Jharkhand High Court

Jharkhand High Court: In a second appeal against confirmation of Trial Court’s decision in a title suit, Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi, J. accepted both the Courts’ reliance over customary provision for adoption of child in Santhal Community along with registered adoption deed and dismissed the matter due to lack of merit.

According to facts, the suit land was succeeded and possessed by ‘X’ who died issueless. The Plaintiffs/Appellants and proforma defendants claimed to be the nearest agnates of the deceased for succeeding the property left by ‘X’. The defendant claimed over the suit land before the Sub-Divisional Officer (‘SDO’) as an adopted son of ‘X’ who also executed an adoption deed in his favour in 1944.

The appellant contended that all the parties to the suit belong to Scheduled Tribes, Santhal by caste and are governed by their tribal customary law. It has been claimed that there is no custom for adoption in the Santhal customary law because of which, adoption deed does not give right, title or interest over the suit land and the agnates are entitled for inheriting the said property.

The defendants denied the appellant’s averments and contested the suit on the grounds of maintainability, principles of estoppel, acquiescence, misjoinder of parties, bar of limitation and incorrect valuation. The defendants claim that the Santhali of their locality have accepted the Hindu way of life and thus, governed by Hindu laws, thus, having adoption as an accepted custom in the community. It has also been claimed that the defendant looked after ‘X’, cultivated his land since childhood, and was taken in adoption through a deed executed on 3-01-1944. It is alleged that the Santhal Community also has the custom for adoption of sons and that the first defendant and his son were adopted by ‘X’ in accordance with the same custom.

The Appellate Court dismissed the appeal while confirming the Trial Court’s decree in Title Suit instituted under Santhal Pargana Customary Law for succession in the absence of custom for adoption. Additional relief was sought for declaration against defendant having no right and title over the property while confirming the possession, delivery of possession and permanent injunction in the favour of appellants and proforma defendants. Dismissal of suit by the Trial Court and its confirmation by the Appellate Court led the appellant to institute the present appeal.

The Court observed that the Trial Court as well as the Appellate Court relied on the witnesses’ disclosure of existence of customs for adoption of son and that even if the provisions are not there, sons and daughters have been adopted by Santhals. The custom of adoption in Santhals has also been recognised in the Santhal Pargana Tenancy (Supplementary Provision) Act, 1949 as explained under Narayan Soren v. Ranjan Murmu, 2008 SCC OnLine Jhar 413.

Relying on the above judgment accepting the prevalence of custom of adoption among Santhals, the Court refused to hold the findings of both the Courts perverse in law. The Court dismissed the matter for lack of merit in the second appeal.

[Philip Marandi v. Satya Hansda, 2023 SCC OnLine Jhar 108, decided on 23-01-2023]

Judgment by: Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi.

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellants: Advocate K.K. Ambastha;

For Respondents: AC to SC (L&C)-I Nawal Kishore Pandey.

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