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Katragadda Venkayya and ors. Vs. K. Narasimhacharyulu and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported in(1938)1MLJ33
AppellantKatragadda Venkayya and ors.
RespondentK. Narasimhacharyulu and ors.
Cases ReferredGurumurthi Aiyar v. Subramaniam
Excerpt:
- - 3. the plaintiff's father subadranachari was a sri vaishnava brahmin and a well-read sanskrit scholar. 6. in our opinion the plaintiff has signally failed to make out that any of the sales impeached by him is liable to be set aside......wasted his property. it has been forgotten that the rule of exemption from payment of illegal and immoral debts, engrafted on the substantive pious obligation doctrine, contains in itself the necessary safeguard, that direct connection should be shown between the debt and the immorality set up. ignoring this simple principle, the judge (who, by the way, was different from the judge who heard the case) adopted a wrong method of approach and wrote a judgment of inordinate length, filled with a mass of irrelevant detail. this has rendered a prolonged investigation on our own part necessary.3. the plaintiff's father subadranachari was a sri vaishnava brahmin and a well-read sanskrit scholar. his own father died in 1891 leaving some landed property and some debt when he was about 25 years.....
Judgment:

Venkatasubba Rao, J.

1. This suit, euphemistically termed a partition suit, although there was not a cent of land to partition, was brought by the plaintiff as against as many as nearly 100 defendants, for the purpose of recovering several items of property alienated by his father. This was a harassing and blackmailing suit which, in view of the extreme vagueness of the plaint, ought not to have been allowed, in the absence of full particulars which ought to have been insisted upon, having regard to the settled law on the point, to proceed to trial at all. Several families, some of humble status, have, there can be no doubt, been ruined by this litigation. It is not a little surprising that the lower Court has, casting to the winds all principles of law and of procedure, thought fit to pass a decree in the plaintiff's favour.

2. This suit is true to type. The complaisant father, who stirred up the son, was impleaded as the first defendant. Some of his near relations, who, though being alienees, profited by the father's so-called profligacy, were conveniently left out and actively aided the plaintiff in the conduct of the suit (see paragraph 42 of the judgment). When titles were questioned of about a hundred persons, a bare averment in the plaint was thought sufficient, that the father led an immoral life by keeping concubines and wasted his property. It has been forgotten that the rule of exemption from payment of illegal and immoral debts, engrafted on the substantive pious obligation doctrine, contains in itself the necessary safeguard, that direct connection should be shown between the debt and the immorality set up. Ignoring this simple principle, the judge (who, by the way, was different from the judge who heard the case) adopted a wrong method of approach and wrote a judgment of inordinate length, filled with a mass of irrelevant detail. This has rendered a prolonged investigation on our own part necessary.

3. The plaintiff's father Subadranachari was a Sri Vaishnava Brahmin and a well-read Sanskrit scholar. His own father died in 1891 leaving some landed property and some debt when he was about 25 years old. The wife, whom he had married during his father's lifetime, died somewhere about the year 1896. He tried to marry again, but the girl of his choice refused to accept him, on the score, that he had lost his looks owing to an attack of small-pox. In 1898 he came in contact with a Sudra girl named Anjani, a maiden then, belonging to a wandering tribe of street-actors. Her father was persuaded to hand her over to him, by the execution of a formal document, and ever since then to the end of their common lives, they remained faithful and devoted to each other. It has been contended by the learned Advocate-General that the dedication of this girl - so it is seated in the document - to this high-class Brahmin, in pursuance of a supposed vow of her father, amounted to a legal marriage. This argument has become possible by reason of Anjani's evidence given in the box (apparently she was not willing even then to debase herself) on behalf of the plaintiff, to the effect that there was a real marriage, which the appellants rightly claim, to be an admission binding upon him. There can of course be no legal impediment to such a union, which would under the Hindu Law texts be a Anuloma marriage Morarji v. Administrator-General, Madras : (1928)55MLJ478 . The learned Judge curiously enough does not deal with the question of fact which this raises; but there can be no doubt whatsoever, that there was in fact no marriage, and that the legal document executed was intended to mask the true nature of the transaction, namely, the irrevocable handing over of the girl to the first defendant. The fact was, that the latter wanted to strengthen his position against eventualities, should civil or criminal proceedings be instituted. The case therefore must go upon the footing of there having been an irregular union, not amounting to a marriage in law. To continue the narrative, the first defendant married a second wife in 1899 and had by her, a son, the plaintiff, and a daughter with whom we are not concerned. Anjani, however, was prolific having borne ten children by 1910 (with the subsequent period we are not concerned), during which year, the first defendant parted with the remnant of his property. Although the Judge refers to this man as notoriously profligate, his life with Anjani was the only lapse that has been proved - the gravamen of the charge against him being, that although his normal family was limited to four members, he was obliged by this commitment to support an extra dozen. The rule of pious obligation was conceived for the father's spiritual benefit; but the unscrupulous son, as if to parody the doctrine, thinks it his pious duty, when launching a suit of this sort, to make his father appear as depraved as possible and to that end he calls him a sensualist, a drunkard and a gambler. In this case, though typical in other respects, the vice of drinking was not imputed to the man; but reckless charges were made in regard to the other two matters, it being suggested that he gambled freely and kept women at each of the half a dozen towns or villages he visited. These charges, as already indicated, have not been in the least made out. On the contrary, what emerges from the evidence is, that on the introduction of the canal system in 1895, he started improving his existing land, converting it to wet and buying fresh land, and for these purposes, borrowed money and spent it lavishly. Moreover, there were four deaths in the family in the course of two years after his father's demise, which landed him in expense. In addition to this, he incurred expenditure in dismantling his old house and building a new garden house and in getting his second marriage performed (see D.W. 3's evidence). The learned Judge concedes that not even in the case of a single sale out of those impeached, has the connection between the transaction and the alleged immorality been shown. As will be seen presently, wherever a sale has been supported by an antecedent debt, its existence has been proved beyond doubt and more than that, as the recitals in the documents show, each of them has been proved to have been incurred for a legitimate purpose. In spite of this, the learned Judge, adopting what he chooses to call a process of exclusion, set aside the transactions. He argues in this way: the first defendant was living with Anjani; ergo he was a notorious profligate. It is unlikely that legitimate purposes could have exhausted his wealth, Therefore the money that he borrowed must have been spent in connection with his immoral life. This method of treatment has in numerous cases been deprecated. It has been held in Sri Narain v. Lala Raghubans Rai 1912 25 M.L.J. 27 : 17 C.W.N. (P.C.) that the mere fact of a person being of immoral habits does not raise any inference connecting the particular debt with his immoral conduct. In their judgment that has been approved by the Privy Council, the learned Judges (Sir John Stanley, C.J. and Bannerji, J.) observe:

It has been repeatedly held that some connection must be shown between the debt and the father's immorality.

4. The theory of the elimination or exclusion, relied on and applied by the lower Court, has been expressly negatived in this case, the learned Judges finding that in spite of the general evidence of immorality, the plain indications were, that the debts were incurred for the necessities of the joint family (see page 127). Again, in the recent case of Shyam Narain v. Suraj Narain (1932) 64 M.L.J. 148 (P.C.) their Lordships of the Judicial Committee observe that all that had been shown there was to establish a general charge of immorality, and go on to say that that is not sufficient, 'as has been said more than once by this Board.' Here then is a solution of the conflict between the father's undoubted power and the son's right to call in question the other's alienation. The rule which the abovementioned cases formulate, while protecting the son's right as far as possible, is designed to prevent ill-advised and reckless attacks. The judgment of the Court below, on its own showing, has ignored this principle and applied to the facts the very opposite of it. However, as already hinted, we have independently examined each alienation with a view to test whether it can be supported. It may be stated that the lower Court seeks to find support for its view, in some observations of Kumaraswami Sastry, J., in Gurumurthi Aiyar v. Subramaniam (1924) 107 I.C. 401 which, with great respect, are opposed (as shown above) to the law as declared by the Privy Council.

5. Then, another question has been raised, whether the maintaining of his illegitimate children by the Brahmin father could in law be termed an immoral purpose. In view of our decision on the main question, it is unnecessary to deal with this point.

6. In our opinion the plaintiff has signally failed to make out that any of the sales impeached by him is liable to be set aside. We shall now proceed to consider the case of each sale in the light of the evidence adduced.

7. The sales fall under two groups: (i) those supported by antecedent debts and (ii) those effected for necessity. We shall deal in the first instance with the sales falling under the first group.

First Group:* * * *

Second Group:* * * *

8. The lower Court's finding in respect of each of these sales (falling under the second group) is reversed and everyone of them is confirmed.

9. The result of our judgment is that all the sales falling under both the groups have been confirmed. The appeal is thus fully allowed with costs throughout.


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