1. This is a second appeal preferred against the decree and judgment of the learned District Judge of Tiruchirapalli in A.S. No. 216 of 1953, confirming the decree and judgment of the learned Subordinate Judge of Tiruchirapalli in O.S. No. 29 of 1951.
2. The suit property originally belonged to Parimana Pillai who died in 1916 according to P.W. 1, or about 1923, surviving him his wife Kamakshi who died between 1943 and 1946 and three daughters, Pappathi and Sornathammal, who are alive, and Meenammal who died in July-August, 1948. The first defendant Dhanabagyam is the daughter of that Meenammal in whose favour Meenammal has bequeathed the suit property. The plaintiff is the son of Pappathi, examined as P.W. 2 in this case. The other daughter Sornathammal is married to Vythilingam (D.W. 2) and has no issue.
3. Exhibit B-2 is the sale-deed, dated 29th September, 1937, by which Kamakshi Animal transferred the suit property, a house, to her daughter Meenammal. The evidence on the defendants' side through D.W. 2 is that some days prior to the execution of this sale-deed the two sisters Pappathi and Sornathammal raised a dispute as to how it was that one sister alone Meenammal was in enjoyment of the house, when all of them should have been in enjoyment equally. It appears from the evidence that Meenammal had been living with her mother, whereas her other two sisters were staying with their husbands in different places where they were working as public servants. Therefore, there was a Panchayat. In that Panchayat an amicable arrangement was arrived at. It was agreed that the property should be sold by Kamakshi to Meenammal for Rs. 300 of which Rs. 100 was to be taken by Kamakshi Ammal for the discharge of her debts and Rs. 100 was to be paid to each of her other daughters Pappathi and Sornathammal. The evidence of D.W. 2 is that there was a Varthamanam letter drawn up and that receipts were also passed to Meenammal for payments made to her two sisters, though the Varthamanam and receipts are not forthcoming and for which an explanation is given on the defendant's side. This family arrangement cannot be disputed. There is a reference in Exhibit B-2 to an earlier agreement of 1937 by which the two sisters of Meenammal were to be paid Rs. 100 each and Kamakshi Ammal the remaining Rs. 100 for the discharge of her sundry debts. That this Exhibit B-2 which came into existence under this family arrangement is an operative document given effect to by all the parties thereto is evident from the fact that from 1937 to 1948 there was no interference with Meenammal's possession. Tax receipts and demand notices from the Municipal office have been produced, some in the name of Kamakshi Ammal, the mother, and some in Meenammal's name. There is the evidence of D.W. 7 that his father, the second defendant, took a lease of the property. Exhibit B-7 is the rent deed executed in favour of the first defendant, the daughter of Meenammal, in 1948. The evidence of D.W. 7 shows that even prior to 1948 during the lifetime of Meenammal, his father was a tenant under her and that with the permission of the landlady he had electrified the house at a cost of Rs. 510. In Exhibit B-7 provision is made for the adjustment of the electric charges against the rent. There is evidence also on the plaintiff's side that for some time Menammal had leased the property to a Chettiar immediately after the death of Kamakshi Ammal. It is also established by the evidence on record that improvements were effected to the house by Meenammal and by no one else. The house which was tiled was got terraced by her. These are concurrent findings of fact, which were unassailable before me. Therefore, these facts may be taken as safely established.
4. Before the death of Meenammal, she executed a will bequeathing the suit property to her daughter, the first defendant. The will is Exhibit B-3, dated 4th July, 1948. Meenammal died in July-August, 1948. On the death of Meenammal, her sisters who had parted with their interests in the suit property under the family arrangement spoken to above, started laying claim to the suit property and raised a dispute with the first defendant. On account of Exhibit B-2 staring on their face, they resorted to the device of executing a so-called surrender deed Exhibit A-3, dated 27th October, 1948, in favour of the son of Pappathi, viz., the plaintiff. The plaintiff then started giving trouble to the first defendant and filed the suit, out of which this second appeal arises, for a declaration that the suit property belonged to him and for recovery of possession of the same.
5. The learned Subordinate Judge, Mr. M.V. Harihara Ayyar, held that the property was purchased by Kamakshi Ammal with her funds in the name of her husband Parimana Pillai, that the family arrangement is true and valid and binding on Pappathi and Swarnammal, that the sale-deed of 1937 by Kamakshi Ammal to Meenammal is valid and binding on the plaintiff, that the surrender deed is not valid and the plaintiff is estopped from questioning the sale-deed, dated 29th September, 1937, by Kamakshi and Meenammal. Therefore, he dismissed the suit with costs.
6. There was an appeal which was disposed by the learned District Judge, Mr. J.H. Barboza, and he posed for himself four points for determination and came to the conclusion that Kamakshi Ammal was not the real owner of the suit property, that the family arrangement is true and that the plaintiff is not estopped from claiming the suit property which arose from the allegations that he acted as a Maistry under Meenammal in converting the tiled house into a terraced house and secondly, that he had knowledge of the will by Meenammal in her daughter's favour and attested it, and that the surrender of the property by Pappathi and Sornathammal did not affect the right of the first defendant to continue in possession until the death of both Pappathi and Sornathammal and that the plaintiff must have to await the death of both of them before he could claim the suit property. This was based upon the ex cathedra pronouncement by the learned District Judge in the beginning of paragraph 13 of his judgment which he does not condescend to discuss:
Of course, the family arrangement will not be binding on the plaintiff after the reversion has opened.
It is apparently on the foot of this ex cathedra pronouncement that the final conclusion just now set out seems to have emerged (point No. 4). In the result the learned District Judge confirmed the decree and judgment of the learned Subordinate Judge and dismissed the appeal. Hence this second appeal by the defeated plaintiff.
7. In this second appeal it is unnecessary for me, in view of my conclusion on the family arrangement, to discuss whether Kamakshi Ammal was the real owner of the suit property. I am prepared to assume for the disposal of this second appeal that she was a limited owner.
8. Having come to this conclusion, it is found that this limited owner has entered into a family arrangement as a result of which Exhibit B-2 has come into existence and has been acted upon by all the parties relating thereto.
9. The law relating to a family arrangement by a widow is well settled. A family arrangement stands on a similar footing as a compromise. It is an arrangement come to between relations or members of a family, who have their own unadmitted rights to be pressed against one another, in order to avoid litigation and for the benefit, peace, security or preservation of the property in dispute, and to such an arrangement great importance is attached by the Courts : Sidh Gopal v. Bihari Lai I.L.R. (1927) All. 285, Binda Kuer v. Lalita . Mst. Hardei v. Bhagwan (1919) 13 L.W. 436 : A.I.R. 1919 P.C. 27. Bishambarnath v. Amamath . In the absence of proof of mistake, inequality of position, undue influence, coercion, or like ground, a family arrangement made in settlement of the disputed or doubtful claim is a valid and binding arrangement which the parties thereto cannot deny, ignore or resile from ; and this principle is applicable where some of the members of the family are minors, or where the settlement has been effected by a qualified owner whose act in this respect will bind the reversioners : Dangal Ram v. Jainmangal : AIR1926Pat364 . Bona fides is the essence of its validity. There must be either a dispute, or at least an apprehension of a dispute, a situation of contest which is avoided by a policy of giving and taking, or else all transfers and surrenders will pass under a cloak of family arrangement : Basantakumar Basu v. Ramshankar (1931) Cri.L.J. 205. Joges Chandra v. Prasanna Kumar : AIR1932Cal664 . Ramayya v. Lakshmqyya (1942) 2 M.L.J. 249 . There can be no basis for a family settlement conferring title on a person binding on the reversion if it is not shown that he had some competing title of his own in respect of the disputed property. But it is not essential to the validity of a family settlement that there must be disputes existing at the time the settlement is arrived at. The members of the family may anticipate disputes likely to arise thereafter, and in order to prevent them and with a view to maintain amity and peace in the family, they may arrive at a settlement among themselves which can be held to be valid : Bajrang v. Rameshar (1936) 12 Luck. 684. Jang Bahadur v. Rana Uma (1936) 12 Luck. 639. This family arrangement entered into by a widow or other limited heir binds the reversioners, though they may not be parties thereto Khunni Lai v. Gobind Krishna . Hiran Bibi v. Sohan Bibi 18 C.W.N. 929 : A.I.R. 1914 P.C. 44. Upendra Math v. Bindesri Prasad (1915) Cri.W.N. 210. Bihari Lal v. Baud Husan I.L.R.(1913) All. 240. In the following cases it was held that the compromise did not bind the actual reversioners : Himmat Bahadur v. Dhanpat Rai I.L.R.(1916) All. 335, (no bona fide dispute and no bona fide settlement) Janak Kishori v. Babu Debi Prasad 39 Ind.Cas. 750, compromise by a widow of her claim as a legatee under her husband's will Anup Narqyan v. Mahabir Prasad 42 Ind.Cas. 95. (compromise not for the benefit of the estate) Narayan Singh v. Rajkumar I.L.R.(1922) All. 428 (compromise not for the benefit of the estate) Musammat Bhagwati v. Jagadam 67 Ind.Cas. 597. (no doubtful claim): (See N. R. Raghavachari, 'Hindu Law' M.L.J., third edition, page 566 ; Mulla, 'Principles of Hindu Law' eleventh edition, pages 209-214 ; Mayne on 'Hindu Law and Usage,' Eleventh Edition, page 880 and following; S. V. Gupta, 'Hindu Law' second edition, page 637 and following).
10. Bearing these principles in mind, if we examine the facts of this case, both the Courts having found that the family arrangement was true and acted upon by all the parties relating thereto, this would certainly be binding upon the next reversioner, the plaintiff, though he was not a party thereto. I am unable to understand the ex cathedra pronouncement of the learned District Judge referred to above, and which he has not condescended to discuss and which appalling ignorance of Hindu Law would have been dissipated if he had merely taken the trouble of consulting the standard treatises on Hindu Law set out above.
11. I take it that what the learned District Judge meant was that in any event the parties to the family arrangement being estopped from disputing it, the suit was premature. But even if this was his assumption, he should have examined the further question whether when the next reversioners who could question the alienation by the mother Kamakshi Ammal were alive, the remoter reversioner could do so on the foot that Kamakshi Ammal and her daughters had colluded in order to defraud the remoter reversioner. That he could do and this is the case here. In fact the finding of the learned Subordinate Judge that Exhibit B-2 is valid and binding on the plaintiff has not been set aside by the learned District Judge. Therefore, the wholly supererogatory and mischievous observations of the learned District Judge about the plaintiff's possibility of claiming the suit property after the death of Pappathi and Sornathammal should be eschewed and his affirmation of dismissal of the suit by the learned Subordinate Judge should be confirmed and this second appeal wholly devoid of merits should be dismissed without costs. Ordered accordingly.
12. I thank Mr. V. Ratnam, who appeared as amicus curiae at my instance, for the respondent and argued the matter.
13. No leave.