Collector of Madura vs. Moottoo Ramalinga Sethupathy (Ramnad case)
Reference: 12 M.I.A. 397 (1868)
When the Zamindar of Ramnad died, he left without any son. So, after his death, his estate vested on her wife Rani Parvathavardhinini. After the death of her husband, Rani Parvathavardhinini adopted a son. In doing so she took the consent of her husband’s sapindas but there was no authorization of adoption from her husband.
“For under the Hindu system of Law, the clear proof of usage
will outweigh the written text of the law.”
When the Collector of Madura came to know about the death of Ramand, he notified the Government about the death of the sonless Zamindar. Under British law, if any Zamindar died without heirs, after the death of his wife the Zamindari would be seized by the Government. So, on the death of Rani Parvathavardhini, the estate of Ramnad would have been seized by the Government. But after the death of Rani Parvathavardhini, her adopted son claimed as an adopted son and brought a suit for declaration of the validity of the adoption.
Whether an adoption made by the widow was valid with the consent of the sapindas without the husband’s authority?
The Privy Council evaluated different Schools and sources of Hindu law while delivering its judgment in this case. After tracing the historical development of Hindu law, the Court held that clear proof of usage usage will outweigh the written text of the Hindu law. Hindu law should be administered from the viewpoint of usage of the written texts of law.
Custom is one of the most important sources of Hindu Law. It is important to the point that, if any conflict arises between a custom and the text of the Smritis, which is a written source, such custom will override the text.
The Privy Council based their decision on the Smriti Chandrika and Prasara Madhviya, which are the most authoritative source in Hindu law regarding adoption, and concluded that in the Dravida School, even in the absence of authority from husband, a widow is entitled to adopt a son with the assent of his sapindas or kindred. The Privy Council observed: “For under the Hindu system of Law, the clear proof of usage will outweigh the written text of the law.”