1. Just before the marriage of Bulli Venkamma her father was given Rs. 800 by her prospective husband's father for the purchase of jewels and saree samans. Now that she is dead there are two sets of claimants for the property that was purchased with this Rs. 800. They are her husband, the first defendant, who claims as the heir of his son, the second defendant, who died pending suit and who in his turn claimed as the Stridhana heir of his mother. The other claimants are the plaintiffs, who are the brothers of Bulli Venkamma, who say that this property was sulka, in which case the brothers are the persons first in the list of those entitled to succeed to that particular kind of Stridhana property. Both the courts below found that the property was not sulka and that consequently it descended to her son in the way that Stridhana property ordinarily does....
2. Mr. Raghava Rao relies on the definition of sulka in the Smriti Chandrika, in which it is defined as wealth received as the price of household utensils, of beasts of burden, of milch cattle, or ornaments. In the Mitakshara, on the other hand, sulka is defined as a gratuity for which a girl is given in marriage, regarding which Trevelyan says in his third edition of his 'Hindu Law' at page 475:
According to the more usual view, this was the gratuity for the receipt of which a girl is given in marriage. It was originally paid to the father as the price of the bride, but when that was forbidden the father received it for the bride, and it became her property, as her dowry.
3. Much the same is said of sulka in Ghose's Hindu Law Vol. I at page 331. Mr. Rama Rao, relying on the origin of this particular kind of property, contends that sulka is not a form of gift which pertains to the Brahma form of marriage and is given only in the Asura form. I do not however find any authority for this in the text books or in the original texts that have been cited to me. On the contrary, sulka is discussed in the text books with other forms of Stridhana property, and this distinction is not drawn. It would seem that when, instead of the father's receiving property for himself, he took it and gave it to the bride, it came to be regarded as unobjectionable by the ancient authorities and was therefore permitted even in connection with the Brahma form of marriage.
4. Mr. Raghava Rao emphasises the importance of the Smriti Chandrika in South India and argues that all kinds of property mentioned in the definition of sulka in the Smriti Chandrika must be considered as sulka when it is given before marriage into the hands of the father.
5. As to the relative value of the authority of the Mitakshara and the Smriti Chandrika, Mayne in his 'Hindu Law and Usage', p. 50, 10th edition, discusses a decision of the Judicial Committee in, Buddha Singh v. Lattu Singh I.L.R.(1915)All. 604 :
The Judicial Committee, after pointing out that the Smriti Chandrika admittedly differs from the author of the Mitakshara in several essential rules of law, said 'it seems, to say the least, doubtful whether an enunciation in the Smriti Chandrika can be safely applied except perhaps by way of analogy to explain a dubious or indeterminate phrase or term in the Mitakshara.' In other cases, where its authority on specific questions in respect of inheritance to Stridhana was tested, its views were not followed. Again, while the Mitakshara gives the preference to the mother on the ground of propinquity, the Smriti Chandrika gives the preference to the father. The authority of the Smriti Chandrika must therefore be confined to questions where the Mitakshara is silent and the reasoning of the Smriti Chandrika is consistent with the rules in the Mitakshara. There can however be little doubt that its general authority is fairly high on points on which it does not come into conflict with the Mitakshara.
6. This quotation from Mayne seems to be in accordance with judicial decisions. It may be true that where the other authorities are unanimous and against the Mitakshara, they may be preferred, as apparently they were in Debi Mangal Prasad Singh v. Mahadeo Prasad Singh (1912) 22 M.L.J. 462 : L.R. 39 IndAp 121 : I.L.R. 34 All. 234 .
7. I do not think that it is necessary from a reading of the two definitions quoted above to posit a contradiction. It seems clear that even though we take the definition of sulka given in the Smriti Chandrika, we must still read it with the definition given in the Mitakshara and must regard as sulka the classifications given in the Smriti Chandrika only if there is attached to the gift some idea of a bride price. If the present is given to the girl or to the father of the girl for the primary purpose of purchasing a bride or securing the marriage, then it would come within the definition of sulka; but these same classes of gifts, if not tainted with the idea of purchase, being simple gifts to a prospective bride, would not fall within the definition of sulka.
8. The parties are kapus, a very orthodox sub-caste of sudras; and it is not contended that the practice in this particular case differed from the customary practice of the community. Nor is it said that there is any essential difference between the practice in this community and that prevailing among the twice-born castes. In fact, Mr. Raghava Rao goes so far as to say that all forms of dowry which are the subject of barter and which are actually given before the marriage ceremony takes place would come under the classification of sulka. It is common knowledge that such presents are not ordinarily treated as such; but pass to the children after the mother's death in the same way as other forms of Stridhana. Evidence has been let in the present case, including the evidence of two documents, Exs. II and III, of which the plaintiffs were writers or attestors, of two separate instances in which property of this nature has passed to the children and not to the heirs according to the succession for sulka. This is evidence that the parties do not regard such gifts as sulka. As to the presumption arising in such cases, I feel myself in accord with the learned author of Mayne's 'Hindu Law' who at page 755 when writing of sulka says:
The sulka in the older sense of bride price, ultimately received by the bride herself is obsolete; where it is now paid to the parents or the brother in the Asura marriage, it does not raise any question of succession to her Stridhana. Where it is paid to the bride herself, either as the price of ornaments or household furnishings or as a complementary present, it would be her ordinary Stridhana; for there is no reason why any dowry given to the wife by the husband in modern times should be treated as attracting a special order of succession which was applied to some obscure form of the ancient bride price, which the father may be supposed, after receiving, to have handed back to his daughter.
9. Both the courts below were satisfied from the evidence that the suit gift was not considered by the parties to be in any sense a payment for the bride without which the marriage could not take place. Mr. Raghava Rao contends that the lower courts did not try to read the definition given in the Smriti Chandrika with the definition given in the Mitakshara so as to reconcile them, and then to regard the evidence in the light of this combined definition. I think, however, that the lower courts had very clearly before them the essential nature of sulka and judged the evidence accordingly.
10. The appeal therefore fails and is dismissed with costs.
11. Leave refused.