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Manjula Bhargava (Manjula Pandit) Vs. Bharat Bhushan Bhargava, Etc. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetter Patent Appeal No. 43 of 1980
Judge
Reported inILR1980Delhi1535
ActsSuccession Act, 1925 - Sections 63; Evidence Act, 1872 - Sections 68
AppellantManjula Bhargava (Manjula Pandit)
RespondentBharat Bhushan Bhargava, Etc.
Advocates: P.R. Mridual,; O.P. Sharma,; H.S. Dhir,;
Cases ReferredState (Delhi Administration) v. Pali Ram
Excerpt:
indian succession act, 1925 - section 63--what are the requirements of a valid will an what are the circumstances, to be taken into consideration in accepting or rejecting due execution of a valid will--tests--evidence act, section 68--when a document stand attested--proof.; in this appeal, the question for decision was which one of the two wills--the will dated 18-5-1976 or the will dated 27-7-1977--was the last will and testament of the deceased testator. the principal contentions of the appellant were; (i) that the execution of the 1976 will had not been established and that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the 1976 will; (ii) that the copy of 1976 will pasted in the register maintained by the sub-registrar was not the original will and without proof of its loss,.....o.n. vohra, j.(1) this judgment would dispose of l.p.a. nos. 43 and 45 of 1980 arising out of judgment dated january 23, 1980 of sultan singh j. whereby bharat bhushan bhargava was granted probate of will made by shri ram bhargava on may 18, 1976 and got registered on the same date. (2) briefly, the facts are that shri ram bhargava, advocate on the taxation side, had no issue of his own. he took in adoption ashok bhargava, son of his wife's sister but shortly after the ceremony, ashok bhargava went back to his natural parents and did not recognise his adoptive parents. he also brought into the house manjula bhargava (now mrs. manjula pandit), shortly, manjula, sister of ashok bhar- gava, gave her education and married her by treating her as his daughter. smt. sarla bhargava, his wife, who.....
Judgment:

O.N. Vohra, J.

(1) This judgment would dispose of L.P.A. Nos. 43 and 45 of 1980 arising out of judgment dated January 23, 1980 of Sultan Singh J. whereby Bharat Bhushan Bhargava was granted probate of Will made by Shri Ram Bhargava on May 18, 1976 and got registered on the same date.

(2) Briefly, the facts are that Shri Ram Bhargava, advocate on the taxation side, had no issue of his own. He took in adoption Ashok Bhargava, son of his wife's sister but shortly after the ceremony, Ashok Bhargava went back to his natural parents and did not recognise his adoptive parents. He also brought into the house Manjula Bhargava (now Mrs. Manjula Pandit), shortly, Manjula, sister of Ashok Bhar- gava, gave her education and married her by treating her as his daughter. Smt. Sarla Bhargava, his wife, who pre-deceased him, made a registered Will on June 8, 1971 bequeathing all her properties to her husband except, of course, jewellery lying in safe deposit Vault of Punjab National Bank to Manjula.

(3) On May 18, 1976, Shri Ram Bhargava himself made a. Will, certified copy whereof is Ex. P1 and photostat copy is marked Z(hereinafter referred to as the 1976 Will for convenience) in respect of his movable and immovable properties. Fixed deposits with Banks held by him jointly with. Manjula as well as those held in the name of Manjula and Padmini Premier Car bearing registration No. Dhj 31 besides other movable properties were bequeathed to Manjula while House No. 174, Jor Bagh, New Delhi, Ambassador Car bearing registration No. Dlh 1744, cash balances in bank accounts and Fixed deposits in the name of Shri Ram Bhargava or in his name: and that of his wife were bequeathed to Bhargava Sabha (registered) while business in the name 'Taxation' was bequeathed to Sarla Bhargava.Memorial Trust which had been founded by him. In regard to this Trust Bharat Bhushan Bhargava, Hari Krishan Bhargava and O. C. Tandon were declared to be the trustees. This bequest was, however. made subject to the payment of 50 per cent of the net income or Rs. 6,000 per month, whichever was less, to Manjula for her life and 20 per cent or the net income or Rs. 500, whichever was less, to Ashok Bhargava. for the next 5 years reckoned from date of death. Bharat Bhushan Bhargava was appointed the executor and in the event of' his refusal to act as such, Hari Krishan Bhargava was to act as executer. In the event of both these persons refusing to act. Secretary of Bhargava Sabha was appointed the executor.

(4) Shri Ram Bhargava having died at Delhi on March 6. 1978, Bharat Bhushan Bhargava procured certified copy of the Will and initiated proceedings for grant of probate, Manjula and Ashok Bhargava were mentioned in the list of near relations of the testator. Pursuant to the notices and the citation issued, no objections were filed by Manjula but Ashok Bhargava denied the execution and validity of the Will and put forth his claim as adopted son. J. K. Gupta, Chartered .Accountant, forwarded a copy of Will dated July 27, 1977, Ex. Rl;9 (sherty 1977 Will) purporting to have been made by Shri Ram Bhargava to the Registrar of this Court along with letter dated September 23, 1973. On October 1, 1978 Manjula wrote to Bharat Bhushan Bhargava saying that inasmuch as he had been apprised of the existence of the later Will, he should take necessary steps for seeking probate of that Will failing which she would be left with no option but to ask for grant of Letters of Administration on the basis of the 1977 Will. Bharat Bhushan Bhargava moved application for amendment of his petition. On the request being allowed, he submitted amended petition para 7(a) whereof spoke of the 1977 Will as the 'alleged Will filed by J. K. Gupta', the genuineness whereof had yet to be established. (Emphasis applied). Manjula filed reply to the amended petition contending, inter alia, that 1977 Will was disputed by Ashok Bhargava and, accordingly, it was incumbent on the petitioner to prove due execution of that Will as well. In the replication filed by Bharat Bhdshan Bhargava the stand was forthright inasmuch as it was stated that the alleged Will of 1977 was forged and it was reiterated that probate of the 1976 Will may be granted. On March 26, 1979 Manjula moved an application under Sections 75 and 105 of the Indian Succession Act alleging that: the bequest in respect of business of 'Taxation' was void inasmuch as bequest was in favor of a non-existing person. In the alternative, it was pleaded that there was no trust by the name 'Sarla Bhargava Memorial Trust'. It was pleaded that she being the adopted daughter of Shri Ram Bhargava, was an heir, the other being Ashok Bhargava and in Suit No. 555 of 1978 filed by her against her parents and Ashok Bhargava, a compromise had been arrived at on February 27, 1979 according to which she and her brother were entitled to the estate of Shri Ram Bhargava in equal shares. Enquiry proceeded on the basis of the following issues :

1. Whether Shri Ram Bhargava, deceased, executed the Will dated 18th May,. 1976 while in sound disposing mind 2. Whether the deceased Shri Ram Bhargava also executed the Will dated 27th July, 1977 in sound disposing mind 3. Which is the last Will and testament of late Shri Ram. Bhargava 4. Has there been a trust known as Sarla Bhargava Memorial Trust in existence since the date of death of late Shri Ram Bhargava If so, to what effect 5. If there was no trust known as Sarla Bhargava Memorial Trust in existence on the date of death of Shri Ram Bhargava who is the rightful legatee or heir in respect of the property bequeathed to the said Trust 6. Whether any of the two Wills in question created Saria Bhargava Memorial Trust If so, to what effect 7. What are the assets of the business known as Taxation' 8. Relief.

(5) Issue No. 7 was deleted with the consent of the parties on September 19, 1979.

(6) The learned Single Judge found that 1976 Will was duly executed by Shri Ram Bhargava. He further found that 1977 Will was a forged document. Issues 4 to 6 were taken up together and were found in favor of Bharat Bhushan Bhargava. It was in this way that probate of the Will was granted in favor of Bharat Bhushan Bhargava.

(7) The principal contention urged at the time of arguments before us is that execution of the 1976 Will has not been established. It is also submitted that this Will is un-natural and there are suspicious circumstances surrounding this Will bdt the petitioner has failed to offer reasonable Explanationn for the same and, thereforee, fod this reason as well finding should have been in the negative. Sectio'n 63 of the Succession Act which deals with the execution of Wills of the category to which the instant Will belongs speaks of the following rules in regard to signing and attestation :

(i) The testatory shall sign or shall affix his mark to the Will, or it shall be signed by some other person in his presence and by his direction. (ii) The signature or mark of the testatory, or the signature of the person signing for him, shall be so placed that it shall appear that it was intended thereby to give effect to the writing as a Will. (iii) The Will shall be attested by two or more witnesses, each of whom has seen the testator sign or affix his mark to the Will or has seen some other person sign the Will, in the presence and by the direction of the testator or has received from the testator a personal acknowledgement of his signature or mark, or of the signature of such other person ; and each of the witnesses shall sign the Will in the presence of the testator but it shall not be necessary that more than one witness be present at the same time, and no particular form of attestation shall be necessary.

O. P. Dua (P.W. 2) was shown the copy of 1976 Will, lying pasted in the register maintained by the Sub-Registrar, Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi, for the purposes of his examination-in-chief and he stated that Shri Ram Bhargava, who was known to him, told him that he had executed the Will and that he signed in his presence as an attesting witness. The witness has explained that he had received a phone call from Shri Ram Bhargava asking him to sign the Will without going through the same and that he agreed and, thereafter, Shri Ram Bhargava came to has place along with the Will. He has further stated that Shri Ram Bhargava was in sound disposing mind at that time and that be being familiar with the signatures of Shri Ram Bhargava, identified the signatures at various places; on the Will to be in his hand. C. S. Aggarwal (Public Witness 3), the other witness, stated that the Will was attested by him in the presence of Shri Ram Bhargava and that it bears the signatures of Shri Ram Bhargava. This witness has also explained that Shri Ram Bhargava had come to his residence and had desired that he should attest the Will and that he did so in the faith that it was signed by him. In cross-examination, he has stated that he asked Shri Ram Bhargava if he had signed the Will and the reply was in the affirmative and it was, thereafter, that he had attested the same. This witness has farther admitted having signed the following endorsement appearing on each sheet of the Will :

'SIGNEDby the said S. R. Bhargava, testator, in our presence at the same time and each of us has in the presence of the testator signed his name hereunder as attesting witnesses.'

(8) Shri P. R. Mridul, learned counsel for Manjula, has submitted that a high degree of formality in the matter of execution of the Will is exacted and that two pre-emptory requirements in the matter at' attestation are : (1) there should be at least two attesting witnesses and (2) the testator should either sign in their presence or should make personal acknowledgement of his signatures in case the signatures are not put in the presence of the witness. It is pointed out that so far as O. P. Dua is concerned, he is categorical that Shri Ram Bhargava did not sign the Will in his presence while C. S. Aggarwal is not sure whether it was signed in his presence or not. It is also pointed out that while according to the testimony of C. S. Aggarwal there was a personal acknowledgement of signatures by Shri Ram Bhargava, the same is not true of O. P. Dua and, thereforee, there is infraction of the provision of Section 63, the argument being that inasmuch as the Will was not attested by the two witnesses at one and the same time, all that can be said at the highest is that the Will is attested by one witness only. We do not find merit in this argument. The opening words of the deposition of O. P. Dua are : 'Shri Ram Bhargava had told me that he had executed a Will'. Personal acknowledgement of signatures by the testator can clearly be spelt from this part of the statement of the witness, particularly in the context of the witness having stated that Shri Ram Bhargava had come to his place after giving him a ring and also after disclosing the purpose of his visit, namely, getting his Will attested.

(9) In Ganshamdoss Narayandoss v. Gulab Bi Bai Air 1927 Mad 1054 it was observed that: a personal acknowledgement of execution need not necessarily be restricted to an express statement to that effect, but may include words or conduct, or both, on the part of the testator which may be construed unequivocally as such an acknowledgement.

INHalsbury's Laws of England, Third Edition, Volume 39, para 1331 it is stated : 'It is not necessary for the testator to say 'This is my signature' acknowledgement may even be by gesture, and may be made in answer to a question; but the witnesses must see, or have an opportunity of seeing the signature of the testator, and if what take places involves an acknowledgement by the testator that the signature is his, that is enough.'

INAmerican Jurisprudence, Second Edition, Volume 79, para 263, it is stated 'Neither a formal nor an express request is essential. where the manner and form in which the request must be made are not prescribed by statute...... It is not considered necessary for the testator to ask the subscribing witnesses to his Will to attest it. The request may be conveyed to the witness by signs, gestures, or other conduct, such as the act of the testator in passing the Will to the witness after the testator has signed it. A constructive request is considered the equivalent of an actual request, in the absence of a statutory provision to the contrary.........The request may be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the signing of the instrument.'

(10) This being universally accepted and settled law 'governing the execution of the Will where no statutory form of attestation exists. (which is the case herein) not only from what has been stated by the two attesting witnesses, due execution of the Will is a foregone conclusion but also the circumstances under which the testator approached the two attesting witnesses after informing them of the purpose of the visit and getting his Will attested are eloquent enough to confirm the conclusion in regard to due execution of the Will.

(11) Strong exception has been taken by Mrs. Shyamla Pappu as to the observations made by the learned Single Judge in regard to attesting witnesses, namely, the attesting witnesses have tried to create loopholes to help Manjula, the statement that they signed at their residences, appear to be incorrect and the attestation clause appears to be correct, as also the conclusion drawn from their evidence that Shri Ram Bhargava had signed the Will in their presence and they had attested the same in his presence at one and the same time but they were not stating so. It is pointed out that while O. P. Dua has categorically stated that Shri Ram Bhargava did not sign the Will in his presence, it cannot be spelt out from the evidence of C. S. Aggarwal that the Will was signed by Shri Rani Bhargava in his presence. It is also stated that the mere fact that endorsement on the Will in regard to Shri Ram Bhargava having signed the Will in the presence of the two attesting witnesses and the latter having signed the same in the presence of Shri Ram Bhargava has been admitted to bear the signatures of the attesting witnesses does not prove the correctness of the endorsement and, thereforee, the conclusion drawn by the learned Single Judge stands vitiated.

(12) There are only two provisions which have real bearing in the matter of execution and proof of Wills. These are Section 63 of the Succession Act and Section 68 of the Evidence Act. Section 63, in substance, requires the will to be signed by the testatory and attested by two or more witnesses, each of whom has been the testator sign or has received from the testator a personal acknowledgement of his signature. In the instant case, the will purports to be signed by Shri Ram Bhargava. It also purports to be attested by two witnesses. In addition, there is an endorsement to the effect that the Will was signed and attested as required by Section 63. It cannot, thereforee, be gain said that the Will is such as ex facie stands executed as per the requirement of the statute. These facts, however, standing by themselves are insufficient inasmuch as Section 68 requires that a document required by law to be attested shall not be used as evidence until one attesting witness at least has been called for the purpose of proving its execution. This provision, of course, is subject to the physical existence and physical capability of the attesting witness so that on being examined he may be able to prove the Will. It is, thereforee, transparent that it is not the law that in case the attesting witnesses are no longer in existence or are incapable of giving evidence, it would not be possible to prove the Will at all. There are various modes of proving documents. What is the proper mode of proof depends upon the facts of the particular case. In short, the proper mode is the one which satisfies the conscience of the Court. That is the yardstick that is the test. In case, both the attesting witnesses turn hostile or in a case where the two witnesses had not attested the Will at one and the same time one turns hostile, apart from the consideration whether the Will stands proved (the process involving assessment of oral evidence) there would be no infraction of the provision of Section 63 as such.

INLloyd v. Roberts Xii Moore 158 (1901 E R V. 14 the facts were that out of the two attesting witnesses of the Will, only one had survived to speak about the Will in Court. He stated that he had been called to attest the document which was described as a Will and he attested the document which was presented to him folded in a particular fashion so that he saw only the signature of the testator and put his own signature as attesting witness. The Court found that the testator was a solicitor who must be accredited with proper knowledge in regard to signing and attestation of Wills. It also found that the witness had come into the witness box after 7 years of the making of the Will. After propounding the question 'What is the conclusion at which the Court must arrive' it was observed. ' The Will bears date the 8th of July, 1850, and, thereforee, it is seven years since it was executed. There seems to have been no imposition upon the Testator in any respect; and it is not suggested that there was; but the Court is told that the Testator might have written in the attestation clause afterwards; and then it is inferred from that, that he might also have written the Will afterwards; and then in point of fact, these persons signed their names to a blank paper; that is, blank in all respects, except the name of the Testator. But the character of Edwards renders that improbable. The Testator, too, being a Solicitor, must have been that it was necessary for a Will to be written before execution; and I can hardly conjecturally come to the conclusion, that a person in his situation, who had nothing to conceal from anybody about his Will, would have executed a blank sheet of paper. I must come to the conclusion that the deceased did sign this Will; that then he sent for two witnesses to attest it, and that he acknowledged his signature in their presence.'

(13) It was in a situation like this that a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court in Brahmdat Tewari v. Chaudan Bibi Air 1916 Calcutta 374 (3) observed :

'THEprinciple is well-settled that when the evidence of the attesting witnesses is vague, doubtful or even conflicting upon some material point, the Court may take into consideration the circumstances of the case and judge from them collectively whether the requirements of the statute were complied with, in other words, the Court may, on consideration of the other evidence or of the whole circumstances of the case, come to the conclusion that their recollection is at fault, that their evidence is of a suspicious character or that they are willfully misleading the Court and, accordingly, disregard their testimony and pronounce in favor of the Will.'

(14) In the instant case, Shri Ram Bhargava created a Charitable Trust, being Sarla Bhargava Memorial Trust in deference to the wishes of his departed spouse. Thereafter, devising disposal of his own estate, he got prepared an elaborate document by utilising the services of Bharat Bhushan Jain (Public Witness 5) and approached O. P. Dua, and C. S. Aggarwal, members of the profession to which he himself belonged besides close friends, .and got the Will attested and registered on the same date. For the purposes of the petition for grant. of probate, C. S. Aggarwal swore affidavit Ex. P2, on August 29, 1978 stating that he had seen the testator signing the 1976 Will. This affidavit bears corrections in his own hand. He also made declaration Ex. P/3 under Section 281 of the Succession Act to the same effect. However, when he came into the witness box on September 4, 1979, he stated in examination-in-chief that he was not sure whether Shri Ram Bhargava had signed the Will in his presence. In cross-examination, he conceded that it may be that he signed with the same pen with which Shri Ram Bhargava had signed the Will. He also admitted his signature beneath the endorsement A to A-1 in Ex. P1 but stated that he did not read the same. On being confronted with his affidavit Ex. P2, he maintained that he was not sure if Shri Ram Bhargava had signed the Will in his presence on May 18, 1976. The prevarication, which is manifest, in the deposition of member of the bur, invited harsh observations from the learned Single Judge who must have felt, as we do, what more could the poor testator do in the selection of attesting witnesses. The witnesses did deserve the frown fur reading down the circumstances connected with the execution of the Will on account of at least, we may say, misplaced sympathy with Manjula whom they had personally known for long years as against Bhargava Sabha for getting their obligation that it is the true wish of the testator which must count. May be, these observation's were the out come of what they say righteous indignation but we are compelled to say that they arc well meritted. Still we are constrained to agree with the learned counsel that the statement of this witness, on final analysis, does not, speaking reasonably, lead to the conclusion that Shri Ram Bhargava had signed the Will in his presence. This view of ours however, cannot be of any help to Manjula as the inference is non-sequiter inasumch as this witness like the other has clearly stated that Shri Ram Bhargava made a personal acknowledgement of his signature on the Will, copy whereof is Ex. P1, before he put his signatures by way of attestation. Whether the Will is signed by the testator in the presence of the attesting witnesses or the signatures thereon are personally acknowledged stand on the same footing so far as the legal requirement goes. It is, thereforee, pointless to go into the consideration whether Shri Ram Bhargava signed the Will in the presence of C. S. Aggarwal or not. Had it been the case that according to the two attesting witnesses Shri Ram Bhargava had neither signed the Will nor made personal acknowledgement of his signatures thereon, necessity for considering of other mode of proof would have arisen O.C. Tandon (Public Witness 9) and Bharat Bushan Bhargava (Public Witness 10), who are well acquainted with the signatures of Shri Ram Bhargava, identifying his signatures on the 1976 Will, and clear admission of Manjula in the cross-examination that the 1976 Will pasted in the register of the Sub-Registrar bears the signature of Shri Ram Bhargava would have assumed a lot of significance. Moreover, various circumstances in connection with the making of the Will would have assumed importance the most important being that the bequest was made by Shri Rani Bhargava in accordance with the wishes of his wife. The following clause in the Will dated June 8, 1971 of Sarla Bhargava is pertinent :

'Ideclare that my husband lias assured me that he shall use the entire property owned by him or in which I have any right and title and interest and which will vest in him absolutely after my death for Charitable purposes after reserving a reasonable portion for his personal use and needs and I hope that he will honour this assurance.'

MANJULAsays that she found photo copy of this Will from out of the papers left by Shri Ram Bhargava and we take it that she knew of this Will as after the death of Saria Bhargava she got all the jewellery kept in Safe Deposit Vault of Punjab National Bank, No. 964 at Tropical Building, New Delhi, being a legatee. This Will itself mentions how abortive adoption of Ashok Bhargava' had turned out to be The shape of things to come was this well-known to Manjula way back.

THIScircumstance, in our opinion, would have been of great intrinsic value while considering of the due execution of the Will on the one hand and for pronouncing upon the naturalness of the Will on the other.

(15) It is perhaps the limit of fairness that Shri Ram Bhargava even made a token bequest to Ashok Bhargava for whom Sarla Bhargava had said that he would get nothing perhaps for the consideration that he had once been adopted. Different consideraton however arose so far as Manjula is concerned. She was brought up since childhood. Sarla Bhargava left all her jewellery to her and Shri Ram Bhargava gave her a handsome legacy. It is pointed out that at the time of death of Shri Ram Bhargava, Manjula was residing with the testator and, thereforee, the fact that no right of residence was given to her makes the Will rather unnatural. We do not find anything, unnatuarll or unefficious particularly when it is borne in mind that bungalow No. 174, Jor Bagh, belonged to Smt. Sarla Bhargava who had bequeathed the name to her husband and as to what she willed, we have already taken note of.

(16) We arc satisfied that no consideration of there being any suspicious circumstance surrounding the 1976 Will arises at all and need not discuss. H. Venkatachak lyengar- v. B, N. Thimmajamma and Others, 1959 Supp (1) S.C.R. 426 (4) and Jaswant Kaur v. Amrit Kaur and Others, : [1977]1SCR925 relied upon on behalf of the appellants. As the things stand, due execution of the Will stands amply proved by the evidence of O. P. Dua and C. S. Aggarwal, who have stated unequivocally that they were approached by Shri Ram Bhargava with the avowed purpose of getting his Will attested and that they attested the Will after procuring personal acknowledgement in regard to his signatures. The fact that they did not attest the Will in the presence of each other is hardly of any consequence, this being not an essential requirement of the Statute.

(17) For the foregoing reasons, we agree with the finding of the learned Single Judge that due execution of the 1976 Will stands proved beyond a speck of doubt.

(18) We may mention here that some argument was raised that copy of Will pasted in the register maintained by the Sub-Registrar is not the original Will and, thereforee, before the same could be taken into evidence, it was incumbent on the propounder to give satisfactory evidence in regard to the loss of the original. Reliance was mostly placed on Sections 18-A and 52(1)(c) of the Indian Registration Act according to which document for registration is required to be accompanied by true copy thereof and the copy of the document admitted to registration is required to be pasted in the book without unnecessary delay. There would perhaps have been some force in this contention had the Will pasted in the register were a copy of the original. But, this is not the case. The Will is not only signed by Shri Ram Bhargava. but is also attested by the two witnesses. The usual endorsement appearing on each sheet also bears the signature of the testator and the two attesting witnesses. For obvious reasons, this document is to be taken as inc original Will. An original document is the document by which right. title or interest is created or from which some right or obligation itself flows. In case more than one identical documents arc prepared and each of them is signed and attested as required by law, then each of such documents would satisfy the requirement of law and would he treated as original. The existence of more original than one is implicit in Explanationn Ii to Section 91 of the Evidence Act which says that where there are more originals than one original only need be proved. (See Phipson on Evidence, Tenth Edition, Para 1688 where it is observed :

'DUPLICATE: Where there are duplicate original i.e.. two documents both fully executed by each party both a'c considered primary evidence.'

(19) In the instant case. the testator desirous of getting his Will registered was required to submit the original along with a copy and the Registrar was required to register the Will by making 'necessary endorsement thereon and to paste the copy of the Will in the register maintained by him. Instead of furnishing a copy of the Will, what was done in this case was that a duplicate of the Will was furnished . The requirement of Section 18-A was, thereforee, complied with. The mere fact that a duplicate which is original was furnished as copy and was accepted as such for the purposes of Section 18-A of the Registration Act would not alter the nature of the duplicate. It would be absurd to read down the duplicate which has all the incidents of the original as a mere copy. Accordingly, the contention that proof of the Will found pasted in the register of the Registrar should not have been recorded in the absence of proof of the loss of original stands repelled.

(20) We may mention that even if it were held by taking a highly technical view that the Will pasted in the register of the Registrar is the copy of the Will which was received back by Shri Ram Bhargava, no fault can be found with the propounder of the Will for non-production thereof as the circumstances of the case and material on the record clearly justify the production of secondary evidence. Bharat Bhushan Bhargava knew about the execution of the 1976 Will during the life time of Shri Ram Bhargava. Not only this, he had discussed that Will with Shri Ram Bhargava in December 1977 at Jaipur where Bhargava Conference was held. He has sworn that that Will was kept by Shri Ram Bhargava in his drawer. He has further sworn that immediately after the death of Shri Ram Bhargava, he approached Manjula and asked her to deliver the Will but she refused and, thereafter, he called upon her to do so even in writing. Manjula has admitted that after the death of Shri Ram Bhargava, she was the sole occupant of the house No. 174, Jor Bagh, New Delhi, the residence-cum-office of Shri Ram Bhargava and .that she had full access to every article lying in the house. She has also admitted that Shri Ram Bhargava used to keep papers in h's drawer. Bharat Bhushan Jain (Public Witness 5) has sworn that he had seen the 1976 Will with Shri Ram Bhargava a few days before his death. It has come on record that Ashok Bharva sought grant of succession certificate claiming himself to be the adopted son of Shri Ram Bhargava and that Manjula filed a civil suit against her natural parents seeking injunction that they would not interfere with the estate of Shri Ram Bhargava as he was her adoptive Father and imp leaded Ashok Bhargava. The proceedings culminated into a compromise whereby Manjula agreed to share the estate of Shri Ram Bhargava in equal shares. Two inferences would follow from this circumstance the first being that the only person who could lay his hands to the 1976 Will kept by Shri Ram Bhargava could be Manjula and that Manjula directly and Ashok Bhargava indirectly were the only persons who would be interested in the destruction or at least withholding of that Will. The learned Single Judge came to the conclusion that the original Will had been withheld by Manjlila We find no reason, whatsoever, for coming to a different conclusion. According to Section 3 of the Evidence Act, a fact can be said to be proved when, after considering a matter before it, the Court either believes it to exist or considers its existence so probable that a prudent man ought, in the circumstances of a particular case, to act upon the supposition that it exists. Probabilities clearly point to the availability of the Will on the death of Shri Ram Bhargava and the withholding thereof by Manjula thereafter.

(21) The next contention is that the 1976 Will is not the last Will of Shri Ram Bhargava and, thereforee, is of no legal effect, whatsoever. The basis of this argument is that there was another Will, Ex. R1/9, purporting to have been made by Shri Ram Bhargava on July 27, 1977 which was forwarded by J. K. Gupta, Chartered Accountant, to the Court. The argument is that Bharat Bhushan Bhargava on being apprised of that Will sought amendment of his petition under Section 276 of the Succession Act and on the request being allowed, made the prayer that if that Will be found to be the last Will, probate may be granted in regard thereto. It is submitted that it is the pious obligation of the Probate Court to determine whether the Will propounded is the true Will and testament of the testator and that it is the last Will and inasmuch as the 1977 Will had been brought on the record, it was incumbent upon Bharat Bhushan Bhargava to examine J. K. Gupta and Shyam Kumar, the two attesting witnesses. It is contended that this having not been done, the 1976 Will cannot be said to be the last Will of Shri Ram Bhargava.

(22) For proper appreciation certain facts which are either admitted or have been established beyond dispute must be stated. Bharat Bhushan Bhargava who knew about the existence of 1976 Will and with whom Shri Ram Bhargava had discussed that Will and had also shown the same approached Manjula shortly after the demise of Shri Ram Bhargava and called upon her to hand over the same as he was the executor appointed under the Will. Manjula undertook to trace the same but, in fact, did nothing. Bharat Bhushan Bhargava took it as refusal on the part of Manjula and thereupon made the demand in writing. Letters dated April 20, 1978 (Ex. R15), April 25, 1978 (Ex. R1 6) and May 9, 1978 (Ex. R1 7) amply bear out the aforementioned position. These documents were produced by Manjula. Manjula procured certified copy of the 1976 Will by making application to the Sub Registrar. Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi, in the beginning of June, 1978. J. K. Gupta, who purports to be one of the two attesting witnesses of 1977 Will, was in the employment of Shri Ram Bhargava during his life time and was rendering his services as Chartered Accountant to Manjula insofar as her business in the name 'Taxation Publishers Private Limited' is concerned. He attended the funeral ceremony as well as uthaoni ceremony and was in communication with Manjula whom he knew since the year 1964. It was Manjula who apprised O.C. Tandon of the 1977 Will so much so that she provided him with copy of that Will on June 28, 1978, Ex. P34, which did neither bear date nor the names of the two attesting witnesses. O. C. Tandon made endorsement encircled 'A' in this behalf and apprised Bharat Bhushan Bhargava of these facts in his letter of even date. Ex. P32. He made an endeavor to get the names of the witnesses so that he could verify the fact in regard to the execution of 1977 Will, but Manjula declined. In the suit which Manjula brought against her parents and Ashok Bhargava seeking injunction to restrain them from interfering with the properties left by Shri Ram Bhargava, she did not make disclosure of either of the Wills. In response to the notice issued by this Court in the petition for grant of Probate, Manjula filed no objections. It was during the pendency of the proceedings that J. K. Gupta forwarded a carbon copy of 1977 Will Ex, R1/9 along with forwarding letter addressed to the Registrar of this Court requesting that the copy of the Will may be placed before Hon'ble Mr. Justice Sultan Singh for such use and consideration as the Hon'ble Court may think proper. In the forwarding letter dated September 28, 1978, the case number was correctly mentioned as Probate Case No. 29/78. Almost simultaneously, Manjula wrote to Bharat Bhushan Bhargava saying that he had since been apprised of the subsequent Will i.e., the 1977 Will made by Shri Ram Bhargava and inasmuch as he was appointed executor under that Will ho should procure probate failing which she would move application for grant of Letters of Administration in regard to the estate of Shri Ram Bhargava. It was in this situation that Bharat Bhushan Bhargava moved application seeking amendment of the petition. On the request being allowed, he introduced para 7-a which mentioned in clear terms that the genuineness of 1977 Will had yet to be proved. Manjula filed her reply to the amended petition raising several objections. In regard to para 7-a, it was stated that it was correct that the original Will dated July 27, 1977 was already before the Court and it purported to be the last Will meaning thereby that it superseded and cancelled the Will in respect of which the petition was made in the first instance. However, she submitted that the existence and validity of that Will had also been denied by Ashok Bhargava and it would be for the petitioner to prove the Will. Bharat Bhushan Bhargava gave the following reply in his replication :

'It is submitted that the petitioner doubts the genuineness of the Will dated 27th July, 1977. The petitioner further states and submits that the said alleged Will of 27th July, 1977 is nothing but appears to be forged document and the circumstances under which it has been sent to the Court prove the same. The said alleged Will, the existence and validity of which is doubted by the petitioner was filed by one J. K. Gupta, Chartered Accountant, after the petition for the grant on the basis of the Will dated 18-5-1976 had been filed ..............A mere perusal of the alleged said Will of 27-7-1977 casts doubt on genuineness of the Will.'

(23) It is in the background, of these facts that we would examine whether it was the duty of Bharat Bhushan Bhargava to summon J. K. Gupta and Shyam Kumar or that of Manjula. According to Mrs. Shyamla Pappu it was Bharat Bhushan Bhargava who was the propounder of that Will and, thereforee, it was his duty to examine J. K. Gupta and Shyam Kumar so that it could be determined which of the two Wills was the last Will of Shri Ram Bhargava. We do not agree. According to Bharat Bhushan Bhargava it was 1976 Will which was the last Will of Shri Ram Bhargava. He had seen that Will will Shri Ram Bhargava in December, 1977. He had even discussed about that Will with Shri Ram Bhargava. What moved Bharat Bhushan Bhargava to ask for amendment of the petition was the fact that carbon copy of 1977 Will had been sent to the Court and threat had been issued by Manjula that if he did not take action on that Will she would be constrained to apply for grant of letters of administration inasmuch as she was a substantial legatee under the 1977 Will. As a prudent person Bharat Bhushan Bhargava sought permission for amendment obviously for avoiding multiplicity of proceedings. He, however, clearly mentioned that 'the genuineness of that Will had yet to beproved' which expression meant nothing also than that he did not accept that Will to be a genuine one. He further clarified this stand in the replication. The parties thus knew how the matter stood, what were their pleadings and respective stands. Bharat Bhushan Bhargava, accordingly, examined both the attesting witnesses of the 1976 Will and brought on record such evidence as was in his possession or power to show that Will was the last Will of Shri Ram Bhargava. Evidence to show that 1977 Will was a forged document was produced with that end in view. It was Manjula who summoned J. K. Gupta and Shayam Kumar. One of them was served while the other refused service. However, when occasion for examining the' one and for making prayer for issuance of coercive process to compel the appearance of the other arose, both the witnesses were given up. There, thus, remains no doubt in the mind that both the parties well understood what their respective cases were. No categorical stand was taken by Manjula in regard to the 1977 Will. In fact, nobody took responsibility in regard to that document and nobody took any step to prove that Will in accordance with the provisions of Section 68 of the Evidence Act. We are, thereforee, not at all prepared to accept that Bharat Bhushan Bhargava was the propounder of 1977 Will. We are also not prepared to accept that he was under any obligation to summon the attesting witnesses of that Will. In view of the clear-cut stand, which had been taken by Bharat Bhushan Bhargava in regard to the 1977 Will, it would have been absurd for him to call the two witnesses and in the event of their deposing that that Will was executed by Shri Ram Bhargava, to move the Court for permission to put questions that might be put in cross-examination. Nothing could be more incongruous, inconsistant and illogical than that. Being executor of the 1976 Will it was as much his duty to see that the true Will of the testator should be given effect as it was the concern of the Court. He was not expected to be a mute spectator of the drama played by interested people to grab what did not belong to them making vain attempts to show/that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding that Will when, in fact, there were none.

(24) That there is total absence of proof of the 1977 Will on the record apart, there are numerous circumstances which pont to this document being a piece of forgery. Bharat Bhushan Bhargava and O. C. Tandon have denied that this document bears the signatures of Shri Ram Bhargava. M. K. Mehta (Public Witness 7) hand writing expert, has opined that the signatures purporting to be of Shri Ram Bhargava are not his. This opinion is based on comparson with various signatures appearing on the 1976 Will which undisputably are those of Shri Ram Bhargava. The fact that this Will is an unregistered document unlike the 1976 Will and the Will made by Sarla Bhargava in 1971 is another circumstance of considerable value. If the testator wanted to be more liberal to Manjula, as has been suggested- at the bar. it was all the more necessary that he should have the same set of' witnesses, who were always available and get the document registered in order to put the matter beyond the pale of controversy. It is inconceivable that C. M. Aggarwal and O. P. Dua who were close friends of Shri Ram Bhargava so much so that they attended the mourning meetings on alternate days, should be abandoned in favor of J. K. Gupta and his brother-in-law, who was not known to the family, as admitted by Manjula herself, w,'thout any ostensible reason. Still another circumstance is provided by the fact that during the life time of Shri Ram Bhargava, Maniula was not apprised of this Will by J. K. Gupta. The most important circumstance is, however, provided by the conduct of Manjula herself as brought out in her cross-examination. She has stated at one place that during September 1976 J. K. Gupta told her for the first time that Shri Ram Bhargava had executed Will and that the same was with him. This version is clearly belied by documentary evidence provided by her letter dated June 19, 1978, Ex. P/36, addressed to Bharat Bhushan Bhargava, second para whereof reads as under :

'By now you are aware that Dady has made this last Will dated July 27, 1977 in which you are appointed as one of the Executors and I am a legatee with substantial interest in the property of my Daddy including Taxation with a right of residence in 174, Jor Bagh.'

Manjula provided copy of the Will Ex. P/34 to O. C. Tandon on June 28, 1978 but withheld the names of the attesting witnesses as well as the date of the making of the 1977 Will. No Explanationn, whatsoever, is forthcoming for this conduct. It would, thereforee, be difficult to resist the argument that by that ti.me it had not been decided which persons should figure as attesting witnesses of the 1977 Will. The conduct of J. K. Gupta in sending copy of the 1977 Will to the Registrar of this Court by mentioning the number of the case and the name of the Judge who was seized of the proceedings and informing Manjula simultaneously so that she should call upon Bharat Bhushan Bhargava coupled with the refusal of J. K. Gup. a to attend the Court firstly on the occasion when his was called upon to surrender the papers relating to Taxation' in his possession and secondly when he was summoned as a witness by Manjula can lead to either of the two conclusions the first being that he was acting in collusion with Manjula or that the forwarding of the copy of the Will Ex. R1/9 to the Registrar was a make-believe device author whereof. in fact, was Manjula herself. The clever way in which responsibility in regard to the genuineness of this Will was not assumed and Manjula contradicted herself on material points by saying at one time that J. K.. Gupta had told' her about the 1977 Will as well as its contents towards the end of May, 1978 and saying at another time that it was during September, 1978 that J. K. Gupta first told her that Shri Rani Bhargava had executed a Will and that the same was with him and again saying that immediately after death J. K. Gupta had told her that there was a Will of which he was the attesting witness, cannot just be ignored. It has already been noticed above that in the month of June 3978 Manjula sent copy of 1977 Will without mentioning the names of the attesting witnesses despite insistence on the part of 0. C. Tandon. At another place, she has stated' that it was one Harlal who had told her the contents of 1977 Will 5 or 6 days after the Teharvi ceremony of Shri Ram Bhargava. The various positions taken at different times, obviously irreconceivable, -as they are, lead to the only conclusion that there is deliberate attempt at concealment of the truth.

(25) It is pointed out that opinion of M. K. Mehta' stands vitiated by the fact that he did not carry out comparison with any standard writing of Shri Ram Bhargava'. We do not agree. Once it is believed that' 1976 Will bears his signatures, and there is no reason at all for not doing so, particularly in view of the categorical admission of Manjula that it docs bear his signatures, no exception can be taken lo the use of these signatures as standard signatures for the purposes of comparison. It is also pointed out that this opinion evidence has no value in the eye of law. In Fakhruddin v. State of Madhya Pradesh Air 1967 Sup Court 1326, Hidayatullah, J. (as he then was), after taking note of {he fact that evidence of identity of hand writing receives treatment in three Sections of the Indian Evidence Act, observed ;

'BOTHunder S. 45 and' S. 47 the evidence is an opinion, in the former by a scientific comparison and in the latter on the basis of familiarity resulting from frequent observations and experience. In either case the Court must satisfy itself by such means as arc open that the opinion may be acted upon. One such means open to the Court is to apply its own observation to the admitted or proved writings and to compare them with the disputed one, not to become an handwriting expert but to verify the premises of Ihe expert in the one case and to appraise the value of the opinion in the other case. This comparison depends on an analysis of the characteristics in the admitted or proved writings and the finding of the same characteristics in large measure in the disputed writings. In this way the opinion of the deponent whether expert of other is subjected- to scrutiny and although relevant to start with becomes probative. ',Where an expert's opinion is given, the Court must see for itself and with the assistance of the expert come to its own conclusion whether it can safely be held that the two writings are by 'the same person. This is not to say that the Court must play the role of an expert but to say that the Court may accept the fact proved only when it has satisfied itself on its own observation that it is safe to accept the opinion whether of the expert or other witness.'

This authority was followed in Ram Narain v. State of Uttar Pradesh, : 1973CriLJ1187 , I.D. Dua, J. observed :

'INour view, the legal position enunciated in Fakhruddin AIR 1967 Sc 1326 (supra) cannot be said to be inconsistent with the ratio of any o'ne of the earlier decisions to which reference has been made therein. Now it is no doubt true that the opinion of a handwriting expert given in evidence is no less fallible than any other expert opinon adduced in evidence with the result that such evidence has to be received with great caution. But this opinion evidence, which is relevant, may be worthy of acceptance if there is internal or external evidence relating to the document in question supporting the view expressed by the expert.'

Mention may also be made of a' very recent authority State (Delhi Administration) v. Pali Ram, : 1979CriLJ17 wherein the view taken in Fakhruddin's case (supra) was confirmed. It is, thereforee, settled law that in cases where the Court is called upon to form its opinion on the basis of opinion evidence falling under Sections 45 and 47 of the Evidence Act, it has to use its power of observation for coming to a conscientious conclusion as to which opinion, if so, is acceptable and to act upon the same.

(26) Accordingly, we have ourselves compared the signature's purporting to be of Shri Ram Bhargava on 1977 Will with those appearing on 1976 Will by calling the original from the office of the Sub Registrar. We have observed that there is marked difference in line quality which is most outstanding characteristic of an individual's writing besides observing the peculiarities in the execution of different letters and combination thereof, particularly, B, S, R, h, e and Bh. We may mention that when the signatures purporting to be of Shri Ram Bhargava on 1977 Will were put to Mrs. Shyamla Pappu, she was fair enough to acknowledge that those' looked unlike those appearing on the 1976 Will although her convention was that signatures on the 1976 Will were not of Shri Ram Bhargava. We have mentioned this fact not with a view to bring out an admission in regard to dis-similarity in the two sets of signatures as opinion under Section 45 of the Evidence Act postulates acquaintance with the writing of the author, something which was not claimed by Mrs. Shyamla Pappu nor any such question actually arose. We have mentioned this as there is real and patent difference in the execution of letters constituting the signature 'S. R. Bhargava' in the two sets of signatures. So far as the instant case goes, there is opinion evidence of the hand-writing expert. There is also opinion evidence of witnesses acquainted with the signatures of Shri Ram Bhargava; and a host of circumstances discussed above which lead to that inevitable conclusion.

(27) For the foregoing reasons, we would hold that there was nothing wrong in Bharat Bhushan Bhargava taking the stand in regard to 1977 Will that it was afake and forged document and the fact that Manjula made a faint-hearted endeavor to urge on the basis of that Will without taking any responsibility thtreto upon herself and later on abandoning the same lead to the conclusion which is inescapable that the 1976 Will is the last Will and testament of Shri Ram Bhargava. While coming to his conclusion we are fully conscious of the responsibility of the Probate Court conveyed in the expression 'satisfaction of the conscience of the Court' often used. Still we are constrained to question as to what more the testator herein could do beyond what he did, namely, making am elaborate Will, partly in fulfillment of the last wishes of his departed wife and partly his own convictions and desire, finding two close friends and colleagues in profession, making a generous provision for Manjula who had been brought up and making a token gift to Ashok Bhargava, who they had once adopted and who had performed the last rites of Sarla Bhargava and about whom the testator mentions in his Will that he would perhaps perform his last rites as well. This Will was got registered and the executor of the Will was informed. A charitable trust, in whose favor moiety of the bequest goes, was created by him during his own life time. It is true that most of the estate of the testator has gone to the Bhargava Sabh'a and the charitable trust but it is to be remembered that it has gone for charitable purpose in accordance with the wishes of the testator and in case he had the power of disposal over the same, which he undisputedly had', it is his wishes and his wishes alone that matter.

(28) After arguments had been addressed for quite some time, application under Order 41 Rule 27 read with Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure (C.M. 1261 of 1980) was filed on behalf of Manjula. It was stated that it was the duty of the Probate Court to direct Bharat Bhushan Bhargava to produce the attesting witness of the 1977 Will and inasmuch as it had not been so done, this Court may summon both the witnesses as Court witnesses. We have already held that neither Bharat Bhushan Bhargava could be said to be propounder of the 1977 Will nor in view of the stand which he had taken regarding that Will, he was expected to do any thing more than bringing such evidence' on the record as would show that the Will of 1976 remained the only duly executed Will and the last testament of Shri Ram Bhargava. The question of bringing on record additional evidence at this stage arises in cases where it is necessary to enable the Court to pronounce the judgment and it is done with a view to furthering the cause of justice. Such considerations are wholly wanting here. We have already detailed the circumstances which point to the 1977 Will to be a fake document and would, thereforee, not repeat. Another reason for declining the request is that before the learned Single Judge the validity and existence of the 1977 Will was not pressed at the time of argument and it was for that reason that in the grounds of appeal there is no grievance in this behalf at all.

(29) After final orders in these appeals were reserved, another application under Order 41 Rule 27 read with Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, being C. M. 2062/80 was filed reiterating the same contention highlighting that prejudice had been occasioned inasmuch as there was no plea in the amended petition that the 1977 Will was a forged document. It was also staled that with a view to enabling this Court to form an opinion as to whether any one of the two Wills bears the true signatures of Shri Ram Bhargava, Form 'K.' alleged to have been signed by Shri Ram Bhargava on April 1, 1975 and several more applications bearing standard signatures of Shri Ram Bhargava may be taken in evidence in order to make visual comparison. So far as the first part of the contention is concerned, Bharat Bhushan Bhargava who was constrained to amend his petition, as already noted, politely stated what he stated boldly later on in replication. It is quite -amusing that Manjula who had not earlier filed her objections thought proper to do so in reply to the amended petition and made a reference to Ashok Bhargava denying the genuineness of that Will. All the same, she required that the validity and legality of the 1977 Will was open to be established. What is remarkable is that she did not make any clear admission in regard to her stand. This being so, we fail to understand how and why Bharat Bhushan Bhargava be required to go through that exercise when he was the propounder of the 1976 Will and it was his case that that Will was the last Will of Shri Ram Bhargava. As regard's the second contention, we carried out visual comparison with proved signatures of Shri Ram Bhargava. We do not feel that there is any necessity for bringing on record further material for that purpose in the facts and circumstances of this case.

(30) Issue Nos. 4, 5 and 6 having already been deleted by our order dated September 26, 1980, no other point has been pressed. !

(31) As a result, no case for interference with the judgment of the learned Single Judge has been made out. Accorodingly, both the appeals as well as the two miscellaneous petitions merit dismissal. The same are dismissed, accordingly. The appellants shall pay the costs


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