Report No. 110
II. Hindu Law and Muslim Law
49.5. Hindu Law.-
According to Hindu law even before the passing of the Hindu Succession Act,1 no heirship to another person could be claimed by or through one who has been a privy to the murder of that person. This rule was one of public policy and had been given effect to by the Privy Council,2-3 relying on ancient texts. Even before the Privy Council decision, substantially the same result had been reached by the High Courts in India.
A Madras case may be cited4 in illustration. Defendant, the mother of S, had been charged, along with another accused, with having murdered S. Defendant was acquitted, though the other accused was convicted. Plaintiff, as the person next in succession to S. (after the defendant), now sued for a declaration of his right to the property of S on the ground that the defendant was not entitled to the property, inasmuch as she had, (as the plaintiff alleged) been party to the murder.
The subordinate judge dismissed the suit without trying the question whether the defendant had been a party to the murder. On appeal it was held by the High Court that the question should have been tried. The reasoning was as follows:
The principle that no one shall be allowed to benefit by his own wrongful act is of universal application. If the defendant was a party to the murder, her wrongful act, while not preventing the vesting in her of the inheritance, disentitled her to any beneficial interest in it. Such beneficial interest would vest in those who would be entitled to it if the guilty heir were out of the way.
1. Para. 49.5, infra.
2. Kenchaya v. Girimallappa, AIR 1924 PC 200.
3. Narada, 11-13, 21, cited in Mitakashra, II-X.3.
4. Vedanayaga Mudaliar v. Vadammal, 1904 ILR 27 Mad 591 (598 to 600). (This point was not challenged in appeal in Vadammal v. Vedanayaga, 1908 ILR 31 Mad 100 (103, 104).
49.6. Equity, Justice and good conscience.-
In Kenchava's case,1 it was held by the Privy Council that "the High Court has rightly decided that the principles of equity, justice and good conscience exclude the murders". The Privy Council also laid down the proposition that "statutes regulating heirship or descent, or giving force to wills, should be read as not intended to affect paramount question of public policy or depart from well-settled principles of jurisprudence".
1. Kenchava v. Girimallappa, AIR 1924 PC 209 (211).
49.7. Provision in Hindu Succession Act.-
The Hindu Succession Act1 now provides as follows:-
"25. A person who commits a murder or abets the commission of murder shall be disqualified from inheriting the property of the person murdered, or any other property in furtherance of the succession to which he or she committed or abetted the commission of the murder".
2. Section 25, Hindu Succession Act, 1956. See Minote v. Sushil, AIR 1982 Born 68 for meaning of "murder".
49.8. Muslim law.-
The rule under Muslim law is also substantially the same.1 For example,2 the Chief Court of Punjab held that a Muslim who had murdered his half-brother could not be allowed to claim the property of the deceased as his heir.
1. Tyabji Muslim Law, (1968), pp. 762, 820, 865.
2. Shah Khanam v. Kalahandhar Khan, Vol. I, Punj Rep 455, cited in Vedanyada Mudaliar v. Vedamal, ILR 27 Mad 591 (599).