Blood is thicker than water, goes a popular saying. But money turned out to be even thicker than blood for M. Veerapandian of Tenkasi in Tirunelveli district and his 54-year-old nephew S.M. Murugesan who fought a bitter legal battle for nearly a decade over a property dispute.

It all started in 1996 when Mr. Veerapandian’s only brother M. Muthiah died issueless leaving behind several properties. While Mr. Murugesan, biological son of one of the three sisters of the deceased, asserted ownership over the properties claiming to be the adopted son of the deceased, his uncle claimed otherwise.

Initially, Muthiah’s mother had filed a civil suit in the Tenkasi Principal sub-court claiming that she had inherited the property belonging to her deceased son. The court ruled in her favour in 2004 and she even won an appeal filed by her grandson Murugesan in 2005 leading to a second appeal before the Madras High Court Bench here.

Pending adjudication of the case, the old woman died leaving behind a will in favour of her elder son Veerapandian who continued to defend the appeal on the ground that his nephew was claiming ownership over false claims of having been adopted by the deceased through a fake adoption deed allegedly executed on November 18, 1981.

Resolving the dispute, Justice A. Selvam said that children above 15 years of age could not be adopted, unless there was a custom to do otherwise, under Section 10 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. In the present case, the adoption was not valid in law as the deed had been executed when Murugesan was 26 years old.

The biological mother of Murugesan had admitted during cross examination that the first son their family could not be given in adoption as per the practices followed by the caste to which they belong. His educational records too bore the names of biological parents and not that of parents who supposedly adopted him.

Further, the adoption deed had not been signed by the biological parents as was required under Section 16 of the Act. Hence, the judge gave a quietus to the dispute by dismissing the second appeal and declared that the uncle was entitled to inherit the properties in accordance with a will executed in his favour by his deceased mother.