1. The dispute in this case is as to the right of succession to the stridhanam of one Rengammal, who had been married according to one of the approved forms, but who died without issue, male or female, her husband having pre-deceased her. The learned Judge holds that the plaintiffs--the daughters of Rengammal's husband's brother--are, in the absence of nearer heirs, entitled to take the succession.
2. In the argument before us, two contentions were urged on behalf of the appellants, defendants 1 to 3, viz.: 1st, that the plaintiffs are, under the law, not in the. line of heirs at all; 2ndly, that if they are, the 2nd defendant (assuming he is, as, alleged by him, Rengammal's maternal uncle's adopted son) has a preferential right to the property in dispute.
3. With reference to the first of these contentions, the question is whether the plaintiffs are in the line of heirs to their uncle, since, in the admitted circumstances of the case, the heirs entitled to take Rengammal's stridhanam would, under the Mitakshara, be her husband's heirs. Now, undoubtedly, the plaintiffs are sapindas of their uncle, in the Mitakshara sense of the term 'sapinda,' inasmuch as they have community with him of particles of the same body as explained in the Acharakanda of the Mitakshara. And as persons liable to be transferred by marriage to a gotra other than that of their birth, they (plaintiffs) must be looked upon as sapindas of a different gotra, and would, therefore, be their uncle's bandhus, unless, as was argued on behalf of the appellants, they were precluded from, claiming such heritable right in consequence of their sex. But such an argument it is too late in this Presidency to raise, it being opposed to the ratio decidendi of several decisions in this Court, beginning with Radhakrishna v. Kuttiammal 8 M.H.C.R. 88 decided more than twenty years ago, and which recognized the right of a sister to inherit to her brother's estate. No doubt, in that case, her right was not in terms stated to be that of a bandhu; bat not being a sagotra sapinda or samanodhaka, she could have been let in only as a bandhu; and that it was in that right her claim was admitted has been repeatedly pointed out. See Lakshmanammal v. Tiruvengada I.L.R. 5 M. 250; Mari v. Chinnammal (Ib. 8 M. 130 ); Nallanna v. Ponnal (Ib. 14 M. 150 ; and Balamma v. Pullayya (Ib. 18 M. at p. 170).
4. Following the decision upholding the sister's right, that of other female relations to succeed as bandhus has also been recognised. See Nallana v. Ponnal, already cited, and Ramappudayan v. Arumukathudayan I.L.R. 17 M. 182 . It may also be added that in Chinnaminal v. Venkatachala (Ib. 15 M. 422 ) a man's father's sister was expressly referred to by the learned Judges who decided the case as a bandhu. Great stress was laid on behalf of the appellants upon the language used in Sundrammal v. Rengasami Mudaliar I.L.R. 18 M 198 with reference to a sister's daughter's right to come in as a bandhu. But we must take those observations as intended to draw a distinction between the less preferential right of female bandhus and that of the more favored male bandhus, or 'regular bandhus' as they were otherwise spoken of by the learned Judges (Ib. 198). We ought not, we think, to understand those observations as intended to deny that female sapindas in general do come within the definition of bandhus under the Mitakshara, especially when we consider that the same learned Judges had not only in Nallanna v. Ponnal in unequivocal terms decided that a man's son's daughter is a bandhu, but also subsequent to Sundrammal v. Rengasami Mudali, pointed out that Kuttiammal v. Radhakrishna proceeded 'on the view that any relative who is also a cognate may be treated as coming within the definition of bhinnagotra sapinda, and that the term sapinda, as used in ch. 2, Section 6 of the Mitakshara included females' I. L. R., 18 M. 170. We must, therefore, hold that the plaintiffs are not precluded from claiming as bandhus of their uncle by reason of their sex, and that, consequently, they are in the line of heirs to the deceased Rengammal's stridhanam.
5. The only other contention urged on behalf of the appellants is shortly disposed of. It rests entirely upon a misconception as to the import of a text of Brihaspati, referred to in the concluding part of Section 622 of Mayne's Hindu Law, 5th Edition. The learned author, no doubt, mentions among others a woman's maternal uncle's son as one of the persons entitled, according to Brihaspati, to claim her stridhanam. But that the whole explanation of the text given by Mr. Mayne is erroneous will be evident from a careful examination of the text itself. It runs as follows:-- 'The sister of a mother, the wife of a maternal or of a paternal uncle, the sister of a father, the mother of a wife, and the wife of an elder brother are declared equal to a mother. If they leave no male issue of their body, nor the son of a daughter, nor a daughter, the sister's son and the rest shall inherit their property.' (Guru Dass Bannerjee's 'Marriage and Stridhanam,' 2nd Edition, page 387.) The meaning of the text, borrowing the language of Dr. Bannerjee, is as follows:-- To a male, the females related as the sister of his mother, the wife of his maternal or of his paternal uncle, the sister of his father, the mother of his wife and the wife of his elder brother are like his mother; so, as to a female, the males related in the reciprocal way as her sister's son, her husband's sister's son, her husband's brother's son, her brother's son, her daughter's husband and her husband's younger brother are like her son. And these last-mentioned relations of a female being like her sons inherit her stridhana if she leave no male issue, nor son of a daughter, nor a daughter.' (Ib. 388 and 389.)
6. The second defendant, assuming that he is Rengammal's maternal uncle's adopted son, is not a relation specified in the text, and, consequently, he cannot under it set up any right as against the plaintiffs. It is unnecessary, therefore, to consider and express any opinion on the question much discussed in the argument whether the passages in the Smriti Chandrika and other southern commentaries which refer to, and rely on, the text, are to be accepted as modifying the rule laid down by the Mitakshara with reference to the devolution of the stridhanam of a woman married in one of the approved forms, but dying without issue.
7. The decision of the learned Judge is right. The appeal fails, and is dismissed with costs.