Doctrine of Pious Obligation - Family Law Notes

Doctrine of Pious Obligation - Family Law Notes

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Doctrine of pious obligation can be found under Hindu Law. In this article, we will see the meaning of pious obligation, its history and relevant case laws.

Meaning of Pious Obligation

The Pious Obligation, here pious means religious, devout or Godly. And the obligation means duty or Karma of the Hindu person. 

So, the pious obligation means a duty of a Hindu person due to deep deviation from the Hindu religion.

There are two principles in Hindu Law, one is independent and standard of autonomous coparcenary rights in the son which is an incident of birth, giving to the son vested rights in the coparcenary property and the other one is the pious duty of a son to furnish all the debts of his deceased father which are not tainted with illegality or immorality.

Under Hindu Law, the son is under pious obligation to furnish his father's debts. Let's discuss it in detail.

What is Son's Pious Obligation?

Under Hindu Law, the son of a deceased father has an obligation to discharge his father's debts out of his ancestral property regardless of any possibilities that he had not been profited by the debts, having debts is not avyavaharik.

It is stated under Hindu Law as 'Who has received a sum lent and does not repay it to the moneylender will be born hereafter in the creditor's house as a slave, servant, women or quadruped. As per the Hindu Cultures, it is the duty of the son to repay his father's debts.

This obligation is not only limited to the son but also the son's son (grandson) or the son's son's son (great-grandson). Thus, this religious obligation is attached to the three generations. 

In the case of Sidheswar vs Bhubaneshwar Prasad, the Supreme Court of India delivered the judgment as "The Doctrine of Pious Obligation has origin in the conception of Smriti writers who considered non-payment of debts as sin, this is considered as evil practice and is the purpose of rescuing the father from such evil practice and his torments in the next world that an obligation is imposed on son to pay their father's debts."

Historical Background of Pious Obligation

In ancient India, legal writing is itself a novel approach as to the specialist of morals which was perceived by the Legal Aid British India. The pious obligation of a son is a moral obligation that was given over legal rights. 

The views of P.V. Kane's is similar to the philosophy of ancient Indian law codes, which are famously known as Dharmashastra.

The significance of ancient  Indian legal writing given to furnishing the liability to repay the debts from ancient times. As per the ancient legal thought, one has no liability to pay the debts whereas the other is under obligation to furnish his duty by paying the debts of his father.

Exceptions to This Doctrine

If the person has obtained such debts illegally or immorally, then the son has no liability to repay the debts and here the pious obligation is applicable.

A son doesn't need to prove the criminal liability of his father in respect of debts. Here, the son may be exempted from the pious obligation and there is no liability on the son to pay the debts of his father which are occurred by illegal means.

Here we will discuss some debts which are outside of the scope of this doctrine

1. Avyavaharik Debts

The avyavaharik debts can be found in Mitakshara. It is indicated that the avyavaharik debts are outside of this doctrine. So, what is meant by avyavaharik debts? Colebrooke has defined avyavaharik debts as a liability incurred for a cause repugnant to good morals. If it is wholly or partly improper then they cannot be called vyavaharik debts. 

Avyavaharik debts are debts that occurred by way of illegal means. And, the son is not liable for such illegal debts that occurred by his father.

2. Commercial Debts

In old laws, the commercial debts were kept outside the regulation and the doctrine was not applicable. But, at present law, commercial debts are subject to this doctrine i.e. the son is subject to repay the debts of his father.

3. Gambling Debts

The debts which are taken from gambling or gaming are outside of the regulation and this doctrine.

For example, debts caused by drinking.

4. Suretyship Debts

When the debts are caused under the suretyship or partnership then the liability arising out of suretyship by the father is not official on the son. 

The Effect of Doctrine of Pious Obligation After Amendment of 2005

After the enforcement of the Hindu Succession Amendment Act of 2005, no court shall recognize any right to proceed against son, son's son (grandson) or son's son's son (great-grandson) for any recovery of money due from his father, grandfather, or great grandfather, on the ground of pious obligation.

Hence, pious obligation after 2005 under Hindu law, the son, grandson or great-grandson is discharged from the liability arising out of the pious obligation and they can discharge such debt.


Here, it is concluded that under the doctrine of pious obligation under which sons are liable to furnish the father's debts is completely religious consideration. The doctrine considered that the father's debt is vyavaharik and the debt of the father should be paid by his son.

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