1. The property in dispute consisting of agricultural land measuring 700 bighas kham, originally belonged to one Ram Nath. On his death, his son Hari Singh succeeded to it. On the latter's dying issueless, his mother Shrimati Toti got life estate therein. The mutation, however, was effected by the revenue authorities in favour of the reversioners of Hari Singh. That necessitated the filling of a suit by Toti for a declaration that she was in possession of the property with life interest therein. It was incorrect as alleged by the reversioners, that she had remarried and thus lost her rights in the said property.
2. The suit was contested by the reversioners on the main plea that since Toti had remarried one Duni, therefore, she had lost all her rights in t he property left by Hari Singh.
3. On 18th October, 1918. Toti's suit was decreed and it was held that she was in possession of the property and that she had not remarried Duni.
4. Against this decision, the collateral's went in appeal and there a compromise was effected between the parties. According to it, Toti got 150 Bighas kham in lieu of maintenance, but it was clearly said that she would not alienate the said land in any manner. The rest of the land, according to the compromise was to got to the reversioners.
5. Thereafter three alienations were made by Toti. One was a sale of 9 kanals of land to one Daulat on 15th April 1958, another was also a sale of 35 kanals to one Mussadi on 17th April, 1958, and the third was a gift regarding 182 kanals in favour of her daughters. Sada Kaur and Phoolan on 4th December, 1959.
6. In June 1962, three suits were filed by the various reversioners challenging these three alienations chiefly on the ground that Toti had no right to effect them, because she had only a life interest in the said property in lieu of maintenance according to the compromise mentioned above.
7. These suits were contested by the alienees mainly on the ground that Toti had become the full owner of the property under Section 14(1), read with its explanation of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 hereinafter called the Act, and, therefore, she could make the sales and the gift.
8. The trial Court dismissed the suits and so did the lower appellate Court. The lower Appellate Court held that by virtue of Section 14(1) read with its explanation. Toti had become the complete owner of the property and was fully entitled to make the impugned alienations. Against this decision, the reversioners have filed three regular second appeals Nos. 339, 340 and 341 of 1965 and they will be disposed of by this judgment, since admittedly the same question arises for consideration in all of them.
9. The sole point that has been argued before me is whether the finding of the lower Appellate Court to the effect that Toti had become the full owner of the property by virtue of the provisions of Section 14(1) of the Act, is correct or not. It was contended by the learned counsel for the appellants that in the circumstances of this case, Section 14(2) would apply and not Section 14(1) and that being so. Toti could not be held to have become the complete owner of the property in dispute.
Section 14 reads as under:--
'(1) Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after 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, 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 immediately before the commencement of this Act.
(2) Nothing contained in Sub-s. (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.'
10. This matter is not respondent integra. There are rulings of this Court, which hold that in similar circumstances Section 14(1) will come into play. It has been said that if the female acquires the property for the first time by means of gift will award, decree or order of a Civil Court, or any other instrument and where the terms of the gift, will, award, decree, order or other instrument prescribe a limited estate in such property, then Section 14(2) would apply. If on the other hand, the female acquires the property not by virtue of the documents already mentioned, but she gets it by inheritance or devise or at a partition or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance or by gift from any person before, at or after her marriage etc., etc., then explanation to S. 14(1) will apply and she will become the complete owner of this property if she was in its possession either actually or constructively irrespective of the fact whether the said property was acquired either before or after the commencement of the Act.
11. It was argued by the learned counsel for the appellants that on Hari Singh's death the revenue authorities did not effect the mutation of the land in favour of Toti and therefore, it could not be said that she had got the property by inheritance.
12. As I look at the matter, the question of the actual mutation of the land having not been effected by the revenue authorities in her favour will not arise, because as pointed out by the Supreme Court in Badri Pershad v. Smt. Kanso Devi, AIR 1970 SC 1963, the word 'possessed' in sub-section (1) of S. 14 has been used its widest connotation and it may be either actual or constructive or in any form recognised by law. In the context in which it has been used in Section 14, it means the state of owning or having in one's hand or power.
13. The moment it is conceded that on Hari Singh's death. Toti as his mother, was entitled to succeed him under custom then the question as to whether the revenue authorities effected the mutation of the land in her favour or not is an irrelevant consideration. In these circumstances, it will, in the words of the Supreme Court, be said that Toti was in constructive possession of the estate left by Hari Singh. As I have already said since the revenue authorities effected the mutation in favour of the reversioners on the ground that Toti had remarried one Duni and thus lost her rights in the property, she had to bring a suit for a declaration to the effect that she was in possession of the property holding life interest therein and further that she had not remarried anybody and consequently, the question of her losing her rights in the property of Hari Singh did not arise. In the circumstances of this case, therefore, it is clear that Toti was entitled to succeed Hari Singh. Succession, as is often said, never remains in abeyance and the moment Hari Singh died his next heir, namely Toti, immediately got entitled to his property and she would be deemed to be in constructive possession thereof. It was subsequently by virtue of the compromise with the reversioners of Hari Singh that she got 150 bighas kham out of the estate of the deceased for her maintenance. As a matter of fact, she was already in possession of the property when the said compromise was effected. She was in occupation not as a trespasser but as one who was fully entitled to succeed Hari Singh under law.
14. A similar case came before a Division Bench of this Court, to which I was also a party, in Ude Chand v. Mst. Rajo 68 Punj LR 382=(AIR 1966 Punj 329) and there it was held:
that the word 'acquired' as used in sub-section (2) of Section 14 of the Hindu succession Act has to be given a restricted meaning and would cover those cases only where the Hindu female had no interest previously in the property and it was for the first time by virtue of the gift will or other modes mentioned in this sub-section that the property was acquired by her. Where a female was in possession of land in which she had acquired the widow's estate at death of her husband, her case would be covered by sub-section (1) of the Section and not by sub-section (2): subsequent execution of compromise between her and her husband's collaterals will not effect her position.'
15. Sitting singly, as otherwise also, I am of the view that the said decision, if I may say so with respect lays down the correct law, I am bound by it. It is, therefore, held that Toti had become the full owner of the property by virtue of the provisions of Section 14(1) read with its explanation. When the Hindu succession Act 1956, came into force and that being so, she was perfectly entitled to make the three impugned alienations. The suits have thus been rightly rejected by the lower Appellate Court.
16. The result is that these appeals fail and are dismissed, but the parties are however left to bear their own costs throughout.
17. Appeals dismissed.