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Paturi Veeranna and anr. Vs. Pathuri Seethamma - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 720 of 1962
Judge
Reported inAIR1969AP15
ActsHindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 - Sections 4, 22 and 25; Hindu Law
AppellantPaturi Veeranna and anr.
RespondentPathuri Seethamma
Appellant AdvocateT.H.B. Chalapathi, Adv. for ;V.P. Parthasarathi, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateR.V. Vidyasagar, Adv.
Excerpt:
.....that section 22 of the act is not retrospective. 12. i am, therefore, satisfied that the lower courts have erred in holding that the plaintiff could institute the present suit for the enhancement of the maintenance under..........died before the act came into force. 7. it is not in doubt that a widow, who surrenders the estate in favour of her immediate reversioners, thus effaces herself cannot have claims to maintenance from the reversioners. in kondamma v. seshamma, 1956 andh wr 415 = (air 1957 andh pra 156), a full bench of this court held that 'if there is an agreement between the widow who surrenders the estate of her deceased husband and the next reversionier who takes the estate on such surrender that the widow should be provided maintenance out of the estate, either by the allotment of a specific part of the property or by payment of a specific sum or otherwise, the widow would be entitled to maintenance in accordance with such agreement. she cannot get enhanced maintenance in excess of the agreed.....
Judgment:

1. The defendants are the appellants before me. The second appeal arises out of a suit instituted by Pathuri Seethamma, the respondent-plaintiff, who is the widow of Butchi Ramanna. Butchi Ramanna died in 1933 having divided from his brothers, Veeranna and Venkanna. On the death of Butchi Ramanna, his properties devolved on Seethamma, the widow. She, however, executed a surrender deed after four years of her husband's death in favour of Venkanna and Veeranna who were the nearest reversioners to the estate. They, in turn, executed a maintenance deed promising to pay Rs. 25 per year besides promising to supply some chillies and redgram. The first defendant is the wife of Venkanna and the second defendant is the daughter. The third defendant is the brother-in-law of Veeranna. The fourth defendant is his son. The plaintiff contended that the maintenance amount is too meager in view of the rise in prices and, therefore, pleaded that the amount be enhanced. She, therefore, wanted Rs. 300 per year apart from the supply of chillies and redgram fixed in the maintenance deed.

2. IN the written statement, it was contended that the plaintiff is not entitled to enhancement of maintenance. An objection was raised that, under the law, she cannot claim any enhancement. It was also pleaded that there is a recital in the maintenance deed to the effect that no claim for enhancement or reduction could be entertained. The defendants also denied that there are circumstances which warrant increase in the maintenance amount.

3. Upon these pleadings, the trial Court framed appropriate issues. The plaintiff marked one document while the defendants marked one other document. No oral evidence was adduced on either side.

4. Upon this material, the trial Court decreed the plaintiff's suit negativing the contentions raised by the defendants. It was found that the plaintiff would be entitled at Rs. 150 per annum to be paid in two installments, one from Asvayuja Bahula 30 and the other on Magha Bahula 30. The trial Court also granted arrears at the same rate from the date of the suit.

5. Dissatisfied with that judgment, the two sets of defendants filed two separate appeals. A. S. Nos. 251 and 270 of 1961. The District Judge, Eluru, disallowed the appeals agreeing with the view of the trial Court. It is this decision of the learned District Judge that is the subject-matter of the second appeal, which is preferred by one set of defendants.

6. The principal contention of the learned counsel for the appellants is that, after the execution of the surrender deed, the widow was not entitled to any maintenance under the traditional Hindu Law, that she was given maintenance only under an agreement and that no suit, therefore, can lie for the enhancement of such a maintenance fixed by the contract. It was further contended that S. 25 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 (No. 78 of 1956) (hereafter called 'the Act') is not applicable because the widow would not be entitled to maintenance under S. 22 of the Act in view of the fact that her husband died before the Act came into force.

7. It is not in doubt that a widow, who surrenders the estate in favour of her immediate reversioners, thus effaces herself cannot have claims to maintenance from the reversioners. In Kondamma v. Seshamma, 1956 Andh WR 415 = (AIR 1957 Andh Pra 156), a Full Bench of this Court held that 'if there is an agreement between the widow who surrenders the estate of her deceased husband and the next reversionier who takes the estate on such surrender that the widow should be provided maintenance out of the estate, either by the allotment of a specific part of the property or by payment of a specific sum or otherwise, the widow would be entitled to maintenance in accordance with such agreement. She cannot get enhanced maintenance in excess of the agreed stipulation if the reversioner objects. If, however, the widow surrenders the estate in favour of the next reversioners without any stipulation for maintenance, she is not thereafter entitled to be maintained out of the estate in the hands of the reversioners and that the latter cannot be compelled to pay her maintenance'. It will thus be clear that, immediately after she surrendered, she accelerated the inheritance and effaced herself and was, therefore, not entitled to be maintained from the estate. Consequently, the reversioners in whose favour she had surrendered or their successors cannot be compelled to maintain her from the estate. She was of course entitled to receive the amount of maintenance as agreed by the reversioners in a separate agreement executed in favour of the widow. The agreement incorporates a condition that no enhancement will be asked by the widow. That being a term of the contract, it is binding upon the parties. No suit, therefore, in the circumstances could lie for the enhancement of the amount agreed to be paid by a contract. It was therefore, not possible for the widow to institute a suit under the traditional Hindu Law or under the contract for enhancement of the amounts thus fixed.

8. What was, however, successfully contended in the Courts below was that, under S. 25 of the Act, a suit seeking enhancement of the maintenance under an agreement can lie. The same argument is advanced before me by Shri R. Vidya Sagar, the learned counsel for the respondent.

9. In order of appreciate this contention, it is necessary to read S. 25 of the Act which runs as follows:-

'The amount of maintenance, whether fixed by a decree of Court or by agreement, either before or after the commencement of this Act, may be altered subsequently if there is a material change in the circumstances justifying such alteration.'

A careful reading of that section would be reveal that the section confers ample powers on the Court to vary, modify or even discharge any order fixing the amount of maintenance made by a decree of Court or alter the agreement, if entered into by the parties. This can be done even in a case where there is an agreement that no enhancement would either be demanded or be given. Of course, the alteration would be made only if there are material changes in the circumstances justifying such alteration. What, however, must be remembered is that S. 25 of the Act relates only to such decrees or agreements which are in favour of persons who either under the traditional Hindu law or under the Act, are entitled to maintenance and such decrees or agreements are suffered by persons who are obliged to maintain them. In other words, in order to take advantage of S. 25 of the Act, the maintenance agreement must be in favour of a person who, either under the Old Hindu Law or under the Act, is entitled to claim maintenance from a person who is a party to such an agreement. Any other agreement will obviously fall outside the scope of Sec. 25 of the Act. It is true that S. 25 is retrospective in its operation. It applies even to a case where the agreement of maintenance is entered into after the commencement of the Act. The plain language of the section makes that position abundantly plain. The section however cannot apply to a case where there is an agreement in favour of a person who need not be maintained either under the old Hindu Law or under the Act by a person who has undertaken the obligation to maintain. For example, a person who is of charitable disposition, if he enters into a contract to maintain a person, whose maintenance is not an obligation of his either under the old Hindu Law or under the Act, such an agreement fall within the ambit of S. 25 Obviously, not.

10. In this connection, it must be remembered that Chapter III of the Act codifies the law of maintenance applicable to Hindus. It is clear from the preamble to the Act that the Act is intended not merely to amend but also 'to amend and codify the law relating to maintenance among Hindus' The object of such codification is that, on any matter specifically dealt with by the Act, such law would be sought for in the codified enactment itself. It must provide self-contained provisions in regard to that branch of law. Where a statute is expressly said to codify the law, the Court as a general rule is not at liberty to go outside the four corners of law, simply because, before the existence of the enactment, another law prevailed. This is made clear by S. 4 of the Act. That section gives an overriding effect to the provisions of the Act as against any text, rule or interpretation of Hindu Law or any custom or usage as part of the law in force immediately before the commencement of the Act.

11. Nevertheless, the Act would apply only to those Hindus whose relationship in regard to maintenance is specified in the Act. Now under S. 20 of the Act, a Hindu is under a legal obligation to maintain his wife, his minor sons, his unmarried daughters and his aged parents, whether he possesses any property or not. The obligation to maintain these relations is personal and legal in character and arises from the very existence of the relationship between the parties. Likewise, S. 18 of the Act creates a right in a wife for maintenance as it is an incident of the status of matrimony and the husband is under a legal obligation to maintain his wife. Sec. 22 of the Act relates to the maintenance of dependents. For the purpose of Chap. III, Section 21 defines who the dependents are. According to S. 22, subject to the provisions of sub-section (2), the heirs of a deceased Hindu are bound to maintain the dependents of the deceased out of the estate inherited by them from the deceased. The liability of each of the persons who takes the estate shall be in proportion to the value of the share or part of the estate taken by him or her. It is contended that it is under this section that the husband's brothers, in whose favour the widow had surrendered the estate, would be entitled to be maintained from the estate if S. 22 applies to her case. But, S. 22 does not apply to the case of the plaintiff as that section is not retrospective. Admittedly, the husband of the plaintiff died long before the Act came into force. It is now fairly well settled that Section 22 of the Act is not retrospective. see Ramamoorthy v. Sitharamamma, : AIR1961AP131 and Raja Gopala Rao v. Sitharamamma, : [1965]3SCR122 . This position is not controverted. What has been however argued was that the right to be maintained being a continuing right she could claim enhancement. What is however ignored in advancing such an argument is that the plaintiff after surrender was not entitled to be maintained under the old Hindu Law. After the commencement of the Act, Sec. 22 of the Act not being retrospective, she could not have instituted any suit under that section for maintenance against the reversioners in whose favour she had already surrendered the estate. It would thus be clear that she, not being a person who is entitled to be maintained under Section 22 of the Act, cannot file a suit under Sec. 25 of the Act, for the enhancement of the maintenance, based on an agreement executed in her favour prior to the commencement of the Act. Although Sec. 25 is retrospective but that Section does not relate to such an agreement between the plaintiff, who was neither entitled to be maintained under the old Law because of surrender nor is entitled to be maintained under S. 22 of the Act, as it is not retrospective, from the estates inthe hands of the reversioners. Her only claim can be on the footing of the agreement, that is to say, the contract. Since the contract itself embodies the term that no enhancement would be possible, she cannot institute a suit for any enhancement at all.

12. I am, therefore, satisfied that the lower Courts have erred in holding that the plaintiff could institute the present suit for the enhancement of the maintenance under Sec. 25 of the Act. In my view, Sec. 25 is not applicable to the plaintiff's agreement.

13. The result is that the second appeal is allowed and the plaintiff's suit in dismissed. I leave the parties to bear their own costs throughout. Leave granted. Court-fee to be collected from the petitioner.

14. Appeal allowed.


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