The woman, Venkubayamma, made a will in May 1981, bequeathing her property in a town in Odisha to her only grandson, Kaliprasad.After she died in July 1982, a man who claimed to be her ‘adopted son’ produced an adoption deed of April 1982 and a will of May 1982 by which she gave him the same property after cancelling the earlier one.
The trial court decreed the property in favour of the ‘adopted’ son in 1989. The high court reversed the decree and ruled in favour of the grandson in 2006. The ‘adopted’ son filed an appeal in the SC in January 2008.
The SC admitted the appeal in 2010, sensing that the case required detailed scrutiny of the rival claims. The ‘adopted’ son produced photographs of the supposed adoption ceremony held on April 18, 1982, in which the 70-year-old woman was shown to have black hair.
Did a woman from the hinterland dye her hair in 1982, was one of the questions posed by the SC bench of Justices C T Ravikumar and Sanjay Kumar, which dug out many interlinked improbabilities and saw through the ‘adopted’ son’s devious machinations to usurp the grandson’s legitimate inheritance rights.
Another doubt that the ‘adopted’ son could not explain was what happened between May 1981 and April 1982 to strain the relationship between the grandmother and the grandson, resulting in the latter’s ouster from inheritance rights? The SC was also suspicious as to why the professional photographer engaged to cover the adoption ceremony took only three photographs.
Doubting the authenticity of the adoption deed, Justice Sanjay Kumar said, “The clandestine way [in which] the alleged adoption is stated to have taken place raises doubt but the same has not been adequately explained. Further, no evidence was adduced to prove that relations between Venkubayamma and Kaliprasad had soured. The document also does not record any reasons as to why Venkubayamma was not happy with Kaliprasad, whose marriage she had performed in February 1982, just a few months earlier.”
The bench further said, “It was not just the colour of her hair that raised a question. Doubt arises not only on that count but even as to the age of the woman in the photographs, going by the witnesses’ depositions.” The SC dismissed the appeal of the ‘adopted son’ and gave the grandson his rights after a snail-paced litigation that reached finality after four decades.