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Kondapalli Sudarsana Rao Vs. Putta Dalayya - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1943Mad487; (1943)1MLJ339
AppellantKondapalli Sudarsana Rao
RespondentPutta Dalayya
Cases ReferredRamanatha v. Palaniappa I.L.R.
Excerpt:
- - venkatachari placed strong reliance upon the passage quoted above as showing that the view expressed by the majority of the full bench in ramajogayya's case (1918) 36 m. 185 and relied on by this court in support of the decree which was set aside by their lordships was erroneous and can no longer be regarded as good law. if the protection were held to be purely personal to the maintenance holder, it would make it difficult for the latter to assign the arrears to another person, when the person bound to pay the maintenance failed to do so......his ' general assets ' set aside. we are not concerned, for the purposes of this case, with their lordships' decision in the appeal preferred by the plaintiff. as regards the appeal preferred by the defendant the decision on which alone is material here, their lordships disposed of it with these observations,they (i.e., the high court) also found that, as the defendant was a minor at the time of the transaction in question, he could not be held personally responsible for the payment of the debt. this finding has not been contested, and, as the claim for the personal liability of the defendant is negatived, the plaintiff is not entitled to recover the money from the ' general assets' of the defendant.they accordingly set aside the decree passed by this court against the ' general assets.....
Judgment:

Patanjali Sastri, J.

1. The facts giving rise to this second appeal are simple and not in dispute. One Appanna Dora died in 1906 having executed a will whereby he gave his widow power to adopt. The widow adopted the appellant in 1913 when he was still a minor. The natural father of the appellant acting as his guardian executed a deed of maintenance in favour of Ammanna , the mother of Appanna, on 13th April, 1914, agreeing to pay her maintenance at the rate of seven garces of paddy every year with interest at the rate of two addas per putti per month in case of default of payment on the due date. Ammanna assigned to the respondent herein the arrears of maintenance due for the four years from Promoduta to Sreemukha (both inclusive) under two assignment deeds dated 21st January, 1933, and 24th September, 1934, respectively, whereupon the respondent brought the suit for recovery of the arrears with interest, impleading the appellant who had attained majority as the first defendant and his natural father who executed the maintenance deed and his adoptive mother as defendants 2 and 3 respectively, but praying for a decree only against Appanna's estate now in the hands of the appellant. The learned Subordinate Judge of Chicacole who tried the suit decreed the claim, and the decree has been affirmed by the District Judge of Vizagapatam. Hence this second appeal.

2. Only two questions have been argued before us by Mr. Venkatachari for the appellant. He has urged, in the first place, that the contract entered into by the appellant's guardian during his minority to pay maintenance at the rate specified in the maintenance deed cannot bind the appellant personally, and that in the absence of a personal liability the decree passed against his properties is unsustainable. This contention is, however, opposed to the decision of a Full Bench of this Court in Ramajogayya v. Jagannadham (1918) 36 M.L.J. 29 : I.L.R. Mad. 185 and to several other decisions which have followed that Full Bench ruling, where it has been held that a decree can be passed against a minor's estate on a contract entered into on his behalf by his guardian if the estate would have been liable for the obligation incurred by the guardian under the personal law to which he is subject. It is not denied in this case that the appellant is liable under his personal law, i.e., the Hindu Law, to maintain his paternal grandmother Ammanna. The covenant to pay her maintenance entered into by his guardian during his minority is therefore, according to the decisions referred to above, binding upon the appellant and warrants the decree that has been passed by the Courts below. Mr. Venkatachari admitted that this would be the position but for the subsequent decision of the Privy Council in Zamindar of Polavaram v. Maharajah of Pittapur which, he maintained, has superseded these decisions. That was a case where it was found that a mortgage executed by the guardian of a minor was invalid as it was not attested as required by law, but this Court gave a decree against the minor's ' general assets ' on the basis of the guardian's covenant to pay contained in the mortgage deed, as it was not disputed for the minor that the guardian entered into the transaction for a purpose which under the Hindu Law would make it binding on the minor--see Zamindar of Polavaram v. Maharajah of Pittapur (1930) 60 M.L.J. 56 : I.L.R. Mad. 163. The learned Judges followed the Full Bench ruling referred to above. The decision of the Privy Council in Zamindar of Polavaram v. Maharajah of Pittapur was given on two consolidated appeals preferred from the decree of this Court made as aforesaid, one by the plaintiff who sought a decree for sale on the footing that the debt was a secured debt and the other by the defendant seeking to have the decree passed against his ' general assets ' set aside. We are not concerned, for the purposes of this case, with their Lordships' decision in the appeal preferred by the plaintiff. As regards the appeal preferred by the defendant the decision on which alone is material here, their Lordships disposed of it with these observations,

They (i.e., the High Court) also found that, as the defendant was a minor at the time of the transaction in question, he could not be held personally responsible for the payment of the debt. This finding has not been contested, and, as the claim for the personal liability of the defendant is negatived, the plaintiff is not entitled to recover the money from the ' general assets' of the defendant.

They accordingly set aside the decree passed by this Court against the ' general assets ' of the defendant and gave the plaintiff a charge decree as prayed for by him in his appeal. Mr. Venkatachari placed strong reliance upon the passage quoted above as showing that the view expressed by the majority of the Full Bench in Ramajogayya's case (1918) 36 M.L.J. 29 : I.L.R. Mad. 185 and relied on by this Court in support of the decree which was set aside by their Lordships was erroneous and can no longer be regarded as good law. Mr. Venkatachari also drew our attention to the fact that Ramajogayy's case (1918) 36 M.L.J. 29 : I.L.R. Mad. 185 was referred to by learned Counsel for appellant before their Lordships, although no reference was made to it in their judgment, and submitted that the decision must be deemed to have been overruled by necessary implication. It is no doubt true that the decree granted by this Court against the ' general assets ' of the minor was based upon the decision of the majority of the Full Bench in Rarnajogayya''s case (1918) 36 M.L.J. 29 : I.L.R. Mad. 185 and that it was vacated by their Lordships. But after a careful reading of the judgments of the learned Judges Zamindar of Polavaram v. Maharajah of Pittapur (1930) 60 M.L.J. 56 : I.L.R. Mad. 163 we are unable to discover any warrant for the view that the learned Judges found that the defendant could not be held personally responsible for the payment of the debt incurred by his guardian during his minority. This position, however, appears to have been conceded before their Lordships and it was held to follow as a corollary, that the plaintiff could not get a decree against the ' general assets ' of the defendant. We find it difficult to accept the suggestion that the brief pronouncement made on such a view of the matter presented to their Lordships was intended to overrule the Full Bench decision in Rarnajogayya's case (1918) 36 M.L.J. 29 : I.L.R. Mad. 185. We share the view expressed in the latest edition of Mayne's Hindu Law with reference to the decision of their Lordships.

In Zamindar of Polavaram v. Maharajah of Pitapur the Privy Council, reversing the decision of the Madras High Court, held that where a minor is not personally responsible for the payment of the debt, no decree against the ' general assets ' could be given. It does not however appear that the Privy Council intended to overrule the decision in Rarnajogayya's case (1918) 36 M.L.J. 29 : I.L.R. Mad. 185 which was cited before it. The observations probably proceeded on the special facts of the case.

The Full Bench ruling has been regarded as settled law in this Presidency, and even after their Lordships' decision in Zamindar of Polavaram v. Maharajah of Pittapur has been followed by two different benches of this Court, namely, by the Chief Justice and Krishnaswami Ayyangar, J., in Annamalai v. Muthuswami (1918) 36 M.L.J. 29 : I.L.R. Mad. 185 and by Pand-rang Row and Krishnaswami Ayyangar, JJ., in Ramanatha v. Palaniappa I.L.R. (1939) Mad. 776 though, it must be admitted, the decision of the Privy Council was not referred to in these cases as it was considered, presumably not to have the effect now sought to be attributed to it. These subsequent decisions are in any case binding upon us and we cannot agree with Mr. Venkatachari that they should be disregarded as not laying down the law correctly. Following these decisions we must hold that the decree passed by the Courts below directing that the ,amount claimed by the respondent should be recovered from the properties in the hands of the appellant is in accordance with law.

3. The second contention of Mr. Venkatachari relates to the appellant's claim to have the liability in question scaled down in accordance with the provisions of the Madras Agriculturists' Relief Act. It is not disputed that the appellant-is an agriculturist within the meaning of that Act. But the appellant's claim to relief thereunder is resisted by the respondent on the ground that the liability is exempted from the operation of the Act by Section 4 (g) which enacts,

Nothing in this Act : shall affect debts and liabilities of an agriculturist falling under the following beads:

* * *

(g) any liability in respect of maintenance whether under decree of Court or otherwise.

Mr. Venkatachari contends that this provision covers only liabilities due to a person who is entitled to be maintained and is inapplicable to the claim of an assignee of arrears of maintenance who can recover the amount only as an ordinary debt due to him. In support of this contention Mr. Venkatachari drew attention to the several clauses of this section where exemption is obviously based upon grounds which have reference to the individual character or status of the creditor. While this is true in the case of many of the exemptions referred to in the section, it is also clear that in some cases the exemption is not based on such grounds. In Clause (f) for instance, the exemption is grounded upon the origin of the liability and in Clause (d) upon the nature of the security. It cannot, therefore, be said generally that the exemptions in Section 4 are grounded upon the character or status of the creditor. We consider that the wording of Clause (g) is wide enough to cover the claims not only of persons who are entitled to be maintained but also of assignees from them of their right to recover arrears of maintenance. If the protection were held to be purely personal to the maintenance holder, it would make it difficult for the latter to assign the arrears to another person, when the person bound to pay the maintenance failed to do so. It seems to us more reasonable to construe the clause as extending the protection to all persons who seek to enforce a liability which arose out of a non-fulfilment of an obligation to maintain. It follows that the appellant is not entitled to claim that the liability sued for should be scaled down under the Act.

4. The appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.


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