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Adoption irrevocable, MAM can’t disown son: Lawyers Adoption irrevocable, MAM can’t disown son: Lawyers

Jun-11-2015 | 0 Comments

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CHENNAI: Ace horse breeder and industrialist MAM Ramaswamy is attempting to shut the stable door after horses have bolted, feel jurists watching the unfolding family feud between the octogenarian Chettiar and his adopted son MAMR Muthiah.

The senior Chettiar's announcement on Tuesday that he will cancel adoption of Muthiah may have come a bit too late in the day, senior advocates say, adding that an adoption completed under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act is irrevocable.

Unlike divorce between spouses, a son, including an adopted son, cannot be legally severed by his adopted parent, as law treats an adopted son on par with biological son, jurists say, adding, "Ramaswamy had not been properly apprised of legal nuances while making an announcement that he would 'cancel' adoption of Muthiah."


As per Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, no person above the age of 15 years could be taken on adoption. The only exception is if customs permits, even 15-plus child could be adopted by parents. For instance, a community in Tamil Nadu has a practice of 'illottam adoption' -- a son-in-law is adopted as son by the bride's family.

Similarly, the Nagarathar community to which both Ramaswamy and Muthiah belong, permits adoption of children aged above 15 years. "Nagarathars have nine 'temples' and subsects within those 'temples'. Adoption within members of each temple and its subsects is legally permissible and it enjoys the age-exemption too. In this case, the warring son and father belong to Ilayanthirankudi temple," a veteran civil law specialist told TOI.

Partition and exchange of properties involving Ramaswamy and his son Muthiah have already taken place, and the latter even acted as power of attorney while dealing with huge premium developments made in the upmarket MRC Nagar, lawyers privy to the family affairs told TOI. Ramaswamy's wife, the late Sigappi Aachi, herself had settled her properties in favour of Muthiah, they say, adding this has further cemented Muthiah's position as adopted son.

Even in old Hindu law, once an adoption takes place, the child comes to the adopted family from his original family, and he does not lose right over ancestral property in the original family, a senior advocate said.

Ramaswamy may be able to form trusts involving only his self-earned property or partitioned portion of his properties. If his proposed trusts involve any ancestral properties, then Muthiah can drag the matter to court where he stands a fair chance of success, too, feels a senior jurist. "Anyway, transfer of corporate control over his industrial/commercial entities cannot be reversed, as one does not have to be son or adopted son to be the beneficiary. Registered transfer of these documents could not be reversed now," he said.

Jurists also say adoption laws are all about the child in adoption, and are least bothered about the wealth or the person adopting the child. "The best interest of a child is of paramount importance in all child or juvenile-related laws. One adopted child cannot be allowed to be abandoned at a later stage. That a wealthy royal family adopts the child is of no consequence," said another senior jurist.

Adoption has a philosophical, spiritual angle too, he said. "A Hindu performs adoption to ensure that he/she leaves behind a pitr to perform pitru paksha (homage to ancestors) during the 16-lunar day period."

Muthiah also had stated this legal position while addressing reporters a couple of days ago, reiterating that his father could not disown him.

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