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Shakuntala Devi Vs. Beni Madhav - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily;Property
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revn. No. 10 of 1959
Judge
Reported inAIR1964All165
ActsHindu Succession Act, 1956 - Sections 14, 14(1) and 14(2); Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abodition and Land Reforms Act, 1951 - Sections 69 and 72 - Schedule - Rule 85
AppellantShakuntala Devi
RespondentBeni Madhav
Appellant AdvocateS.N. Kacker, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateShanti Swarup Bhatnagar, Adv.
DispositionPetition allowed
Excerpt:
family - widow's enterest - sections 14, 14(1) and (2) of hindu succession act,1956 - hindu widow gets enterest in husbands property under a will - matures into full ownership under sub-section (1) and cannot be restricted under sub-section (2). - - shakuntala devi will be entitled to my share in the property and will enjoy the same as a hindu widow. they clearly contemplate the female's possession when the act came into force......to the terms of the will executed by late pundri kaksh the applicant had only the interest of a hindu widow in the said properties and as such she was not entitled to get the remaining bonds and had not become the full owners thereof.4. the compensation officer by his orderdated 1-11-1957 held that the applicant had not become a full owner of the said property in view o f the provisions of section 14(2) of the hindu succession act and thus she was not entitled to receive the remaining bonds. the applicant appealed against the aforesaid order of the compensation officer and the additional district judge held that the will executed by the late pundri kaksh was not void as contended by the applicant.it had been urged by the applicant that since pundri kaksh was a co-parcener or a member.....
Judgment:
ORDER

S.N. Katju, J.

1. This is an application in revisionagainst an order of the Additional District Judge of Meerut dismissing the Applicant's application under Section 85 of the U.P. Z. A. and L. R. Act.

2. The applicant Smt. Shakuntala Devi ia the widow of one Pundri Kaksh who died in 1947. Pundri Kaksh was possessed of Zamindari properties along with his brother Beni Madhav. The applicant was given compensation bonds of the amount of Rs. 10,000/- only in respect of the share of her husband in the aforesaid property but the balance of the compensation amount was withheld on the ground that she had a limited interest in the property. Subsequently she made an application to the Compensation Officer on 30-7-1956 claiming the balance of the amount of compensation on the ground that after the passing of the Hindu Succession Act (XXX of 1956} she had become full owner of the property left by her deceased husband and she was entitled to the balance of the compensation amount that had been withheld and had been deposited in the Imperial Bank of India in accordance with the provisions contained in Section 69 and Rule 85 framed under the U.P. Z. A. and L. R. Act.

3. Beni Madhav opposite party who was the real brother of the deceased Pundri Kaksh and was a co-sharer in the villages in question along with his deceased brother filed an objection contending that according to the terms of the will executed by late Pundri Kaksh the applicant had only the interest of a Hindu widow in the said properties and as such she was not entitled to get the remaining bonds and had not become the full owners thereof.

4. The Compensation Officer by his orderdated 1-11-1957 held that the applicant had not become a full owner of the said property in view o f the provisions of Section 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act and thus she was not entitled to receive the remaining bonds. The applicant appealed against the aforesaid order of the Compensation Officer and the Additional District Judge held that the will executed by the late Pundri Kaksh was not void as contended by the applicant.

It had been urged by the applicant that since Pundri Kaksh was a co-parcener or a member of the joint Hindu family he was not competent under the Hindu Law to dispose of his property by a will. This contention was repelled by the Court below on the ground that it was not proved that the interest bequeathed by Pundri Kaksh was his joint interest and that no evidence had been produced to show that the property in respect oi which Pundri Kaksh had made a will was co-parcenery property. It was further observed by the Court below that the will had been presented for registration by the applicant herself and under the circumstances it could not be said that it was void. The Court below further held that the willof Pundri Kaksh dated 19-9-1947 had prescribed a restricted estate in the property which he hadbequeathed in favour of the applicant and she could not be deemed to have become the full owner thereof under Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act.

5. Agreeing with the view of the Compensation Officer the Court below held that the applicant was not entitled to the compensation bonds that had been withheld from her. Aggrieved from the said order of the Court below the applicant has come in revision before me.

6. The points raised before me are firstly, that the applicant's interest had ripened into full ownership and therefore she was entitled to receive the remaining compensation bonds that had not been given, to her. It was contended that assuming that the will had been properly executed by Pundri Kaksh whatever interest had come to the applicant under the aforesaid will had been converted into full ownership by virtue of the provisions of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act. The counsel for the opposite party contended that the interest of the applicant was confined to a life estate and she was not entitled to 'receive all the compensation bonds and secondly that the provisions of Section 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act did not affect the property in suit which was agricultural land and therefore in any case the applicant's interest continued to remain restricted to a life estate in the property.

7. It cannot be said that the provisions of Section 14 do not apply to the property in dispute viz., the compensation bonds in lieu of zamindari property acquired under the U. F. Z. A. and L. R. Act. It was contended that because of entry No. 18 in List II of the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India no provision regarding land, rights in or over land or matters which appertained to agricultural land could be made by an enactment passed by the Union Legislature. It was further alleged that entry No. 6 in List III also provided that matters pertaining to, transfer of property other than agricultural land was a fit subject for legislation by the Parliament and where the question appertained to agricultural land no enactment of the Union Parliament could properly cover such matters. Thus it was contended that the provisions of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act could not coyer agricultural land and consequently the aforesaid provision of the Hindu Succession Act vis-a-vis agricultural land was ultra vires. I see no force in this contention. The provisions of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act are matters which come within the ambit of entry No. 5 in List III which empowers the Parliament to make laws with respect to masters concerning wills, intestacy and succession; joint family and partition; all matters in respect of which parties in judicial proceedings were immediately before the commencement of the constitution subject to their personal law.

8. Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act runs as follows:

'(i) Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner......

(2) Nothing contained in Sub-section (1) shall apply to any property acquired by way of gift or under a will or any other instrument or under a decree or order of a civil Court or under an award where the terms of the gift, will or other instrument or the decree, order or award prescribe a restricted estate in such property.'

Section 14 provides, for giving an absolute interest in properties possessed by a female Hindu. The nature of interest of a female Hindu in property was a matter which was governed by the Hindu Law. That interest was enlarged by the provisions of Section 14 of the Act which has given a Hindu widow absolute interest in property possessed by her whether acquired before or after thecommencement of the Act and instead of being a limited owner she is to hold the property as full owner thereof. Thus the matter is covered byentry No. 5 of List III and it could not be said that the provisions of Section 14 would not applyto the property in dispute.

9. The next question is not free from difficulty, Puudri Kaksh died in 1947 apparently in & state of jointness with his brother Beni Madhav. The Court below has, however, held that it was not proved that the property covered by the will of Pundri Kaksh was co-parcenery property. It would follow that Pundri Kaksh had separate property of his own, apart from his interest in the joint family property and the property bequeathed to the applicant was his separate property. In his will dated 19-8-1947 Purdri Kaksh said asfollows:

'That after my death my wife Smt. Shakuntala Devi will be entitled to my share in the property and will enjoy the same as a Hindu widow.'

She was also given the authority to adopt.

10. Two questions arise for my consideration. Firstly, whether the applicant possessed the property in dispute within the meaning of Section 14(i) and secondly whether the interest of the applicant an the property was not enlarged because of the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 14 of the Act.

11. It was contended that after the passing of the U. P. Z. A. and L. R. Act the Zamindari property had vested in the State and therefore the applicant was not possessed of the property in dispute. It may be that the Zamindari land had vested in the State after the date of vesting but the applicant's interest survived and if she had the surviving interest in the property in dispute the compensation bonds would be deemed to be in her possession. The compensation bonds were not actually in possession of the applicant. On the other hand they had been deposited in the Imperial Bank in accordance with the provisions contained in Section 16 and Rule 84. Possession under Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act does not necessarily mean actual physical possession. The expression any property possessed used in Sub-section (1) of Section 14 has a wider meaning and it cannot be said that since the compensation bonds were in deposit 'with the Imperial Bank of India they were not in possession of the applicant and consequently 'the matter would be beyond the ambit of Section 14 of the Act.

12. In Gummalapura Taggina Matada Kottuiruswami v. Setra Veeravva, AIR 1959 SC 577 it was observed that the word 'possessed' in Section 14 is used in a broad sense and in the context meansof the state of owing or having in one's hand or power. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court approved the observations of P.N. Mukherjee, J., in Gostha Behari v. Haridas Samantra, (S) AIR 1957Cal 557. In the aforesaid case it was observed asfollows: --

'The opening words 'property possessed by a female Hindu' obviously mean that to come within the purview of the section the property must be in possession of the female concerned at the date of the commencement of the Act. They clearly contemplate the female's possession when the Act came into force. That possession might have been either actual or constructive or in any form recognised by law, but unless the female Hindu, whose limited estate in the disputed property is claimed to have been transformed into absolute estate under this particular section, was at least in such possession, taking the word 'possession' in its wides connotation, when the Act came into force, the section would not apply.'

Thus even though the compensation bonds were in deposit with the Imperial Bank of India they would be deemed to be in possession of the applicant using the term 'possession' in its wider sense.

13. It was next contended that inasmuch as the applicant had acquired the interest of her husband under a will executed by the deceased Pundri Kaksh the provisions of Section 14(2) were attracted in respect of the applicant's interest in the property and consequently the provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 14 would not be applicable. As stated above the question is not free from difficulty and no authority has been cited before me which deals with the particular question in issue. The question, however, is that where under the will executed by her husband the widow got a Hindu Widow's interest whether that interest could be enlarged by the provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 14. If there had been no such testamentary disposition and the widow had succeeded in the ordinary course of succession to the properties at her deceased husband that interest would have been transformed into full ownership on the passing of the Hindu Succession Act, but since the interest of the widow was directly traceable to the will executed by the husband it could be said that she was not entitled to get the benefit of Sub-section(1).

If she had been given only a life interest by her husband she was not entitled to the benefit of Sub-section (1). The Hindu widow's interest under the Hindu Law as it stood before the recent amendments had a definite meaning. It was very unlike the interest of a limited owner in the ordinary sense. A Hindu widow had authority to deal with the property of her husband. She was entitled to alienate the property for legal necessity. She could also spend a portion of the corpus itself on such necessity which was aimed at giving solace to the soul of her deceased husband. Subject to these conditions she could not sell the property within her life time and after her death the property was to revert to the heirs of her husband. Thus what Pundri Kaksh gave to the applicant was not only a life interest in the property but the interest of a Hindu widow. It would follow that Pundri Kaksh gave her what she was entitled by law to get in case he predeceased her.

14. The question therefore arises whether the terms of the will prescribed a restricted estate in the property and such an interest would be untouched by the provisions of Sub-section (2) andwould be enlarged by Sub-section (1) of Section 14. What the applicant got under the will was the interest of a 'Hindu widow' in her husband's property and not a restricted estate in the sense of an estate for life. If Pundri Kaksh intended to give her a life estate in the property he should have said so. But he gave her the interest of a 'Hindu widow', which was defined by law and which could be enlarged or restricted by law. It was the interest of a Hindu widow which was enlarged directly into full ownership by the provisions of Sub-section (1). If under the will the applicant got a Hindu widow's interest then I see no reason why such interest could be restricted by the provisions of Sub-section (2) and could not ripen into full ownership. All that Pundri Kaksh gave, to his wife the applicant was a Hindu widow's interest and such an interest is enlarged into full ownership by the provisions of Section 14(1) I see no reason why the provisions of Sub-section (2) would prevent the applicant's interest from being perfected into full ownership. I thus hold that the applicant was a full owner of the properties left by her deceased husband and she is entitled to receive the compensation bonds which have been withheld from her. I, therefore, direct that the application made by the applicant under Section 85 of the U. P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act should be allowed. The order of the Court below is set aside.

15. I accordingly allow the application inrevision with costs.


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