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Andal Ammal and anr. Vs. Sivaprakasa Sethurayar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 1456 of 1959
Judge
Reported inAIR1963Mad452
ActsHindu Succession Act, 1956 - Sections 14(1)
AppellantAndal Ammal and anr.
RespondentSivaprakasa Sethurayar and ors.
Appellant AdvocateR. Ramamurthi Aiyar, ;Yegnaraman and ;V. Swaminathan, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateK.S. Desikan, ;K. Raman, ;V. Jagatrakshaka Aiyangar and ;V. Meenakshi Sundaram, Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredSm. Chowli v. Hansa
Excerpt:
.....about reversionary relationship - defendant cannot claim benefit of act of 1956 for asserting absolute rights to property - in view of precedents defendant cannot get absolute right under section 14 (1) - no infirmity in order passed by court below - appeal liable to be dismissed. - - she lived to a good old age and died on 13-11-1955. her daughter, kasturi ammal, predeceased her and kasturi animal's daughter, andal ammal is the first defendant. this sale deed is not binding on the plaintiffs as it was not supported by legal necessity, and by good and valid consideration. he failed to note that the main contention on the side of the defendants was that vythilinga sethurayar, the husband of chinnathal, was not the son of veeraya sethurayar, the son's son of the ancestor, rama..........ammal, in the year 1922, and by virtue of act xxx of 1956, chinnathal must be deemed to be the absolute owner. in any event, if chinnathal is not to be considered as the absolute owner on the ground that she died prior to coming into force of act xxx of 1956, the first defendant as a woman in possession would get absolute rights in the properties, under section 14(1) of the above act. she also pleaded that the alienations challenged by the plaintiffs were for necessary purposes and were binding on the estate. during the pendency of the second appeal, a compromise was entered into between the appellants and respondents 3, 5 and 6 in the second appeal, who are the third plaintiff and the sixth and seventh defendants. but that compromise was stated to be subject to the result in the.....
Judgment:

Ramakrishnan, J.

1. The appellants herein are the defendants 1 and 5 in O. S. 26 of 1958 on the file of the learned Subordinate Judge, Kumbakonam, a suit for declaration of the plaintiffs' title to the plaint-schedule properties and for recovery of possession with past and future mesne profits. The prior facts necessary for a consideration of the second appeal can now be put down. The plaintiffs rely upon a genealogical tree appended to the plaint A schedule.

2. It is common ground that the spit properties were owned by Vaithilinga Sethurayar who died several years ago leaving behind a son, Kulandayya Veerayyan, widow Chinnathal, and a daughter, Kasturi Ammal. This Kulandayya Veerayyan died in 1900, unmarried. Therefore he was the last male owner of the properties. On his death Chinnathal succeeded to the properties. She lived to a good old age and died on 13-11-1955. Her daughter, Kasturi Ammal, predeceased her and Kasturi Animal's daughter, Andal Ammal is the first defendant. The plaintiffs relying on the genealogical tree abovementioned claim along with defendants 6 and 7 to be the nearest reversioners of the last male owner, minor Kulandayya Veerayyan. They filed the present suit in 1958, seeking for the recovery of possession of the property. They alleged that Andal Ammal is in possession of the bulk of the properties without having any right to them. The fifth defendant is the alienee of some items from Chinnathal. This sale deed is not binding on the plaintiffs as it was not supported by legal necessity, and by good and valid consideration. Defendants 2 and 4 are in possession of certain items of the plaint-schedule property, but their title would not prevail as against that of the plaintiff, in those items. Plaintiffs 1 and 4 are entitled to two-thirds share in the plaint-schedule properties, and the remaining one-third share belonged to defendants 6 and 7. Since the defendants 6 and 7 refused to join the plaintiffs, they have been impleaded as defendants.

3. The first defendant, Andal Ammal, denied that the plaintiffs were the nearest reversioners of the last male holder and asserted that they were not entitled to maintain the suit. The genealogical tree in the plaint A schedule is not correct. In the lifetime of Chinnathal, there were two suits filed by the reversioners for reliefs against her. In the earlier suit, O. S. Nos. 496 and 497 of 1906, on the file of the District Munsif, Tiruvayaru, the reversionery relationship shown by the plaint mentioned genealogical tree has been disbelieved and it is not proper for the plaintiffs to reagitate the matter once again. No doubt, there was a subsequent suit filed by the reversioners in O. S. No. 245 of 1910, on the file of the District Munsif, Thiruvayaru where the relationship mentioned in the plaint A schedule genealogical tree was affirmed; but according to the first defendant, the decision in the earlier suit is the proper decision and should be relied upon. The first defendant asserted further that she has been in possession of most of the plaint schedule items ever since the death of her mother, Kasturi Ammal, in the year 1922, and by virtue of Act XXX of 1956, Chinnathal must be deemed to be the absolute owner. In any event, if Chinnathal is not to be considered as the absolute owner on the ground that she died prior to coming into force of Act XXX of 1956, the first defendant as a woman in possession would get absolute rights in the properties, under Section 14(1) of the above Act. She also pleaded that the alienations challenged by the plaintiffs were for necessary purposes and were binding on the estate. During the pendency of the second appeal, a compromise was entered into between the appellants and respondents 3, 5 and 6 in the second appeal, who are the third plaintiff and the sixth and seventh defendants. But that compromise was stated to be subject to the result in the second appeal.

4. The principal question that arises in this suit is whether the plaintiffs have established their claim as reversioners to the estate of the last male owner Kulandai Veerayyan, as per the genealogical tree filed by them. The trial court upheld the plaintiffs' version about the reversionary relationship. It also negatived the claim of the first defendant to be the absolute owner of the properties by virtue of Act XXX of 1956. Accordingly a decree was passed in favour of the plaintiffs. The claim of the other defendants to particular items of the suit properties was negatived and the suit was decreed as prayed for with a direction for future mesne profits to be determined under Order X Rule 12 C. P. C. From the above decision, the first and the fifth defendants filed Ap. No. 41 of 1959 before the learned District Judge, West Tanjore, and the 4th defendant filed Ap. No. 88 of 1959. The learned District Judge upheld the claim of the plaintiffs in the suit in regard to the reversionership, and also upheld the finding that the first defendant cannot claim the benefit of Act XXX of 1956 for asserting the absolute rights to the property. The appeal, Ap. No. 41 of 1959, was dismissed and App. No. 88 of 1959 was also dismissed. But we, are not concerned with last mentioned appeal. The first and the fifth defendants have filed the second appeal only from the decision in Ap. No. 41 of 1959.

5. The main points urged by the appellants before me are the following : In proceeding to determine the reversionership of the plaintiffs, the learned District Judge made a wrong assumption that both the parties were agreed on the correctness of the plaint mentioned genealogical tree except in regard to the question whether Kasturi Sethurayar and Kulandai Sethurayar shown as the top-most link of the chain were brothers. He failed to note that the main contention on the side of the defendants was that Vythilinga Sethurayar, the husband of Chinnathal, was not the son of Veeraya Sethurayar, the son's son of the ancestor, Rama Sethurayar, shown in the pedigree, but that he was adopted by another Veerayya Sethurayar of the East Street. Such a plea was urged in paragraphs 4 and 5 of the first defendant's written statement. The learned District Judge also failed to give proper weight to the decision in O. S. Nos. 496 and 497 of 1906, on the file of the District Munsif of Thiruvayaru on this question of reversionership. It was urged that on the other hand, excessive reliance had been placed on Ex. A-1, the judgment of the District Munsif in O. S. No. 245 of 1910, even though it was recognised that the judgment would not operate as res judicata. In particular the deposition of one Subbammal in O. S. No. 245 of 1910 marked as Ex. A 21 in the present suit, was inadmissible in evidence either under Section 32(5) or Section 33 of the Indian Evidence Act. Reliance on this inadmissible piece of evidence vitiated the decision of both the courts. It was also stressed that it Ex. A 21 were to be admitted in evidence toprove the reversionary relationship, the courts below should have also admitted Exs. B. 6 to B. 12 the depositions of certain witnesses given in the earlier reversionary suit of 1906, which would disprove the present plaintiffs version about their reversionaryship. It was next urged that Exs. A. 6 to A. 10 which were mere statements in the cause title of certain early suits are irrelevant and inadmissible, because they were not between the same parties, and they could not be admitted in evidence as correct statement of the relationship of the parties mentioned therein. It was also urged that patta No. 9 had no evidentiary value to prove the plaintiff's relationship. It was urged that in any event, the first defendant would be absolutely entitled to the properties by virtue of Central Act XXX of 1956. There was also a contention that the alienations to the fifth defendant by Chinnathal was supported by consideration and necessity.

6. I will take up the last mentioned contention in regard to the first defendant's absolute rights in the property by virtue of Section 14(1) of Central Act XXX of 1956. Section 14(1) of the Act provides:

'Any property possessed by a female Hindu whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner.'

It is common ground that Chinnathal, the mother of the last male owner died in 1955, before the Hindu Succession Act (Act XXX of 1956) came into force The Hindu Succession Act is not retrospective in its operation but Section 14(1) is one of the exceptions to this, and thereby absolute rights are conferred in property acquired by a female Hindu even before the Act came into force. But Section 14(1) is not retrospective in the sense that its benefit could be availed of by female Hindus who were dead before the Act came into force. Obviously, no argument can be advanced to assert that Chinnathal's rights in the property must be deemed to be absolute rights under Section 14. The question is whether the first defendant's rights in the property possessed by her at the commencement of the Act became absolute under Section 14(1). She is the sister's daughter of the last male owner, and as a bandhu she cannot claim a right to succeed to the property if it is established (as is found on the later portion of the judgment) there are male reversioners alive. Therefore the first defendant's possession of the property after her grandmother's death in 1955, can be regarded only as that of a trespasser. No doubt, she claims to have been in possession from her mother's death in 1922, but she was looking after her grandmother till the grandmother's death, and, therefore, her possession cannot be treated as adverse to Chinnathal. No title is set up on the basis of such adverse possession. The question for consideration is whether the benefit of Section 14(1) of Act XXX of 1956 can be availed of by a female in possession of the property of the last male owner on the commencement of Act XXX of 1956 to claim absolute rights therein under Section 14(1) of the Act when she is only a trespasser, without any right to the property. It is seen from the language of Section 14(1) that its object is to grant full ownership to a female Hindu in properties held by her as a limited owner. There is no question about a trespasser on the property who is a female having limited ownership therein, which requires to be enlarged into absolute ownership. Section 14(1) as its terms imply, is plainlyintended to relieve females against limited ownership rights, which the Hindu law had hitherto conferred on them and enlarge such rights into absolute rights. The explanation to Section 14(1) lays down certain categories of property which could be included in the term property in Section 14(1). They include property acquired by inheritance, device, partition, in lieu of maintenance, gift, by skill, exertion or purchase or by prescription, or in any other manner whatsoever, and also property held by a female as stridhana. This explanation of the meaning of the term property, will also indicate that the property should be one whose ownership has come to be vested in the Hindu female under one or more of the various methods mentioned in the explanation. The term 'in any other manner whatsoever' must be interpreted only ejusdem generis with the other terms which confer right of ownership (though of a limited character) and cannot be extended to cover a trespasser. The word possession used in Section 14(1) is used in a larger sense than that of mere possession, is also the view held by certain decisions which have been cited at the Bar. In Marudakkal v. Arumuga, ILR (1958) Mad 354 : AIR 1958 Mad 255, a Bench of this Court had to deal with the question whether Section 14 of the Act could confer the benefit of absolute rights on property held by an alienee whose alienation was obtained from a limited owner before Act XXX of 1956 came into force. The alienee was a male. The Bench held :

'that, the alienee in the case under appeal did not have his rights in the properly enlarged to full ownership by Section 14(1) is not based on the fact that he was in possession of the property on the date of the commencement of the Act, but on the facts that the property is not within the language of Section 14(1) and that an enlargement of the alienee's interest does not form any part of the purpose sought to be achieved by its enactment.'

The same Bench observed earlier:

'The nature of the interest acquired by an alienee from a female Hindu gets fixed on the date of the alienation. In a case where the alienation is not binding on the reversioners to the estate of the last male holder, the interest which the alienee gets is the right not to have the alienation impeached by the woman and to hold the property at the pleasure of the reversioners on the termination of the woman's estate. That interest of the alienee is not affected either to his advantage or to his prejudice by Section 14(1).'

From the point of view above expressed, a fortiori, a trespasser who is female in possession of the property after the death of the last female Hindu, cannot get an absolute right under Section 14(1) which will prejudice the right of the reversioners to the estate. In Kotturuswami v. Veerawa, : AIR1959SC577 their Lordships of the Supreme Court at p. 582 of the report quoted with approval the observations of Mookerjee J. in Gostla Behari Bera v. Haridas Samantra, (S) : AIR1957Cal557 in the following terms :

'The opening words property possessed by a female Hindu obviously mean that to come within the purview of the section, the property must be in possession of the female concerned at the date of the commencement of the Act. They clearly contemplate the female's possession when the Act came into force. That possession might have been either, actual or constructive or in any form recognised by law, but unless the female Hindu,whose limited estate in the disputed property is claimed to have been transformed into absolute estate under this particular section, was at least in such possession, taking the word lossession in its widest connotation when the Act came into force, the section would not apply.'

It is obvious from the above that only in those cases, where there is a female Hindu, with a limited estate and which has to be deemed as enlarged to an absolute estate under Section 14(1) the question will arise as to whether she was in possession of the property concerned on the date when the Act came into force. This would show that the preliminary requisite in such a case is the ownership of a limited estate by the female Hindu, at the time when the Act came into force. But in the case of female who is only a trespasser, there will be no question of her possessing a limited estate which requires to be enlarged to an absolute estate under Section 14(1). In a decision of the Punjab High Court in Smt. Chowli v. Hansa, the mother was in possession of certain properties as heir to her deceased son. She gifted the property to her daughters at the time of the passing of the Act XXX of 1956. The collaterals of the last male owner filed a suit to recover possession. Now, in accordance with a custom prevailing in Ambala in the Punjab which was held applicable to that particular case, a Full Bench of the Punjab High Court had held previously that daughters and sisters should be preferred to collaterals of the fifth degree in respect of ancestral and non-ancestral property. The collaterals in the suit before the Punjab High Court in Sm. Chowli v. Hansa were the fifth degree collaterals. In such circumstances the Punjab High Court observed that the appellants were not holding the property as trespassers. The property was also non-ancestral and had been made the subject of a gift. Therefore their possession could not be held to be unlawful, and the possessory right ripened into full ownership. In the present case, the possession of Andal Animal as a trespasser is dearly unlawful as against the collaterals. She cannot claim that her rights became enlarged to absolute rights under Section 14(1). I therefore overrule this contention of the appellants. (After discussing the evidence in the case, His Lordship proceeded)

... ... ... ...

7. I am of opinion that even assuming that the courts below were not correct in recording in the judgment which was admitted in regard to the relationship in the pedigree, the main conclusion about the correctness of the pedigree, is justified.

8. In the result, the second appeal is dismissed with costs. But there will be a degree in terms of the compromise so far as the appellants, and respondents 3, 5 and 6 are concerned. Leave granted.


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