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ittyanath Madathil Madhavi Vs. Sree Rama Varma - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily;Property
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Case NumberOriginal Petn. No. 2759 of 1965
Judge
Reported inAIR1969Ker256
ActsSuccession Act, 1925 - Sections 278, 284 and 295; Kerala Court-fees and Suits Valution Act, 1959 - Sections 55
Appellantittyanath Madathil Madhavi
RespondentSree Rama Varma
Appellant Advocate T.S. Venkiteswara Iyer and; R.C. Plappilly, Advs.
Respondent Advocate V.K.K. Menon and; V. Sankara Menon, Advs.
Cases ReferredAbhiram Dass and Executor Jairam v. Gopal Dass
Excerpt:
.....of petitioner - whether petitioner entitled to letters of administration - objection raised to grant of letters of administration - objection raised that deceased not of disposing mind - testamentary court dealing with question of issuing grant of probate to see whether will duly executed as required by law by testator of sound and disposing state of mind - in case of grant of letters of administration court has to see that person properly entitled to represent estate according to succession act has come to court - petitioner entitled to letters of administration in respects of suit property. - - all we can say is that it would be exceedingly inconvenient if courts in this country bad to try such issues. bam chandra singha (1912) 17 ind cas 155 (cal) the grant was sought for..........42 ind cas 737=(air 1917 lah 442) proceeded on agreement by counsel that it was unnecessary to grant letters of administration. in prosonno kumari debi v. bam chandra singha (1912) 17 ind cas 155 (cal) the grant was sought for nearly six years after the death of the deceased and the court was satisfied that it was a transparent device to obtain a decision on a contested question of title. besides there were no creditors to be paid, no debts to be collected, and no estate which stood in need of administration. the position here disclosed is different.11. in the result i record my findings on issues 4, 13 and 17 which are the only issues arising for determination, as follows:issue no, 4, the petitioner is entitled to letters of administration in respect of the assets mentioned in.....
Judgment:
ORDER

V.P. Gopalan Nambiyar, J.

1. This is an application for Letters of Administration with the will annexured in respect of the assets and estate of the late Maharaja of Cochin, Sri Ramavarma, alias Rama Varma Pareekshit Thampuran, who died on the 12th November 1964, at the Hill Palace, Trippunithura, within the jurisdiction of this Court. The petitioner is the widow of the deceased. The deceased left no son or daughter or other lineal descendants or mother, and the petitioner is the sole heir of the deceased under the Hindu Succession Act by which he was governed. The deceased executed a will dated 3rd May 1952 under which he made two specific bequests of the properties described in schedules A and B of the will in favour respectively, of the petitioner and the widow of a deceased nephew, who was formerly the Palace Controller. The properties covered by these schedules in the will were later assigned to the legatees under documents dated 8-4-54 and 29-4-54 with rights of absolute ownership and immediate enjoyment. The will constituted the petitioner a residuary legatee of all other properties undisposed of by the testator at the time of Ms death. The personal assets of the deceased in respect of which Letters of Administration have been prayed for, are particularly described in Annexure A of the affidavit of valuation. Letters of Administration are prayed for in respect of the said assets.

2. A Caveat has been entered by the present Maharaja of Cochin. That the petitioner is the lawful heir of the deceased is not denied. That the petitioner is entitled to Letters of Administration with the will annexed in respect of the properties and assets covered by the will, is also not disputed. But on behalf of the Caveator, objection has been raised to the grant of Letters of Administration in respect of the assets mentioned in Annexure A to the affidavit. The Caveator's objection is that these belonged to the Stanam of the late Maharaja of Cochin, that the Maharaja had only a life estate in these assets but no disposing power, and that the Caveator as the successor in stanam of the late Maharaja is entitled to succeed to, and to deal with, these assets which form part of what has been described as the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate. Alternatively it is contended that the Maharaja of Cochin is a Corporation sole, that the properties vested in the Corporation sole, and that the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate of which the assets in Annexure A form but a part is attached to the rulership of Cochin. It has been stated that on the demise of the Maharaja, the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate descended intact to the successor. The Caveator has not disputed either the authenticity or the due execution of the will.

3. The following issues were framed on 15-1-1968, after perusal of the draft issues submitted by counsel on either side, and after discussion with the counsel:

1. Are items 1 to 8 in Annexure A assets of the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate belonging to the Maharaja of Ruler of Cochin as contended for by the respondent or are these or any of these items the private assets of the late Ramavarma (Paree-kshit Thampuran) deceased?

2. Whether the securities mentioned in Annexure-A-I, the shares in Annexure A-II and the car in Annexure A-III were acquired by deceased husband of petitioner as his private acquisitions with funds belonging to him and or over which he had powers of disposal?

3. If the items in Annexure A belonged to the Palleera Muthalpidi estate, then is the petitioner entitled to Letters of Administration as prayed for?

4. In respect of what all assets, if any, in Annexure A is the petitioner entitled to get Letters of Administration?

5. Are the funds administered by the Private Secretary to His Highness the Maharaja of Cochin and any investments made by the Private Secretary in banks or securities the private properties of the Maharaja as contended for by the petitioner or do they belong to the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate as contended for by the respondent?

6. Has there been a merger of item No. 7 in the Anrexure A in the PalleeraMuthalpidi Estate as contended for by the respondents?

7. Is the petitioner the sole heir of bis Highness Ramavarma (Pareekshit Thampuran) deceased?

8. Is the Maharaja of Cochin a Ruler as defined in Article 366(22) of the Constitution of India?

9. Is not the Maharaja or Ruler of Cochin entitled to the personal privilege etc. granted by Article XVI of the Covenant of Integration between the States of Travancore and Cochin?

10. Is the inheritance to and right of enjoyment of the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate a personal privilege or dignity as envisaged by the Covenant of Integration and guaranteed under Article 362 of the Constitution of India?

11. Does the letter from the States Ministry dated 13-2-1954 evidence an act of State recognising the nature and incidents of the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate owned by the Ruler of Cochin?

12. If the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate is hold to be Stanam Property, then is not the respondent entitled to possession and management of the Estate under the provisions of the Kerala Act 28 of 1958? Are not the objections maintainable even on that ground?

13. Whether the objector, not being admittedly interested in the personal assets of the deceased is entitled to (oppose the grant of Letters of Administration to?) the petitioner?

14. Whether the Maharapa of Cochin is a corporation sole and whether the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate is attached to such corporation sole?

15. Whether the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate is Stanam property of the Ruler of Cochin. If so does the stanam exist after the Hindu Succession Act and whether the objector can maintain the objection in the form put forward in the objection.

16. Whether the Nithyachilavu Muthalpidi and the funds administered by the Private Secretary form part of the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate?

17. What is the proper order as to costs?

18. Whether the question of the objector's adverse or paramount title to the assets mentioned in Annexure A to the petition can be gone into in these proceedings?

4. On 30-1-1968, C. M. P. No. 1140 of 1968 was filed by the Caveator praying that all issues except Issues 4, 13 and 17 are unnecessary and may be deleted. Arguments on the above C. M. P., and on the main petition itself, were then addressed by the counsel. P. W. 1 was examined on the side of the petitioner and the will was marked as Ext. P-1.

5. There was really no controversy between the counsel that the issues sought to be deleted by C. M. P. No. 1140 of 1968 are unnecessary for the purpose of this petition for Letters of Administration. Counsel for the petitioner and for the Caveator were agreed that these issues should be deleted. Issues 1 to 3, 5 to 12, 14 to 16 and 18 are accordingly deleted and do not therefore, call for further consideration,

6. The Caveator has no objection to grant of Letters of Administration to the petitioner as legal representative of the deceased and in respect of his assets and estate, as on intestacy; nor even to the grant of Letters of Administration with the will annexed, in respect of the properties covered by the will, provided this Court finds, that an administration of the estate is necessary. The objection, as already noticed, is in respect of the grant of Letters of Administration specifically related to assets in Annexure A of the affidavit of the valuation. According to the Caveator the items in Annexure A--or at least many of them -- were part of the Palleera Muthalpidi Estate of the Maharaja of Cochin and the grant of Letters of Administration in respect of them to the petitioner would place the petitioner in a position of vantage and subject the Caveator to a corresponding disadvantage. It was contended that this application for Letters of Administration was a device to obtain an adjudication from this Court in regard to the title of the properties covered by Annexure A, and that it was not the province of this Court in these proceedings to embark on such investigation or to pronounce on the question of title. It was contended again with respect to Sections 232, 276 and 290 of the Indian Succession Act read with Schedule VII that there was no provision for filing any Annexure to the petition and praying for Letters of Administration in respect of the items covered by the Annexure.

7. That it is not usual In these proceedings to decide the question of title in respect of the property dealt with by the will is a proposition that is not disputed. As early as in (1897) ILR 19 All 458 it was observed:

'It has been contended that where an application for probate of a will is contested and it is alleged that the property dealt with by the will was not of the testator or was not property over which the testator had a power of testamentary disposal, it is the duty of the court to try an issue raising this question. All we can say is that it would be exceedingly inconvenient if Courts in this country bad to try such issues. A Court could never be quite sure that it had got the proper parties before it. It would bs difficult always to be sure that therewas no collusion in the case. It is much safer in the interests of the public that issues as to the title to property should be decided in a regular suit, and not on an application for a grant of probate.' Counsel for the petitioner contended that it was not open to the Caveator to set up a title paramount to that of the deceased and that the Caveator should be a person having some interest in the property of the deceased. He relied on Sections 283(c) and 284(4) of the Indian Succession Act. The Caveator rejoined that he was neither disqualified to be a Caveator, nor was he setting up any plea of paramount title. His plea in effect was that the deceased had only a life estate, but no transmissible proprietorship in the properties mentioned in Annexure A, and that on his death the said properties descended on him. In Bai Parvathibai v. Raghunath Lakshman, AIR 1941 Bom 60 Kania J. (as he then was) observed:

'In my opinion a testamentary Court dealing with the question of issuing a grant of probate is concerned to see whether the will is duly executed as required by law by a testator of sound and disposing state of mind. In case of grant of Letters of Administration the Court has to see that the person properly entitled to represent the estate of the deceased according to the Succession Act has come to Court and is given the grant. It is no part of the duty of the testamentary judge to consider the question of title to property. Section 211, Succession Act expressly provides that the issue of probate or letters of administration does not vest in the executor or administrator as the case may be, the property which is claimed to belong to a joint family of which the deceased was a member. In my opinion a caveat cannot be sustained on the mere ground that the property which is attempted to be disposed of by the deceased by the will or in respect of which Letters of Administration are asked for is joint family estate. I understand that to be the uniform practice on the testamentary side, and I see no reason to differ from it. In my opinion, this practice is based on sound reason. The caveat in this case which is based on this ground alone is, therefore, dismissed. This is not likely to prejudice in any way the caveator because he has the right to file a suit to establish his title to the property, and if adequate grounds are made out, to obtain the appointment of a receiver or an injunction against the administrator.'

8. Reference may also be made to the decision of the Patna High Court In Debendra Prasad Sukul v. Surendra Prasad Sukul, 54 Ind Cas 807 = (AIR 1920 Pat 343). The decisions ot the Calcutta, Bombay and Allahabad High Courts and the practice followed by them in regard to the grant of Letters of Administration were there reviewed. Adverting to the contention raised that before a grant can be made it must be shown in the first place that there is an estate left by the deceased, the learned Judges observed:

'Undoubtedly this contention is correct but in my view that question must be decided, as it has been held by the Calcutta High Court and Bombay High Court, upon the allegations made in the petition.'

The Calcutta decision referred to is (1899) 3 Cal WN 277 (Notes), and the Bombay decision is (1904) ILR 28 Bom 644. In the Bombay case, Jenkins C. J, observed: 'The petition, however, alleges property in the deceased, and the reasons operating to limit the scope of the enquiry, when probate is sought, are equally applicable to a petition for Letters of Administration'.

In the present case, the petitioner has, as already noticed, alleged that the assets mentioned in Annexure A to the petition form part of the personal assets of the deceased. Following the principle of the above decisions, I hold that this allegation is sufficient for the purpose of this petition.

9. Petitioner's counsel was also at pains to explain that Annexure A to the petition was not altogether foreign to its scope. He referred to the provisions of Sections 276(1)(d), 276(3), 278(1)(d) and 278(2) of the Indian Succession Act. These enjoin a specification of the assets in respect of which the grant is prayed for. Besides, the petitioner's counsel referred to Section 55 of the Kerala Court-fees And Suits Valuation Act, 1959 and to Part-I of Schedule III therein. Under Section 55 of the Act an application for the grant of Letters of Administration shall be accompanied by an affidavit of valuation of the estate in the form set forth in Part I of Schedule III. Part I of Schedule III provides for the disclosure of assets in Annexure A to the affidavit. In the light of these provisions, and of the authorities to which my attention has been drawn I do not see any force in the objections raised by the Caveator to the prayer for grant of Letters of Administration in respect of the assets specified in Annexure to the petition. No question of adjudication of title in respect of the assets in Annexure A arises in these proceedings. The Caveator is in no way prejudiced by the grant

10. The objection that there is no need Sor any administration of the estate and therefore, no grant of Letters of Administration is called for, is without force. As the petitioner's counsel pointed out, this objection was not pleaded by the Caveator. For the petitioner, it was stated that some of the assets specified in Annexure A are Government securities and no interest is realisable in respect of them, without the grant of the Letters of Administration, The cases cited by the Caveator's counsel where Letters of Administration were refused, are distinguishable. Saiyid Abdullah Khan v. Saiyid Basharat Husain (sic) 42 Ind Cas 737=(AIR 1917 Lah 442) proceeded on agreement by counsel that it was unnecessary to grant Letters of Administration. In Prosonno Kumari Debi v. Bam Chandra Singha (1912) 17 Ind Cas 155 (Cal) the grant was sought for nearly six years after the death of the deceased and the Court was satisfied that it was a transparent device to obtain a decision on a contested question of title. Besides there were no creditors to be paid, no debts to be collected, and no estate which stood in need of administration. The position here disclosed is different.

11. In the result I record my findings on issues 4, 13 and 17 which are the only issues arising for determination, as follows:

Issue No, 4, The petitioner is entitled to Letters of Administration in respect of the assets mentioned in Annexure A, to the affidavit of valuation. The petition alleges property in the deceased in respect of those assets and that is sufficient for the purpose of this petition.

Issue No. 13. The Caveator not being one interested In the personal assets of the deceased, is not entitled to oppose the grant of Letters of Administration to the petitioner. Following the principle of the decision in AIR 1941 Bom 60 and as was done in that case, the Caveat which is sought to be sustained on the ground that the testator had no disposing power over the items in Annexure A is dismissed. (See also the decision in Abhiram Dass and Executor Jairam v. Gopal Dass, (1890) ILR 17 Cal 48).

Issue No, 17, The petitioner's costs will come out of the estate of the deceased. The Caveator will bear his own costs.

12. Letters of Administration willIssue to the petitioner as prayed for onpayment of the requisite court-fee andon furnishing security.


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