Staff Reporter

BANGALORE: The Karnataka High Court has held that only a male member of a Hindu family can adopt and that adoption by a widow who has had sons through her husband is invalid.

Justice N. Ananda said the main purpose of adoption of a Hindu male is to perform spiritual ceremonies of the adoptive father and also to perpetuate his lineage. The court was dealing with an appeal by V. Ramachandraiah against granting one-third share belonging to his adopted mother Muniyamma alias Ammanamma to V. Narayan.

Ramachandraiah claimed that though he and Narayan were sons of his father’s second wife, Venkatamma, the property was held by Muniyamma. Quoting Supreme Court rulings in Kashinath versus Jagannath, the High Court said a “widow cannot adopt in the absence of express authority by her husband”. It also held that an unmarried woman cannot adopt as the purpose of adoption is to ensure spiritual benefit for a man after his death and to his ancestors.

The woman, the court said, having no spiritual needs to be satisfied, was not allowed to adopt for herself. But in either case, it is a condition precedent for a valid adoption that the man should be without any male issue at the time of adoption.

Citing another Supreme Court judgment of Amarendra Man Singh Bhramarbar Sanatan Singh, the court said: “A married woman cannot adopt at all during the subsistence of the marriage except when the husband has completely and finally renounced the world or has ceased to be a Hindu or has been declared by a court to be of unsound mind.”

If the husband is not under such disqualification, the wife cannot adopt even with the consent of the husband, whereas the husband can adopt with the consent of the wife.

On how adoption ought to be made when a Hindu male dies, leaving behind more than one widow, the High Court said the Supreme Court had considered the aspect with particular reference to the Mysore Hindu Law Women’s Rights Act. The Supreme Court had said that in the absence of any prohibition in writing by the husband, his widow or widows, the senior most of all these shall be presumed to have his authority to adopt.

In the case that came up before the High Court for hearing, Venkatappa was survived by two widows and two sons from his second wife. Therefore, there was no reason for either of the widows to adopt, and, the adoption by a widow to herself when her husband is survived by natural sons is invalid.

The High Court said that in this case, there was no evidence to show that there was any physical act of giving a male child by his natural mother to the hands of the adoptive mother. It said the essential ingredient of an adoption is physical act of giving and receiving of a boy from one family to another.

The High Court dismissed the appeal by Ramachandraiah against a lower court order.