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Sampuran Singh (Deceased) and ors. Vs. Labh Singh and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily;Property
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 537 of 1964
Judge
Reported inAIR1977P& H17
ActsHindu Succession Act, 1956 - Sections 14(1) and 14(2)
AppellantSampuran Singh (Deceased) and ors.
RespondentLabh Singh and anr.
Appellant Advocate Ashok Bhan, Adv.
Respondent Advocate Bakhtawar Singh and; M.S. Liberahan, Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredRangaswami Naicker v. Chinnammal
Excerpt:
.....judge in exercising powers of superintendence under article 227 of the constitution. - it was then recited that all the land given to gulab was given so that she might enjoy it for her life and maintain herself. now, it was recited in the compromise decree that all the land given to gulab was given to her so that she might enjoy it for her life and maintain herself. the statement that she should enjoy the property during her lifetime and maintain herself was no more than a statement of what had tobe under the law.o. chinnappa reddy, c.j. 1. one sham singh died on 25th august, 1927, leaving behind him his son's widow gulab but no children of his own or of his son. sampuran singh, the plaintiff-appellant, is the son of his brother bhagwana. labh singh, a son of gulab's brother, is the second defendant while gulab is the first defendant. according to the case of sampuran singh, a day before his death, that is, on 24th august, 1927, sham singh gifted to him his proprietary interest in certain land and his interest as a mortgagee in certain other land. it may be mentioned here that the suit land is the land allotted in lieu of sham singh's land as a result of consolidation of holdings. the gift in his favour, according to sampuran singh, was effected by an application presented by sham singh on 24th.....
Judgment:

O. Chinnappa Reddy, C.J.

1. One Sham Singh died on 25th August, 1927, leaving behind him his son's widow Gulab but no children of his own or of his son. Sampuran Singh, the plaintiff-appellant, is the son of his brother Bhagwana. Labh Singh, a son of Gulab's brother, is the second defendant while Gulab is the first defendant. According to the case of Sampuran Singh, a day before his death, that is, on 24th August, 1927, Sham Singh gifted to him his proprietary interest in certain land and his interest as a mortgagee in certain other land. It may be mentioned here that the suit land is the land allotted in lieu of Sham Singh's land as a result of Consolidation of Holdings. The gift in his favour, according to Sampuran Singh, was effected by an application presented by Sham Singh on 24th August, 1927, to a Revenue Officer for mutation in favour of Sampuran Singh. Unusually promptly the Patwari made the necessary entries that very day and the Revenue Officer sanctioned the same on 9th October, 1927. Within a few days, as soon as she came to know of it, Gulab instituted a suit challenging the truth and validityof the gift. The suit ended in a compromise. Gulab's suit for possession of land of which Sham Singh was owner was decreed. Gulab gave up her right in the land in which Sham Singh had a mortgagee's interest in favour of Sampuran Singh and in respect of that land the suit was dismissed. In turn, Sampuran Singh gave to Gulab a certain land of which he was the owner. It was then recited that all the land given to Gulab was given so that she might enjoy it for her life and maintain herself. According to Sampuran Singh, Gulab had thus agreed not to alienate the property but in violation of the terms of the compromise she made a gift of her entire property to Labh Singh. Sampuran Singh therefore filed the suit out of which the second appeal arises for a declaration that the gift was void and ineffective. The learned trial Judge granted a decree declaring that the gift deed executed by Gulab in favour of Labh Singh was void end ineffective as against the reversionary right of the plaintiff to the extent of 1211/1999 share in the suit-land, he having estimated the proportion of the value of the land covered by the compromise to the value of the total holding of Sham Singh at 1211/1999. Both Gulab and Sampuran Singh preferred aoceals. The lower Appellate Court allowed Gulab's appeal and dismissed Sampuran Singh's appeal. The Lower Appellate Court held that Gulab's interest in the land had become enlarged into an absolute estate under Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act. Sampuran Singh has preferred this second appeal.

2. Shri Ashok Bhan, learned counsel for the appellant, argued that under the compromise decree, the interest of Gulab in the land was limited to a life Interest and that under Section 14(2), the interest remained a life interest even after the passing of the Hindu Succession Act. He urged that it was Section 14(2) and not Section 14(1) that was applicable to the facts of the case. The learned counsel relied on Seetharamayya v. Peraiah, AIR 1964 Andh Pra 545 and Mst. Kirpo v. Bakhtawar Singh, AIR 1964 Punj 474. On the other hand, the learned counsel for the respondent urged that under the compromise decree, Gulab did not acquire any new rights and what happened was that her pre-existing right was recognised. If that be so, he urged that it was Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act that was applicable and Gulab's interest, therefore, stood enlarged on the passing of the Hindu Succession Act. He relied on Badri Pershad v. Smt. Kanso Devi, AIR 1970 SC 1963 and Gadam Reddayya v. Venkataraju, AIR 1965 Andh Pra 66 and Nand Singh v. Nachhattar Singh, AIR 1975 Punj and Har 45.

3. It was found by the Lower Appellate Court that in the matter of succession to property, the parties were governed by custom and that according to the customary law prevailing in Ambala District, the pre-deceased son's widow was entitled to succeed in preference to collaterals. Therefore, on the death of Sham Singh, Gulab, the widow of his pre-deceased's son was his heir. Gulab of course had only a life interest in the property to which she succeeded. Sampuran Singh set up a gift in his favour from Sham Singh, but under the compromise Gulab's right was recognised. Her suit for possession of the land in which Sham Singh was the owner was decreed. She gave up her right in the land in which Sham Singh had a mortgagee's interest only in favour of Sampuran Singh and she received from Sampuran Singh certain land of which Sampuran Singh was the owner. Now, it was recited in the compromise decree that all the land given to Gulab was given to her so that she might enjoy it for her life and maintain herself. There was no express prohibition against alienation of property by Gulab, nor were there any other words restricting her power of alienation or enjoyment. The question is, whether Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act is applicable to the facts of the case.

4. Section 14(1) provides that 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. The Explanation to Section 14(1) provides that property for the purpose of Section 14(1) includes property acquired by a female Hindu by inheritance or device, or at a partition, or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance, or by gift from any person, whether a relative or not, before, at or after her marriage, or by her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by prescription, or in any other manner whatsoever, and also any such property held by her as Stridhana. Section 14(2), which is in the nature of an exception to Sub-section (1), provides that 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. The clear object of Section 14(2) as was pointed out in Rangaswami Naicker v. Chinnammal, AIR 1964 Mad 387, was not to interfere with contracts, grants or decree etc., by virtue of which women's right was restricted though the disability on women imposed by law was removed by Section 14(1). If a donor expressly gave a life interest in some property to a Hindu female, it was not to be enlarged into an absolute estate. If similarly a Hindu female entered into a contract restricting the nature of her own interest in property to that of a life interest, it was not to stand enlarged by Section 14(1) of the Act. The freedom of the donor to give such interest as he pleased and the freedom of contracting parties to create such interest as they agreed upon was not meant to be encroached upon by Section 14(1). That is the effect of Section 14(2). If as a result of some agreement between the parties, a Hindu female is left with some interest which she already has in the property, namely, a Hindu widow's estate that would stand enlarged into an absolute estate under Section 14(1) of the Act. Section 14(2) would not be applicable to such a case. On the other hand, if a Hindu female expressly enters into a contract restricting the interest already possessed by her, the interest so restricted of her own volition or agreement would not get enlarged as- a result of Section 14(1). In such a case Section 14(2) alone would be applicable. These are the principles on which all the cases cited at the bar except Nand Singh's case (AIR 1975 Punj and Har 45) (supra) were decided. It is not necessary to refer to all the cases. In the case before the Supreme Court, the facts were that one Gajju Mal died leaving behind him a widow Kanso Devi and five sons, four of whom were by a pre-deceased first wife. Under the law then prevailing, Kanso Devi was entitled to a share in her husband's properties under the provisions of the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, 1937. After the death of Gajju Mal, an arbitrator was appointed to effect a division of the property and under the award of the arbitrator certain properties were allotted to Kanso Devi. It was stated in the award that Kanso Deviwould have a widow's estate in the properties awarded to her. The question arose, whether Kanso Devi's interest in the property allotted to her became enlarged into an absolute estate after the commencement of the Hindu Succession Act. The Supreme Court posed the question as follows-

'When a female acquires an interest under the provisions of Act XVIII of 1937 in the properties of her husband which are subsequently separated by means of a partition does she become an absolute owner under Sub-section (1) of Section 14 of the Act or does she get only a restricted estate under Sub-section (2) of that section ?'

The question was answered by the Supreme Court as follows:--

'Where at the commencement of the Act a female Hindu has a share in joint properties which are later on partitioned by metes and bounds and she gets possession of the properties allotted to her there can be no manner of doubt that she is not only possessed of that property at the time of the coming into force of the Act but has also acquired the same before its commencement.'

Referring to Section 14(2), the Supreme Court observed:--

'Sub-section (2) of Section 14 is more in the nature of a proviso or an exception to Sub-section (1). It can come into operation only if acquisition in any of the methods indicated therein is made for the first time without there being any pre-existing right in the female Hindu who is in possession of the property. The Madras High Court was right in the observations made in Rangaswami Naicker v. Chinnammal, AIR 1964 Mad 387 that Sub-section (2) made it clear that the object of Section 14 was only to remove the disability on women imposed by law and not to interefere with contracts, grants or decrees etc., by virtue of which a woman's right was restricted.'

5. In the present case, as already stated by me, Gulab succeeded to the property left by her father-in-law and had a life interest in the property. The compromise did no more than to recognise her pre-existing rights in the property. There were no express words restricting her interest. The statement that she should enjoy the property during her lifetime and maintain herself was no more than a statement of what had tobe under the law. NO restriction could be inferred from that statement. If Gulab already possessed life interest in the property and if her interest was in no manner restricted by the compromise, it stood automatically enlarged into an absolute interest under Section 14(1) of the Act. In that view, this second appeal has to be dismissed and it is accordingly dismissed with costs.

6. I must, however, say a few words about the decision in Nand Singh's case (AIR 1975 Puni and Har 45) (supra) on which reliance was placed by the learned counsel for the respondent. In that case, a Hindu widow entered into a compromise under which she was allotted a two-thirds share in her husband's properties upon her agreeing that she would remain in possession during her lifetime but would not alienate- the same without consideration and for legal necessity. The question arose, whether the interest which she got in the two-thirds share of the property left by her husband stood en-r larged into an absolute estate. Relying upon the decision of the Supreme Court in Badri prashad's case (AIR 1970 SC 1963) (supra), a Division Bench of the High Court held that the widow's interest in the property stood enlarged into an absolute estate. If the view of the learned Judges was that the widow already had the identical interest in the property, which was recognised by the compromise, and, therefore, it stood- enlarged under Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, I have nothing more to say. If, on the other hand, the learned Judges meant to lay down that a widow who enters into an agreement expressly restricting her interest in certain property may take advantage of Section 14(1) and claim an absolute interest in the property. I venture to express my doubts about it. Earlier, I have pointed out that the effect of Section 14(2) is not to restrict either the freedom of the donor to donate or the freedom of the widow to contract. I do not want to say anything more since I am told that this question has been recently referred to a Full Bench by A. D. Koshal, J.


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