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Depuru Veeraraghava Reddi Vs. Depuru Kamalamma and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty;Civil
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 1409 of 1946
Judge
Reported inAIR1951Mad403; (1950)IIMLJ575
ActsEvidence Act, 1872 - Sections 21, 101, 103 and 115
AppellantDepuru Veeraraghava Reddi
RespondentDepuru Kamalamma and anr.
Appellant AdvocateAdv. General and ;A.N. Veeraraghavan, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateK. Umamaheswaram, Adv.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredDharam Kunwar v. Balwant Singh
Excerpt:
.....with respect to truth of adoption shifted on defendant - defendant has given reasonably acceptable explanation of statements made by her - elements necessary to constitute estoppel lacking - defendant not estopped or debarred from disputing truth and validity of plaintiff's adoption. - - he had lauded properties in other villages aa well. there was also reference to succession to the estate by a son to be adopted to him in the event of failure of issue, either male or female, of rami reddi, a posthu-mous female child was born but died after a few days of its birth. in a case like the present, where the plaintiff is not a patty to any deed and the statement relied upon is unilateral there is no estoppel by deec and the party making the admission may give evidence to rebut the..........the plaintiff's claim was based on his adoption by defendant 1, widow of the deceased depuru rami reddi, who was the original owner of the properties described in the plaint. it is common ground that rami reddi left a will, ex. p-1, dated 19-7.1921 disposing of his properties in the manner therein set out. rami reddi was the owner of landed properties situated in the village of mahimalur of which he was also the hereditary village headman. he had lauded properties in other villages aa well. he died on 26-7-1921 leaving behind him his two widows, venkamma and kamalamma. the first wife, venkamma had been living apart from rami reddi for some years before his death and a separate pro-vision for her maintenance had also been made by rami reddi during his lifetime. the will ex. p-1,.....
Judgment:

Viswanatha Sastri, J.

1. The plaintiff is the appellant in this second appeal. The suit was filed for recovery of possession of the immovable and movable properties described in the plaint. The plaintiff's claim was based on his adoption by defendant 1, widow of the deceased Depuru Rami Reddi, who was the original owner of the properties described in the plaint. It is common ground that Rami Reddi left a will, Ex. P-1, dated 19-7.1921 disposing of his properties in the manner therein set out. Rami Reddi was the owner of landed properties situated in the village of Mahimalur of which he was also the hereditary village headman. He had lauded properties in other villages aa well. He died on 26-7-1921 leaving behind him his two widows, Venkamma and Kamalamma. The first wife, Venkamma had been living apart from Rami Reddi for some years before his death and a separate pro-vision for her maintenance had also been made by Rami Reddi during his lifetime. The will Ex. P-1, makes a provision for Kamalamma, the second wife of Rami Reddi and in favour of the child to be born to her who was enceinte on the date of the execution of the will. There was also reference to succession to the estate by a son to be adopted to him in the event of failure of issue, either male or female, of Rami Reddi, A posthu-mous female child was born but died after a few days of its birth. The construction of this will, Ex. P-1, viewed as an authority to his wife to adopt, has been the subject of a difference of opinion between the two Courts which have tried the suit but for the reasons which we shall state presently, it is, not necessary to decide whether the view of the trial Court or that of the appellate Court is correct.

2. The plaintiff's case is that, pursuant to the authority given to defendant 1 by Rami Reddi, she adopted him and treated him as her adopted son. He therefore claims that he has succeeded to the estate of Rami Reddi as adopted sou. Defendant l denies that she ever adopted the plaintiff. She also pleads that the will, Ex. P-1, on its true construction and in the events that have happened, did not authorise the adoption. The learned Subordinate Judge held that the adoption was true in fact but invalid in law, and dismissed the suit. On appeal, the learned District Judge was of the opinion that Ex. P-1 was of sufficient amplitude to permit of an adoptionbeing made by defendant 1 in the events that have happened but found against the truth of the adoption of the plaintiff by the widow of Rami Reddi. He commented upon the several infirmative circumstances in the ease and the serious discrepancies in the evidence adduced by the plaintiff in support of the adoption set up by him and came to the emphatic conclusion that the adoption was not established. Mr. Veera-raghavan for the appellant tried to challenge this finding of fact of the learned District Judge but having considered the whole of the evidence we find it impossible to say that the finding is either erroneous in law or perverse. The case must therefore proceed on the footing that there was no adoption in fact.

3. The learned Advocate-General who ap-peared at an earlier stage of the case argued that whatever may be the ultimate decision of the Court as regards the truth or validity of the adoption in a suit between the adopted son and the reversioners to the estate of Rami Reddi, so far as the widow was concerned, she was per. sonally estopped from disputing the truth and validity of the plaintiff's adoption. This plea of estoppel is founded solely on certain admissions stated to have been made by defendant 1 soon after the death of Eami Eeddi. To these admissions we shall presently refer. Issues 6, 7 and 8 raise the question of estoppel but during the course of the trial before the learned Subordinate Judge, as stated in para. 36 of his judgment, the plaintiff's counsel chose not to press the issues relating to estoppel. There is no trace of this point having been presented to the learned District Judge on appeal and his judgment is silent on this question. Though it may not, strictly speaking, be open to the appellant to raise this point in second appeal, we have heard argu. ments on this question. We shall now indicate out conclusion on this part of the case.

4. Reliance has been placed on the statements of defendant 1 in connection with the appointment of a successor to the office of village headman in succession to Rami Reddi, Defendant 2 was a relation of defendant 1 the widow of Rami Reddi and had been appointed along with another, as her adviser and the manager of her properties under the terms of the will, EX. P. 1. The present plaintiff is no other than the nephew of defendant 2 who was himself isaueless, under the advice of Vakati-narasimha Reddi, defendant 2, and with the object of securing the office of village headman to the plaintiff, then a minor, and enabling defendant 2 to act as a proxy for the minor, certain representations were made by the widow to the revenue authorities in connection with the office of village headman. Exhibit P. 2 isa petition and Ex. P. 4 and Ex. P. 22 are the statements of the widow, defendant 1, in connection with the appointment of a successor to her husband to the office of village headman of Mahimalur. In all these three documents, there is an admission by defendant 1 that she had adopted the plaintiff pursuant to her husband's authority given to her under Ex. P. 1 and this admission is coupled with a request that the plaintiff, then a minor, might be appointed to the office of village headman and defendant 2 might be appointed to act for him during his minority. The plaintiff whose right to the office was recognised on the strength of these representations during his minority became a major in 1939 and entered upon the duties of the office himself. Till then defendant 2 was acting for him.

5. There is no doubt that the admissions in Exs. P. 2, P. 4 and P. 22 shifted the onus of proof with respect to the truth of the adoption on to defendant 1. Normally, the burden of proving his adoption would be on plaintiff 1 who claims to be the adopted son of Rami Reddi. But the admissions of defendant l that she had adopted the plaintiff shifted the onus on to her on the principle of Slatterle v. Pooley, (1840) 6 M. & W. 664 : 151 E. R. 579 'that what a party himself admits to be true may reasonably be presumed to be so.' Until this presumption is rebutted the fact ad. mitted must be taken to be true. Reliance is placed by the learned Advocate-General on this principle as supporting his plea of estoppel. This is not a case where there is a statement in a deed which all the parties to the deed who are sui juris have mutually agreed to admit as true and which is invoked as a basis for the application of the principle of estoppel. In a case like the present, where the plaintiff is not a patty to any deed and the statement relied upon is unilateral there is no estoppel by deec and the party making the admission may give evidence to rebut the presumption arising from such a statement. If that is not satisfactorily done, the fact admitted must be taken to be established. (Chandrakunwar v. Narpat Singh, 29 ALL. 184 : 34 I. A. 27 P. C.With reference to admissions made by one of the parties to a suit, as in this case, the party making the admission is at liberty to prove that such admissions were mistaken or were untrue and is not estopped or concluded by them unless another person has been induced by them to alter his condition. This principle has been laid down by the Judicial Committee in clear terms in the case above cited. The explanation which has been given and which has been accepted by the learned District Judge for the statements contained in Exs. P. 2, P . 4 and P. 22 is (hat defendant 2 who was constituted the adviser of defendant 1 under the will of Rami Reddi, Ex. P. 1, was interested in the plaintiff who was no other than his own nephew and that he wanted the office of village headman to remain in his own Vakati family after it had fallen vacant by the death of Rami Reddi, his widow, defendant 1, not being fit to hold the office. This is not an unacceptable explanation. Defendant 1 who is an illiterate marksman stated that all that she was asked to agree to by defendant 2 was to the appointment of the plaintiff, then a minor, as a village headman in succession to her husband with defendant 2 as a proxy and that she was not responsible for the recitals as to adoption found in Exs. P. 2, P. 4 and p. 22.

6. Admissions are relevant bat not conclusive under Section 21, Evidence Act, and their evidentiary value varies with the circumstances attending the admission. In Venkatapathiraju v. Venkatanarasimha Raju , the Judicial Committee observe at p. 12 :

'It sometimes happens that persons make statements which serve their purpose or proceed upon ignorance of the true position; and it is not their statements but their relations with the estate, which should be taken into consideration in determining the issue.'

To the same effect is the decision of the Board in Harkishen Singh v. Pratap Singh .

7. Viewing therefore these statements in Exs. P. 2, P. 4 and P. 22 as admissions of the widow they are evidence against her. But she has given a reasonably acceptable explanation of these statements which has been accepted as satisfactory by the District Judge and, in these circumstances, we cannot hold that she is estoppel or concluded by them unless the plaintiff has been induced by those state-ments to alter his condition to his prejudice or detriment. Estoppel though a branch of the law of evidence is also capable of being viewed as a substantive rule of law in so far as it helps to create or defeat rights which would not exist or be taken away but for that doctrine it involves a combination of several essential ele-ments; the representation or statement to be acted upon, action on the faith of such statement and in the manner intended and resultant prejudice or detriment to the person acting. To invoke the doctrine of estoppel by representation it is necessary that in acting upon it, the party to whom it was made, should have altered his position to his prejudice--(Halsbury'a Laws of England, 2nd Edn. vol. 13, para. 547 and the oases cited in the footnote (m)). It may be that when prejudice or damage ia made out and theother circumstances are such as to create an estoppel, it is unnecessary to measure the quantum or extent of the prejudice or damage or arrive at the result that it is irreparable.

8. The learned Advocate-General placed strong reliance on the decision of the Judicial Committee in Dharam Kunwar v. Balwant Singh, 34 ALL 398: 39 I. A. 142 P. C.. In that case, a widow who made the adoption represented that she had her husband's oral authority to make successive adoptions on the death of the previously adopted sons, and on the faith of such representation, the respondent before the Board was given in adoption to the widow. The factum of adoption was established by abundant evidence and indeed was beyond controversy and the only question was as regards the existence of the authority of the husband to make an adoption. The adoptee had in many ways altered his position to his prejudice and had incurred liabilities and assumed responsibilities necessitated by his transition from his natural family to the adopted family. In these circumstances, the Judicial Committee held that though such representation and conduct on the part of the widow might not clothe the adoptee with the status of an adopted son under the Hindu law, still the widow herself waa personally estop, ped from disputing the truth and validity of the adoption. In that case, the widow had asserted her authority to adopt in the most solemn manner in a deed of adoption executed by her and her conduct both before and after that assertion had been of an unequivocal character. It was held that she could not be allowed to change her story without grave injustice to the respondent who had acted in reliance upon her deliberate and repeated representations. In the present case, the factum of adoption itself has not been proved by anything like reliable evidence. There is no evidence of any representations made by the widow to the plaintiff or his parents on the faith of which the plaintiff was transferred from his natural family to the adoptive family. The evidence as regards the faotum of adoption adduced by the plaintiff has been rightly found to be wholly unreliable. There is no plea or proof of any detriment or prejudice to the plaintiff by the statements made by defendant l in Exs. P. 2, P. 4 and P. 22 with a view to secure for him the office of village headman. The securing of the office of village headman was advantageous and beneficial to the plaintiff on account of the emoluments, recognised and unrecognised attached to that office. No on-erous obligation was cast upon him by reason of the abatement as the learned Advocate-General would contend. The elements necessary to con-stitute an estoppel are wholly lacking in thiscase and we are unable to uphold the contention of the learned Advocate-General that defendant 1 is debarred from disputing the truth and vali-dity of the plaintiff's adoption.

9. In this view we need not express any opinion as regards the construction of Ex. P. 1. For these reasons we agree with the conclusion of the learned District Judge and dismiss the second appeal with costs.


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