1. A Division Bench of the Court while hearing a Special Appeal from an order of a learned single Judge granting Letters of Administration to the Administrator General, in respect of the assets of one Alexender John, doubted the correctness of the decision in the case of Mt. Ram Kali v. Administrator General of U. P., : AIR1943All356 and referred the following question to a Full Bench.
'Whether the High Court can grant Letters of Administration to the Administrator General under the Administrator General's Act, 1913 where the deceased was an Indian Christian (and not an Anglo Indian)?'
2. The Administrator General's Act 1913 (Act No. 3 of 1913) (hereinafter called the Act) is a consolidating Act relating to the office and duties of the Administrator General. Sub-section (2) of Section 2 of the Act defines 'exempted person' as an Indian Christian, a Hindu, Mohammedan, Parsi or Buddhist or a person exempted under Section 332 of the Indian Succession Act. 1865, from the operation of that Act. Thus clearly an Indian Christian was an exempted person within the meaning of the Act. The term Indian Christian was also defined by Sub-section (4) of Section 2 of this Act as meaning a native of India who is or in good faith claims to be of unmixed Asiatic descent, and who professes any form of the Christian Religion. It may be of some interest to note that the Administrator General's Act of 1913 has now been repealed and replaced by the Administrator General's Act, 1963 (Act No. 45 of 1963). In the new Act there is no provision for 'exempted person.' Thus the question which has been referred in a way is now of mere academic interest and may not arise in future. At one stage during the course of the argument before us it was suggested at the Bar that the deceased Alexender John, regarding whose estate Letters of Administration were sought by the Administrator General, was an Angolo-Indian and not an Indian Christian. But that is a question which this Bench will not examine as the case before it is restricted to the question referred.
3. In the Act of 1913 in its Part III, rights, powers, duties and liabilities of the Administrator General are prescribed. Under Section 6 as regards the Administrator General of any State the High Court of that State would be deemed to be a Court of competent jurisdiction for the purpose of granting probate or letters of administration under any law for the time-being in force, wheresoever the estate to be administered were situate within such State. It would thus be seen that it is the High Court of a State which was constituted as the forum from which the Administrator General could seek the grant of Letters of Administration under any law for the time being in force to administer an estate situate within the territorial jurisdiction of the said High Court. Section 7 of the Act which has an important bearing on the question referred to us, may now be reproduced. It runs as follows:--
'Any letters of administration, which are granted after the commencement of this Act by the High Court shall be granted to the Administrator General of the State unless they are granted to the next-of-kin of the deceased.'
4. Then follows Section 8 which runs thus:--
'The Administrator General of the State shall be deemed by all the Courts in the State to have a right to letters of administration other than letters pendente lite in preference to that of-
(a) a creditor; or
(b) a legatee other than a universal legatee; or
(c) a friend of the deceased.'
The scheme is that when there is no next--of-kin of the deceased, the High Court is enjoined to grant letters of administration for the estate of the deceased to no other person except the Administator General and Section 8 gives him preference over the class of persons mentioned therein.
5. The learned counsel for the objectors contended that though Section 7 limits the power of the High Courts to grant letters of administration only to the Administrator General, when the deceased has not left any next-of-kin, in preference to the class of persons mentioned in Section 8 yet nothing in those sections conferred a right on the Administrator General to apply for letters of administration, which right is secured to the Administrator General under the succeeding Sections 9, 10 and 11. It was submitted that since our Court has no ordinary original civil Jurisdiction it is only Section 9 of the Act which will come into play and the provisions of that section excluded out of its purview the administration of the estate of an 'exempted person,' Section 9 runs as follows:--
'If any person, not being an exempted person, has died leaving within any State assets exceeding the value of two thousand rupees,
and if no person to whom any Court would have jurisdiction to commit administration of such assets has, within one month after his death, applied in such State for probate of his will, or for letters of administration of his estate,
the Administrator General of the State in which such assets are shall, subject to any rules made by the Government, within a reasonable time after he has had notice of the death of such person, and of his having left such assets, take such proceedings as may be necessary to obtain from the High Court, letters of administration of the estate of such person.'
The submission was that while Sections 7 and 8 of the Act merely lay rules of preference in cases where the Administrator General had a right to apply for letters of administration but nothing therein confers upon the Administrator General the right to apply for letters of administration and it is only under Section 9 when any person other than an exempted person dies and the conditions therein are fulfilled that a right accrues to the Administrator General to apply to the High Court for letters of Administration. No doubt the argument raised above at first flush appears to have a logical plausibility but on a deeper consideration will be found to be untenable.
6. A perusal of Section 14 of the Act shows that nothing in the said Act shall be deemed to preclude the Administrator General from applying to the Court for letters of administration in any case within the period of one month from the death of the deceased. Section 14 in its terms applies to all cases whether the deceased were an exempted person or a non-exempted person. It confers upon the Administrator General a right to apply to the Court for letters of administration. There is nothing in the phraseology of Sections 14 which subjects it to the provisions of Sections 9, 10 or 11 or in any way limits the right of the Administrator General to apply for letters of administration.
7. The marginal note appended to Section 7 reads: 'Administrator General entitled to letters of administration unless granted to next-of-kin.' When Sections 14 says that the Administator General can apply for letters of administration in any case, whether the deceased was exempted or non-exempted person, even within the period of one month from the death of the deceased, it implies that he has the right to apply also beyond the period of one month from the date of death. In theabsence of the next-of-kin, he would be entitled under Section 7 to the grant of letters of administration by the High Court. It is difficult then to agree with the contention that under the scheme of the Act, the Administrator General has no right to apply for the grant of letters of administration in case of the estate of an exempted person. The fundamental principle of interpretation of statutes is that all the provisions must be harmoniously construed so as to achieve the object for which the law was enacted. The main object behind the Administrator General's Act is to provide for a machinery for the proper administration of estates where there is no next-of-kin of any deceased, by a competent person on the directions of the High Court. It is the Administrator General who is constituted as the competent person under the Act. Inasmuch as after the commencement of the Act, while the High Court is enjoined not to grant letters of administration to any person save the Administrator General when there is no next-of-kin of the deceased, then to say that in regard to the estate of a deceased who falls within the category of an exempted person, as defined under the Act, the Administrator General cannot apply, will amount to denying the power to the High Court which is vested in it by law and to read the provisions of Section 7 of the Act as if there was engrafted therein an exception and no letters of Administration could be granted by the High Court to the Administrator General in respect of the estate of an exempted person.
The following observations of Allsop, J. in the case of : AIR1943All356 are apt:
'If the provisions of Section 7 of the Act were not read to mean that letters of administration could be issued to the Administrator General of the Division even in respect of the estate of an exempted person, then for such an estate no letters of administration could be issued except to the next-of-kin and that would have been contrary to the provisions of Section 234 Succession Act. It is true that the provisions of the Succession Act cannot be read to affect the rights of an Administrator General, but I do not think that the Administrator General's Act without specifically saying so would have contemplated a repeal of the provisions of the Succession Act applied to the persons other than the Administrator General of a Division. I have come to the conclusion, therefore, that the Administrator General may apply for letters of administration in respect of any estate and that Section 8, Administrator General's Act must be read so as to mean that he will have a light in preference to creditors of legatees other than universal legatees or friends of the deceased in any Court other than a High Court. In a High Court, of course, he has preference under Section 7 over everybody except the next-of-kin.'
8. We think that the law has been correctly stated by Allsop, J. It is not possible to agree with the contention that the provisions of Sections 7 and 8 cannot be read independently of the provisions of Sections 9, 10 and 11 of the Act. The marginal note of Section 9 clearly indicates its purpose. It describes a situation when the Administrator General must apply to the High Court for administering the estates of persons other than exempted persons, while the purpose of Section 10 is to vest power in the High Court to direct the Administrator General to apply for administration of an estate and the purpose of Section 11 is to direct the Administrator General to collect and hold assets until the right of succession or administration is determined. The provisions of Sections 10 and 11 apply to the estate of an exempted as well as an un-exempted person. It is only Section 9 which is confined to the administration of the estate of an exempted person only. It is difficult to find any connection between these sections inter se and between these sections and Sections 7 and 8 of the Act. There is nothing in the scheme of all these sections indicating any interdependence. They deal with different situations.
9. Section 9 deals with a special situation. When any person other than an exempted person dies leaving estate exceeding the value of two thousand rupees and no person to whom any Court would have jurisdiction to commit administration of such estate applies within one month of the death for grant of letters of administration of the estate, then it becomes incumbent on the Administrator General of the State in which such estate is situate to take proceeding to obtain letters of administration within a reasonable time after he had notice of the death of such person and of the deceased having left an estate exceeding the value of two thousand rupees. Thus under that section a duty is cast upon the Administrator General to act and he must apply for letters of administration of the estate of any person other than an exempted person. He is under no such duty in respect of an estate of an exempted person That is to say, if a person other than an exempted person dies leaving an estate exceeding the value of two thousand rupees and the conditions mentioned in Section 9 exist, then the Administrator General would be failing in his duty and would be guilty of breach of his obligation if he does not take steps for the grant of letters of administration, while when an exempted person dies then In the same situation if the Administrator General does not take any steps, he would not be guilty of breach of his duty. The policy of the law seems to be that in case of the death of a person not being an exempted person his estate exceeding rupees two thousand in value must be administered by the Administrator General if no other person entitled to administer the estate applies within one month of the death.
The underlying object is to afford by law greater protection to the estate of a person other than an exempted person by placing upon the Administrator General a heavier and more onerous responsibility for seeking directions from the High Court, with the greatest possible expedition. This is also borne out by the provisions of Section 54 of the Act which requires the District Judge to take charge of property of a deceased person other than an exempted person leaving assets within the limits of his jurisdiction and then report the circumstances without delay to the Administrator General of the State. It will not mean that in case of the death of an exempted person the Administrator General has no right to administer his estate in case the deceased has not left any next-of-kin. He may apply or he may not apply. In case he applies to the High Court of his State in which the assets of an exempted person are found the High Court has no option but to grant him letters of administration in preference to all others in the absence of next-of-kin of the deceased. Also if some one else applies and there is no next-of-kin then the High Court will grant letters of administration to the Administretor General. The provisions of Section 7 and Section 9 of the Act thus are independent of each other and are not interlinked.
10. In the case of Gobindlal Nakphopha v. Administrator General of Bihar, : AIR1955Pat56 a Division Bench of the Patna High Court took the view that Sections 6, 7 and 8 cannot be so construed as to refer to unexempted persons and these sections were independent of Sections 9, 10 and 11 of the Act. It seems to have approved the decision of Allsop, J. in : AIR1943All356 . A reference was made to the Division Bench decision of the Hyderabad High Court in the case of Adimistrator General, Hyderabad v. T. Laxmamma, AIR 1956 Hyd 149 in support of the proposition that the High Court was not competent to grant letters of administration on the application of Administrator General in the case of an exempted person. With great respect to the learned Judges of the Hyderabad High Court we cannot persuade ourselves to agree with their opinion. We think their reasoning that Section 9 of the Act prevents the Administrator General from applying for letters of administration or probate relating to the estate left by an exempted person is not supported by the phraseology of that section and as mentioned above we have respectfully arrived at a contrary conclusion.
11. The question under reference may also be answered in the affirmative, having regard to the practice and precedent all along followed in this Court, permitting the grant of letters of administration to the Administrator General in respect of the assets or estate of an exempted person, in the absence of any next-of-kin of such a deceased. We have already noticed that under the scheme of the new Act there is no such distinction between the estates of exempted and non-exempted persons.
12. For the reasons given above, we answer the referred question in the affirmative.
13. Let the papers of the case now be placed before the Hon'ble the Chief Justice for sending the case back to the Division Bench for hearing and deciding the Special Appeal.