(1) In this appeal, the interpretation of clause (I) of S. 3 of the Hindu Law Women's Rights Act 1933(Mysore Act X of 1933) which shall be hereinafter called the 'Act' comes up for consideration.
(2) The facts relevant for the purpose of deciding the point in controversy, as determined by the Courts below, briefly stated are as follows : The suit properties belonged to one Subbanna, who died in 1936, leaving behind him his widow Chowdamma and a widowed daughter Pillamma; on the death of Subbanna, the properties devolved on his wife under the provisions of the 'Act'; she took only a limited estate; the said Chowdamma sold on 20-2-1946 1/3rd in the plaint item 4 and the whole of items 5 and 6 to the first defendant for Rs. 300/- as per Exhibit I; on the same day she made a gift of items 1, 2 and 3 and 2/3rds of item four in favour of the second defendant as per the registered gift deed Exhibit II; Pillamma joined her mother in the execution of both these deeds, on 12-7-1948 the first defendant sold his 1/3rd share in item 4 to the second defendant as per Ex. III; defendant 1 and 2 are in possession of the properties alienated in their favour.
(3) Pillamma predeceased her mother who died about 3 years prior to the institution of the suit under appeal. On the date of the death of Chowdamma, the plaintiffs and defendants 1 and 2 were the nearest reversioners to the estate to Subbanna. These facts were accepted in this Court as undisputed facts. The plaintiffs challenged the validity of the alienations under Exs. I and II on the ground that they were not executed for necessary purposes. Both the Courts below have concurrently come to the conclusion that the alienation under Ex. 1 though not for a necessary purpose is protected by Section 18 of the 'Act' as Pillamma the nearest reversioner on the date of Ex. I had assented to the same.
But the gift deed under Exhibit II was set aside and not being binding on the reversioners. In the result, the suit was decreed for partition and possession of the plaintiffs' half share in plaint items 1, 2 and 3 and 1/3rd in item 4. The suit relating to plant items 5 and 6 was dismissed with the costs of the first defendant.
(4) In this appeal only the validity of the alienation of plaint item 5 and 6 is canvassed. It is conceded by the learned counsel appearing for the parties that if the plaintiffs succeed, they are entitled to a half share in those items i.e. 5 and 6(though in the grounds of appeal the plaintiffs claimed a 2/3rd share in those items). Hence we have to see whether the alienation under Exhibit I is valid and binding on the plaintiffs, in view of the provisions contained in section 18(1) of the 'Act'. Section 18(1)(a) reads.
'A female having only a limited estate in any property is not entitled to alienate the property or any portion thereof for any period extending beyond the termination of her limited estate, except in cases where the alienation is made for a necessary purpose, or is assented to, ratified or intentionally acquiesced in by the next reversioner:' As held by the Courts below, the alienation in question was not made 'for necessary purpose'. Hence we have to see whether the same was 'assented to, ratified, or intentionally acquiesced in by the next reversioner.' 'Next reversioner' is defined in Section 3(i) of the 'Act'. That definition runs as follows :
'next reversioner' includes, where the next reversioner is a female, also the next male reversioner, and, where there are more reversioners than one, the whole body of reversioners next entitled to the reversion at any given time:'
'Given time' in the context of this case refer to the date of alienation under Exhibit 1. On this point both sides are agreed. Section 3(1) covers two sets of cases i.e. (1) where the next reversioner is a female; and (2) where there are more reversioners than one. On the date of alienation under Exhibit I, the next reversioner was a female, i.e. Pillamma. Hence her assent by itself was insufficient in law. It is clear from the provisions contained in section 3(1) that in order to validate Ex. 1, not merely the asset of Pillamma but also the assent of the next male reversioner or reversioners, if there were more than one, on the date of Ex. 1, was necessary. The Courts below thought that Pillamma, the next presumptive reversioner on that date, being entitled to an absolute estate could validate the transaction by assenting to the same. In their opinion the true intention of the Legislature in enacting section 18 Section 3(1) of the 'Act' was to make all alienation valid which were 'assented to, ratified, or intentionally acquiesced in by the next reversioner' who if the reversion opens out during his or her life time is entitled to an absolute estate; that condition having been fulfilled in the present case that the alienation under Exhibit I is unassailable.
This is clearly a mistaken view of the law. We have to gather the intention of the Legislature from the language employed in the relevant provision. Section 3(1) as mentioned earlier says in the clearest possible terms that 'next reversioner' includes, where the next reversioner is a female also the next male reversioner.' The words used are so plain and unambiguous, no question of interpretation could possibly arise.
In a case of this nature it is not permissible to travel outside the section to find out the legislative intention. Why the legislature stipulated certain conditions in Section 3(1) is not the concern of the Courts. It might have had good reasons for so doing. At any rate it is not the function of the Courts to pronounce on the wisdom of any piece of legislation. The question of construing a provision only arises if the language employed lends itself to more than one interpretation. Such is not the case here.
(5) The provisions contained in section 3(1) accords with the judicial opinion, expressed while interpreting the customary Hindu Law. It was generally thought that the true view of the law is and has always been that the consent of the reversioners does not by itself or by its own force give validity to an alienation but is only of evidentiary value; such a consent merely raises a presumption that the transaction was a fair one and one justified by Hindu Law; but where the next reversioner is a female, as for instance, a daughter or a mother her consent alone was not regarded as affording the slightest presumption that the alienation was a justifiable one whether she had only a limited estate or an absolute estate as in the old Bombay Province. It is not unlikely that the Legislature accepted this view as sound and incorporated the same in section 3(1).
(6) In the result, the appeal is partly allowed and the decree of the trial Court is modified by granting a decree in favour of the plaintiffs for partition and possession of a half share in the plaint items 5 and 6(in addition to what has been granted by the Trial Court). The respondent (defendant 1) shall pay 2/3rd costs of the appellants (Plaintiffs) in all the Courts, and bear his own costs in all the courts.
(7) Appeal partly allowed.