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D.S. Sriramiah Setty Vs. Smt. D. Kanthamma - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily;Property
CourtKarnataka High Court
Decided On
Case NumberMisc. First Appeal No. 61 of 1969
Judge
Reported inAIR1971Kant148; AIR1971Mys148; (1970)2MysLJ516
ActsSuccession Act, 1925 - Sections 284
AppellantD.S. Sriramiah Setty
RespondentSmt. D. Kanthamma
Appellant AdvocateG.V. Ramaiah, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateD. Satyanarayana Setty and ;B.T. Shankar Shetty, Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Excerpt:
.....the land as a tenant prior to and as on 1.3.1974. - in the light of the aforesaid (decisions, it must be taken as well-settled that a person who claims the property by a paramount title or claims adversely to the testator or disputes the testator's right to deal with the property sought to be disposed of by the will, has no locus standi to enter a caveat......the will annexed.2. the appellant herein filed an application under section 276 of the act, for grant of letters of administration with the will annexed, to the estate of one rangamma who is stated to have died on 26-12-1967 in siddlagatta town. he claimed to be the sole legatee under the will alleged to have been executed by rangamma on 13-3-1966.3. the respondent herein lodged a caveat under section 284 of the act, together with an affidavit in which she explained her relationship with the testatrix, rangamma.4. the appellant made an application purporting to be under order 5, rule 6 read with sections 141 and 151 civil p. c., calling upon the caveatrix to disclose specifically the nature of the interest she claims in the estate of the testatrix, rangamma, so that he (the appellant).....
Judgment:

D.M. Chandrashekhar, J.

1. This appeal under Section 299 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, (hereinafter called the Act) arises out of proceedings for grant of letters of administration with the will annexed.

2. The appellant herein filed an application under Section 276 of the Act, for grant of letters of administration with the Will annexed, to the estate of one Rangamma who is stated to have died on 26-12-1967 in Siddlagatta town. He claimed to be the sole legatee under the Will alleged to have been executed by Rangamma on 13-3-1966.

3. The respondent herein lodged a caveat under Section 284 of the Act, together with an affidavit in which she explained her relationship with the testatrix, Rangamma.

4. The appellant made an application purporting to be under Order 5, Rule 6 read with Sections 141 and 151 Civil P. C., calling upon the caveatrix to disclose specifically the nature of the interest she claims in the estate of the testatrix, Rangamma, so that he (the appellant) might file his objections to the caveat. The caveatrix filed her objections stating that she had not been served with a copy of the application made by the appellant under Section 276, that the nature of her interest in, and title to the estate of the testatrix could be stated only after seeing the copy of that application, and that the application calling for particulars was premature.

5. After hearing arguments, the learned District Judge at Kolar, ordered that the caveatrix be made the respondent in the case.

6. Feeling aggrieved by the order of the learned District Judge, the petitioner before the learned District Judge, has come up in this appeal.

7. It is common ground that testatrix's deceased husband, Dontu Venkatashamaiah Shetty, and the caveatrix's deceased husband. Dontu Adappa, were brothers, that Adappa pre-deceased Venkatashamaiah Shetty, and that the latter died in about the year 1963.

8. The appellant claims to be Dontu Venkatashamaiah's uncle's son. According to him (the appellant), there are no next of kin of the testatrix the property left by her was her stridhan property and the immovable property left by her was inherited from her husband.

9. According to the caveatrix, Dontu Venkatashamaiah Shetty and Dontu Adappa were members of a Hindu undivided family, of which the former was the manager, after the death of Adappa, Venkatashamaiah Shetty continued to be the manager of the joint family till his death and after his death the testatrix and the caveatrix were jointly in possession and enjoyment of all the properties belonging to that joint family.

10. Mr G. V. Ramaiah, learned counsel for the appellant, contended that the caveat was not maintainable as the caveatrix did not disclose the nature of her interest in the estate of the testator. It was also contended by Mr, Ramaiah that the caveatrix had no locus standi to maintain the caveat as she has claimed the property sought to be disposed of by the Will as a member of a Hindu joint family and that such a claim is foreign to the scope of the proceedings for grant of probate or letters of administration.

11. Mr. Ramaiah relied on several decisions in support of his contention that a caveat cannot be sustained on the mere ground that the property sought to be disposed of by the Will, is a joint family property. It is sufficient to refer to the following decisions.

12. In Ochavaram Nanabhai v. Dolatram Jamietram, (1904) ILR 28 Bom 644, the grant of letters of administration was opposed on the ground that the property dealt with by the testator, was the joint family property which could not have been disposed of by his will. The decision of the trial Judge. Russel, J., dismissing the caveat holding that the caveator had no interest, was affirmed in appeal by a Bench of the Bombay High Court.

13. Following the above decision, Kania, J., (as he then was) observed thus -- in Bai Parvati Bai v. Raghunath Lakshman AIR 1941 Bombay 60.

'In my opinion, a testamentary Court dealing with the question of issuing a grant of probate is concerned to see whether the will is duly executed as required by law by a testator of sound and disposing state of mind. In case of grant of letters of administration, the Court has to see that the person properly entitled to represent the estate of the deceased according to the Succession Act has come to Court, and is given the grant. It is no part of the duty of the testamentary Judge to consider the question of title to the property. Section 211, Succession Act expressly provides that the issue of probate or letters of administration does not vest in the executor or administrator, as the case may be the property which is claimed to belong to a joint family of which the deceased was a member. In my opinion, a caveat cannot be sustained on the mere ground that the property which is attempted to be disposed of by the deceased by the will or in respect of which letters of administration are asked for is joint family estate .....'

14. The same view has been taken by the Madras High Court in a number of decisions. In M. K. Sowbhagiammal v. Komalangi AIR 1928 Mad 803, Venkata Subba Rao, J., said at page 805:

'The Court of Probate does not profess to decide the disputed title to every item of property mentioned in the will.'

15. His Lordship added that a person disputing the right of a testator to deal with the property as his own cannot be properly regarded as having interest in the estate of the deceased. His Lordship enunciated the following test to determine whether the caveator has necessary interest: Does the grant displace any right to which the caveator would otherwise be entitled? If so, he has such an interest: if not he has not.

16. Adopting the above test, his Lordship said: 'An heir on intestacy has an interest in impeaching the will; for, but for the will, he would succeed to the property.'

His Lordship added: 'A reversionary heir under the Hindu Law has such an Interest; for, normally a widow has only a limited estate and the reversioner is interested in impeaching a will, which professes to enlarge that interest, or, again, which purports to confer upon her a right to make an adoption.' His Lordship summed up by saying that in every case it must be shown that the caveator, but for the will, would be entitled to a right of which that will deprives him.

17. In Ramyad Mahton v. Ram Bhaju, AIR 1932 Pat 89, a Bench of the Patna High Court held that where an objector to the petition for grant of letters of administration claims that he was joint in the property which the testator has left by will, he has no locus standi to object to the granting of letters of administration.

18. However, Mr. D. Satyanarayana Shetty, learned counsel for the respondent, contended that in order to enable a person to oppose the grant of probate or letters of administration, it is not necessary that such objector should claim through the testator. Mr. Satyanarayana Shetty sought to derive support for his contention from the following observations of Devadoss, J., who spoke for the Bench in Hanumantha Rao v. Latchamma, AIR 1926 Mad 1193 at p- 1193:

'If a person is likely to suffer by the grant of the probate of a forged will or an invalid will, he has sufficient interest to enter a caveat'.

19. In that case, the caveatrix was the widow of the brother of the testatrix's husband and claimed maintenance from the estate which was sought to be disposed of by the Will. The above observations in Hanumantha Rao's case, AIR 1926 Mad 1183 were considered in Soubhagiammal's case AIR 1928 Mad 803 and Venkata Subba Rao, J., said that the learned Judges who decided Hanumantha Rao's case, AIR 1926 Mad 1193 could not have intended by their dicta to cast a doubt on a long-settled practice sanctioned in a series of judgments of great authority.

20. In Rangamma v. C. Rame Reddy, (1965) 2 Mys LJ 105 the caveator contended, inter alia, that the property disposed of by the will passed by survivorship to the testator's second wife's son. This court held that in an application for grant of letters of administration, the question whether the testamentary dispositions made in the will in respect of which letters of administration were sought, were not within the competence of the testator, does not call for adjudication and that the only question which arises for decision in an application for grant of letters of administration is whether the will propounded was the will made by the testator while he was of a sound disposing state of mind.

20-A. In the light of the aforesaid (decisions, it must be taken as well-settled that a person who claims the property by a paramount title or claims adversely to the testator or disputes the testator's right to deal with the property sought to be disposed of by the will, has no locus standi to enter a caveat.

21. Alternatively, it was contended by Mr. Satyanarayana Shetty that the caveatrix was also an intestate heir of deceased Rangamma and hence she would satisfy the test laid down by Venkata Subba Rao, J. in Soubhagiammal's case, AIR 1928 Mad 803 namely, that the grant of letters of administration would displace the right to which she would Otherwise be entitled.

22. Elaborating his contention that the caveatrix is an intestate heir of Rangamma, the testatrix, Mr. Satyanarayana Shetty referred to Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Sub-section (1) of that Section provides, inter alia, that in the absence of sons and daughters (including the children of predeceased so nor daughter) and the husband, the property, of a female Hindu dying intestate shall devolve on the heirs of her husband according to the rules set out in Section 16. In the Schedule to the Hindu Succession Act. Entry VI of Class II reads 'Father's widow; brother's widow.'

23. Mr. Satyanarayana Shetty submitted that as Rangamma had no issue and as her husband had predeceased her and had no heirs coming under any of the Entries I to V of Class II of the Schedule to the Hindu Succession Act, the caveatrix who is Rangamma's husband's brother's widow would be the nearest intestate heir of Rangamma, and that as the caveatrix is an intestate heir, she has sufficient interest to oppose the grant of letters of administration with the will annexed.

24. As the caveatrix claims to be an intestate heir of the testatrix, Rangamma, she must be held to have sufficient interest to maintain the caveat. Hence the decision of the learned District Judge that the caveatrix should be made the respondent in the case, should be upheld.

25. In the result, this appeal fails and is dismissed. But in the circumstances of the case, there will be no order as to costs in this appeal.


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