1. T.P. Ahmed Hussain Sahib a Muslim resident of Tirupatlur, North Arcot Dt. died on 24th July, 1952, leaving behind considerable properties and two widows, 7 sons and 3 daughters. Zuleika Bi was one of the two surviving widows. She had 3 sons by Ahmed Hussain, the eldest of whom was T.P. Muhammad Yousuf Sahib. He was a lad of. about 18 years old at the time of his father's death, and his two younger brothers were still minors. There was a partition of the estate of the said Ahmed Hussain Sahib between his heirs in which all the heirs including Zuleika Bi and Muhammad Yousuf Sahib got their legitimate share of the properties as per Muslim law. Zuleika Bi's brother was one Abdul Jabbar Saheb, a merchant at Hindupur having a residence at Tirupattur also.
He evinced interest in the affairs of his sister and was instrumentral in bringing about an amicable division of the assets of the deceased Ahmed Hussain Between his heirs. Yousul Sahib was living with his mother and he executed two documents in her favour, one called a gift deed and the other a deed of release by which he completely denuded himself of all the properties he got as a sharer in the estate of his deceased father, These documents are dated 12-7-1953 and 13-7-1953. Within a few months thereafter on 1-1-1954, the mother Zuleika Bi, the donee from her son Yousuf Sahib purported to sell the properties which she got from her son to a stranger to the family, one Abdul Malik Sahib stated to be a shroff merchant at Tirupattur for an alleged consideration of Rs. 7900/-. The properties consist of a building with a rice mill, machinery and plant, which was leased out by the late Ahmed Hussain himself during his lifetime to one Ramalingam Pillai for a monthly rental of Rs. 125/-.
2. Yousuf Sahib filed O. S. No. 32 of 1955 on the file of the Sub-Court at Vellore challenging the validity of the transactions entered into by him with his mother, who in turn had purported to sell the properties she got to a stranger, and prayed for rescission of the said transactions and for recovery of possession of the properties together with mesne profits claimed at Rs. 125 a month from 12-7-1953 till delivery of possession. The first defendant in the suit was his mother Zuleika Bi, second defendant was the alienee from his mother and the third defendant was the lessee in possession of the properties.
3. The averments in the plaint constitute a jumble of ill-assorted ideas and legal conceptions. It is stated therein that the plaintiff yielded to the insistence, pressure and importunities of his mother, and that he was impelled to act as he did by gratitude, affection and respect for a parent. It is also said that the plaintiff was put in fear of bodily harm both by his mother and uncle (Abdul Jabbar). The plaint further averred that his mother was in a position to dominate his will and that he was not a willing or free agent in executing the impugned documents. It is clear, however, from a reading of the plaint that the plaintiffs main ground of attack on the transactions in favour of his mother was one based upon a plea of undue influence.
4. The case of the first defendant was that the plaintiff acted voluntarily in executing the documents in her favour, that he exercised a free and independent mind in regard to the transactions, and that the story of her having been in a position to dominate the will of her adult son, and of his having been put in fear of bodily harm was a mere myth.
5. The 2nd defendant in the suit, the alienee from the mother while supporting, the case of the 1st defendant in respect of the transaction, of course, pleaded that he was a bona fide purchaser for value.
6. The learned Subordinate Judge of Vellore found that the impugned transactions were vitiated by undue influence and fraud, that the second defendant the alienee was not a bona fide purchaser for value and accordingly decreed the suit in favour of the plaintiff. He also awarded mesne profits in his favour at the rate of Rs. 125 a month both past and future.
7. The 2nd defendant is the appellant before us. The contentions on his behalf in this court were the same as in the court below.
8. Ex. A-3 dated 19-8-1952 is the deed of partition between the heirs of the late Ahmed Hussain Sahib. The first defendant got the properties described in schedule A to the said document valued at Rs. 1250 besides her mahr amount of Rs. 650. The plaintiff not the properties described in Schedule B to the said document valued at Rs. 1250. The other sharers got the other properties described in the various schedules to the said document. It is noteworthy that the first defendant obtained under the partition properties and assets which are at least of the same value as those got by the plaintiff.
9. Ex. B-1 dated 12-7-1953 is the deed of giftby the plaintiff in favour of the first defendant. In form and in substance it is gift pure and simple. The object and purpose of the said transaction is recited as follows therein:
'taking into consideration the fact that the properties obtained by you are not enough for your livelihood, that I am proceeding to outside places in connection with business, and that you being my mother should live comfortably I have gifted to you the under-mentioned property of the value of Rs. 1000 and have delivered possession thereof to you.'
No element of consideration or quid pro quo is recited in the document.
10. On 13-7-1953, the very next day after the execution of the gift deed, Ex. B-1, the plaintiff executed Ex. B-2 in favour of his mother. Thisdocument is styled as a release deed. The document recites:
'Further, I do not have any huq whatever in respect of all the properties remaining with you, either within your lifetime or after your lifetime. I have executed (this deed) swearing upon Alia Rayul. 'I have no objection whatever in your taking the properties as you please.' This document Ex. B-2 is strange, incongruous and abnormal.
11. Under Ex. B-1 the plaintiff had already parted with all his properties and there was no necessity for a supplemental document to confirm it the later document Ex. B-2 purports to be a relinquishment on the part of the plaintiff of all his future rights if any. It is unthinkable that a boy still in his teens with a long future before him should have renounced all his earthly possessions and also precluded himself from, acquiring future proprietary rights.
12. On 1-1-1954 the 2nd defendant obtained a conveyance from the 1st defendant under Ex. B-8 of the building and premises alone for an alleged consideration of Rs. 2000. The document recites that an amount of Rs. 500 was received in cash on the date of execution and that Rs. 1500 should be paid before the Sub-Registrar at the time of registration. On the same day the 2nd defendant took a receipt Ex. B-4 from the 1st defendant which recites that all the rice mill, machinery and plant had already been sold by her to him for a consideration of Rs. 5900 of which a sum of Rs. 500/- was to be adjusted by the 2nd defendant paying the lessee of the property the advance which he had given and the balance of Rs. 5400 was received in cash on that date. These two documents Exs. B-8 and B-4 are attested by Abdul Jabbar Sahib, the brother of the first defendant.
13. On 4-2-1954 the first defendant advanced a sum of Rs. 5000 to one Nurunnissa Bi Ammal wife of Abdul Jabbar Sahib on a mortgage of her properties, embodied in Ex. B-4. This document also is attested by Abdul Jabbar Sahib. The 2nd defendant's contention is that this sum of Rs. 5000 which the first defendant advanced to her brother's wife was part of the sale proceeds which she got from him under Exs. B-4 and B-8.
14. It is obvious that the plaintiff began to look round and then realised the full effect and fatuity of the transactions entered into by him with his mother. It is possible that having come to realise that he had been tricked into entering into these transactions by his uncle Jabbar Sahib, he became infuriated and wild. We find that on 16-6-1954, Abdul Jabbar Sahib and several others sent a mahazar to the Sub-Inspector of Police, Tirupattur town complaining against the acts of violence threatened by the plaintiff. The complaint was that the plaintiff was wandering in an unsound state of mind stating that he would stab his mother with a bitchuva. What happened as a result of this complaint is not apparent from the records.
But it is stated in the plaint that the plaintiff was produced before the Sub-Magistrate, Tirupattur, by the police, but was discharged apparently because there was nothing to be enquired into. After the said incident the only tiling that preceded the institution of the suit was the exchange of notices between the parties, Ex. B-3 dated 9-8-1954 and the notice on behalf of the plaintiff, and Ex. A-1 dated 17-8-1954 and Ex. A-2 dated 23-8-1954 being the replies sent on behalf of defendants 1 and 2 respectively.
15. The second defendant after his purchase from the first defendant took steps for eviction of the tenant Ramalingam Pillai in H. R. C. No. 5 of 1955 on the file of the District Munsif Court, Tirupattur, and obtained delivery of the property through court on 22-6-1955. Thereafter curiously enough on 24-6-1955 the said second defendant again leased back the property to the very same Ramalingam Pillai for one year on a stipulated rent of Rs. 100 per month.
16. The circumstances in which the impugned documents Exs. B-1 and B-2 came to be executed are deposed by the plaintiff as P. W. 1. According to him his mother, the first defendant induced him to make the gift stating that she would be loyal to him and would not do anything which might cause prejudice and harm to her son. The plaintiff attempted to embellish his case by stating that he was shut up for five days by his mother and his uncle Jabbar Sahib and that he was given only water on those days. He admitted that he received a sum of Rs. 200 from his mother on one occasion and another sum of Rs. 100 on another occasion. He denied having taken his mother's jewels or sold them. He stated that the suit properties are worth at least Rs. 15000/-.
17. The learned counsel appearing for the appellant rightly commented upon the fact that the story of duress and wrongful confinement was sheer after-thought there being no whisper or suggestion of it either in the notice that preceded the suit or in the plaint. We have no hesitation in rejecting this part of the plaintiffs case as it rests merely on his own words and as such a thing is wholly improbable and unlikely.
18. On the side of the defendants, D.W. 1, the scribe of Exs. B-1 and B-2, was one of the witnesses examined. He is a professional document writer. Ho deposed that the documents were drafted by one Narayana Iyer a stamp vendor at the instance of the plaintiff himself and that he wrote according to the said draft. In cross-examination he stated that he did nothing except to write those documents and that he knew nothing else. D.W. 2 was an attestor of Exs. B-1 and B-2. He has married the step-sister of the plaintiff.
He deposed that the plaintiff brought both the documents and took his attestation to them. D.W. 3 was the 1st defendant herself. She stated that the plaintiff took away all her jewels and sqandered the proceeds that he used to go to Bombay and squander and come hack, ask for funds and again go away. She said that she gave the plaintiff at first a sum of Rs. 1000 and then again another sum of Rs. 2000. She complained in the witness box that the plaintiff was rude to her and beat her and ran away. She of course denied having placed him under lock and key or confined him before the transactions were entered into. Though she denied that her brother Jabbar was present at the time when Exs. B-1 and B-2 were executed, she admitted that he was her 'chief support and help'. Jabbar Sahib himself was examined as D. W. 4.
He said that he was not present when the gift deed was executed or registered. He completely dissociated himself from the transactions and he denied that he ever ill-treated the plaintiff. He admitted having signed Ex. A-5, the complaint to the police and stated that he did so because the plaintiff was throwing stones and flourished a knife and threatened to stab him and others with it. He also said that he was misbehaving and ill-treating his mother by beating her and threatening her with a knife. The witnesses on the side of the defendants have given conflicting versions regarding the plaintiff's statement of objects and reasons for making the gift.
19. Two questions fall to be considered. The first is whether the gift and release deeds executed by the plaintiff in favour of the 1st defendant are vitiated by undue influence. The second is whether the second defendant, the alienee from the first defendant, is protected on the ground that he is a bona fide transferee for value, without notice of the circumstances affecting the impugned transaction.
20. Section 16 of the Indian Contract Act defines undue influence' in the following way:
'(1) A contract is said to be induced by 'undue influence' where the relations subsisting between the parties are such that one of the parties is in a position to dominate the will of the other and uses that position to obtain an unfair advantage over the other;
(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing principle, a person is deemed to be in a position to dominate the will of another -- (a) where he holds a real or apparent authority over the other, or where he stands in a fiduciary relation to the other; or (b) where he makes a contract with a person whose mental capacity is temporarily or permanently affected by reason of age, illness or mental or bodily distress;
(3) Where a person who is in a position to dominate the will of another, enters into a contract with him, and the transaction appears, on the face of it or on the evidence adduced, to he unconscionable, the burden of proving that such contract was not induced by undue influence shall lie upon the person in a position to dominate the will of the other.
Nothing in this sub-section shall affect the provisions of Section 111 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.'
21. The section broadly embodies the classes of cases which cannot be described better than in the following words of Cotton, L. J., in Allcard v. Skinner, (1887) 36 Ch D 145 :
'First, where the court has been satisfied that the gift was the result of influence expressly used by the donee for the purpose; second, where the relations between the donor and donee have at or shortly before the execution of the gift been such as to raise a presumption that the donee had influence over the donor. In such a case the court sets aside the voluntary gift, unless it is proved that in fact the gift was the spontaneous act of the donor acting under circumstances which enabled him to exercise an independent will and which justifies the court in holding that the gift was the result of a free exercise of the donor's will. The first class of cases may be considered as depending on the principle that no one shall be allowed to retain any benefit arising from his own fraud or wrongful act. In the second class of cases the court interferes, not on the ground that any wrongful act has in fact been committed by the donee, but on the ground of public policy, and to prevent the relation which existed between the parties and the influence arising therefrom being abused.'
This case is an illustration of the second category of cases referred to therein. Transactions in the nature of bounty from a child to a parent are in equity regarded with great jealousy. Special relationships like parent and child, solicitor and client, doctor and patient, guardian and ward, spiritual adviser or clergyman and parishioner constitute 'protected classes' as they may be called, because the law throws a mantle of protection round them by raising a rebuttable presumption of undue influence.
'If a gift is made to a parent or guardian, soon after the donor attains twenty-one, the presumption is that the influence of the parent or guardian is still dominant, and the parental influence has been held to exist in the case of sons of 25 and 23 who resided with and were maintained by the father. The influence is deemed to exist in the language of the cases, until the child becomes emancipated.' (Ashburner's Principles of Equity, 2nd Edn., p. 302).
The donee must show (and the onus is upon him) that the donor was either emancipated or was placed in a position equivalent to emancipation by the possession of independent advice. (Powell v. Powell, 1900 1 Ch 343). Independent advice is not the only way in which the presumption can be rebutted. The donee must prove that the gift was the result of the free exercise of independent will. The court must be satisfied that the donor was acting independently of any influence from the donee and with the full appreciation of what he was doing: Inche Noriah v. Shaik Allie, 1929 AC 127: (AIR 1929 PC 3).
22. The decision repotted in Lakshmidas v. Roop Loll, ILR Mad 169 , is also in point. Then it was held that there is a presumption of undue influence in cases of this description which is available in favour of the donor.
23. Mr. K. Krishnaswamy Ayyangar, learned counsel for the appellant, contended that the facts proved in the case are sufficient to show that the plaintiff acted voluntarily without pressure of any kind and imbued with the laudable motive of providing for his mother who did not get enough under the partition to sustain herself. He submitted that Jabbar was not present at the time when Exs. B-1 and B-2 were executed, and that Narayana Iyer the stamp-vendor in whom the plaintiff had confidence was present at the time and also attested the document. He commented upon the fact that the plaintiff did not choose to examine this Narayana Iyer.
According to the learned counsel the plaintiff having himself presented the document for registration before the Sub-Registrar, and having taken them back himself from the office of the Sub-Registrar and handed them over to his mother and having thereafter lived with her amicably for sometime no other inference can be drawn except that the plaintiff did everything of his own volition without In any way being induced either by his mother or by his uncle. We are unable to accept this view. The mere existence of the fiduciary relation raises the presumption of undue influence and the court will hold the transaction to be bad unless the presumption of undue influence is rebutted by cogent evidence adduced by the donee. We are satisfied that defendants 1 and 2 have failed to discharge the onus which rests upon them in this case.
24. A more improvident transaction from the point of view of the plaintiff is difficult to conceive of. The transaction itself affords cogent evidence that the plaintiff was under the influence of his mother. The plaintiff had just come of age and there is no reason why he should give away all his properties to his mother. We agree with the finding of the learned Subordinate Judge that Exs. B-1 and B-2 are vitiated by undue influence.
25. The position of the 2nd defendant has now to be considered. Section 89 of the Trusts Act is as follows:
'Advantage gained by exercise of undue influence: Where, by the exercise of undue influence any advantage is gained in derogation of the interests of another, the person paining such advantage without consideration, or with notice that such influence has been exercised, must hold the advantage for the benefit of the person whose interests have been so prejudiced.'
Undue influence which undoubtedly Operates against the 1st defendant will also operate against every volunteer who claims under her and also against any person who claims under her with notice of the equity thereby created or with notice of the circumstances from which the court infers the equity. See Bainbrigge v. Browne, (1881) 18 Ch D 188. There is no doubt some evidence of the 2nd defendant having paid consideration for the transactions evidenced by Exs. B-4 and B-8. Some payments have been made before the Sub-Registrar as evidenced by the endorsement of payment found in Exs. B-4 and B-8. It may be that the 2nd defendant is not a mere volunteer.
But it is difficult to believe that he was unaware of the circumstances under which Exs. B-1 and B-2 came into existence. The evidence of the first defendant is that the second defendant is an old resident of the town (Tirupattur), that he lives in the street next to that in which she is living, and that he intimately knows her family affairs. He has purported to purchase the properties for an alleged consideration of Rs. 7900. He himself has leased out the properties on a monthly rental of Rs. 100. Taking the annual income to be roughly Rs. 1000 the value of the property must at least be Rs. 15000 which is the value as estimated by the plaintiff. The fact that the 2nd defendant is an intimate friend of the first defendant's family, and the fact that he has purchased the property for a grossly inadequate price show that he cannot be a bona fide purchaser for value. We hold that the 2nd defendant is a person affected with notice of taint that attaches to Exs. B-1 and B-2.
26. The last contention urged by Mr. Krishnaswami Iyengar was that the mesne profits awarded by the court below at the rate of Rs. 125 per month were excessive and that the learned Subordinate Judge in any event failed to grant due allowance for expenses, payment of tax, licence fee etc. This grievance on the part of the appellant is well founded. If necessary we would have remitted the matter to the court below for a further enquiry. But the learned counsel appearing on both sides agree that the quantum of mesne profits may be fixed in a sum of Rs. 1000 per year. In modification, of the decree of the court below regarding mesne profits we substitute the figure of Rs. 1000 per year instead of Rs. 125 per month.
27. Subject to the modification mentioned above, the appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.