21 Nov 2023 9:19 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday (20.11.2023), observed that mere registration of an Adoption Deed does not absolve the person asserting such adoption from proving the fact of adoption by cogent evidence and the person contesting it from adducing evidence to the contrary.A bench of Justice CT Ravikumar and Justice Sanjay Kumar made this observation while considering a case where a 70 year old...
The Supreme Court on Monday (20.11.2023), observed that mere registration of an Adoption Deed does not absolve the person asserting such adoption from proving the fact of adoption by cogent evidence and the person contesting it from adducing evidence to the contrary.
A bench of Justice CT Ravikumar and Justice Sanjay Kumar made this observation while considering a case where a 70 year old woman, just two months before her death, had allegedly adopted a child less than a year old. The adoptee claimed that the woman had bequeathed all her properties to him through a registered will.
The Apex Court however after ascertaining the facts in detail observed that the fact of the adoption was not believable, due to the multitude of suspicious circumstances surrounding it.
According to the facts of the case, Nalini Kanth (Appellant) claimed to have been adopted by Venkubayamma, a 70 year old woman, when he was less than 1 year old. According to the Appellant, he was adopted by her, by a registered Adoption Deed dated 20.04.1982. Later, under a registered Will Deed dated 03.05.1982 he claims that she bequeathed all her property to him. The adoptee filed a suit for declaratory and consequential reliefs in respect of Venkubayamma’s properties. The suit was contested by Kaliprasad, the grandson of Venkubayamma. He challenged the Adoption Deed and the Will Deed, under which the adoptee son claimed rights.
The Principal Subordinate Judge, held in favour of the Appellant and decreed the suit but the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in appeal held against him. Subsequently, he approached the Apex Court.
The Apex Court observed that it was difficult to believe that a woman of such an advanced age would willingly take on the responsibility of caring for an infant.
Referring to the adoption ceremony, the Apex Court said that “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”. Normally, such occasions would not be kept confidential as an adoption would usually be made with much pomp and celebration, the Court said.
The Court pointed out that the Adoption Deed was registered and Section 16 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 raises a presumption in favour of a registered document relating to adoption. However, this presumption is rebuttable, the court highlighted.
The Court also observed that no evidence had been adduced to prove that relations between Venkubayamma and Kaliprasad (her grandson) had fallen out.
“..as Ex. A9 Adoption Deed was registered, the presumption under Section 16 of the Act of 1956 attached to it and it was for Kaliprasad to rebut that presumption. We find that he did so more than sufficiently. Mere registration of Ex. A9 Adoption Deed did 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 in this respect that various suspicious circumstances attached to the adoption ceremony of 18.04.1982 assume significance, ” the Court said.
The Court also highlighted that ‘giving and taking’ of the child in adoption, is an essential requisite under Section 11(vi) of the 1956 Act. In the said case the court found that there was no convincing evidence of that act.
The adoption deed stated that the adoptive child would perform the annual shraddha ceremonies and offering of Pinda and water, as her natural son, to her ancestors. The Court found this aspect hard to believe.
“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 and her ancestors” the Court said in this regard.
The Court thus concluded that the Appellant had not proved his adoption in accordance with law and was not entitled to claim any right or share in Venkubayamma’s properties.
“..we are of the opinion that the adoption of Nalini Kanth by Venkubayamma on 18.04.1982 is not proved in accordance with law despite the registration of Ex. A9 Adoption Deed dated 20.04.1982. The very adoption, itself, is not believable, given the multitude of suspicious circumstances surrounding it. Nalini Kanth cannot, therefore, be treated as her heir by adoption,” the Apex Court said.
Additionally, the Court also noted that the Will was also not proven in accordance with law and that it did not create any right in favour of the Appellant.
Case Title: Moturu Nalini Kanth V. Gainedi Kaliprasad, CIVIL APPEAL No. 2435 of 2010
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 998
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