Illegitimate Son in Hindu Law

Since time immemorial, there is social stigma surrounding a child who is not born to legally wedded/married parents. This is no different under Hindu law. A child is considered illegitimate when he/she is born to parents who were not legally married to each other at the time of the child’s birth. In a landmark case, Mongal Chandra v. Dhirendra, AIR 1976 Cal. 129, the court recognized an illegitimate son as the son of a permanent and exclusive mistress of a particular person.

Hindu Law: Position of an Illegitimate Son Under Mitakshara School

The Mitakshara school of law represents a legal thesis on inheritance of birth, written by the renowned scholar on Hindu law, namely, Vijnaneshwara. The Mitakshara School of law forms the foundation for old Hindu Laws pertaining to property rights and succession rights.
Based on Mitakshara law, the position of an illegitimate son is discussed below:
  • An illegitimate son among the regenerate classes is entitled to claim maintenance.
  • In an event of death of the father, an illegitimate son among the Sudras i.e. the lowest caste listed in the hierarchy of Hindu caste system, is entitled to inherit half of the amount of one brother’s allotment. In case of absence of legitimate sons and clear presence of legitimate daughters or sons of a daughter, an illegitimate son is entitled to a share of half of his putative father’s property.
  • In the absence of any legitimate son or daughters or daughter’s son, an illegitimate inherits whole of his father’s property.

Hindu Law: Illegitimate Son versus Widow’s Right

The Mitakshara school of Hindu law does not state anything regarding the rights of an illegitimate son of a deceased vis-a-vis the rights the widow of the deceased.
However, in a landmark ruling in Kamalammal v. Viswanathaswami, 46 Mad. 167(PC), the Privy Council ruled that an illegitimate son is entitled to half of his father’s property in the presence of the father’s widow. It was further observed that the relation of an illegitimate son cannot be positioned higher than the relation of the widow to the deceased father.
In Singhai Ajit Kumar v. Vjayar Singh, 1961 (2) SCJ 680, the Supreme Court held that in case the property of a deceased is distributed equally between his illegitimate son and his widow, on the widow’s death, her share is also inherited by the illegitimate son.

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