Explain The Term ‘Sapinda Relationship’ And ‘Degrees of Prohibited Relationship’

Sapinda Relationship –

According to old Hindu Law, when two persons offer Pinda to same ancestors, then it is said that they are in a sapinda relationship. There are two theories propounded for this kind of relationship. The first one is Jimutavahana (oblation) Theory. According to this theory, Pinda means the ball of rice offered at a sraddha ceremony to deceased ancestors. Hence, Sapindas relationships are those relations who are connected by oblations of food. So, two persons would be sapindas if one offers Pindas to the other (e.g. son and father) or both offer Pindas to a common ancestor (e.g. brothers) or if both receive Pindas from the same persons (e.g. husband and wife for both will receive Pindas from their sons). The second theory is Vijnaneswara’s (particles of the same body) Theory. According to this theory, Pinda means body. Therefore, sapinda relationships are those relationships which are connected through the body. In other words, two persons would be sapinda relationship when they have a common ancestor. Vijnaneswara comments: “This may prove too wide a statement since in this beginning-less Samsara such a relationship might exist in some way or other between all persons. Therefore, the sage Yajnavalkya states:” After the fifth on the mother’s side, i.e., in the mother’s line and after the Seventh on the father’s side, i.e., in the father’s line Sapinda relationship ceases.” It doesn’t apply only to marriage but also to inheritance. It classifies sapindas into samangotrasapindas and bhinagotrasapindas. The former are agnates within seven degrees, and the latter are cognates within five degrees of the common ancestor. When the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 was enacted it set aside first theory and accepted the latter one with some modification. Section 3(f)(i) of the Act says that a sapinda relationship, with reference to any person, extends as far as the third generation (inclusive of the third generation) in the line of ascent through the mother, and the fifth-generation (inclusive of the fifth generation) in the line of ascent through the father. In determining the sapinda relationship, the line is always to be traced upwards from the person concerned, and such a person has to be counted as the first generation. This also includes full blood, half-blood and uterine blood relationship; legitimate as well as illegitimate blood relationship; blood relationship including relationship by adoption. If there is any common ancestor of 2 persons then both are sapinda to common ancestor and they would be sapinda of each other. Section 5(v) of the Act says that marriage between the persons having sapinda relationship is prohibited unless there is a custom which allows them to do so. Violation of this clause would amount to simple imprisonment up to 1 month or a fine of Rs. 1000/- or both under section 18(b) of the act.

Degrees of Prohibited Relationship –

There are few relationships under which a Hindu marriage can never be solemnized. This domain of relationship is known as “degrees of prohibited relationship. In other words, we can say that if two persons come under the realm of this relationship then their marriage can never be performed. This is because the Dharamshastra considered sex relationship with one’s mother or one’s sister or one’s daughter or one’s son’s wife as highest sin i.e. Mahapataka. Section 3(g) defined persons falling within a prohibited degree of relationship. They are: (a) If one is a lineal ascendant of the other; or (b) If one was the wife or the husband of a lineal ascendant or descendant of the other; or (c) If one was the wife of the brother or the father’s or mother’s brother or the grandfather’s or grandmother’s brother of the other. (d) If two are brother and sister, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, or children of brother and sister or two brothers or two sisters. It also includes (i) Relationship by half or uterine blood as well as by full blood; (ii) Illegitimate blood relationship as well as legitimate; (iii) Relationship by adoption as well as by blood. For a man his prohibited degree of relations are: (i) His lineal ascendant (ii) Wife of his lineal ascendant (iii) Wife of his lineal descendant (iv) Brother’s wife (v) Wife of his father’s brother (vi) Wife of his mother’s brother (vii) Wife of his grandfather’s brother (viii) Wife of his grandmother’s brother (ix) Sister (x) Sister’s daughter (xi) Father’s sister (xii) Mother’s sister (xiii) Father’s sister’s daughter (xiv) Father’s brother’s daughter and (xv) Mother’s brother’s daughter.

Similarly, for a woman her prohibited degree of relations are: (i) Her lineal ascendant (ii) Husband of her lineal ascendant (iii) Husband of her lineal descendant (iv) Brother (v) Father’s brother (vi) Mother’s brother (vii) Nephew (viii) Sister’s son (ix) Uncle’s son (x) Father’s sister’s son (xi) Mother’s sister’s son and (xii) Mother’s brother’s son.

Section 5(iv) of the Act prohibits solemnization of marriage of persons falling within the prohibited degree of relationship. Violation of this clause would amount to simple imprisonment up to 1 month or a fine of Rs. 1000/- or both under section 18(b) of the act. In Shakuntala Devi vs Amar Nath [AIR 1982 P H 221], Punjab and Haryana High Court held that two persons can marry within the prohibited relationship but there should be a proof of established custom i.e. very old and beyond human memory. But in Balusami Reddiar vs Balakrishna Reddiar [AIR 1957 Mad 97], it was held that the custom must not be against public policy and morality.

Utkarsh Shubham

Faculty of Law, University of Allahabad

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