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Govind M. Asrani Vs. Jairam Asrani and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberO.S. Appeal No. 75 of 1962
Judge
Reported inAIR1963Mad456; (1963)2MLJ433
ActsSuccession Act, 1925 - Sections 222(1); Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908
AppellantGovind M. Asrani
RespondentJairam Asrani and anr.
Appellant AdvocateRow and ;Reddy, Advs.
Respondent AdvocatePais, ;Lobo and ;Alwares, Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredBiharilal v. Gangdaj
Excerpt:
.....of respondents in place of deceased executor would involve alteration of probate petition into grant of letters of administration petition - there could be no objection to conversion of application on death of executor - held, in all such cases application for coming on record should be made as one seeking directions of court and not under order 22 rule 3 - court has inherent power to take note of subsequent events and to mould reliefs to parties accordingly. - - , it is clear from the order of the master as well as from the judgment of the learned judge, that the respondents were brought on record with a view to enable them to obtain letters of administration with the will annexed on the authority of the decision in ilr 56 mad 346 :air 1933 mad 114. it was held in that case..........of the codicil claiming that she had been appointed as executrix thereunder. the court refused to grant probate or the codicil to her, holding that it was not genuine; instead it granted probate of the will. aggrieved by the judgment, the executrix under the codicil filed an appeal but during the pendency thereof, she died. her donee were-upon applied for being substituted in her place, it was held that the donee was the legal representative of the executrix under the codicil and was entitled to be substituted as a party under the provisions of order xxii rule 3 c.p.c. the learned judges were of opinion that the rule laid down in ilr 36 cal 799 would not apply as the case before them was an appeal against a judgment holding that the codicil was not genuine, and as such judgment would it.....
Judgment:

Ramachandra Iyer, C.J.

1. This appeal which is filed against the judgment of Kailasam J. raises an important point relating to procedurein a probate action, namely, whether, in a pending application for the issue of probate it the sole executor dies, before proving the will, it will be competent for a legatee or any other person interested, to intervene and continue the proceedings to prove the will and obtain letters of administration in his own right. That question has been answered in the affirmative in Rama Naidu v. Rangayya Naidu, ILR 56 Mad 346 : AIR 1933 Mad 114, but the correctness of that decision has been challenged before us.

2. The appellant and the two respondents are the children of one Rao Bahadur Matoomal A. Asrani who died on 29-5-1960. It is alleged that the deceased had left behind him a will in which he had appointed Harichand u. Kalre, the husband of the second respondent as the sole executor Under the said will the children of the testator are the principal legatees.

3. Harichand C. Kalre applied to this Court in O. P. No. 108 of 1961 for the grant of probate; but before the will could be proved he died on 27-7-1961. The respondents, two among the three children of the testator, who were also the legatees under the will applied to come on record in the petition for the issue of probate, as the legal representatives of the deceased executor and to continue the petition till letters of administration with the will annexed were granted to them. This application was opposed by the appellant who had by then entered a caveat. The Master overruled the objection and allowed the application with liberty to the respondents to carry out the necessary amendments to the petition for the grant of probate. This order has been upheld by Kailasam J.

4. Though the matter has been dealt with as if it were one under Order XXII Rule 3 C.P.C., it is clear from the order of the Master as well as from the judgment of the learned Judge, that the respondents were brought on record with a view to enable them to obtain letters of administration with the will annexed on the authority of the decision in ILR 56 Mad 346 : AIR 1933 Mad 114. It was held in that case that although in applying for probate, the executer asserted only a personal right, the proceedings were not for his personal benefit but were conceived in the interests of the legatees and thus the proceedings being representative in nature it was competent on the death of the executor for any legatee to come on record and continue the proceedings for obtaining letters of administration with the will annexed.

5. Mr. A. Ramachandran appearing for the appellant contests the correctness of this view, for the reason that an application for probate would neither be regarded as anything but personal to the executor, nor could a proceeding therefor be similar to a representative action coming within the provisions of Order 1 Rule 8 C.P.C., the interests of the various legatees in the estate under the will not being identical. In support of this contention, learned counsel places considerable reliance on the decision in Saratchandra Banerjee v. Mani Mohan Banerjee, ILR 36 Cal 799, Where on facts almost similar to the present case, Harrington J. declined the application of the legatee to substitute her name in the place of a deceased executor and permit her to obtain letters of administration in the same petition. It was pointed out in that case that the words 'right to sue' in Order XXII Rule 3 C.P.C. could mean only the right to bring a suit asserting a right to the same relief which the deceased plaintiff asserted at the time of his death and that as nobody but the executor could apply for probate, there was no survival of that right. It was further held that a probate and letters of administration were distinct reliefs as the executor's right to probate was derived byvirtue of the appointment made in the will by the testator, whereas an administrator could obtain the right to administer the property of a deceased testator by virtue only of the appointment made by the Court.

6. The rule laid down in that case was extended even to cases where a legatee after filing an application for the issue of letters of administration with the will annexed, died and the application was sought to be continued by his heir who would be entitled to the property bequeathed to such legatee. In Hari Bhusan Datta v. Manmatnanath Dana, : AIR1919Cal197 . Greaves J. held in that case that the right to a grant of administration was only a personal right derived from the Court and could not therefore survive to enable the heir of the applicant though he might otherwise be entitled to a grant, to continue the proceedings. The learned Judge, however, at the same time observed:

'There is nothing to prevent the applicant, if he is so minded, from applying for a grant and if he does so, it is open for him to apply to adopt such material proceedings as have been taken in the present suit.'

The effect of the foregoing observation, as we understand it, will be to enable the applicant to take advantage of the proceedings till then taken by the person who first applied for the letters of administration but who before obtaining the same had died. The principle recognised in the case when strictly applied naturally led to difficulties, in Sachindranath Maity v. Bepin Behari Sasmal : AIR1932Cal206 , a certain person claiming that a will had been revoked by a codicil, applied for probate of the codicil claiming that she had been appointed as executrix thereunder. The Court refused to grant probate or the codicil to her, holding that it was not genuine; instead it granted probate of the will. Aggrieved by the judgment, the executrix under the codicil filed an appeal but during the pendency thereof, she died. Her donee were-upon applied for being substituted in her place, it was held that the donee was the legal representative of the executrix under the codicil and was entitled to be substituted as a party under the provisions of Order XXII Rule 3 C.P.C. The learned Judges were of opinion that the rule laid down In ILR 36 Cal 799 would not apply as the case before them was an appeal against a judgment holding that the codicil was not genuine, and as such judgment would IT not appealed against might operate in rem; it should be open to interested parties to come on record.

There was a similar case before the Patna High court in Mt. Phekni v. Mt. Manki, : AIR1930Pat618 , where the sole legatee under a will applied for letters of administration with the copy of the will annexed, The trial Court held against the truth of the will and rejected the application. During the pendency of the appeal against the judgment, the legatee died and his heir applied to be substituted in his place. That application was accepted on the ground that as the judgment given in probate proceedings would operate as a judgment in rem so far as the genuineness or otherwise of the will was concerned and would bind not only the parties to the proceedings but also other persons. It was competent for the petitioner before the Court to come on record and prosecute the appeal. Although the two decisions referred to above have rested their conclusion on the existence of the judgment, we are unable to see any difference in principle between a case where a party seeks to intervene after a judgment of the that Court and one where he so does before the judgment.

7. The view taken in ILR 36 Cal 799 has been accepted by the two later Bench decisions of the Calcutta High courtreported in Haripada Saha v. Gobinda Chandra Saha, ILR (1948) 1 Cal 300 and Mahatma Misir v. Thakur Prasad Chaudhuri, ILR (1950) 2 Cal 653. In the latter case Das GuptaJ. (as he then was) considered the decision of this Courtin ILR 56 Mad 346: AIR 1933 Mad 114 but was not prepared to accept it. The learned Judge preferred the stricterview, namely, that the right of suit of the executor did notsurvive on his death to his son and that the beneficiariesunder the will would have no right to intervene in the proceedings taken out for grant of probate on the footing thatthey were the persons on whose behalf the original actionfor probate was instituted.

8. There can be no doubt that the only person entitled to the grant of probate would be the executor named in the will whether expressly or by necessary implication (see Section 222 of the Indian Succession Act). In case the executor were to die the letters of administration of the estate will have to be granted to the person entitled to it in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Indian Succession Act In Halsbury's Laws of England, 3rd Edn. Vol. 16, page 141, while dealing with the case of the death of a soli executor, it is stated:

'Upon the death of an executor who has survived the testator but never proved the will the rights of such an executor wholly cease and the representation to the testator and the administration of his estate devolve and are to be committed in like manner as if the executor had never been appointed executor.'

To the same effect is the statement of law in Williams' Executors and Administration (14th Edn. Vol. 1 page 192) which says:

'If a sole executor dies without having proved the will the executor ship is not transmissible to his executor, but is wholly determined and administration with the will annexed must be committed to the person entitled according to the rules pointed out in the preceding Section 107.'

Vide also the observations in Nathu Ram v. Alliance Bank of Simla, Ltd., AIR 1929 Lah 546.

9. Where a will has to be proved by any person other than the executor application for the grant of letters of administration with the will annexed has to be made. The same rule will apply where an executor who has been appointed under a will survives the testator but dies before taking out the probate.

10. We shall now proceed to consider whether in principle there can be an objection to an application for probate being converted on the death of one executor into one for grant of letters of administration with will annexed by a person interested in the estate.

11. An executor is a person appointed under a will for the administration of the property of the testator and to carry out the provisions of the will, whereas an administrator is a person appointed by the Court to administer the properties of a deceased person. As the executor derives title from the will, the property vests in him from the moment of the testators death. The probate alone authenticates his right, and he cannot rely on his title as an executor in any Court without the production of the probate (in cases where production of the probate has been rendered necessary under the provisions of the Indian succession Act.)

12. But in both the cases, that is, where an executor applies for the issue of probate and also where a legatee or other person applies to the Court for the grant of letters of administration with the will annexed, the question to be decided will be the same, namely, whether thewill is true, whether it was executed in accordance with law, there being the capacity in the testator to make the will and no fraud or other infirmity attending the execution of the document. It is also a welt accepted rule that whether it be an executor or administrator, the right or interest possessed by him in the properties of the testator is the same. Both have to administer them in accordance with the directions contained in the will. In William's Executors and Administrators, 14th Edn. Vol. I, page 271, it is stated:

'After the administration is granted the interests or the administrator in the property of the deceased is equal to and with the interest of an executor. Executors and administrators differ in little else than in the manner of their constitution.'

13. To put it in other words, the proceedings taken out either for the grant of probate or letters of administration with the will annexed are in the interest of the legatees and the question involved in such proceedings will be the same, namely, about the truth and genuineness of the will, in both the cases it will be open to a person interested to intervene. Final adjudication as to the genuineness of the will in both cases will operate as a judgment in rem.

14. In essence a probate is nothing more than a copy of the will granted to an executor appointed under it, certified under the seal of the Court. Letters of administration with the will annexed which is granted in cases where no executor is appointed or the appointment of the executor fails, also fulfils the same purpose. It is true that in form a probate is different from a letters of administration with the will annexed; there is also difference in procedure regarding necessity to take security; but it cannot be denied that an adjudication in an application or suit for obtaining probate or letters of administration will be binding on all the persons interested in the estate of the deceased testator. It may be that the quantum, of interest possessed by each legatee in the estate left by the deceased will not De the same but each legatee will be interested as much as the executor in the matter of the proof of the will. A person applying for the issue of probate or letters of administration with the will annexed can therefore be regarded as being in the position analogous to that of a manager of a joint Hindu family in regard to litigations by or against the family. We are, therefore, unable with great respect to the learned Judges who decided ILR (1950) Cal 653, to agree that the proceedings are not representative in their character.

15. In ILR 56 Mad 346 : AIR 1933 Mad 114, Reilly, J. after referring to the relevant English decisions stated the position thus:

'An executor who prays for probate prays in form for something which can be granted to no one else. But the essence of the proceedings is that he seeks to establish a will, not for himself but as the representative of those who take benefits under it. If he fails in his duty any of those whom he represents may intervene to carry on the proceedings, having in effect, by representation through the executor been a party to the proceedings from the outset. Ana, if in the course of the proceedings the executor drops out through death, it follows that any of those he was represented may similarly carry on the proceedings with the unessential modification that the prayer must then be for letters of administration with the will annexed.'

Venkstasubba Rao J. was even more emphatic when he observed:

'An executor applies for probate, for instance, on the strength of his special right, which he derives from his appointment under the will. But is the proceeding on thataccount to be regarded as having been initiated by him in his individual character? He may often possess no beneficial Interest and his right may rest on no more than a bare legal right. The proper view to take is that his object in commencing the proceeding is to get an adjudication in the interests not only of himself but of others that the will propounded is genuine and valid. In inviting the Court to pronounce in favour of the will, the executor is acting in a representative capacity, that is to say, for the benefit of the whole class of persons, including himself interested in having it established. The position of a petitioner for probate is not dissimilar to that of a plaintiff under Order 1 Rule 8 C.P.C. What that rule contemplates is a common interest and, in the case of a petition for probate, there is an identity of interest on the part of the whole body of persons claiming under the will.'

Learned counsel appearing for the appellant has, however, contended that the only person entitled to the grant of probate being the executor, any other person wishing to carry on testamentary proceedings could only obtain independently in his own right, letters of administration with the will annexed, and it would not be competent to the Court to convert an application for the issue of probate into one for the grant of letters of administration and that, therefore, the application filed by the respondents should fail. In support of his contention, learned counsel referred to the decision reported in Biharilal v. Gangdaj 41 Ind Cas 279 : AIR 1917 Pat 209, where a person who was not an executor applied for probate of the will. His application naturally failed but he sought to amend the application by converting it into an application for the grant of letters of administration with a copy of the will, annexed. That was disallowed for the reason that there were executors under the will and that before appropriate procedure was adopted it would not be open to the party to apply for letters of administration with a copy of the will annexed.

The rule recognised in that case can have no application to the case before us. But it must at the same time be recognised that the impleading of the respondents in the place of the deceased executor would involve an alteration of the petition which was originally filed for the issue of probate, into one for the grant of letters of administration. But that is a technicality not affecting the substance of the matters to be decided in the case. Indeed in ILR (1948) Cal 300 which approved of the decision in ILR 36 Cal 799, the teamed Judges regarded that such an alteration of an application for probate was a mere technicality, which could not invalidate the subsequent grant of letters of administration in the application for probate. In that case the sole executrix who was also the sole legatee under the will died during the pendency of probate proceedings. Her heir instead of making a fresh application for grant to him of letters of administration in his own right continued the proceedings initiated by his predecessor and was granted letters of administration with the will annexed. At a later stage when this procedure was assailed, the learned Judges held that there was merely a defect of form and not of substance and they refused to set aside the grant. It will be seen from the foregoing that with regard to the substance of the proceedings there could be no objection to an application for the issue of probate being converted into one for the grant of letters of administration with a copy of the will annexed, on the death of the executor who had died after applying for probate and before it was granted to him.

16. We however wish to indicate that in all such cases the application for coming on record should be made asone seeking the directions of Court and not under Order 22 Rule 3 C.P.C. It is a well settled principle that a court has got an inherent power to take note of subsequent events and to mould the reliefs to the parties in accordance therewith and for that purpose permit amendments to the petition before it. We are, of the opinion that, even apart from any other consideration the question being one of procedure we should accept the decision in ILR 56 Mad 346 : AIR 1933 Mad 114 on the principle of stare decisis. But even more than this, we are convinced that the binding nature of that decision rests on a sounder footing, namely, on principle. The appeal, therefore, fails and is dismissed with costs.


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