1. These civil miscellaneous appeals arise out of O.S. No. 302 of 1939 on the file of the Court of the District Munsiff of Peddapuram the properties comprised in which were originally owned by one Savarala Ramanna, who is referred to hereinafter as Ramanna senior. Ramanna senior died in 1892 leaving a widow, Gangamma who died in 1913 and a daughter Venkayamma, who died in 1914. The first defendant is the son of Venkayamma. Ramanna senior is alleged to have adopted his sister's son's son, one Kola Ramanna herein-after referred to as Ramanna junior. Ramanna junior died in 1917 leaving a widow, Ammanna, who died on 26th May, 1938, and a daughter Gangamma, who-died on 18th July, 1938. The plaintiff is the son of Gangamma. The second defendant is the brother of Ramanna junior in his aurasa family. The third defendant is the plaintiff's father's father. The fourth defendant is not related to the plaintiff or defendants 1 to 3. He claims some of the properties in suit partly under a conveyance executed by Ammanna and partly as the purchaser in Court auction in execution of decrees obtained by him against her. Defendants 5 to 16 are alienees from defendants 1 to 4. The 17th defendant is the lessee of a house and house site while the interest of the 18th defendant does not clearly appear.
2. The plaintiff seeks to recover the suit properties on the short ground that they formed part of the estate of his maternal grandfather, Ramanna junior, which devolved on the death of the latter's widow and daughter on the daughter's son, the plaintiff, that the transactions which resulted directly or indirectly in the defendants coming into possession of the several properties were entered into by his maternal grandmother Ammanna and are not binding on him and that he is therefore entitled to obtain possession of the suit properties with mesne profits from the date of his mother's death. The principal defence is that the plaintiff cannot claim the suit properties because of a certain award given by arbitrators in terms whereof a decree was passed in O.S.No.8 of 1920 on the file of the Additional District Munsiff of Cocanada to which the plaintiff's grandmother Ammanna and defendants 1 to 3 were parties. This defence found favour with the learned District Munsiff who held that the said decree was not vitiated by fraud or undue influence as alleged by the plaintiff, that it was in bona fide settlement of disputes between the plaintiff's grandmother, Ammanna and defendants 1 to 3, who were putting forward rival claims to the properties, that the plaintiff cannot consequently lay claim to any of the properties which were given to defendants 1 to 3 under the said decree, that even as regards the properties which Ammanna took under the said decree she had an absolute estate therein and not the limited estate of a Hindu widow as contended by the plaintiff and that the plaintiff cannot consequently question the validity of the sales of her properties in Court auction or by private treaty. In consequence of the above findings, the suit was dismissed by the learned District Munsiff.
3. The learned Subordinate Judge, however, held on appeal that the award-decree is vitiated by fraud and undue influence, that it does not represent a settlement of bona fide claims and that it is not valid and binding on the plaintiff. The learned Subordinate Judge further found that Ramanna junior was the validly adopted son of Ramanna senior, that Ramanna junior died possessed of the suit properties and that the plaintiff as his daughter's son would be entitled to recover them if the defendants did not establish that the alienations relied on by them were binding on the plaintiff. As no finding was recorded by the trial Court on the question of the binding character or otherwise of the various alienations relied upon by the defendants, the learned Subordinate Judge remanded the suit to the trial Court for fresh disposal in the light of his judgment. C.M.A. No. 355 of 1945 is filed by defendants 5, 6, 15 and 18 and by the legal representatives of the fourth defendant who died during the pendency of the appeal in the lower appellate Court. C.M.A. No. 356 of 1945 is filed by defendants 9, 13 and 14.
4. The main argument before us on behalf of the appellants is that the award-decree is binding on the plaintiff as a bona fide settlement of disputes which it was quite within the competence of the limited Owner Ammanna to effect. The fact-necessary for the decision of this question may be shortly stated. The present first defendant filed O.S. No; 488 of 1917.in the Court of the District Munsiff of Peddapuram against the present plaintiff's grandmother Ammanna, the present defendants 2 and 3 and certain others for recovering possession of properties which except as to one item are identical with the present suit properties, on the .short ground that he was entitled thereto as Ramanna senior's daughter's son. The written statements in that suit have not now been exhibited, but it is Clear from the issues framed that the plaintiff's grandmother Ammanna must have put for-ward her husband's title as the adopted son of Ramanna senior. About the same time Ammanna herself filed O.S. No. 489 of 1917 in the same Court against the present defendants 1 to 3 and others for recovering possession of the properties now in suit as belonging to her husband, Ramanna junior and alleging that the present second and third defendants and certain others had trespassed upon them relying upon a will said to have been executed by Ramanna junior in their favour; on 12th October, 1917. The present first defendant's written statement in that suit contained a definite denial that Ramanna junior was the adopted son of Ramanna senior. These suits were transferred to the District Munsiff's Court, Cocanada, where they were renumbered as O.S. No. 463 of 1919 and O.S. No. 8-of 1920 respectively. ;
5. Before the suits came on for trial, the principal parties agreed that they should be referred to the arbitration of five arbitrators who accordingly gave an award to which no objections were filed by any of the parties and in terms of which conse-quently a decree was passed in O.S. No. 8 of 1920 on 19th July, 1921. Since Ammanna and defendants 1 to 3 acquiesced in or consented to the award and were willing parties to a decree being passed in accordance therewith, the Courts below viewed the award decree as nothing more than a decree which was the result of a compromise and the learned counsel before us proceeded substantially on the same footing. Whether an award strictly so-called given by a tribunal of the parties' choice on a fair contest between a Hindu widow and a rival claimant to her deceased husband's estate would not stand on the same footing as a decree of Court, we need not pause to consider, as it is not quite clear from the record in this case whether there was any trial by the arbitrators and whether the arbitrators did not, as often happens, act as mediators and make the parties agree to certain terms which they considered proper and reasonable and which were thereafter embodied in an award purporting to have been pronounced by them. We proceed to deal with the case therefore on the basis that the award decree was in substance a consent decree passed between the parties.
6. The decree provided inter alia that the present second defendant should be given three acres, that the present third defendant should be given two acres besides having his title recognised to an extent of three acres 53 1/2 cents, which the plaintiff's grand-mother originally claimed as part of her husband's estate ; that the present fourth defendant should take two acres on the western side of R.S. No, 50 instead of two acres on the northern side of the same number as per the sale deed executed in his favour by the plaintiff's grandmother on 3rd December, 1918, that he should, besides be paid Rs. 660 by the present first defendant as and towards the costs of the suit payable by the latter to the plaintiff's grandmother and that the same should be credited towards a certain deed of mortgage executed by her in fourth defendant's favour, that the debts of Ramanna junior should be discharged in the proportion of 1:2 by his widow and by the present first defendant and that the rest of the immoveable properties after excluding those previously mentioned should be divided equally between them. The respective share? which were to be taken by the first defendant and the plaintiff's grandmother were to be enjoyed by them with absolute rights, and it was directed that O.S. No. 463 of 1919 should be dismissed; but no importance attaches to this last direction as the principal parties to that suit were parties also to O.S. No. 8 of 1920 and the respective claims were provided for in the decree passed in the latter suit.
7. It is obvious from the foregoing that there were disputes firstly as to whether Ramanna junior was the validly adopted son of Ramanna senior, and secondly whether Ramanna junior executed the will relied upon by the second and third defendants. If the adoption was found against or if the will was found to be true and valid, the plaintiff's grandmother and all those claiming to succeed after her to the properties on the footing that they belonged to the estate of Ramanna junior would have lost everything. It cannot be suggested that the present first defendant was then denying the validity of the adoption of Ramanna junior knowing that it was a valid adoption or in other words that his denial was false to his knowledge. It is again not possible to maintain that the present defendants 2 and 3 were putting forward a will which to their knowledge was false or invalid. Ramanna was clearly representing the estate of her deceased husband in the litigations of 1917 to 1920 and it was quite within her competence to refer the disputes to arbitration as also to agree to a reasonable adjustment of the conflicting claims. The effect of the clause conferring an absolute estate on her in the properties retained by her we shall deal with hereafter but apart from that the position as between her and defendants 1 to 3 was that she was confronted with claims, which, if successful would have meant the total loss of the estate to her and those coming after her. In our opinion she acted properly and prudently in partially recognising those claims and in entering into a settlement whereby she secured and retained a substantial portion of the estate and avoided a costly and protracted litigation with its attendant uncertainties. Even if the reference to arbitration and the award and the decree that followed are to be treated as having no more validity than a compromise entered into by her, the plaintiff would, in our opinion, be bound by them as it cannot be denied that a compromise made bona fide by a Hindu widow for the benefit of her husband's estate will bind a reversioner quite as much as a decree obtained on contest. There is ample authority for this position ; but it is enough to refer to the decision of the Privy Council in Ramsumran Prasad v. Shyam Kumari (1922) 44 M.L.J. 751 : L.R. 49 IndAp 342 : I.L.R. 1 Pat. 741 .
8. The learned Subordinate Judge first deals with the question as to whether Ramanna junior was the validly adopted son of Ramanna senior. After finding this in the affirmative and also that Ramanna junior died possessed of the suit properties, he proceeds to deal with the question whether the award could be regarded as a bonafide settlement of disputes, undoubtedly influenced by his rather emphatic finding in favour of the adoption of Ramanna junior. In dealing with the award the learned Subordinate Judge assumed that it accepted Ramanna junior as the validly adopted son of Ramanna senior and rejected the claim of the first defendant as Ramanna senior's daughter's son as also the claim of the second and third defendants under an alleged will of Ramanna-junior. On these assumptions the learned Subordinate Judge comes to the conclusion that the allotment of substantial portions of the properties to defendants 1 to 3 whom he des cribes as ' persons who had really no claim ' is the result of fraud and undue influence exercised by the fourth defendant over Ammanna. It seems to us that these assumptions are altogether unwarranted by the language and the provisions of the award which partially recognised and partially rejected each of the three claims that were being put forward. The dismissal of O.S. No. 463 of 1919 from which the learned Subordinate Judge concludes that the claim of the first defendant was altogether negatived has, as we have already pointed out, no significance whatever in view of the fact that the first defendant's rights were provided for in the decree passed in O.S. No. 8 of 1920. It is altogether incorrect to say that the third defendant's claim was 'rejected in toto' as the third defendant was given 2 acres and his co-legatee the second defendant was given 3 acres by the award which may therefore be taken to have held that there was some foundation for the claims based on the alleged will of Ramanna junior. The fact that Ammanna who asserted the adoption of Ramanna junior and the first defendant who denied it were given equal shares shows that the arbitrators recognised the bona fides of the claims put forward on either side.
9. If the claims that were put forward were bona fide -and we are not shown how they are otherwise -it would follow that the settlement effected by Ammanna, assuming that the award is no more than that, would bind the reversioners to her husband's estate. It has been argued for the respondent-plaintiff that the provisions of the award relating to the fourth defendant are altogether outside the scope of the arbitration which could only deal with the claims put forward in the two suits, to which the present fourth defendant was not a party and that the award is thereby vitiated. As regards the provision whereby the fourth defendant was given 2 acres on the western side of R.S. No. 50 in substitution of the 2 acres on the northern side of the same number which had been previously conveyed to him by Ammanna's sale deed, the award does no more than record a transaction of exchange which was evidently brought about to facilitate a convenient division of the properties amongst the several claimants. Again, any decision as to the costs of the suits would obviously be within the jurisdiction of the arbitrators to whom they were referred, and if the costs which the arbitrators thought fit to award to Ammanna were at her instance directed to be paid by the party liable, namely, the first defendant to her financier the fourth defendant, we do not see how the arbitrators could be said to have gone beyond their jurisdiction. Moreover the exchange and the payment of Rs. 660 were agreed to by Ammanna and having regard to the circumstances in which she so agreed, we are clearly of the opinion that her consent would bind the plaintiff.
10. It has next been argued that the provision that Ammanna should take the properties allotted to her by the award with absolute rights itself shows that she was acting to her own personal advantage and not to the benefit of the estate and that consequently the compromise cannot bind the reversioners whose reversionary rights themselves are negatived by this provision. Reliance is placed in support of this argument on the decisions in Appaswami Pillai v. Thayammal : AIR1939Mad830 , and Rama Bin Santu v. Daji Bin Naru I.L.R.(1918) 43 Bom. 249. The facts in the former case are somewhat peculiar. One Swami Pillai put forward a claim to the properties of one Appa Pillai against the latter's widows on the basis of an alleged joint status between Appa Pillai's branch and his own and obtained under a compromise decree three-fourths of what was a very large estate, the widows taking the remaining one-fourth absolutely. The High Court held that ' Swami Pillai was putting forward what was to his knowledge a thoroughly unfounded and dishonest claim' and that his suit against Appa Pillai's widows was ' but a knowingly dishonest and disingenuous attempt on his part to secure Appa Pillai's estate'. Referring to the properties got by the widows themselves, the High Court held that the extent of the land and the amount of the cash received were sufficient to dispel the idea that they were reserved to them by way of maintenance and that looking to the cash alone which was very considerable, it was obvious that the widows were in the main prompted by self interest rather than by any consideration for the estate. Swami Pillai's sons were the reversioners on the death of Appa Pillai's widows and their claim to recover that part of the estate which was taken by one of the widows under the compromise with absolute rights was upheld by the High Court. Swami Pillai's sons did not of course claim through their father and were in no way estopped from questioning the validity of the transaction between him and Appa Pillai's widows. On the findings which we have outlined above we do not see how the result could possibly be otherwise. We are in substantial agreement with the reasoning in Appaswami Pillai v. Thayammal : AIR1939Mad830 , and it is unnecessary to discuss the correctness or otherwise of individual observations therein. We do not read the decision however as laying down that the mere circumstance that a widow took or was given an absolute estate in the properties allotted to her would have the effect without more of rendering the settlement invalid as between the reversioner and the rival claimant whose claim was partially recognised by the compromise so as to enable the reversioner to claim the properties allotted to the latter. It is noteworthy that in the case under discussion the learned Judges refer pointedly in more than one place to the fact that they were dealing only with the claim of the reversioners to the properties allotted to one of the widows absolutely and not with the properties allotted to Swami Pillai.
11. The case of Rama Bin Santu v. Daji Bin Naru I.L.R.(1918)43 Bom. 249 was concerned with a decree passed by consent in terms of an award between a Hindu widow and a person claiming under, a will alleged to have been executed by her deceased husband, and all that is held is that the principle of the Sivaganga case Katama Nachiar v. Rajah of Sivaganga (1863) 9 M.I.A. 539, namely, that a decree fairly obtained against a Hindu widow binds the reversioners can be applied to a consent decree passed between a Hindu widow and a rival claimant to the estate only when it is established that the consent decree was obtained in such circumstances that it ought to be regarded as a decree fairly and properly obtained. It is pointed out that the party contending that the consent decree amounts to a bar against the reversioners would not have done enough if he merely produces it and that it still remains for him to establish the circumstances which would give it that efficacy. We are unable to see how the judgment in Rama Bin Santu v. Daji Bin Naru I.L.R.(1918) 43 Bom. 249, would, having regard to the circumstances we have already dicussed, disentitle defendants 1 to 3 and their alienees from claiming that the award decree passed as between them and Ammanna was fairly and properly obtained and is therefore binding on the plaintiff.
12. It is true that a Hindu widow cannot by a compromise entered into by her with a person claiming adversely to the estate convert or enlarge her own limited estate into an absolute estate in such properties as she obtains under the compromise; but this does not mean that the compromise which gives a portion of the estate to the rival claimant in order to induce him to forbear from pursuing his claim and thereby avoids a contest which might possibly result in his getting the whole of it, is not binding as between the reversioner and the person whose claim is satisfied by a cession of part of the estate. The distinction between the claim to the properties retained by the widow and the claim to those given up by her has been pointed out in Seetharamamma v. Patta Reddi (1940) M.W.N. 14 and, is in our opinion, a sound one applicable in the circumstances of the present case.
13. It is not known and it is unnecessary to speculate how it came about that Ammanna was given an absolute estate in those properties which were allotted to her under the award notwithstanding that she was putting forward a title to them only as the widow of the last maleholder. It was possibly due to inadvertence on the part of the arbitrators. But, however, it might have happened, it seems to us clear in law that the enlargement of Ammanna's estate does not have the effect of invalidating the award decree as between the plaintiff and defendants 1 to 3, though it must be admitted that as against the plaintiff the clause conferring an absolute estate on Ammanna in the properties given to her can have no legal force or validity and his claim to those properties must be viewed as if there was no such clause . It follows therefore that the plaintiff has no valid claim to the properties allotted to defendats 1, 2 and 3 in pursuance of the decree in O.S. No. 8 of 1920. His suit therefore fails as regards those properties and as against defendants who are interested in them.
14. So far as the fourth defendant is concerned, it is not suggested that the exchange of 2 acres on the western side of R.S. No. 50 for 2 acres on the northern side of the same survey number is not a prudent transaction binding on the estate. Obviously it is, as the exchange facilitated the convenient division of the properties as between the several parties to O.S. No. 8 of 1920. But it is argued that the sale deed executed by Ammanna in favour of the fourth defendant on 3rd December 1918 is itself not binding on the plaintiff. It is claimed on the other side that the fourth defendant helped Ammanna in fighting out the litigations against her relations who were claiming the entirety of the estate for themselves and that an arrangement for remunerating the fourth defendant for his services would therefore be binding on the reversion. The Courts below however have not dealt with this part of the case nor with the validity or otherwise of the other alienations by way of conveyances or Court sales of the properties which were allotted to Ammanna under the decree in O.S. No. 8 of 1920.
15. The appeals are allowed to the extent indicated above. Defendants 9, 13 and 14 will have their costs in all Courts from out of the plaintiff's estate. Costs of all proceedings as between the plaintiff and the other defendants will abide and follow the result of the suit. In other respects the order of remand of the lower appellate Court is maintained.