Lindsay and Kanhaiya Lal, JJ.
1. The dispute in this appeal is confined to a 13 biswas and odd share in the village Chalautha which was held by Musammat Chetni, the widow of Kanhai Lal, and the question for consideration is whether she had made a valid suphal sankalp of the same in favour of Lachhman Prasad, a priest of Gaya, so as to bind the members of the family to which her husband belonged or his reversionary heirs.
2. Kanhai Lal had died in the life-time of his father Shib Dayal. The allegation of the plaintiffs was that Shib Dayal and Kantoai Lal lived separately, that the property in dispute was the separate property of Kanhai Lal, and that on his death it devolved on Musammat Chetni as a Hindu widow. They denied that any gift had been made or could have been validly made by Musammat Chetni in favour of Lachhman Prasad. Shib Dayal died in 1902. Musammat Chetni died in 1916. One of the plaintiffs, Ram Lal, claimed to be the son of one of the sisters of Kanhai Lal, and also claimed to have acquired by purchase the shares of the sons of the other sisters of Kanhai Lal. The other plaintiff, Raja Fateh Singh, claimed to have purchased a half share of the property in question from Ram Lal. There were two other plaintiffs, who claimed to have derived their title under a deed of gift made by Ram Lal and Raja Pateh Singh. The defendants are the transferees and successors in interest of Lachhman Prasad. Their case was that Shib Dayal and Kanhai Lal lived jointly, that after the death of the latter, the property in dispute was entered in the name of Musammat Chetni, his widow, who remained in possession as an adverse owner, and that she had a right to make a valid gift of the same for the spiritual benefit of her deceased husband. They denied that the plaintiff, Ram Lal, or the persons from whom he claimed to derive his title were the nearest reversionary heirs of Kanhai Lal.
3. The court below found that Shib Dayal and Kanhai Lal lived separately, that the property in dispute was the self-acquired property of the latter, that on the death of Kanhai Lal Musammat Chetni inherited the same as a Hindu widow and that she could not have acquired an adverse title thereto. It further held that no, gift was shown to have been made or could have been validly made by Musammat Chetni in favour of Lachhman Prasad and that the plaintiffs, as the lawful successors in interest of her husband, had a right to recover possession of the property in question.
4. The correctness of these findings is challenged here. There can be no doubt that Ram Lal and his vendors were the nearest reversionary heirs of Kanhai Lal. The evidence on the record satisfactorily establishes that Shib Dayal and Kanhai Lal lived separately and carried on a separate cloth business and that the property in dispute was the self-acquired property of the latter. In fact, on the death of Kanhai Lal, an application was made by Musammat Chetni for a succession certificate to collect certain debts due to her deceased husband. Shib Dayal resisted that application on the ground that Kanhai Lal lived jointly with him; but the District Judge of Shahjahanpur, who heard the application, came to the conclusion that Shib Dayal and Kanhai Lal lived and carried on business separately, that each of them was assessed to income-tax, and that Musammat Chetni was entitled to collect the debts due to her husband. Shib Dayal took no steps thereafter to establish his title against Musammat Chetni by a suit and allowed Musammat Chetni to remain in separate possession of the disputed property from the time of the death of her husband. Indeed Her name was recorded in the place of her deceased husband in respect of the disputed property in the revenue papers and she was in receipt of the profits of the same on her account. She had only a life-interest in the said property; but she could alienate any reasonable portion of the same for pious or religious purposes or for the spiritual benefit of her husband.
5. As pointed out in Khub Lal Singh v. Ajodhya Misser (1915) I.L.R. 43 Calc. 574, a Hindu widow has a larger power of disposition for religious or charitable purposes, which are supposed to conduce to the spiritual welfare of her husband, than what she possesses for purely worldly purposes. In Lachhmi Kunwar v. Durga Kunwar (1918) I.L.R. 40 All. 619, a gift made by a Hindu widow for the spiritual benefit of her husband, after she had returned from a pilgrimage, was upheld, and in Gobind Upadhya v. Lakhrani (1921) I.L.R. 43 All. 515, a similar gift made by a widow on her return from a pilgrimage to Gaya was treated as valid and binding on the reversionary heirs of her husband.
6. The question, therefore, is whether such a gift was really made. The evidence produced on behalf of the defendants appellants to prove that a gift had been made by Musammat Chetni in favour of Lachhman Prasad, a priest of Gaya, has, in our opinion, been rejected by the learned Subordinate Judge on insufficient grounds. Raghubar Dayal states that he went with Shib Dayal and Musammat Chetni to Gaya about 35 or 36 years ago and that the gift was made in his presence by both of them in favour of Lachhman Prasad. No deed of gift appears to have been written at the time. But there was a mutation of names effected in pursuance of an order of the 13th of February, 1885, in favour of Lachhman Prasad. A copy of an extract from the mutation register has been filed in proof of that entry. There is no satisfactory explanation why this mutation of names was effected in favour of Lachhman Prasad, if no gift had been made in his favour. The learned Counsel for the plaintiffs refers to the written statement of the defendants appellants, wherein the gift aforesaid is stated to have been made after the death of Shib Dayal. Being vendees from the transferees of the original donee, it is possible that they may have been misinformed as to the actual date of the gift. The extract from the mutation register shows that the transfer must have been made some time before the 13th of February, 1885.
7. Shib Dayal was then alive. He never challenged the gift or the right of the donee or his transferees in his life-time. Ram Lal states that there was a priest of Gaya named Lachhman Prasad who lived at one time in Pawayan. Lachhman Prasad transferred his rights in favour of Khaga Lal and Ram Lal, who resold the same to the defendants appellants on the 24th of December, 1897. The gift aforesaid is, in our opinion, satisfactorily established and the plaintiffs have no right to recover possession from the donee or his transferees.
8. The evidence adduced by the plaintiffs goes to show that Kanhai Lal was possessed of considerable property. Sita Ram, one of the witnesses for the plaintiffs, states that Kanhai Lal had property worth Rs. 30,000 or Rs. 40,000. Ajudhya Prasad, another witness, states that he had property of the value of Rs. 50,000. Puttu Lal, another witness, estimates the value of the property of Kanhai Lal at Rs. 60,000 or Rs. 70,000 including groves and muafi land. Ram Lal, one of the plaintiffs himself, states that the landed property of Kanhai Lal yielded an income of Rs. 500 or Rs. 600 per year,. The property comprised in the above gift is assessed at a revenue of Rs. 93-5-4. The plaintiff valued it at Rs. 3,000 but a property yielding approximately a profit of about Rs. 100 a year could not have been of that value in 1885. It is not clear what was the revenue assessed on that property at that time. In 1897 it was sold for Rs. 595 and that value bears a very small proportion to the total value of the property which Musammat Chetni had inherited from her husband.
9. The appeal must, therefore, be allowed and the claim with regard to the 13 biswas and odd share of the village Chalauta dismissed with costs here and hitherto to the defendants appellants.