Mere Registration Of Adoption Deed Does Not Absolve A Person From Proving Such Adoption With Cogent Evidence: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has observed that a mere registration of adoption deed does not absolve the person asserting such adoption from proving that fact by cogent evidence and the person contesting it from adducing evidence to the contrary.
It is to be noted that at the time of the purported adoption herein, the appellant was not even a year old, while the alleged adoptive mother was 70-years-old, who died two months later.
Thus, considering the suspicious circumstances in the present matter attached to the adoption ceremony, and the other related facets, a bench of Justice C.T. Ravikumar and Justice Sanjay Kumar was of the opinion that the above factum gained significance.
“Normally, such occasions would not be kept secret or confidential as an adoption would usually be made with much pomp and celebration. The clandestine manner in which the alleged adoption is stated to have taken place raises a doubt but the same has not been adequately explained. Further, as already noted supra, no evidence was adduced to prove that relations between Venkubayamma and Kaliprasad, her grandson, had fallen out. The document also does not record any reasons as to why Venkubayamma was not happy with Kaliprasad, whose marriage she had performed in February 1982, just a few months earlier”, the bench observed.
Noting the respective age and the gap between the alleged 70-year-old adoptive mother (deceased), and the purported adopted son , the bench further noted, “…The document also records that the adoptive child would perform the annual shraddha ceremonies and offering of Pinda and water, as her natural son, to her ancestors. Nalini Kanth was aged less than a year when this adoption deed was executed whereas the adoptive mother, going by the document itself, was aged 70 years. Being of that age, it is strange that Venkubayamma would have expected this toddler to perform her obsequies after her death and such other ceremonies for her 37 and her ancestors. Further, it is difficult to believe that a woman of such advanced years would willingly take on the responsibility of caring for an infant at that age”.
The Court also could not find convincing evidence of the actual ‘giving and taking’ of the child in adoption, being an essential requisite under Section 11(vi) of the Act of e Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956.
The appellant herein, (then a minor), alleging to be an adopted son claimed an absolute right and title over the properties of late Venkubayamma (alleged adoptive mother) under registered Will Deed dated May 3, 1982. The adoption was attempted to be proved by a registered Adoption Deed dated April 20, 1982.
In 1983, the appellant through his guardian, filed a suit for declaratory and consequential reliefs in respect of her properties which the Principal Subordinate Judge, Srikakulam, held in his favour, and decreed the suit. Also, the contesting parties were all related to Venkubayamma.
However, in appeal, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in 2006 held against the appellant and allowed filed by Venkubayamma’s grandson through her deceased daughter, Varalaxmi. The original suit was for recovery of their possession of the property from the grandson alleging that he was the adopted son, who was adopted at Sri Sri Raghunadha Swamy Temple at Bhapur in Berhampur City, Ganjam District, Orissa, and the adoption deed was executed and was registered on the same day.
It was signed by his natural parents who gave him in adoption and also by his adoptive mother. Thereafter, Venkubayamma executed registered Will Deed dated 03.05.1982 (Ex. A10) in a sound state of mind bequeathing all her properties to him. Thereby, Venkubayamma also canceled her earlier Will Deed dated 26.05.1981 (Ex. A19), executed in favour of Kaliprasad, her grandson. Under Ex. A10 Will, Venkubayamma appointed Pasupuleti Anasuya (PW 1) as the executor of the Will and also 2 as the guardian of Nalini Kanth, in the event she died during his minority. In fact, Venkubayamma died just two months later.
The Court, after considering all the contentions and the claims, inter alia noted many discrepancies in the alleged adoption, for instance:
- the evidence of the purohit who is stated to have conducted the ceremonies, lead to a doubt as to the very adoption having taken place. The adoption ceremony is stated to have been performed at Sri Sri Raghunadha Swamy Temple at Bhapur in Berhampur but as per another witness, Raghunadha Swamy Temple is not even in Bhapur but in Chandramanipeta and only Ramalingeswara Swamy and Mukteswara Swamy Temples are at Bhapur.
-that there were no photographs of the datta homam, since even though it is no longer considered an essential ceremony, it is of significance when performed, and would have been captured for posterity by taking pictures.
-that though a professional photographer was hired for taking pictures at the adoption ceremony, he took only three photographs and no more. “This parsimony is not explained”, the court had observed.
Accordingly, the bench held that the adoption was not proved in accordance with law despite the registration of the adoption deed, and the appellant could not be treated as her heir. “…The very adoption, itself, is not believable, given the multitude of suspicious circumstances surrounding it…”, the bench further observed. Thus, the bench upheld the judgment and decree of the High Court.
Cause Title: Moturu Nalini Kanth v. Gainedi Kaliprasad (dead, through LRs.)