1. The question of law that arises for consideration in the present appeal is whether the words 'sister's son' in Section 2, Hindu Law of Inheritance (Amendment) Act (Act 2 of 1929), include the -son of a half-sister. Section 2 of the said Act runs as follows:
A son's daughter, daughter's daughter, Sister and sister's son shall, in the order so specified, be entitled to rank in the order of succession next after a father's father and before a father's brother.
Provided that a sister's son shall not include a son adopted after the sister's death.
2. There is no dispute about the facts which would be clear by a reference to the following pedigree:
RAM BAKSH|____________|__________| |Tika Ram Bhikari Das| |Ganga Devi=Gur Dayal=Shiama Ram Babu| | (Plff. Respdt.)| |Sahodra Krishna Murari(Deft. Applt.)|Dhanpat
3. Gur Dayal was at one time owner of the property in dispute in the present litigation. Ganga Devi, his first wife, pre-deceased him leaving a daughter Sahodra. Gur Dayal died in the year 1923 leaving Shiama his widow, Krishna Murari, his son, and Mt. Sahodra, his daughter. Krishna Murari succeeded to the property left by Gur Dayal. Krishna Murari died in the year 1925 and then Shiama, his mother, succeeded him by right of inheritance. Shiama died in May 1932. Within three months of the death of Shiama, Sahodra gave birth to a son who was named Dhanpat. Dhanpat was therefore the stepsister's son of Krishna Murari and was conceived at the time when succession opened on the death of Mt. Shiama. Dhanpat died during the pendency of the present appeal and if, on the death of Shiama, Dhanpat was entitled to the properties in dispute by right of inheritance, Mt. Sahodra on his death is entitled to succeed as his mother. Bam Babu, plaintiff, is Krishna Murari's father's uncle's son. In short when the succession opened on Shiama's death there were the following two claimants : (1) father's uncle's son, and (2) half-sister's son, and the question is whether the latter is entitled to succeed in preference to the former.
4. But for the aforesaid Amending Act of 1929, there could be no question that the father's uncle's son who is a sapinda had a preferential right to succeed as against the half, sister's son who is a bandhu. After the passing of the said Act however, a sister's son inherits with gotraja sapin-das and succeeds next after the sister and has preference in the order of succession amongst sapindas over father's paternal unole's son. It follows that if the words 'sister's son' in Section 2, Amending Act, include a half-sister's son, Dhanpat was, on Shiama's death, entitled to succeed in preference to Earn Babu. It is well settled that amongst sapindas of the same degree of descent from the common ancestor a sapinda of the whole blood is a preferential heir to a sapinda of the half blood and this rule is also applicable to bandhus. In other words, amongst bandhus when we have two claimants of the same or equal degree, one of whom is of the whole blood and the other of half blood, the former is a preferential heir. It follows that before the passing of the Amending Act, a full sister's son was entitled to succeed in preference to a half-sister's son. The question then arises whether by Section 2, Amending Act, the Legislature intended not only to place a full sister's son higher up in the order of succession as against some remote sapindas but also to nullify the preferential position of a sister's son as against a half. sister's son and put both in the category of heirs of equal degree.
5. It was pointed out by this Court in the Full Bench case in Ram Adhar v. Mt. Sudesra : AIR1933All491 that the word 'sister' in the English language ordinarily means a sister of the full blood and it was held in that case that the word 'sister' in Section 2, Amending Act, does not include a half-sister either consanguine or uterine. To the same effect is the decision of the Oudh Chief Court in Mt. Kabootra v. Ram Padrath A.I.R. 1935 Oudh. 332. It follows from these decisions that the words 'sister's son' have reference only to a son of a sister of the full blood and do not embrace the son of a half-sister Apart from this there is no reason to suppose that the Legislature not only intended to put a sister's son higher up in the order of succession but also intended to abrogate the provisions of Hindu law as regards the preference that a son of a sister of the whole blood has in the line of succession over a sister of the half blood. By the Amending Act modifications have been introduced in the line of succession ordained by Hindu law and the Act must therefore be strictly construed. In other words only such departures from the line of succession recognized by Hindu law as have been dearly and specifically set forth in the section are permissible, and it would be repugnant to the ordinary canons of construction to give a wider meaning to the words used in the section than those words ordinarily bear. The words 'sister's son' ordinarily connote the son of a full sister and there is no reason to suppose that the Legislature intended to use those words in a loose sense. We therefore hold that the words 'sister's son' in Section 2, Hindu Law of Inheritance (Amendment) Act, mean only the son of a sister of the full blood and do not include the son of a half sister. Ram Babu was therefore entitled to succeed on the death of Mt. Shiama. The appeal must accordingly fail and is dismissed with costs.