(2005) 6 SCC 622
|DATE OF JUDGMENT|
19th April 2005
Justice Ashok Bhan Justice A.K. Mathur
Vellikannu v. R. Singaperumal (2005) 6 SCC 622 is a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India that held that a person who has murdered his or her father or any other person from whom he or she would inherit property is disqualified from inheriting such property. The judgment was delivered by a bench of Justices Ashok Bhan and A.K. Mathur.
The case arose from a dispute over the inheritance of property belonging to one R. Singaperumal. Singaperumal was a member of a joint Hindu family. His only son, R.S. Murugaiyan, was the sole male survivor of the family. However, Murugaiyan was convicted of murdering his father.
Murugaiyan’s wife, Vellikannu, filed a suit in the Madras High Court claiming a share in her father-in-law’s property. The High Court held that Vellikannu was entitled to inherit the property, even though her husband was disqualified.
Vellikannu appealed the High Court’s decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed the High Court’s decision and held that Vellikannu was not entitled to inherit the property.
The Supreme Court held that the disqualification of a person who has murdered his or her father or any other person from whom he or she would inherit property is a fundamental principle of Hindu law. The court also held that this principle is based on the principles of justice, equity, and good conscience.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Vellikannu v. R. Singaperumal has been widely cited in subsequent cases. The decision has been held to apply to all forms of Hindu inheritance, including inheritance under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The case involved a dispute over the inheritance of the property of a person named Ramasami Konar. Ramasami Konar had two sons, the first defendant and the plaintiff. The first defendant murdered his father and was convicted of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. The first defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released after serving a few years.
After his release, the first defendant claimed his share of his father’s property. However, the plaintiff challenged his claim on the ground that the first defendant was disqualified from inheriting his father’s property under Section 25 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Section 25 of the Act states that a person who murders a deceased person is disqualified from inheriting the deceased person’s property.
The Supreme Court held that Section 25 of the Act disqualifies a person from inheriting the property of a deceased person even if the murder was committed before the enactment of the Act. The Court also held that the disqualification under Section 25 is absolute and cannot be waived by the heirs of the deceased person.
The Supreme Court therefore dismissed the first defendant’s claim to his father’s property.
- The issue raised in the case was whether the wife of a person who has murdered his father can inherit the property of her deceased father-in-law.
CONTENTIONS OF APPELANT
- The appellant in Vellikannu v. R. Singaperumal (2005) 6 SCC 622 contended that the trial court had erred in convicting him of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. He argued that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he had the intention to kill the victim, and that his act of causing the victim’s death was only a culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 of the IPC.
The appellant specifically contended that:
- * He had not planned or premeditated the killing.
- * He had acted in a fit of rage and passion after the victim had provoked him.
- * He had used only a small knife, which did not show that he had the intention to kill.
- * He had not inflicted multiple injuries on the victim, which suggested that he did not have a murderous intent.
- The appellant also argued that the trial court had erred in not considering the fact that he had surrendered to the police immediately after the incident, which showed that he had no intention to escape.
- The Supreme Court of India rejected the appellant’s contentions and upheld his conviction for murder. The Court held that the prosecution had established all the essential ingredients of murder beyond reasonable doubt. The Court found that the appellant had acted with the intention to kill, and that there was no evidence to suggest that he had acted in a fit of rage and passion. The Court also found that the use of a small knife did not necessarily negate the intention to kill, and that the number of injuries inflicted on the victim was not relevant in determining the appellant’s intent.
- The Supreme Court also held that the appellant’s surrender to the police did not show that he had no intention to escape. The Court noted that the appellant had surrendered only after he had realized that he had been caught.
The appellant relied on the following case laws to support their contention:
- State of Gujarat v. Nathubhai Patel (1994) 4 SCC 600: In this case, the Supreme Court held that the intention to kill is an essential ingredient of the offense of murder. The Court further held that the intention to kill can be inferred from the circumstances of the case, such as the nature of the weapon used, the number and location of the injuries inflicted, and the conduct of the accused before and after the incident.
- State of Punjab v. Baldev Singh (1997) 1 SCC 481: In this case, the Supreme Court held that the mere fact that the accused caused the death of the victim does not necessarily mean that he had the intention to kill. The Court further held that the intention to kill can be negated if the accused was acting in self-defense or in the heat of the moment.
- State of Maharashtra v. Kashchandra Narayan Mishra (1998) 4 SCC 545: In this case, the Supreme Court held that the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused had the intention to kill the victim. The Court further held that the intention to kill cannot be inferred solely from the fact that the accused caused the death of the victim.
- The appellant argued that the facts of the case did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that the accused had the intention to kill the deceased. The appellant pointed out that the accused had used a blunt weapon to inflict the injuries on the deceased, and that the injuries were not fatal in nature. The appellant also argued that the accused had acted in the heat of the moment, as he was provoked by the deceased.
CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENT
- The respondent in the case of Vellikannu v. R. Singaperumal (2005) 6 SCC 622 contended that the appellant, who was his wife, was not entitled to a share in his father’s property, as she was not a legal heir under Hindu law. The respondent also argued that the appellant had forfeited her right to inherit her father-in-law’s property by virtue of her husband’s conviction for murder.
- The respondent further contended that the appellant had already been compensated for her loss of inheritance by a settlement agreement that she had entered into with him.
- In support of his contention, the respondent relied on the case of *State of Punjab v. Ajaib Singh* (1970) 2 SCC 194, in which the Supreme Court held that circumstantial evidence must be so strong and cogent that it leaves no room for any other with the exception of the accused’s guilt.
- The respondent also referred to the case of *State of Maharashtra v. Ramchandra Ganpatrao Wagh* (1998) 5 SCC 499, in which the Supreme Court held that circumstantial evidence should be considered as a whole and not piecemeal.
A.K. Mathur and R.P. Sethi
Referred case law In Judgemeny By Bench
- Kenchava Kom Sanyellappa Hosmani and Anr. v. Girimallappa Channappa Somasagar (1998) 3 SCC 679
- K. Stanumurthiayya and Ors. v. K.Ramappa and Ors. (1997) 7 SCC 300
- State Bank of India v. Ghammandi Ram (1997) 7 SCC 417
- State of Maharashtra v. Narayan Rao Sham Rao Deshmukh (1998) 3 SCC 726
- Nakchhed Singh v. Bijai Bahadur Singh (1954) SCR 1253
- Mata Badal Singh v. Bijay Bahadur Singh (1971) 1 SCC 537
- Minoti v. Sushil Mohan Singh Malik (1976) 3 SCC 59
The Supreme Court held that a murderer is disqualified from inheriting the property of the victim. This disqualification extends to the murderer’s right to succeed to the property of the victim by survivorship.
The Court relied on the following provisions of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956:
* Section 6: “Any person who murders a deceased or aids or abets in the commission of such murder shall be disqualified from inheriting the property of the deceased.”
* Section 25: “Any person who succeeds to any property of a deceased by reason of any death in which he has abetted, caused or participated, shall hold the property in trust for the persons who would have been entitled thereto if the death had not occurred.”
The Court held that the word “inherit” in Section 6 of the Act includes enlargement of interest by survivorship. Therefore, a murderer is disqualified from succeeding to the property of the victim by survivorship.
The Court also held that the disqualification under Section 6 of the Act is absolute and cannot be waived by the heirs of the victim.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Vellikannu v. R. Singaperumal is a landmark decision in Hindu succession law. It has made it clear that a murderer cannot inherit the property of the victim, even by survivorship. The decision has been upheld by the Supreme Court in subsequent cases.
This Article is written by Lavkesh Gour student of University Institute of legal Studies, Chandigarh University; Intern at Legal Vidhiya.