‘When the High Court had acquitted her of all the offences which she had been charged, it is seen that the disqualification which she had incurred ceases to operate.’

The Madras High Court has held that there would be no disqualification in inheriting the property, when a murder accused though convicted by the trial court gets clearly acquitted by the high court.

Section 25 of the Hindu Succession Act disqualifies a ‘murderer’ from inheriting the property of the person murdered. The trial court and the 1st appellate court had held Rathinamani could not inherit the property of her husband because she was convicted and sentenced to death by the trial court for conspiring murder of her husband. The plaint was rejected on this ground.

It turns out that Rathinamani was acquitted by the high court in the year 2003 after noting that the prosecution has failed to establish even prima facie, the involvement of the accused in the offence of murder with which they had been charged.  The sale of the property by her was in the year 2010.

In second appeal (Nachimuthu Gounder vs. Umamaheshwari), one of the question of law framed was whether the provisions of Sections 25 and 27 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 can be invoked only if it is proved that a person is guilty of murdering a person regarding whose property he or she, intends to inherit, was acquitted in the criminal case.

The counsel for the defendant placed reliance on Supreme Court decision in Vellikannu vs. R. Singaperumal, and some other judgments of various high courts to contend that there is still a disqualification after acquittal.

Justice T. Ravindran observed that when the high court had acquitted her of all the offences which she had been charged of, the disqualification which she had incurred ceases to operate and thus she would be entitled to succeed to the properties left by her husband as one of the legal heirs.

The court observed: “The plaintiffs’ vendor had been acquitted of all the charges put forth against her on the footing that the prosecution has not even, prima facie, established the case levelled against her and resultantly the High Court had acquitted her of the charges, it is seen that as far as the plaintiffs vendor is concerned, she stands on a better footing and the disqualification sought to be projected against her under Section 25 and 27 of the Hindu Succession Act 1956 would cease to operate and in such view of the matter, it is found that the courts below are not correct in rejecting the suit without considering the above-said aspects of the matter in detail by enabling the parties to adduce evidence in the matter.”

Setting aside the order of the trial court that rejected the plaint, the bench said: “When it is seen that plaintiffs’ vendor had been clearly acquitted by the High Court and despite the same, the determination of the court below that the plaintiffs’ vendor stands disqualified for the offence of murder, as such, cannot be readily accepted.”