1. The short question for decision in this appeal is whether the respondent forfeits her right to property which she obtained under a deed of settlement Exhibit P-1 executed in her favour by the appellant on 7th June, 1938. The appellant Bangaru Reddi and one Sundara Reddi were undivided brothers. The plaintiff-respondent was married to Sundara Reddi in August, 1937. Unfortunately, Sundara Reddi died in April, 1938, leaving the plaintiff (still a minor) a widow. The deed in question was executed by the appellant in favour of the minor respondent represented by her guardian and father one Govinda Reddi. In September, 1941, the plaintiff married one Viswanatha Reddi. In December, 1941, the appellant issued a notice to her alleging that she had forfeited her right to the property settled on her on account of her re-marriage. The respondent was compelled to file the suit out of which this second appeal arises in respect of one of the items of property for a declaration that the property belongs to her and for possession free from the obstruction of the defendant. The learned District Munsiff dismissed the suit but on appeal the learned District Judge has granted a decree in her favour. The first defendant appeals.
2. The learned advocate for the appellant first contended that under Section 2 of the Hindu Widows' Re-marriage Act (XV of 1856) the plaintiff forfeited her right to the property. Section 2 runs as follows:
All rights and interests which any widow may have in her deceased husband's property by way of maintenance, or by inheritance to her husband or to his lineal successors, or by virtue of any will or testamentary disposition conferring upon her, without express permission, to re-marry, only a limited interest in such property, with no power of alienating the same, shall upon her remarriage cease and determine as if she had then died; and the next heirs of her deceased husband, or other persons entitled to the property on her death, shall thereupon succeed to the same.
3. It is clear that this section has no effect on property belonging to the widow absolutely on the date of the re-marriage. The rights and interests which she may have in her deceased husband's property by way of maintenance obviously refer to recurring rights as for example to payment of maintenance by the enforcement of a charge on her deceased husband's property. In the case of wills and other testamentary dispositions it is only the limited interest that ceases and determines. In my opinion the words, ' as if she had then died ' supply the criterion for adjudicating on the rights and disabilities of the widow on re-marriage. All the results which would follow the re-marriage are results which would ensue if she had died on the date of the re-marriage. In other words, if she had only a limited and life interest then that would cease; but if she had an absolute estate that would not cease. In fact, the learned advocate for the appellant very properly did not lay such stress on this section in support of his case.
4. The next contention was that under the settlement deed the property must be deemed to have continued to form part of her husband's estate and the widow did not have a full and absolute estate, an estate which for example would be taken after her by her stridhana heirs.
5. Two decisions were relied on by him but before I deal with them it is necessary to refer to the relevant provisions of the deed itself. The document recites the marriage of the plaintiff and the death of her husband and the fact that she is entitled to get maintenance from the family of the settlor, and that it had been arranged by mediators that certain properties mentioned therein belonging to the executant should be settled on her. The document then goes on to say:
You shall take these properties and enjoy them from this day onwards till you attain majority and shall after you attain majority hold and enjoy them absolutely with powers of alienation by way of gift, exchange, sale, etc.
In the face of the language used in the operative portion of the document I think it will be extravagant to contend that an absolute estate was not conferred on the plaintiff under the document. There is no ground to restrict her power of alienation to occasions when she has a necessity which would justify an alienation by a limited owner. Nor is there a condition that the absolute title vested in her would be divested on the happening of any subsequent event like re-marriage.
6. It is clear that when property is conveyed absolutely to a widow by coparceners of her deceased husband in final quit and satisfaction of her claim to maintenance such a transaction would not be affected by her re-marriage. In Arunachalam Chetty v. Seshiah Chetty : AIR1938Mad994 it was held by Wadsworth, J., that when the coparceners of the husband of a Hindu widow settled with her guardian her claim to maintenance during all her lifetime at a fixed sum in satisfaction of which a promissory note was executed by them to the uncle as her guardian and the widow re-married subsequently, the widow did not forfeit her claims to the amount represented by the promissory note by virtue of Section 2 of the Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act. The learned Judge says at page 703:
There is a completed contract whereby the coparceners of the deceased husband taking into consideration the uncertainty of the future claims which the widow might make, compounded for those claims by a fixed sum which was treated as having been paid by the substitution for the actual payment of a promissory note executed by the defendants to the uncle of the widow. When once this promissory note and this discharge document have been executed, the widow no longer has any interest in her husband's estate.
In the present case the conveyance of the two items of property under the settlement deed takes the place of the promissory note in that case.
7. The first decision relied on by the learned advocate for the appellant is reported in Debi Mongol Prasad Singh v. Mahadeo Prasad Singh (1911) 22 M.L.J. 462 : L.R. 39 IndAp 121 : I.L.R. 34 All.234(P.C). Their Lordships of the Judicial Committee held that a mother in a joint Hindu family who is given a share of family property at a partition among the coparceners, does not get an absolute estate in such a share but it must be deemed to have been given to her for her life. The ratio decidendi of that case is to be found at page 242 where their Lordships point out that if the share is given to her as a substitute for that to which she would be entitled upon inheritance then she would not obtain an absolute estate. If, on the other hand, it was given to her by way of provision for her maintenance it is equally reasonable to hold that she only obtained a life estate. This decision has no bearing on the facts of the present case.
8. The next decision is that of the Calcutta High Court reported in Mahomed Umar v. Man Koer (1917) 40 1.C. 783 in which the terms of an ekrarnama executed by and between three women who stood in the relation of two daughters-in-law and a daughter of the propositus were considered and on a construction of the document and the circumstances attendant on its execution it was held that the property which fell to the share of one of the widows under the document would be forfeited on her re-marriage. But the distinguishing feature of that case is that the document was executed by and between the persons who were not competent to confer on each other an absolute estate. None of the parties to that ekrarnama was an absolute owner. It follows, therefore, that viewed either as a provision for maintenance or as a convenient method of enjoying the share of the inheritance, the arrangement could not enlarge the limited nature of the estate to which the parties were entitled. In the present case, on the other hand, the executant was full owner of the properties and was entitled to confer an absolute estate on the respondent: and that was what he purported to convey under Ex. P-1.
9. In my opinion the learned District Judge was right in his conclusion and the second appeal is dismissed with costs.