Shadi Lal, J. -
(1.) THE question of law, which arises in this appeal, is one of considerable importance and relates to the exact scope of the expression samanodaka as used in the Hindu law of inheritance.
(2.) THE facts bearing upon the question do not admit of any dispute. THE property, which is in dispute between the parties, belonged to one Manikrao, who died in October, 1916. THE plaintiffs are descended in the male line from one Tulsingh, who was an ancestor of Manikrao in the 22nd degree. THEy claimed the estate on the ground that they were entitled to succeed to it as the agnates of the deceased in preference to the defendant Atmaram who was his father's sister's son. THE trial Judge negatived their claim, but on appeal his judgment was reversed by the Court of the Judicial Commissioner, Central Provinces and Berar, who have held that the plaintiffs come within the purview of the term samanodaka and have priority over the defendant, who, being only a bandhu, cannot succeed in the presence of an agnate, however remotely the latter may be related to the deceased.
The heirs of a Hindu governed by the Mitakshara school are (1) sapindas, (2) failing them, samanodakas, and (3) on the failure of both the above -mentioned classes, bandhus.
The word sapinda includes blood relations to the 7th degree reckoned from, and including, the propositus ; and it is obvious that the plaintiffs, who were related to the deceased Manikrao in the 22nd degree, are not his sapindas. They, however, claim to be samanodakas, and that class certainly includes all the agnates from the 8th to the 14th degree. But it is a debatable question whether agnates beyond the 14th degree come within the ambit of samanodakas for the purpose of succession. It is to be regretted that the plaintiffs, who are respondents in the appeal, have not appeared to sustain their claim, but their Lordships have had the advantage of hearing the point fully and fairly argued by Mr. Parikh, and have themselves considered all that could reasonably be urged in support of the view taken by the appellate Court in India.
(3.) NOW, the word samanodakas, literally translated, means persons connected by equal libations of water ; but Vijnaneshvara, the author of the Mitakshara, abandoned the ancient doctrine basing the right of inheritance upon the right to offer funeral oblations and founded it upon propinquity. After detailing the heirs coming within the class of sapindas he states, chapter 2, Section 5, verse 6, the law relating to samanodakas in these terms : If there be none such, the succession devolves on samanodakas, and they must be understood to reach to seven degrees beyond sapindas, or else as far as the limits of Knowledge as to birth and name extend. Accordingly, Vrihad Manu says : -'the relation of the sapindas ceases with the seventh person, and that of samanodakas extends to the fourteenth degree ; or as some affirm, it reaches as far as the memory of birth and name extends. This is signified by gotra. '
The conflict of opinion alluded to in the above passage is not mentioned either in the Manu Smriti or in the Yajnyavalkya Smriti. In chapter 5, verse 60, Manu declares that sapinda relationship ceases with the 7th person and samanodaka relationship ends only when the origin and name are no longer known. That chapter, however, deals with social matters such as impurity on account of birth and death ; and it is not clear whether the description of samanodaka adopted for prescribing rules, in the domain of social observances was intended to define the word in its application to the law governing succession as stated in chapter 9, verse 187.;