G.D. Khosla, J.
1. This second appeal raises the question of the interpretation of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
2. The facts are briefly as follows: On death of Nikmo, the last male-holder and owner of the property in dispute, his widow Rukmani succeeded. Rukmani had a daughter Tulsi by her first husband Kahnu, and this Tulsi's daughter Dassi is the appellant before me. Rukmani made a gift of the property she had inherited from her husband Nikmo in favour of Dassi. This gift was made on 19-7-1951. It had been preceded by a will executed by Rukmani also in favour of her grand daughter Dassi on 4-12-1943.
After the making of the gift, possession of the land passed to Dassi and a mutation was effected in the revenue papers. On 17-1-1956 Kapuro, the widow of Tulsi Ram, a collateral of Nikmo, brought a suit for possession of this property on the ground that the gift by Rukmani in favour of Dassi was invalid. She claimed that upon Rukmani's death the property had devolved upon her through her deceased husband Tulsi Ram.
The suit was decreed by the trial Court and this decision was upheld on appeal by the District Judge of Patiala. Dassi came up in second appeal to this Court and Mr. Shamair Chand who appeared on her behalf relied upon Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. This Act came into force on 17-6-1956, and made a change in the law relating to women's estate. Section 14 is in the following terms:
'14. Property of a female Hindu to be her absolute property:
(1) 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.
Explanation : In this Sub-section, 'property' includes both movable and immovable property acquired by a female Hindu by inheritance or devise, 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, 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 immediately before the commencement of this Act.
(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.'
The argument of Mr. Shamair Chand is that Dassi is a female Hindu who is possessed of property which she acquired by means of a gift. Her case therefore falls under Section 14 of the Act and she must be deemed to be a full owner. Mr. Shamair Chand relied upon a number of reported decisions and also an unreported decision of this Court.
3. An examination of the section shows that what Section 14 does is to abrogate reversionary rights. Where a female Hindu is in possession of property and owns a limited estate, she becomes full owner by virtue of this section. This section, however, cannot be interpreted to validate the illegal possession of a female Hindu and it cannot confer any rights on a trespasser.
In the present case Rukmani, the widow of Nikmo, had only a limited estate. She could not transfer the property in her possession by means of a gift as she was, according to the law then in force, wholly incapable of making a valid gift of her property. Therefore, by the old law Rukmani's gift in favour of Dassi was wholly invalid and on her death her deceased husband's reversioners became owners of the property. The moment she died, the reversioners ceased to be reversioners and became owners.
They could not be deprived of this right by any subsequent change in the law. Had Rukmani been alive on the day the Act came into force, she would have acquired the right to make a gift in favour of any one she liked, and her reversioners would have lost their rights. The death of Rukmani before the Act came into force deprived Dassi of everything she had and made Nikmo's reversioners full owners.
4. Mr. Shamair Chand tried to argue that the word 'gift' used in the Explanation to Section 14 quoted above means any kind of gift. I cannot, however, take this view, as gift must of necessity mean a valid gift. If there is any defect in the title of the donor, that defect is not removed by the enactment of Section 14. It is only the defect in the donee which is removed by this section.
If the original donor had had the right to make a valid gift, then Dassi's possession would have invested her with full proprietary rights. In the present case, however, Dassi's possession became the possession of a trespasser on Rukmani's death and Nikmo's reversioners were entitled to be put in possession of the land at once. Section 14 therefore does not improve Dassi's position in any way.
5. In all the reported decisions relied upon by Mr. Shamair Chand it was an alienation by a living widow which was challenged. In Dhiraj Kunwar v. Lakshan Singh, (S) AIR 1957 MP 38 (A), a widow made a gift and this gift was challenged by her deceased husband's reversioners. The widow was alive when the Hindu Succession Act came into force and therefore it was held that she had become a full owner and was therefore competent to make a gift.
Similarly, in Mt. Janki Kuar v. Chathu Prasad, (S) AIR 1957 Pat 674 (B), it was an alienation by a living widow which was being challenged, and Bhabani Prosad Saha v. Sm. Sarat Sundari, (S) AIR 1957 Cal 527 (C), was a similar case. In Laxmi Debi v. Surendra Kumar, (S) AIR 1957 Orissa 1 (D), also it was a reversioner who was seeking to establish her reversionary rights. Here it is not a reversioner seeking possession but a reversioner whose rights had matured into the rights of full proprietors before the Act came into force. The decisions relied upon therefore do not help the appellant. Ram Ayodhya Missir v. Raghunath Missir, (S) AIR 1957 Pat 480 (E), is also the case of a sale deed executed by a female Hindu who was alive when the Act came into force.
6. The unreported decision of this Court relied upon is the judgment of Tek Chand J., in Mt. Prito v. Gurdas, S. A. No. 566 of 1954 (Punj) (P). In this case a gift was being challenged and one of the donors was a widow who died before the Act came into force. The case was therefore somewhat similar to the case before me. With great respect to Tek Chand J. I am unable to subscribe to the view taken by him.
It seems to me that the aspect of the case which I have discussed above was not presented before him and while he relied on the decisions to which I have referred above, he did not distinguish them on the ground that in all those cases the female widow whose rights were being challenged was alive. In the present case it is the competence of Rukmani to make a valid gift in favour of Dassi which is being disputed, and since Rukmani died before the Act came into force, the Act did not improve her status.
Rukmani had no right to make a valid gift in favour of Dassi and Dassi acquired no title. On the death of Rukmani, Dassi's rights came to an end and Nikmo's collaterals became owners.
7. For these reasons this appeal must fail and I dismiss it with costs,