1. This revision petition raises a question of construction of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
2. The properties involved in the suit originally belonged to one Subba Rao, who died in 1948, leaving behind him his widow Meenakshi, one son and six daughters. The son died in 1950 leaving behind him his widow, Subbalakshmi. Misunderstandings arose between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law, and Meenakshi filed the suit, O.S. No. 8 of 1961 for partition and separate possession of her half share in the suit properties under section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 and Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, 1937.
3. Even before the passing of a preliminary decree Meenakshi died in May 1962 and her daughters filed an application to get themselves impleaded as the legal representatives of their mother. The daughter-in-law who was the defendant in the suit raised objection that the right which the mother, Meenakshi had was a purely personal right, that the same lapsed on her death, and that the daughters of Meenakshi had no right to continue the suit for partition. The learned Subordinate Judge overruled this objection of the defendant and impleaded the daughters as the legal representatives of Meenakshi. The revision petition is against this order.
4. Learned counsel for the petitioner contended that unless a woman who is entitled to her husband's share in the coparcenary properties (under the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act) had filed a suit and obtained her share by metes and bounds after a final decree, the right conferred upon such a woman under the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, would automatically lapse on her death, and her stridhana heirs would not be entitled to claim any right after the death of such woman. I am of the clear opinion that this contention is wholly untenable and utterly lacks substance.
5. Apart from any authority, a plain reading of Section 3 sub-section (2) of the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, XVIII of 1937, as amended in Madras and Section 31 of the Hindu Succession Act, Act XXX of 1956 in the light of the saving clause in Section 6 of the General Clauses Act, Act X of 1897, will make it -clear that there can be no basis for the argument that a widow should have worked out her rights by securing a partition by metes and bounds. However, the question as to whether it is obligatory on the part of the widow of a coparcener to file a suit and obtain partition by metes and bounds in order to become entitled to the right which is conferred upon her under the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act is covered by ample authority.
6. In Kuppathammal v. Sakthi, : AIR1957Mad695 , the question came up for direct decision. In that case too it was argued that by reason of Section 31 of the Hindu Succession Act, Act XXX of 1956, the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, Act XVIII of 1937, had been repealed and that a widow who had not prior to the commencement of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 filed a suit for partition cannot claim any right under Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act. The basis of such a contention was that the saving in Section 6 of the General Clauses Act would apply only if any right had accrued to the widow, and that no such right could be said to have accrued to the widow until a demand for partition had been made by her asserting her rights under the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act. This argument was rejected, and it was held that the vesting of the husband's share in his widow was absolute under the statute (Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act), in the sense that the statute did not impose any condition or require any formality to be complied with in the form of the widow being obliged to make a demand for partition. It should be noticed that in that case the widow did not even file a suit for partition.
7. In Sankara Rao v. Rajyalakshmamma, : AIR1961AP241 , this view was followed by Umamaheswaram, J. In that case also it was held that the rights conferred upon a Hindu widow under the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act are not inchoate or imperfect until a claim for partition was made. It was also held that the moment the husband died his interests devolved upon the widow and by a claim for partition she was merely working out the right which she had acquired under the Act.
8. In my opinion the question does not admit of any doubt whatsoever having regard to the wide language of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act. The judgment of the Supreme Court in Munnalal v. Rajkumar, : AIR1962SC1493 , has placed the matter beyond all doubt. In that case a Hindu widow had obtained a preliminary decree for partition but died before the passing of the final decree. It was contended that as no final decree had been passed her rights under the preliminary decree lapsed and Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act would not help her legal representatives. The Supreme Court held that the Succession Act had made far-reaching changes in the Hindu law of Inheritance and Succession, that the traditional limitations on the powers of disposition of a Hindu female have all been completely removed, and that under the Act a Hindu widow is regarded as a fresh stock of descent in respect of the property possessed by her at the time of her death. In other words the moment the Hindu Succession Act came into operation succession has got to be traced to the widow regarding the property (which had devolved upon her under the Act) as her own property.
It is in this context that the significance of the opening words of Section 14 'any property possessed by a female Hindu' should be noticed. The words 'possessed by a female Hindu' have been used in a very wide and broad sense, and in the context of this section the words mean the state of owning or having in one's own hand or power. Possession Under Section 14 need not be actual physical possession or personal occupation of the property by the female. It is used in a broad comprehensive sense, and includes the right to possession. The possession might have been either actual or constructive or in any form recognised by law. Vide Sampathkumari v. Lakshmi Ammal, : AIR1963Mad50 and Kottur Swami v. Veerava, : AIR1959SC577 . In this view, I have no hesitation in holding that at the moment of the death of Meenakshi she was in possession of her share of the property to which she became entitled under the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act read with Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, with the result that an her death that share or that property devolved upon her heirs. Her daughters are therefore clearly entitled to further prosecute the suit for partition filed by Meenakshi.
9. The order of the lower Court is correct and the revision petition is dismissed.