H.S. Chaturvedi, J.
1. This special appeal by the plaintiffs arises out of a suit for possession. The facts of the case are not disputed. One Ram Harakh Singh was the last male owner of the property which is involved in this suit. In the year 1916, he was murdered by his first two cousins, namely Ham Anand Singh and Ram Narain Singh, sons of Chandika Singh real brother' of Ram Harakh Singh's father. Both the brothers, that is, Ram Anand Singh and Ram Narain Singh were prosecuted and ultimately convicted under Section 304, I. P. C.
2. On the death of Ram Ilarakh Singh, his widow succeeded to the estate of her husband as a Hindu widow, and in that capacity, she remained in possession of her husband's property till her death in 1933. She was survived by her daughter, Menda Kaur, but she could not succeed because of a family custom which excluded daughters from, inheritance. Ram Anand Singh and Ram Narain Singh wore in possession of the property of Ram Harakh Singh when this suit was filed in 1945 by Maharaja Singh and his transferees,
In the pedigree of the family, Maharaja Singh belongs to the line of Gajgah Singh while Ram Anand Singh and Rain Narain Singh who were impleaded as defendants in the suit, belonged to the line of Alopi Singh brother of Gajgah Singh. Ram Harakh Singh also, who was murdered belonged to the line of Alopi Singh.
3. In the plaint Maharaja Singh and his transferees claimed the property on the ground that Ram Anand Singh and Ram Narain Singh and their descendants were disqualified from inheriting the property of Ram Harakh Singh because of his murder committed by Ram Anand Singh and Ram Narain Singh. It was pleaded that if Ram Anand Singh and Ram Narain Singh and their male issues were left out, then Maharaja Singh was the nearest reversioner to succeed to the estate of Ram Harakh Singh.
4. The suit was defended by Ram Anand Singh and Ram Narain Singh who pleaded that there was no rule of Hindu law which prevented a murderer from succeeding to the estate of his victim. In the alternative, it was maintained that in the presence of Bijay Bahadur Singh and Rampal Singh, sons of Ram Anand Singh, who were nearer heirs, theplaintiff Maharaja Singh could not succeed as he was more remote to Ram Harakh Singh.
5. At the trial it was not disputed that the two sons of Ram Anand Singh were nearer in degree to Ram Harakh Singh than the plaintiff Maharaja Singh. When the second appeal was pending both Rain Anand Singh and Ram Narain Singh died and in their place Bijai Bahadur and Rampal Singh, sons of Ram Anand Singh, were brought on record as then legal representatives.
6. The two Courts below held that by committing the murder of Ram Harakh Singh, Ram Anand Singh and Ham Narain Singh had disqualified themselves from inheriting the property of Ram Harakh Singh. The learned Single Judge of this Court, who heard the second appeal, concurred in the view taken by the lower Courts. It is now well settled that a murderer is debarred from succeeding to the estate of the person murdered. It is against public policy to allow a murderer to benefit himself by his own fellow.
We need only cite the Privy Council decision in -- 'Kenchava v. Girimallappa', 51 Ind App 368: (AIR 1924 PC 209) (A), which lays down that the principles of justice, equity and good conscience require that a murderer be disqualified from inheriting the estate of his victim. It cannot, therefore be doubted that the two murderers, namely Ram Anand Singh and Ram Narain Singh, were disqualified from succeeding to the estate of Ram Harakh Singh.
7. The main question raised at the trial and reiterated before us is whether the respondents also are disqualified from succeeding to the estate of the murdered person merely because they happen to be the sons of one of the murderers. The learned single Judge, in agreement with the Courts below, held that as the respondents do not base their claim to succeed through their father (murderer) but claim the estate of the last male owner in their own right as reversioners, they are not debarred from succeeding to the estate of Ram Harakh Singh. We do not think that the correctness of this view can be disputed.
8. Learned Counsel for the appellants has contended that a son of a murderer is also excluded from inheritance because of his relationship with the murderer even though the son may succeed to the property of the last male owner in his own right and not through the murderer.
In support of this contention reliance has been placed upon the decision of the Privy Council in 51 Ind App 368: (AIR 1924 PC 209) (A). We do not think that the Privy Council's decision supports the contention of the appellants' counsel. In the Privy Council case one Chanbasava, a Hindu widow, was in possession of the property of her deceased son. She was murdered by her nephew, Henmappa, who would have got the estate of the last male owner (Parappa) but for the murder committed by him.
Kenchava and Gangava, sisters of the murderer obtained possession of the property. The plaintiff in that case was the son of Parappa's aunt and he claimed that he had a better title than the two sisters of the murderer. The two sisters claimed preference over the plaintiff on the ground that they derived their right to succeed through the murderer. This part of the claim of the sisters was refected and in doing so their Lordships observed:
'The murderer should be treated as non-existent and not as one who forms the stock for a fresh line of descent.'
As the sisters were claiming the property through the murderer, their Lordships rejected their claim on the ground that no title could be derived from the murderer who should be treated as non-existent. We find nothing in these observations of their Lordships of the Privy Council to warrant the suggestion that a son of a murderer is excluded from inheritance simply because of his relationship with the murderer.
What their Lordships have laid down is that if a son or any other heir traces his title to the property of the murdered person through the murderer of that person, then he cannot rely upon that title as the murderer, qua the property of his victim, cannot form 'the stock for a fresh line of descent.' In other words, their Lordships laid down that a murderer, by the disqualification which attaches to him, is debarred from inheriting the property of his victim so as to transmit it to his heirs.
9. A decision of the Bombay High Court in 'Gangu v. Chandrabagabai', 32 Bom 275 (B) was also considered by their Lordships of the Privy Council. In the Bombay case, the question was whether the wife of a murderer could succeed to the estate of the murdered person. It was held by the High Court that a Hindu wife does not derive her title through her husband but succeeds in her own right as a Gotraja Sapinda. Their Lordships of the Privy Council considered the Bombay case and remarked as under:
'In that case, the wife of a murderer was held entitled to succeed to the estate of the murdered man: but that was not because the wife deduced title through her husband, but because of the principle of Hindu family law that a wife becomes a member of her husband's gotra, an actual relation of her husband's relations in her own right, as it is called in Hindu law a gotraja-sapinda.'
10. The principles deducible from the Privy Council case cited above are:
1. A murderer is disqualified from succeeding to the estate of his victim upon the principles of justice, equity and good conscience.
2. A murderer should be treated as non-existent qua the estate of the murdered person, that is to say no title to the estate of the murdered person can be claimed through the murderer.
10a. In the case before us the respondents do not claim through their father but in their own right as the next reversionary heirs of the last male owner. In his Commentary on Hindu Law Mulla has defined what a 'reversioner' means in Hindu Law:
'The heirs of the last full owner, who would be entitled to succeed to the estate of such owner on the death of a widow or other limited heir, if they be then living, are called 'reversioners.' A re-versioner may be a male or a female.'
The same author has further pointed out:
''Where there are several reversioners entitled successively to succeed to an estate held for life by a Hindu widow, no one of such reversioners can be said to claim through or derive his title from another reversioner but each derives his title from the last full owner.' (Vide Mulla's Hindu Law, 10th Edn., Section 175)
10b. As laid down by the Privy Council, the murderers should be deemed as non existent whenthe succession opened. If the father of the respondents was out of the picture, the next reversioners, that is the respondents stepped in in their own right as gotraja-sapinda of the last male owner. The respondents do not claim through their father, and they cannot be debarred i'rom inheriting the estate of the last male owner simply because they happen to be the sons of one of murderers. '
As pointed out in the case of -- 'Stanumurthi-ayya v. Kamappa AIR 1942 Mad 277 (C)
'the test of disqualification is not relationship but whether the title is traced through the murderer.' The respondents arc related to the last male owner through a common ancestor and it is not disputed that they stand higher than the plaintiffs in the pedigree of the family. That being so, the respondents as reversionary heirs to the last male owner are entitled to succeed in their own right in preference to the plaintiffs.
11. Learned Counsel drew our attention to two cases of the Punjab High Court, -- 'Harbhagwan v. Mukum Singh and Pindi Das', 3 Lah 242; (AIR 1922 Lah 243) (D) and - 'Mt. Jind Kuar V. Inder Singh', 3 Lah .1.03: (AIR 1922 Lah 293) (E). We need only say that in view of the Privy Council decision relied upon by us, these cases do not appear to lay down the law correctly.
12. We are of opinion that the suit was correctly decided and there is no substance in the appeal, which is dismissed with costs.