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Asa Nand and ors. Vs. Baldev Raj and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily;Property
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revision Nos. 531 and 545 of 1972
Judge
Reported inAIR1975All139
ActsHindu Law; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908 - Sections 115 and 151
AppellantAsa Nand and ors.
RespondentBaldev Raj and anr.
Appellant AdvocateS.N. Verma, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateParty in person
DispositionRevisions dismissed
Excerpt:
.....made - revision made on this ground will not be maintainable. - - it was out of the joint family fund and wealth left by nandlal as well as out of the joint family business, a number of properties, which were mentioned in schedule b of the plaint, were purchased. this definite and unequivocal indication of intention by a member of a joint family to separate himself from joint family and enjoy his share in severally can be expressed in various ways. the filing of suit clearly indicates that the member is no longer interested in continuing the joint status of the family. ' this view of the privy council was based on the principle that as intimation of intention on the part of one of the members of the family to separate himself and to enjoy his share severally has the effect..........suit had been totally denied and, therefore, the plaintiff had no right, title or interest in the suit properties and further that the defendants were not liable to pay any amount to the plaintiff.2. on 22-4-1969, the learned civil judge dismissed the application holding that the right of maintenance in plaintiff's favour would have arisen if admittedly the coparcenary property was in possession of the defendants and since the defendants did not possess any property admittedly belonging to the joint family, therefore, the plaintiff was not entitled for maintenance.3. aggrieved against this order of the learned civil judge, baldev raj, the plaintiff, filed civil revision no 784 of 1969 in the high court.4. this revision came up for hearing before s.n. katju, j. he found that the learned.....
Judgment:
ORDER

K.C. Agarwal, J.

1. Baldev Raj, who is the applicant in revision No. 545 of 1972 and opposite party No 1 in Civil Revision No. 531 of 1972, filed Civil Suit No. 39 of 1967 for partition, accounting and mesne profits. He alleged that there was a joint Hindu family, of which Nand Lal, his father, was the Karta. Nand Lal died in the year 1948 leaving behind vast properties. The said joint Hindu family was also carrying on business of the sale of books in the name of M/s. Universal Book Co. Nandlal, at the time of his death, left substantial cash and jewellery over and above the family business. It was out of the joint family fund and wealth left by Nandlal as well as out of the joint family business, a number of properties, which were mentioned in Schedule B of the plaint, were purchased. On these facts he asserted that he being a member of the joint family was entitled to receive 1/5th out of the entire properties. He subsequently amended his plaint and enhanced his claim from 1/5th to 9/40th, after the death of his mother.

On 10-3-1969, Baldev Raj filed an application No. 388-C praying for allowing a sum of Rs. 2.500 in the lump sum and further recurring payment of Rs. 300 per month to him as maintenance and expenses from the joint family funds. It was stated in this connection that the joint family properties and business was in the management of the eldermost member of the joint family and that as he was prosecuting his studies at that time, he was entitled to maintenance and expenses from the joint family funds. This application was opposed by some of the defendants of the suit. These defendants asserted that the plaintiff's claim in the suit had been totally denied and, therefore, the plaintiff had no right, title or interest in the suit properties and further that the defendants were not liable to pay any amount to the plaintiff.

2. On 22-4-1969, the learned Civil Judge dismissed the application holding that the right of maintenance in plaintiff's favour would have arisen if admittedly the coparcenary property was in possession of the defendants and since the defendants did not possess any property admittedly belonging to the joint family, therefore, the plaintiff was not entitled for maintenance.

3. Aggrieved against this order of the learned Civil Judge, Baldev Raj, the plaintiff, filed Civil Revision No 784 of 1969 in the High Court.

4. This revision came up for hearing before S.N. Katju, J. He found that the learned Civil Judge had committed an error in finding that there was no coparcenary property belonging to the joint family. He held that there was an item of the property, being house No. 110-A, Mohalla South Malaka, Allahabad, which, admittedly, belonged to the joint family. Accordingly, the learned Civil Judge was not right in rejecting the application for maintenance on the basis that since no joint Hindu family property belonged to the parties of the suit, therefore, an order of the payment of money on the application made by Baldev Raj could not be made. It appears from the judgment of the learned Single Judge that it was also emphasised on behalf of Baldev Raj that there was some cash which was admittedly coparcenary property. The High Court declined, to go into that question at that stage and simply directed the trial court to consider the application afresh. In this order the Court had further directed that the trial court should find out as to whether there was any other admitted coparcenary property apart from house No. 110-A, South Malaka, Allahabad.

5. On remand, this application came up for decision before the learned Additional District Judge. During the proceedings before the learned Additional District Judge, an application w,as moved by Baldev Raj for amendment of the application for maintenance. He asserted that there was a typing mistake in the said application and instead of Rs. 300 per month, the figure of Rs. 800 be substituted. The learned Additional District Judge found from the evidence on the record that the admitted items of the joint Hindu family, about which there was no dispute between the parties, were:--

(1) One house in South Malaka, Allahabad, No. 110-A.

(2) Four Fixed Deposits Receipts to the extent of Rs. 20,891.93 N.P.

(3) A small amount of Rs. 627.31 N.P. in the Punjab National Bank, Allahabad.

The court below, thereafter, proceeded to calculate the monthly income from these properties and having arrived at a finding that the monthly income of interest was Rs. 124, whereas from the house was Rs. 130, concluded that the total income from the property admittedly belonging to the joint Hindu family was Rs. 254 per month. The learned Additional District Judge, thereafter, found that in accordance with the proportion ofthe claim set up by Baldev Kaj in the plaint, his share in the monthly income of the properties would come to nearabout Rs. 50. He, accordingly, directed that a sum of Rs. 50 per month be paid to Baldev Raj from the date of the institution of the suit. Over and above this amount of monthly maintenance, he further directed the payment of Rs. 1,000 to him as lump sum.

6. Both the parties felt aggrieved from the judgment of the learned Additional District Judge. Consequently the defendants filed Civil Revision No. 531 of 1972, against the said order, whereas Revision No. 545 of 1972 was filed by Baldev Raj. These two revisions were, thereafter, connected and are now being disposed of by means of a common judgment.

7. Before I come to discuss the merits of the two revisions, it is convenient to dispose of the objection relating to the maintainability of the application filed by Baldev Raj. The objection raised by Sri S.N. Verma, counsel for the defendants, was that the status of the joint family came to an end with the filing of the suit for partition by the plaintiff. Consequently, the joint family did not exist thereafter and could not, in law, be held responsible for maintaining any of the members who constituted the same. Sri Baldev Raj, in reply to this argument submitted that the joint status of the family does not come to an end merely as a result of the filing of the suit. It continued as joint family so long as a decree in the suit has not been filed. He further submitted that a member of a joint family is entitled to be maintained from the funds belonging to it, irrespective of the filing of the suit for partition.

8. Under Hindu Law, there is a presumption that a joint family continues to be joint so long as the status of the same has not been brought to an end by a definite and unequivocal expression of intention of the members constituting the same. This definite and unequivocal indication of intention by a member of a joint family to separate himself from joint family and enjoy his share in severally can be expressed in various ways. One of them is the filing of suit for partition itself. The filing of suit clearly indicates that the member is no longer interested in continuing the joint status of the family. Consequently, the bringing of the suit by him results in the severance of the joint status. Mulla in his book 'Principles of Hindu Law', 12th Edition, page 494, has observed as follows:--

'The institution of a suit for partition by a member of a joint family is an unequivocal intimation of his intention to separate and there consequently is a severance of his joint status from the date when it is instituted.'

The Privy Council in Kewai Narain v. Budh Singh (AIR 1917 PC 39) dealing with the said controversy held as follows:--

'The institution of a suit by a member for partition effects separation; whether plaintiff gets a judgment or not is immaterial.'

It is, therefore, settled that the bringing of a suit by a member itself brings to an end the joint status. It is in the background of this that it will be necessary to examine as to whether the liability of the joint family which was in existence before the commencement of the suit could still be held to be continued for maintaining its members. It was at one time that there was some dispute as to the liability of the joint family to maintain its adult members. This controversy, however, was set at rest long time back when it was held that the liability of the joint family was not confined to the maintenance of ladies and widows but also with regard to the adult members of the family. This liability of maintenance, however, pre-supposes the continuation of a joint family. The obligation to maintain arises from the fact that manager is in possession of the joint family property. The additional reason being that sons take vested interest in the joint property by birth. If there are no joint funds, it is unthinkable that there would still be the liability of the joint family to maintain its adult members. The shares of the members constituting the joint family and their rights to receive the properties belonging to it gets determined consequent upon the partition and as there is no joint property thereafter, there is no occasion, under the law, to hold the joint family responsible to maintain the members of the joint family. As under the law, the filing of the suit by a member brings to an end the joint status of the family, the family cannot be held responsible for maintenance. After the institution of such a suit for partition, a change takes place in the relationship of the members constituting it. A manager of the joint family, after the institution of the suit, is required to account for all the receipts and expenses strictly. Mulla in his book on Hindu Law (page 358) has said as follows:--

'Since institution of a suit for partition amounts to a severance of joint status, the manager is, from and after the date of such a suit, strictly bound to account for all receipts and expenses, and can take credit only for such expenses as have been incurred for the benefit or necessity of the estate, and the net income after deducting such expenses is tobe divided among the coparceners according to their shares.'

The only right, which, a coparcener has, after the institution of the suit, is to receive mesne profits in respect of his share. This being the position under the Hindu Law, therefore, it is not possible to hold that the joint family continues to be liable for the maintenance of the members of the joint family in spite of the fact that severance in the joint status has come to an end. In Ramalinga v. Narayana Annavi (AIR 1922 PC 201), the Privy Council had to consider the liability of the joint family with regard to the marriage expenses of one of the family members of the joint family. The Privy Council held:--

'Under the Law of Mitakshara an unambiguous and definite intimation of intention to separate has the effect of creating a division of interest and after notice to that effect, no obligation rests on the joint family in respect of the son's marriage.'

This view of the Privy Council was based on the principle that as intimation of intention on the part of one of the members of the family to separate himself and to enjoy his share severally has the effect of creating the division of the interest, therefore, the joint family ceased to exist. Accordingly the said family could not be held responsible for bearing the marriage expenses of the member.

9. In view of what I have said above, I am inclined to accept the argument of Sri S.N. Verma that as the joint family status had come to an end with the filing of suit by Baldev Raj, accordingly the application for maintenance, as recognised by Hindu Law, is not maintainable. This is, however, not the end of this controversy. It may be true that an application for the grant of maintenance may not lie as such but it would be too hard to deprive a member of the joint family from the benefits of his share in the joint family in case some of the members, who are holding all the properties of the joint family, happened to succeed in depriving that other member from either getting the property or from enjoying the usufruct of the same. In such an event, the position would be that a cantankerous and troublesome member or a manager of the family may go on litigating as against a person, admittedly owning a share in the property, for years together and may make it difficult for the other members to even survive. Such a deprived member will, of course, get a decree in the suit ultimately but that does not solve his problems. In order to meet such cases that the inherent power of the Court under Section 151, C. P. C. can be invoked. A member of the joint family, who is made to file a suit and otherwise has been deprived of the admitted share in the joint family, may bring to the notice of the court facts relevant in this regard and can legitimately make a prayer to it for grant of so much of money as may admittedly fall to his share. Acceding to such a request by the Court at the stage when the suit is still pending in the court, would not, in any way do injustice to the members managing the property. Such a course adopted by the Court would only further the cause of justice. I would, accordingly, think that although a separated member or a member who has been deprived of the usufruct of the joint family fund as an amount for his maintenance but would still be entitled to get a share of his income wherever such a need has been established and the court feels that an injury is likely to happen to such a member in case a provision for giving admitted amount of his share was not made during the pendency of a suit.

10. I find some support from the two cases reported in Gauri Gupta v. Tarani Gupta : AIR1968Cal305 and Muniammal v. P.M. Ranganatha Navagar : AIR1955Mad571 . None of these two cases are with regard to an adult member of the joint Hindu family. But the principles laid down in these two cases definitely support the conclusion that an application under Section 151, C. P. C. for grant of interim, maintenance during the pendency of litigation is admissible under the law. In my view it cannot be said that since there is no provision in the Code of Civil Procedure for grant of interim relief in a matter like the one with which I am concerned in the present case, there is a prohibition to grant the same. In my opinion, in appropriate cases, the power under Settion 151, C. P. C. should be exercised and relief be granted.

11. I am, accordingly, unable to uphold the submission of Sri S.N. Verma that the application made by Sri Baldev Raj was liable to be dismissed. It was one which was for the grant of money during the pendency of the suit and could be treated as filed under Section 151 C. P. C. invoking the inherent jurisdiction of the Court for grant of such interim relief as the ends of justice necessitated in the present case.

12. Coming to the main arguments advanced by Sri Baldev Raj in his revision, the first contention raised was that the court below committed an error of jurisdiction in confining the determination of amount only on the basis of the income of the admitted coparcenary property. His submission was that the High Court had not given any such directionin its order dated 7-1-1971 which could show that the court below was not empowered to investigate and decide ,as to which of the properties belonged to the joint family. His submission was that the Court should have gone into the said controversy and1 determined money payable to him on its basis. Sri S.N. Verma, learned counsel for the defendants, to the contrary urged that as a result of the order of remand of the High Court, the only thing which the court below was required to do was to find out the correct figure of the admitted cash deposits and to determine the amount payable to the plaintiff on the basis of the income of the house No. 110-A, South Malaka, and the interest payable on the cash deposits. The court below, according to his submission, had no power to decide the controversial and hotly contested claim of the properties being joint or exclusive at this stage. I find sufficient strength in. the argument of Sri S.N. Verma in this respect. The judgment of remand of the High Court clearly indicated that the High Court wanted the amount payable to the plaintiff being decided only on the basis of the admitted properties. It may be remembered that the learned Civil Judge, against whose order the earlier revision was filed, had rejected the application for grant of maintenance on the basis that there was no admitted coparcenary property. The High Court in revision found that the said observation of the learned Civil Judge was incorrect. There was at least one house which admittedly belonged to the coparcenary. It was in these circumstances that the High Court only desired the court below to find out the admitted coparcenary properties and to determine the quantum of maintenance on the basis of the income of the same. The High Court could not at that stage in an interlocutory matter possibly direct the court below to investigate and record its findings about the nature of the properties. This is the precise controversy in the suit. Apart from this, this controversy, from the nature of the facts as appearing in the present case, was such which needed examination of volumes of documentary evidence and taking of oral statement. This was, therefore, one of the vital disputes involved in the suit and this was an additional reason that compels me to hold that the High Court only intended the decision of the claim of maintenance to be decided on the basis of the admitted coparcenary property only.

13. Sri Baldev Raj attempted to satisfy me on the basis of the evidence existing on the record as well as on various propositions of law that most of the properties of the suit were joint family properties and, therefore, I should determine his claim of maintenance on the basis of income of those properties. Since my view was that the scope of enquiry in the present case was confined by the High Court only to the question of investigation of the admitted coparcenary properties, therefore, it is not possible for me to deal either with the evidence relied upon by Baldev Raj before me or to discuss the authorities and the various principles of law urged by him. Apart from the above, I would otherwise also think that the present is not a stage for determining the nature of the properties and to hold as to which of them belonged to the joint family. This is a matter to be decided on the basis of the evidence which the parties have still to give in the suit. This is another reason that I do not feel inclined to go into this question at this stage.

14. The next question that arises for consideration is as to whether the court was justified in awarding Rs. 50 per month to Baldev Raj and further granting a sum of Rs. 1,000 to him. Sri Baldev Raj urged that looking into the necessities and other principles upon which maintenance is allowed to a Hindu widow or an adult member of the Hindu family, the amount awarded by the learned Additional District Judge is much too inadequate. It was also pointed out that Rs. 50 is hardly sufficient to maintain a person in these hard days of life. It cannot be disputed that Rs. 50 per month is most insufficient for even arranging two times meal, but I find myself wholly helpless in the matter. As already observed above, the status of the joint family had come to an end. The liability of the joint family, therefore, ceases to exist. The plaintiff has, therefore, to contend himself only with the share which he has in the joint family. The share computed by the learned Additional District Judge comes to near about Rs. 50 per month. In view of this it is not possible to enhance the same in the revision. As in my opinion, the plaintiff would only be entitled to get money per month in accordance with his proportion in the properties of the joint family, therefore, there is no occasion either to consider the argument relating to the necessities or the principles on which a Hindu widow is entitled to receive the same. These are the principles applicable only to a case of determining the question of maintenance. As mentioned above the status of the joint family having come to an end, I am not at all concerned with the question of determination of maintenance of the appellant.

15. Sri Baldev Rai made an effort to argue before me that the income of the house as well as of the properties invested in the Bank has gone up. This fact was disputed by the learned counsel for the other side. In view of this dispute and being not possessed of any evidence before me I am not satisfied that the finding of the court below on the quantum of monthly income could be interfered with in revision.

16. All what I have said above, disposes of the revision filed by the plaintiff. The only thing which remains to be mentioned is the application for correction of judgment given by the High Court on 7-1-1971 in Civil Revision No. 784 of 1969. To my mind, this has no merits. The High Court did not commit any accidental or clerical mistake in giving the said judgment. The judgment was based on consideration of the arguments advanced before the High Court. It is, therefore, not possible for me to recall the said judgment. It is more so when I do not only find myself bound by the earlier judgment out also in complete agreement with the same.

17. I may now take up the revision filed by the defendants. While disposing of the earlier revision of Baldev Raj. I have already dealt with the question of maintainability of the application for grant of maintenance which was a ground common in both the revisions. The other ground urged by the learned counsel for the defendants was that neither the Court was justified in granting the sum of Rs. 1,000 in lump sum nor was it correct in granting Rs. 50 per month with effect from the date of the institution of the suit. I do not find any substance in either of the two arguments. The amount, which would be given to the plaintiff, would be adjustable in the final decree to be prepared in the suit. Therefore, the fact as to whether the sum of Rs. 1,000 was awarded as lump sum or that Rs. 50 per month was granted with effect from the date of the filing of the suit loses all its importance. Moreover, the court below was exercising its inherent power while dealing with the application made by the plaintiff, if in exercise of that power it decided to grant maintenance with effect from the date of the suit instead of the date on which the application for grant of maintenance was made, that would not be a ground for interference in revision.

18. In the result, there are no merits in these two revisions. Consequently, I reject them. But the parties would bear their own costs in both these cases.


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