1. The dispute in this case is as to the right of succession to the stridhanam of one Rangammah who had been married according to one of the approved forms but who died without issue, male or female, her husband having predeceased her. The learned Judge holds that the plaintiffs--the daughters of Rangammah's husband's brother--are in the absence of nearer heirs, entitled to take property by succession.
2. In the argument before us two contentions were urged on behalf of the appellants (defendants Nos. 1 to 3), viz., firstly, that the plaintiffs are, under the law, not in the line of heirs at all secondly, that, if they are, the second defendant (assuming he is, as alleged by him, Rangammah'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 Rangammah'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 Achara Kanda 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 Kutti Animal v. Radakristna Aiyan 8 M.H.C.R. 88 decided more than twenty years ago and which recognized the right of a sister to inherit her brother's estate. No doubt in that case her right was not in terms stated to be that of a bandhu; but not being a sagotra, sapinda or samanodaka, 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 Mad. 241 Mart v. Chinnammal I.L.R. 8 Mad. 107 Nallanna v. Ponnol I.L.R. 14 Mad. 149 and Balamma v. Pullayya I.L.R. 18 Mad. 168.
4. Following the decision upholding the sister's right, that of other female relations to succeed as bandhus has also been recognized see Nallanna v. Ponnal I.L.R. 14 Mad. 149 already cited and Bamappa Udayan v. Arumugath Udayan I.L.R. 17 Mad. 182 . It may also be added that in Chinnmmal v. Venkatachala I.L.R. 15 Mad. 421 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. Rangasami Mudaliar I.L.R. 18 Mad. 193 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 favoured male bandhus or regular bandhus as they were otherwise spoken of by the learned Judges. 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 I.L.R. 14 Mad. 149 in unequivocal terms decided that a man's son's daughter is a bandhu, but also subsequent to Sundrammal v. Bangasami Mudaliar I.L.R. 18 Mad. 193 pointed out that Kutti Ammal v. Badakristna Aiyan 8 M.H.C.R. 88 proceeded 'on the view that any relative who is also a cognate may be treated as coming within the definition of bhinna gotra sapinda, and that the term 'sapinda,' as used in chapter 2, Section 6, of the Mitakshara included females' Balamma v. Pullayya I.L.R. 18 Mad. 168. 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 Rangammah's stridhanam. 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 Vrihaspati referred to in paragraphs 622-3 of Mayne's Hindu Law. The learned author, no doubt, mentions among others a woman's maternal uncle's son as one of the persons entitled, according to Vrihaspati, 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 Doss Banerjee's 'Marriage and Stridhanam, ' 2nd edition, page 387.)
5. The meaning of the text, borrowing the language of Dr. Banerjee 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; and so 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 stridhanam if she leave no male issue, nor son of a daughter, nor a daughter.' (Ibid., 387 and 388).
6. The second defendant, assuming that he is Rangammah'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 plaintiff's. 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 (Chapter IX, Section III, 36) 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.