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Colonial Cases

Sastry Velaider v. Sembacutty Waigalie, 1881


Sastry Velaider v. Sembacutty Waigalie

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
3 February 1881
Source: The Times, 4 February, 1881

(Present - Sir Barnes Peacock, Sir Montague Smith, Sir Robert Collier, and Sir Richard Couch.)
  This was an appeal from two judgments of the Supreme Court of Ceylon on the 12th of February, and the 26th of July, 1878, reversing a decision of the District Court of Batticola in that island.
  Mr. Gorst, Q.C., and Mr. E. W. Stock were counsel for the appellants; Dr. Phillimore and Mr. A. Dunham for the respondents.
  The principal question raised by the appeal was whether one of the appellants, Sembacutty Sinnepuille, was or was not the lawful wife of Sembacutty Pettenier, who died in 1868, and whether an infant son, who died a few months after his father, was legitimate or not. In the former alternative the widow became entitled to property of the value of 120,000 rupees, but in the latter event the whole estate of the deceased passed to three children of a former wife. The appellants urged that there had been a lawful marriage according to the native custom of Tamils, but the respondents maintained that no ceremony had taken place sufficient to constitute a marriage, and that the infant was consequently illegitimate. The local tribunal at Batticola decided in favour of the appellants, but that judgment was, on appeal, reversed by the Supreme Court of Ceylon.
  The marriage was said to have been effected on the 20th of October, 1868, the husband being described in the arguments as a wealthy, but somewhat niggardly, money-lender over 60 years of age, whose first wife had died only three weeks before, the second wife having just reached the legal marriageable age. The ceremony was conducted with some of the usual Tamil customs, such as the bride-groom giving cloth to the wife and the bride serving her husband with rice; but it was interrupted by relations of the bride, and the guests, being frightened and disordered by their violence, did not return to the usual feast. The parties lived together until the death of the husband in October, 1868.
  Their Lordships, in the event, reversed the decision of the Supreme Court of Ceylon, with costs, thus affirming the decision of the original tribunal as to the validity of the marriage.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School