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Adopted son can have same status as a biological son

Adopted son would be treated the same as a biological son in the family into which he was adopted and would be considered as a descendant

Can a son, who was adopted in 1951, be termed as a descendant of our family since under a registered trust deed of our family dharmshala only a descendant can become trustee? The adopted son became a trustee in 1982.

—Krishan Chand Gupta

Since the adoption took place in 1951, the response to this query will be answered in accordance with the laws that were prevalent before the enactment of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (Act). This is because the Act does not have retrospective application. So, it is important to analyse the result and effect of an adoption on the adopted child as per laws applicable to Hindu adoptions in 1951.

Adoption then had the effect of transferring the adopted boy from his biological family into the adoptive family. It conferred upon the adopted son the same rights and privileges in the family of the adopter as a legitimate biological son would have had. After the adoption, the adopted son lost all rights of a son in his biological family, including right of claiming any share in the estate of his biological father or relations, or any share in the coparcenary property. The only cases in which an adopted son was not entitled to the full rights of a biological son in the adoptive family were: (1) if a son was born to the adoptive father after the adoption; and (2) if the boy was adopted by a disqualified heir.

Further, subject to no son having been born to the adoptive father after the adoption, an adopted son was entitled to inherit in the adoptive family as fully as if he were a biological son, both in the paternal and in the maternal line. He was inter alia entitled to inherit from his adoptive father and from the grandfather and other more distant lineal ancestors of the adoptive father. He was also entitled to inherit from the adoptive father’s brothers, the adoptive father’s brother’s sons and other collateral relations. The adoptive father and his relations were entitled to inherit from the adopted boy, as if he were a son born in the adoptive family.

Similarly, an adopted son could inherit from his adoptive mother and her relations. This was the case even if the adoptive mother was deceased at the time of adoption. The adoptive mother and her relations were entitled to inherit from the adopted boy.

While there are no judgments on the question that has been asked, it can be inferred from the above that for all intents and purposes, the adopted son would have been treated like a biological son in the family into which he was adopted and he would be considered as a descendant of the family. For the purpose of becoming a trustee, subject to the aforesaid two conditions being absent, the adopted son would have the same status as a biological son and would be eligible to become a trustee (provided the appointment was made in accordance with the terms of the trust deed).

Reliance has been placed on the commentary in the 21st edition (2010) of Mulla’s Hindu Law while responding to this query.

Queries and views at mintmoney@livemint.com

(The headline and text have been changed to replace “natural" and “natural born" with “biological".)

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