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Report No. 110

Chapter 2


I. Origin of Succession

2.1. Scope of the Chapter.-

We propose to give in this chapter a brief historical resume of the law of succession, including the Indian statutory law relevant to matters dealt with in the Act. Such a resume is not of mere academic value. The rationals of many of the provisions of the Act and their limited applicability1 cannot be properly appreciated without a knowledge of their history.

1. E.g. section 57.

2.2. Origin of succession.- The origin of succession has been thus dealt with by Dr. P.N. Sen1:-

"The origin of succession, like that of so many other legal ideas, is probably to be traced to a religious basis. According to many authorities, it is derived from primitive animism, the source of the worship of the House-spirit, always a male, generally an ancestor. The vesting of the succession in the heir himself originally, like the House-spirit, always a male, was necessary for the purpose of continuing the family rights and observances on which, according to primitive belief, the very existence of the family depended. Property and sacra were indissolubly combined.

It was a point of family honour that the spirit of the deceased, and, through him the House-spirit, was to be propitiated by ritual observance. Such observances were neglected at the peril of the survivors, for the family was one and indivisible, the dead members were still members in a sense, and the heir was simply a co-proprietor with the deceased. The theory of the unity and perpetuity of the family is in fact, the key to the early rules of succession2.

The principle of spiritual benefit is also a characteristic guiding principle in the Dayabhaga law of succession. Srikrishna Tarkalankar points out that a stranger who throws the bones of the deceased into the Ganges, or presents funeral cakes to his departed spirit at the holy shrine of Gaya might, on the ground of superior spiritual benefit, claim his property even in preference to his relations."

1. P.N. Sen Hindu Jurisprudence, p. 161.

2. Williams on Wills and Intestate Succession, p. 2.

The Indian Succession Act, 1925 Back

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