son” not having been defined under the Hindu Succession Act, the definition of “son” under the General Clauses Act may be appropriately referred to. In clause (57) of Section 2 of the General Clauses Act, the expression “son” includes only an adopted son and not a step-son. Even otherwise “son” as understood in common parlance means a natural son born to a person after marriage. It is the direct blood relationship, which is the essence of the term “son” as normally understood”.

With this, the court has rightly made a clear distinction on the applicability of the term son as related to the Hindu Succession Act. Different laws give different meaning to different terms but those are basically to plug loopholes that unscrupulous citizens might use to reap unlawful gains. Normally, meanings assigned by individual laws to different terms are limited to those laws only and cannot be stretched to mean the same in any other law. If the IT Act defines a child to include stepson and adopted son it may be because the income of a minor needs to be added to the income of the parent having higher income. But when it come to succession, the court is right in saying that a lineage must be established and that lineage must perforce be through blood relation. A person might be close to his or her stepson and might even leave a large part of his or her estate to him, but when a Hindu dies intestate, as per prevailing law and its application, a stepson cannot claim succession rights.