The Supreme Court in a recent judgmentdetermined that when a woman is married and settled down in her husband’s home, she has no rights to her father’s property according to the Kandyan Law, a customary law in Sri Lanka.

There are two types of marriage under KandyanLaw. A Diga (Deega) marriage is when a woman is given away and is settled in the home of her husband. A Binna marriage is one where the bridegroom is received into the house of the bride.

The Supreme Court three-judge-bench comprising Justice L.T.B. Dehideniya, Justice Preethi Padman Surasena and Justice S. Thurairaja held that the third plaintiff-respondent (daughter of the original owner of the property) in the appeal application has not re-acquired the rights of a Binna married daughter when she returned to her Mulgedara(ancestral home) after the demise of her husband.

According to the facts of this case, the original owner of the land which was sought to be partitioned was one named WickramasingheMudiyanselage Yahapathhamy lived in Hanthihawa, Halmillawewa. He was a person subject to the Kandyan Law and the land was a Paraveni (ancestral) land. Upon his death six children including three plaintiff daughters inherited the land in equal share subject to the life interest of his widow Ranmenika. Ranmenika passed away in 1992. Thereafter the Plaintiffs instituted an action to partition the land in the District Court. However, the first and second defendant siblings claimed their father was a person who was subject to the KandyanLaw. They claimed that the Plaintiffs are daughters who married in Diga during the lifetime of their father and have as such forfeited their right to succession to the ancestral property.



Having considered the facts, the District Court had held that three Plaintiffs have entered into valid marriages prior to the death of Yahapathhamy in 1973 and the mere return by the Diga married 3rd Plaintiff Dolimenika to the Mahagedara upon the death of her husband does not entitle her to claim rights as a Binna married daughter.

Being aggrieved by this judgment, the plaintiffs filed an appeal and it was heard by the Provincial High Court of the North Western Province. The High Court held that the heirs of Yahapathhamy for the land that was sought to be partitioned were the third Plaintiff, first Defendant and the children of Ukkubanda(4th,5th and 6th defendants) and that they should inherit an undivided 1/3rd each from the land that was sought to be partitioned.

Being aggrieved by this decision the defendants filed an appeal in Supreme Court to have the decision of the High Court set aside. They claimed that High Court judge has erred in law by coming to the conclusion that Yahapathhamyhad readmitted third plaintiff Dolimenika as a Binna married daughter by allowing her to possess the land comprising of the Mulgedara.

After perusing the material relating to appeal Supreme Court observed that third plaintiff daughter was given in marriage under the General Marriage Ordinance in 1957 and after her husband’s death in 1972 after approximately 15 years of marriage she was allowed to live with her parents in her Mulgedara and continued to do so until her father’s death. Her claim is that upon coming back to her Mulgedara she acquired the rights of a woman under the Binna marriage.


“It is apparent that for the third Plaintiff to inherit her father’s property, her Deega marriage should have been converted into a Binna marriage as Deega married daughters have no right to their father’s property”, Justice S. Thurairaja observed.

The Supreme Court concluded that the marriage of the third Plaintiff had not been converted into a Binna marriage. Accordingly, the Supreme Court inclined to allow the appeal of the defendants.

Kandyan law is applicable to Sri Lankans who are Buddhist and from the former provinces of Kanyan kingdom. According to the KandyanLaw, a Deega married daughter does not typically inherit the property of her father. Whereas a Binna married daughter retains her to succession after the marriage.





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