(1) This is an application by the unsuccessful plaintiffs, Appasami Chettiar and Gopalasami Chettiar, for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court under Art. 133(1)(a), (b) and (c) of the Constitution against the judgment and decree of a Bench of this Court to which one of us was a party, dated, 21st September, 1962, reversing the judgment and decree of the Subordinate Judge, Kumbakonam by which he had decreed the plaintiff's suit.
(2) The dispute between the parties, in substance and effect, relates to the right to succeed to the estate of the deceased Gopalaswamy Chettiar. The plaintiffs filed a suit (1) for a declaration that the adoption of the second defendant by the first defendant in the suit was not true and valid; (2) for a declaration that, in any event, the second defendant, as such adopted son, could not take the estate of Gopalaswamy Chettiar either under the will of Gopalaswamy Chettiar or by way of succession as an intestacy after the lifetime of the first defendant; and (3) for declaring that the alienations made by defendants 1 and 2 on 16-2-1956 in favour of defendants 3 and 4 are not binding on them as reversioners of Gopalaswamy Chettiar and will not enure beyond the lifetime of the first defendant.
(3) The facts and materials for the petitioners may be briefly stated as follows: Gopalaswamy Chettiar was carrying on a prosperous trade in brass vessels in Kumbakonam and he died on 19-9-1908 leaving his widow Seshammal and his daughter Ramathilakam (1st defendant), but no son. The properties described in Schedules B and C were left by him. The petitioners are his sister's sons' sons. The said Ramathilakam was married to Sethu Chettiar, the Junior paternal uncle of the respondents and a sister's son of Gopalaswamy Chettiar. She adopted the second defendant in the suit, the sister's grandson of her husband, on 10-9-1953. Gopalaswamy Chettiar left a will, Ex. A-1 dated, 8-10-1908 by which he left some of his properties to charity founded by his family and the residue of his estate he gave to his widow Seshammal for life.
After her death, he gave the estate to his daughter Ramathilakam, After her death, viz., Ramathilakam, the properties would go to her puthra pouthrathi santhathies and in default of such heirs to her female descendants, and in default of such heirs also to her husband Sethu Chettiar and his descendants. Sethu Chettiar died on 28-10-1919. He left no issue. Seshammal, the widow of Gopalaswamy Chettiar, died in 1938. Ramathilakam adopted Sarangapani Chettiar, the 1st respondent in this petition, on 10th September, 1953. The petitioners attack this adoption on the ground that the consent of all the available agnates of Sethu Chettiar had not been obtained and that the adoption was made out of corrupt motives and not for the purposes of conferring any spiritual benefit on Sethu Chettiar. In the trial Court, the learned Judge found in favour of the factum of adoption, but he held that it was not valid, since some agnates of Ramathilakam's husband Sethu Chettiar had not been consulted and their consent was not obtained for the adoption. By reason of this finding, the learned trial Judge left open the question of the construction of the will of Gopalaswamy Chettiar and the rights claimed by the respondents viz., Ramathilakam and her adopted son, the first two defendants in the suit, as heirs at law of Gopalaswamy Chettiar on the contention that intestacy occurred by reason of the bequest in favour of Ramathilakam and her husband failing. In the end, he passed a decree in favour of the plaintiffs for a declaration, that the adoption of the second defendant by the first defendant was not valid and that the alienations made by defendants 1 and 2 in favour of defendants 3 and 4 were not binding on the reversioners of the late Gopalaswamy Chettiar and that they will not enure beyond the lifetime of the first defendant.
In other respects, he dismissed the suit. It is against this finding and decree in favour of the plaintiffs, defendants 1 and 2 preferred the appeal in this court. In the appeal it was held that the adoption was valid, but that he occupied a two-fold position with reference to Gopalaswamy Chettiar, one as adopted son of the daughter of Gopalaswami Chettiar and the other as the adopted son of Sethu Chettiar. Under the will the estate was directed to the taken after the lifetime of Ramathilakam by her puthra pouthra santhathies. Failing that line, the testator directed that the estate should be taken by the female children of Ramathilakam. Failing that also the will directed that the estate should go to Sethu Chettiar and his descendants. Ordinarily the word 'Santhathies' occurring in the gift over to the descendants of Ramathilakam would include an adopted son. But this court held that the santhathies of Ramathilakam mentioned in the will would not include the adopted son, but the santhati of Sethu Chettiar could take the bequest under the will. This Bench also further held that even though Sethu Chettiar died during the lifetime of his wife, Ramathilakam, be took a vested interest in the bequest which would descend by the law of inheritance as also by reason of the words in the will, giving the estate to Sethu Chettiar and his santhathies. In the end the appeal was allowed with the result the plaintiff's suit was dismissed with costs of the appellants (Respondents) both in the High Court and in the trial Court.
(4) Now it is against this judgment and decree, the plaintiffs preferred this application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. This application is now resisted by the defts. 1 & 2 on the ground that the subject-matter of the dispute both in the suit and in the appeal, under Article 133(1)(a) of the Constitution is far below the sum of Rs. 20,000. The suit is only for a declaratory relief, namely, for a declaration of the invalidity of the respondent's adoption and heirship. There is no question of any property involved in the dispute either directly or indirectly between the parties in the action under Article 133(1) of the Constitution. The relevant portion of Article 133 of the Constitution is in these terms:
(1) An appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court from any judgment, decree or final order in a civil proceeding of a High Court in the territory of India if the High Court certifies
(a) that the amount or value of the subject-matter of the dispute in the court of first instance and still in dispute was and is not less than twenty thousand rupees or such other sum as may be specified in that behalf by Parliament by law or
(b) that the judgment, decree or final orders involves directly or indirectly some claim or question respecting property of the like amount of value or
(c) that the case is a fit one for appeal to the Supreme Court;
and, where the judgment, decree or final order appealed from affirms the decision of the court immediately below in any case other than a case referred to in sub-clause (c), if the High Court further certifies that the appeal involves some substantial question of law.
(5) The question for determination before us is whether the judgment and decree of this Court involve directly or indirectly some claim or question respecting property of the like amount or value viz., twenty thousand rupees or over. The value of the estate of Gopalaswamy Chettiar as mentioned in the B and C schedules of the plaint is about Rs. 68,000. But nevertheless the learned counsel for the respondents disputes the claim regarding the value of the property involved, but states that the status of the second respondent as adopted son of Ramathilakam is only in question. He poses a proposition of law, namely, when a lis in action relates only to the declaratory relief in regard to the status of a person, the value of such dispute is incapable of valuation. Therefore the subject-matter of this appeal does not satisfy Article 133(1)(a) or (b) of the Constitution. To support his proposition of law he cited the following decisions:
(1) Rukmani Bai v. Joshi Ram Kishan, : AIR1950All242 , where there was an application under S. 63 of the Lunacy Act and the only question for consideration by the District Judge was a question of the mental capacity of the so-called lunatic. No question of title to any property was involved and it could not therefore be said that an order under the Lunacy Act affected directly or indirectly any claim to property.
(2) Balarami Reddy v. Masthan Saheb, : AIR1953Mad968 ; the question that has been decided in the second appeal is in respect of the trusteeship of a Mohideenic Mosque in the village of Domaramadugu, Kovoru Taluk, Nellore District. When the learned Judge declared that the plaintiff has a right to function as a trustee, the defendants filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. Their Lordships held at page 960 that the subject-matter of the dispute was the trusteeship and not any property and therefore Part I of S. 110 of the Code of Civil Procedure and sub-clause (a) of Article 133(1) of the Constitution would not apply. Their Lordships were of the opinion that though there was an ancillary prayer for possession of properties and sums of money on rendition of accounts and a prayer for a permanent injunction restraining the defendants and his men from interfering with the plaintiff's right to manage the mosque and its endowments, still the essential subject-matter of the suit was the post of trusteeship of mosque and nothing more.
(3) Lakshman Singh v. Rupkumar, AIR 1956 Ajm 15, a case which directly supports the respondents' case, namely, that in cases of adoption it is the status of the adopted son that is involved and not any claim or dispute to any property.
(4) Dhanalakshmi v. Income-tax Officer, ILR (1958) Mad 117: AIR 1958 Mad 151 where their Lordships held, in a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of writ of mandamus restraining the Collector from proceeding to attach and to bring to sale, in pursuance of a certificate issued by the Income-tax Officer Under S. 46(2) of the Indian Income-tax Act (XI of 1922) for the recovery of arrears of income-tax due by the husband of the petitioner an estate which the petitioner alleged was hers, having been purchased in her name in the year, 1947, that even if the property sought to be attached was worth more than twenty thousand rupees, as the High Court did not go into the question of title to the property but merely allowed the attachment to continue indicating the procedure which the Collector should follow in the exercise of the powers conferred upon him under the proviso to S. 46(2) of Act XI of 1922 leaving open to the petitioner all the remedies, which she could avail herself of, the order sought to be appealed against was not one involving directly or indirectly some claim or question respecting the property as required by Article 133(1)(a) of the Constitution.
(6) The principle laid down in the above said cases will not apply to the facts in the instant case. In : AIR1953Mad968 their Lordships pointed out that the only question of the office of the Trusteeship was involved. In the Allahabad case, : AIR1950All242 only the question of the mental capacity of the alleged lunatic was involved and no question of title to any property was involved. In the Ajmer case, AIR 1956 Ajmer 15 though the case is in all fours, we do not agree with that decision. In ILR (1958) Mad 117: AIR 1958 Mad 151 the question was the procedure followed by the collector under the provisions of the Income-tax Act for the recovery of Income-tax dues and payable by her husband. Here in this case, there was an estate of Gopalaswamy Chettiar. He executed a will in and by which he provided, after creating a series of life estates, that the estate should go over to the puthra pauthra santhathies of his daughter Ramathilakam or her heirs or to her husband Sethu Chettiar and his Santhathi. The daughter of Gopalaswamy Chettiar viz., Ramathilakam, adopted the second defendant. Under the will he is entitled to inherit the estate of Gopalaswamy Chettiar as puthra pouthra santhathi of Ramathilakam or the santhathi of Sethu Chettiar. His succeeding to the estate of Gopalaswamy Chettiar entirely depends on the facturm and validity of the adoption. Both the trial Court and this Court have held that there was a facturm of adoption, but there was difference of opinion in regard to the validity of adoption.
(7) Then the question is whether relief in regard to adoption is capable of valuation. Whatever may be view of other High Courts, this Court has taken the view that relief regarding the validity or otherwise of an adoption is capable of valuation. In Keshava Sanabhaga v. Lakshminarayana, ILR Mad 192 it was observed that 'he (the plaintiff) has asked for a declaration that the adoption was not made, and that, if it was made, it was invalid. The fact and validity of the adoption is then the subject of the suit, and in valuing it for purposes of jurisdiction, a computation must be made of the value of the interest that would be lost to the alleged adopted minor if the adoption be declared invalid'. This decision was followed in Ramaswami Asari, in the matter of ILR Mad 340: AIR 1928 Mad 1294 , where, on a reference made by the Taxing Office of the High Court, whether, in valuing the interest that would be lost to the alleged adopted son, if the adoption be declared invalid, the market value is to be taken, his Lordship Justice Devadoss, held:
'........ that the adopted boy, in case the adoption is declared invalid, would lose the property which he would not otherwise, and the value of the relief is the value of the property the loss of which would entail in the adoption being declared invalid. Whether the plaintiff gets anything at present or not, we must consider the value of the relief as being the loss to which the defendant would be put, in case the relief asked for is granted. It is conceded that in the converse case, that is, if a person asks for a declaration that he is the adopted son of X, the valuation of the relief prayed for, would be the value of the property he would acquire by the adoption being upheld and I fail to see why a different principle should be applied when the defendant happens to be adopted boy and the plaintiff a person who chooses to contest the fact or validity or both of the adoption.'
It is also useful to refer to the decision reported in Amersingh v. Karnail Kaur, (S) where the facts were: A suit was brought for a mere declaration that the opposite party was not in the state of pregnancy at the time of her husband's death and that her alleged posthumous child was, therefore, not the son of her husband. In the plaint the plaintiffs gave the description of the lands the title to which would be affected if the required declaration was not given. It was held by the court that where a suit was not capable of precise valuation from the pecuniary point of view, and the subject-matter of the dispute was not a sum of money or a specific piece of property, but something which was incapable of precise or arithmetical valuation and which would therefore fall outside the ambit of clause (1)(a) of Article 133 of the Constitution, clause (b) thereof was intended pre-eminently to apply. The court gave the required certificate to the petitioners for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court as they would be entitled to apply for leave as a matter of right independently of clause (a) or clause (c).
The principle laid down in the case above can be easily applied to the facts in the instant case, and, if the required permission is not granted to the petitioners, they will stand to lose estate worth about Rs. 68,000. We are of the opinion that the application comes within the provisions of Article 133(1)(b) of the Constitution. It has been held in Naranji v. Jivram Mandan, AIR 1952 Kut 29 that a certificate can be claimed under any one or more of the three paras (a), (b) and (c) principally or in the alternative and it is not necessary to satisfy the requirements of para (b) as on alternative to the restriction 'that the amount or value of the subject-matter still in dispute on appeal is and was not less than twenty thousand rupees in Clause (a). Further if the application is not granted the claim or question respecting the property involved in judgment would become res judicata or have the effect of estopping the petitioners from claiming the rights or agitating the same question in respect of such property in future litigations. We cannot say that in a suit for declaration of adoption, the claim made by the reversioners to the property is too remote, and it is quite immaterial whether the petitioners would get the relief immediately or not.
(8) We have therefore arrived at the conclusion that in view of the law as laid down in Article 133(1)(b) of the Constitution with respect to this class of cases, the applicants are entitled to get a certificate for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. We certify accordingly.
(9) I agree that leave should be granted under Article 133(1)(b). As a result of the finding of this Court upholding the adoption of the second defendant, Sarangapani (first respondent in this application) he became entitled to succeed to the estate of Gopalaswami Chettiar after the death of Ramathilakam (fist defendant), in his capacity as the adopted son of Sethu Chettiar, in whom there was a vested remainder after the death of Ramathilakam. Actually we were informed that about six months after this court's judgment, Ramathilakam died; and the second defendant is now in possession by virtue of said right. But nothing turns on this circumstances and we may proceed on the footing of the situation as it obtained on the date of this court's judgment. But for the finding of this Court, Sarangapani would not have been entitled to succeed to the estate of Gopalaswamy Chettiar in preference to the plaintiffs. Hence the finding of this Court directly affected Sarangpani's right to the property worth over Rs. 20,000 and it also affected the right of the plaintiffs as reversioners. In such a case, though the plaintiffs may not have been entitled during the lifetime of Ramathilakam to succeed to the property, the value for purpose of jurisdiction and appeal would be the loss to which the adopted son, Sarangpani, would have been put if the decision had been the other way. This is what has been held in ILR 6 mad 192 and Ramaswami Asari, ILR Mad 340: AIR 1928 Mad 1294 . They are decisions binding on us and even otherwise, I respectfully agree with the Judges in the principle stated there.
(10) The decision in : AIR1953Mad968 , is distinguishable because there, only a trusteeship right was involved whereas here full ownership is involved. A trusteeship right may not be capable of valuation but not so full ownership.
(11) In : AIR1950All242 Joshi Ram would not have lost the property even if he has been declared a lunatic and further petitioner Smt. Rukumani Bai would have become entitled to the property on such declaration of lunacy. That was why it was observed that no question of title to the property was involved and only a question of the mental capacity of the alleged lunatic was involved and it was also pointed out that anybody could have filed the petition for declaration of the lunacy. Hence that case too is distinguishable.
(12) No doubt, AIR 1956 Ajmer 15 appears to be on all fours. But I do not agree with the decision. There the plaintiff Lakshman Singh brought the suit for a declaration that he was the adopted son of the defendant. He succeeded in the trial Court but on appeal it was held that there was no adoption. The second appeal preferred by the plaintiff was dismissed. Leave was sought to appeal to Supreme Court and Nigam J. C. refused leave. He was of the opinion that in case of adoption it is only the status of the adopted son that is involved and not any claim or dispute to any property, and that in that view the test of valuation was not satisfied. But the learned judge remarks that his attention had not been drawn to any ruling holding that in suits about adoption, the property that the adopted son is likely to get is property which is indirectly involved by the decree. In the other words his attention does not appear to have been drawn to the cases of this Court in ILR Mad 192 and ILR Mad 340: AIR 1928 Mad 1294 . If his attention had been drawn to those cases, conceivably he would himself have come to the decision which we have now come to.
(13) The case is ILR (1958) Mad 117: AIR 1958 Mad 151 is clearly distinguishable. There was no final adjudication of the right of the petitioner to the property.
(14) Accordingly I agree that leave should be granted under Article 133(1)(b) of the Constitution.
(15) Petition allowed.