All You Need To Know About Sapinda Relationships In India


Enacted in the year 1955, the Hindu Marriage Act was enforced to regulate the existing Hindu laws regarding marriage. Before the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, different practices were followed by the Hindus which gave rise to the need for a uniform and properly written law on marriage. Previously, marriages in Hindus took place between siblings, cousins, and other filial relations, which was not only against the notion of morality and public order but also gave rise to various health disorders for people at large.

The main concept of Sapinda is within the word Pinda, which means one’s body. As per the theory of Vijaneshwara’s, Sapinda is the connection of people through the same body in the form of a common ancestor. This connection comes from the common particles shared between two people. A son was a sapinda to his father and grandfather as they shared the same particles in their bodies and, based on this analogy, a son would become a sapinda to his mother, sister, and other maternal relations as well. The prohibition of Sapinda marriage is based on a rule of exogamy and the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 changed the notion of Mitakshara and made it illegal for people in Sapinda relationship to marry each other unless any tradition or custom permits such a marriage or union.

What is the Sapinda Relationship?

Sapinda relationships are relationships that extend to family ties that span generations, such as father, grandfather, and so on. Even though the prohibition exists, Sapinda relations are still allowed if done under the construe of any tradition or custom and such tradition or custom should be legal, and the same must be established by unambiguous evidence. By showing such valid evidence, the courts can be convinced of their existence and allow its legal recognition. The rules that apply to determine a Sapinda marriage are set below:

The Sapinda relationship is always tracked upward in the ascent direction rather than downward in the line of descent;The computation of degrees is taken into account for both individual and common ancestor.

According to Section 3 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, a Sapinda relationship extends to the third generation in the line of descent for the mother lines and to the fifth generation in the line of descendants of the father. While assessing the sapinda connection, the line must always be traced upwards from the individual in question and the person in question should be counted as the first generation. This line covers all full-blood, half-blood blood, and uterine blood relationships, legitimate and illegitimate relationships, as well, as even the adopted ones. If any two people have a common ancestor, they are said to be that ancestor and each other. If a person is a lineal ascendant of the other person, within the boundaries of sapinda connection, or if they share a common lineal ascendant who is within the limitations of a sapinda relationship with each of them, they are said to be ‘sapindas’ of each other.

For Example -  Ram has one son named Luv and one daughter named Urmila. Luv has two sons, Rahul and Preet who are adults. Urmila has a daughter named Priya. Priya and Luv are in love with each other and wish to marry, however as per the sapinda relationship they are not allowed to do so. Since they share a common ancestor, Ram, the marriage solemnized between Luv and Priya will be a Sapinda Relationship and should be declared null and void as per the Hindu marriage laws.

Theories of Sapinda Relationship

The two theories of sapinda relationship as per the Hindu Law are:

Jimutavahana Theory – 

Also known as oblation theory, Pinda refers to the rice ball presented to departed ancestors during a sraddha ritual and all the sapindas connections are those which are linked by food oblations. Hence, if one person presents Pindas to another, for instance, a father and a son, or if both of them offer Pindas to a shared ancestor, for instance, a brother offers their father, or when both the persons get Pindas from the same persons, they are Sapindas, like husband and wife getting pindas from their sons. 

Vijnaneswara’s Theory –

 As per the hypothesis of Vijnaneswara, Pinda means body. As per this, Sapinda relationships are the ones that are linked by the body or when two people share a common ancestor, i.e. they form a sapinda connection. “This may prove to be an overly broad phrase,” as Vijnaneswara had observed, since, in this beginningless Samsara, such a bond may exist in some manner or another among all individuals. Resultant, “sapinda relationships terminate after the fifth on the mother’s side (in the mother’s line), and after the seventh on the father’s side (in the father’s line).” Not only does it relate to the concept of marriage, but it also applies to inheritance. Sapindas are divided into two types, namely, samangotrasapindas and bhinagotrasapindas. The former are agnates within seven degrees of the shared ancestor, whereas the latter are cognates within five degrees.

Sections of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

As per Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, the following are the basic requirements to be followed in a Hindu Marriage:

  1. Monogamy (a type of relationship in which two people are married to each other).
  2. Mental Capacity.
  3. Consent of the parties.
  4. Age of the parties.
  5. Degrees of Prohibited Relationship.

When the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 was enacted, it had set aside the Jimutavahana (oblation) theory and accepted the Vijnaneswara’s (particles of the same body) theory with some alterations.

Prohibited Relationships under the Sapindas

A. For a man, his prohibited degree of relations is:

  1. Female ascendant in the line
  2. Wife of his lineal ascendant
  3. Wife of the brother
  4. Wife of his father’s brother
  5. Wife of his mother’s brother
  6. Wife of his grandfather’s brother
  7. Wife of his grandmother’s brother
  8. Sister
  9. Brother’s daughter
  10. Sister’s daughter
  11. Father’s sister
  12. Mother’s sister
  13. Father’s sister’s daughter
  14. Father’s brother’s daughter
  15. Mother’s sister’s daughter
  16. Mother’s brother’s daughter.

B.For a woman, her prohibited degree of relations is:

  1. Lineal ascendants like Father, Father’s father
  2. Husband of a lineal ascendant
  3. Husband of a lineal descendant
  4. Brother
  5. Father’s brother
  6. Mother’s brother
  7. Brother’s son
  8. Sister’s son
  9. Father’s brother’s son
  10. Father’s sister’s son
  11. Mother’s brother’s son
  12. Mother’s sister’s son.

The people who are prohibited as per Section 3 G of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 are:

  1. Lineal descendants of each other
  2. Wife or husband of lineal descendant or ascendant of the other
  3. wife of the other’s brother, father’s or mother’s brother, grandfather’s or grandmother’s brother
  4. If the two are siblings, uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, or siblings’ offspring, or two brothers or sisters. 

The relationship also includes:

  1. Relationship by half or uterine blood along with full blood.
  2. Illegitimate and legitimate blood relationships.
  3. Relationship by adoption. 

As per the Hindu law, certain knots cannot be tied or solemnized as they fall in the degree of forbidden relationships and the goal of the law is to avoid incestuous marriages, i.e. marriages between brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren, and so on. Alternatively, if two people are involved in the above-mentioned relationship, their marriage cannot take place. This is because the Dharmashastra regards sex relationships with one’s mother, sister, daughter, or son’s wife as the ultimate sin, referred to as Mahapataka. It is pertinent to note that while the Hindu Marriage Act, of 1955 deals separately with the issues of prohibited relationships and sapinda relationships, the two prohibitions may overlap with each other.

Punishment – Under Section 5v of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, marriage between people who have a sapinda relationship is prohibited unless a custom or tradition allows it, and a violation of this provision would result in simple imprisonment of up to one month or a fine of Rs. 1000/-, or both.

The Controversy Of Sapinda's Relationships Under Section 5(v)

In the case of Arun Laxmanrao Navalkar vs Meena Arun Navalkar (2006), the Bombay High Court has observed that Section 5 (v) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, not only declares a marriage solemnized out of sapinda relationship as null and void but also specifies that it can be held valid only in the event if there is a custom in regarding it. Due to this, the learned single judge held that to establish the validity of such a marriage, not only the relationship should be proven, but it should also be proven that there exists a custom that allows so, within the community. 

If the subsection is seen from this perspective, the onus may be discharged by telling the negative reality that there exists no such custom. The parties in question here were from a common ancestor, one Moroba who had one son, Laxman, and one daughter, Champubai. The husband was the son of Laxman and the wife was the daughter of Champubai's son. On more inspection, both husband and wife admitted that they were Sapindas of each other, although the wife thought that they were not. During the trial, the wife provided nine examples of such marriages that happened in their community to the court. However, the custom provided by her cannot be taken to have the attribute of either continuity or longevity, since the lapse of years between the marriages of the parties mentioned. Therefore, the claim that the custom has been going on for a long time was declared unproven, and the marriage was declared null and void by the Bombay High Court.

Famous Cases and Court Judgments on Sapinda Relationship

Kamani Devi vs Kameshwar Singh (1945)

 In this case, it was held that even if the marriage was unlawful because it lies within the degrees of prohibited relationship degree, the wife’s maintenance would continue. However, the marriage was declared void as per Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 and is punishable by simple imprisonment for up to one month, fine, or both.

Neetu Grover vs Union of India & Ors (2024)

 In this case, the Delhi High Court has upheld the validity of Section 5 V of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 by stating that if the choice of a partner in a marriage is left unregulated, incestuous relationships might gain legitimacy. A public interest litigation was filed by a woman seeking to strike down this provision who was aggrieved by a family court declaring the marriage between her and her cousin as null and void last year. The bench stated that the woman had failed to set any grounds for challenging the prohibition and failed to plead any legal grounds for challenging the restriction imposed therein.


As per the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, the definitions of “Prohibited Relationship” and “Sapinda Relationship” are along the lines of the Rau Committee’s report. The rule of Sapinda relationship of 7 and 5 degrees has been relaxed over the years by customs and therefore, limits have been changed to 5 and 3 degrees. The drafter of the law did recognize that there was a need for Sapinda Relationship among certain people in society, and therefore, they allowed it among them, given the reason of custom.


Section 3 in The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

Section 5(v) in The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

Neetu Grover vs Union of India & Ors (2024)