N.K. Parekh, J.
1. Being aggrieved by an order and judgement dated the 29th September, 1978, passed by the Assistant Judge, Satara in Civil Appeal No. 112 of 1974, the appellants have filed the present appeal.
2. The facts that lead to this appeal are that one Vasudeo Kulkarni had two wives, one being Gangubai and the other being Yashodabai. The said Gangubai had no issues. She adopted one Ramchandra as her son. Yashodabai, however, had one issue who was named Indubai. The said Vasudeo died in 1919. He also left behind him some property including the suit property. However, in view of some family disputes that arose, the said Yashodabai was constrained to file a suit being Civil Suit No. 265 of 1926. In the said suit, a decree came to be passed, inter alia allotting the suit property to the said Yashodabai, and granting her a limited interest therein as an owner, but only for the purposes of her maintenance. After the passing of the said decree, the said Yashodabai inducted tenants in the said suit land, being one Namdeo Bhau Sonawale and Ramchandra Dasharath Mahar. However, the said Ramchandra V. Kulkarni i.e. the stepson of the said Yashodabai) by a deed of sale dated 4th January, 1933 sold the suit property for a sum of Rs. 2000/- in favour of one Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe. The said deed, inter alia provided that the said Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe would get possession of the suit property after the death of Yashodabai. The said Yashodabai died on or about the 19th of December, 1968. Thereupon, said Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe filed a suit against the tenants and/or the occupants of the suit property, i.e., against Namdeo Bhau Sonawale and Ramchandra Dasharath Mahar, being Regular Civil Suit No. 74 of 1969 on the file of the Civil Judge, (Junior Division), Koregaon. In the said suit, the said Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe claimed possession of the suit property on the strength of the sale deed passed in his favour by the said Ramchandra V. Kulkarni. He also claimed mesne profits. The suit was registered by the said Namdeo Bhau Sonawale and Ramchandra Dasharath Mahar. By an order and judgement dated the 27th of March, 1974, the learned Civil Judge, (Junior Division), Koregaon, granted 'symbolic possession' of the suit property to the said Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe, but passed no orders in respect of mesne profits. Being aggrieved by the same, an appeal was preferred, and proceeded with by the heirs of the said Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe. This appeal came to be numbered as Civil Appeal No. 112 of 1974. This appeal was resisted by the heirs of Namdeo Bhau Sonawale and the said Ramchandra Desharath Mahar, i.e., the tenants and/or the occupants of the suit property. By an order and judgement dated 29th September, 1978, the learned Judge granted the heirs of the said Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe i.e., the respondents herein (who were the appellants in the said appeal) relief by making an order for mesne profits. Being aggrieved by the same, the present appellants 1 to 9, being the heirs of the said Namdeo Bhau Sonawale and appellant No. 10, who is the original defendant No. 2 have filed the present appeal. The heirs of the said Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe have of course resisted this appeal.
3. At the hearing of this appeal, Mr. Apte the learned Counsel for the respondents argued that in so far as Yashodabai was concerned, she was granted a right of maintenance cut of the suit property or otherwise was granted the suit property in lieu of her maintenance. That in either event, her rights in the property were of a limited nature. That as a matter of fact, the decree itself provided that Yashodabai could not alienate the suit property during her life time. That in the circumstances, Ramchandra (i.e. Yashodabai's step son) was entitled to sell the suit property which he had in fact done in favour of the said Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe by a sale deed dated 4th January, 1933. That the said deed executed in favour of the said Salunkhe provided that the said Salunkhe would get possession of the suit property only on the death of Yashodabai. That on the death of Yashodabai, the said Salunkhe became entitled to possession of the suit property. However, as Yashodabai had inducted tenants in the premises, the said Salunkhe was constrained to file a suit. That in the circumstances, the sale deed was clearly binding on the appellants herein. That the trial Court had rightly passed a decree for possession although it only granted 'symbolic possession'. That the lower Appellate Court had rightly granted further relief by ordering mesne profits. That there was hence no cause for interference with the orders passed by the lower Courts.
4. I am unable to accept this contention. Yashodabai as the widow of Vasudeo Kulkarni had clearly, at all times, a right of maintenance out of the suit property. If she was driven to a suit and a decree came to be passed, it is not as if she had acquired a right to the said property for the first time as a grant under the decree without any pre-existing right. The decree of course sets out that her right to the said property was limited to her life time, but this was in the circumstances then prevalent. In view of the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, and more particularly in view of the provisions of section 14 of the said Act, a major change has came about. Section 14 of the said Act reads as follows :
'14(1). Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by has full owner thereof and not as a limited owner.
Explanation.---In this sub-section, 'property' include both movable and immovable property acquired by a female Hindu by inheritance or devise, or at a partition, or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance or by gift from any person, whether a relative or not, before, at or after her marriage, or by her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by prescription, or in any other manner whatsoever, and also any such property held by her as Stridhana immediately before the commencement of this Act.
(2) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall apply to any property acquired by way of gift or under a Will or any other instrument or under a decree or order of Civil Court or under an award where the terms of the gift, Will or other instrument or the decree, order or award prescribe a restricted estate in such property.'
A plain reading of the section shows that it is large in its amplitude and calculated to sweep away the traditional limitation from which a female suffered in regard to the ownership of property under the old Shastric law and recognize her status as an independent and absolute owner. The limitation on Yashodabai's rights were disappeared and she became the absolute owner of the property during her life-time. In other words, no disposition of the suit property by any person other than Yashodabai could be of any effect whatsoever. The sale transaction entered into between Ramchandra V. Kulkarni and the said Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe (deceased) would be of no consequence whatsoever insofar as the suit property is concerned. The heirs of Dnyanu Bayaji Salunkhe would hence not be entitled to any decree of possession of the suit property and/or what has been termed as a 'symbolic possession' by the trial Court, and/or to an order of mesne profits as directed by the lower Appellate Court.
5. In the result, the appeal succeeds. The order of the trial Court and the lower Appellate Court are set aside. The respondent No. 1 will pay the costs throughout.