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(Cheedella) Seethiah and anr. Vs. Aravapalli Mutyalu - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1931Mad106
Appellant(Cheedella) Seethiah and anr.
RespondentAravapalli Mutyalu
Cases ReferredRaju v. Nagammal A.I.R.
Excerpt:
.....question..........side, maddi ramayya and defendant 1 owned 30 acres of land and rs. 20,000 cash as their joint family property. even defendant 1 had to admit-that his family owned 23 acres of the land at the date of ramayya's death. the learned subordinate judge has dealt with the worth of the family in para. 26 of his judgment and found that the amount of cash owned by the family should be far more than rs. 4,000 which defendant 1 chose to admit. the estimation given by the plaintiff's witnesses-was preferred by the lower appellate court as true and far more probable. what was given to venkamma for maintenance under ex. c was only rs. 500, worth of land besides rs. 1,000 for her maintenance, clothing and residence. she was allowed to take her own stridhanam jewels worth rs. 500. taking her.....
Judgment:

Sundaram Chetty, J.

1. Defendants 2 and 4 are the appellants, This appeal arises out of a suit filed by the plaintiff-respondent to recover possession of the plaint mentioned dry land, 6 acres 84 cents, in extent and assessed at Rs. 8-9-0, Government cist, together with past and future mesne profits. The plaintiff claims the suit property under a gift deed executed to him by the late Cheedalla Venkamma, the widow of Maddi Ramayya, who was an undivided brother of defendant 1 and the adoptive father of defendant 2. The said Venkamma got the suit land under a registered deed of settlement (Ex. C) executed in her favour by defendant 1 for himself and as guardian of defendant 2 (who was then a minor) on 20th October 1910 in satisfaction of her claim for maintenance. This deed was executed in pursuance of the oral directions given by her late husband, for the benefit of the family and with due regard to the worth of the family. The plaintiff states that he became entitled to the suit land by reason of the gift made by Venkamma to him in consideration of his having undertaken to protect her till her death. Defendants 1 to 3 raised several contentions attacking the validity of the plaintiff's claim. Defendant 4 is a tenant of the suit land.

2. Certain findings of fact arrived at by the lower appellate Court have to be taken as undisputed for the purpose of this second appeal. Maddi Ramayya and his brother defendant 1 were members of a joint family and the former died as an undivided member. Defendant 2 who is the son of defendant 1 was adopted by Maddi Ramayya himself during his lifetime. The settlement deed (Ex. C) is a genuine document and was not obtained by Venkamma by undue influence or fraud. The provision for the maintenance of Venkamma made under Ex. C was quite fair and reasonable, having regard to the circumstances of the family of Maddi Ramayya.

3. The main question argued in the second appeal is whether the disposition of property in favour of Venkamma under the settlement deed, Ex. C, is valid and binding on her adopted son defendant 2. Its validity is sought to be established on the plaintiff's side on more than one ground.

4. It may first be considered as a provision made for her maintenance by one who was bound to maintain her. She being the adoptive mother of defendant 2, there is no doubt that she was entitled to a reasonable provision being made for her maintenance according to the status and worth of the family, to which she belongs. According to the evidence on the plaintiff's side, Maddi Ramayya and defendant 1 owned 30 acres of land and Rs. 20,000 cash as their joint family property. Even defendant 1 had to admit-that his family owned 23 acres of the land at the date of Ramayya's death. The learned Subordinate Judge has dealt with the worth of the family in para. 26 of his judgment and found that the amount of cash owned by the family should be far more than Rs. 4,000 which defendant 1 chose to admit. The estimation given by the plaintiff's witnesses-was preferred by the lower appellate Court as true and far more probable. What was given to Venkamma for maintenance under Ex. C was only Rs. 500, worth of land besides Rs. 1,000 for her maintenance, clothing and residence. She was allowed to take her own stridhanam jewels worth Rs. 500. Taking her husband's individual share to be one-fourth of the aforesaid joint family properties (one-fourth share being taken by the adopted son), the gift of properties worth Rs. 1,500 to Venkamma in full discharge of her claim for maintenance without the liberty of claiming an increase of maintenance at any time, seems to be a perfectly reasonable and moderate provision which is in no way detrimental to the interests of the adopted son.

5. That this is a fair and reasonable provision is the concurrent finding of both the Courts below. Treating Ex. C as a deed evidencing the disposition of the minor's property by his natural father and guardian in settlement of his adoptive mother's claim for maintenance it should in the circumstances of this case be held to be within the competence of the natural guardian and not beyond his powers. If this settlement could be regarded as a prudent one made by the guardian after a due consideration of the interests of the minor it could not subsequently be questioned by the minor : vide Vembu Iyer v. Srinivasa Ayyangar [1912] 17 I.C. 609. Inasmuch as the land worth Rs. 500 was given to Venkamma under Ex. C with absolute rights of disposal,. it is contended on behalf of the appellants that the settlement is invalid and not binding on defendant 2. Reliance is placed on the decision reported in Deivachila Ayyangar v. Raghupathi Venkatachariar A.I.R. 1926 Mad. 46.

6. It is true that the learned Judges in that case have held that an absolute alienation of immovable property for the purpose of providing for the maintenance of the stepmother would be invalid and beyond the powers of the guardian. But it seems to me to be difficult to hold on a careful perusal of the judgment in that case, that the learned Judges meant to lay down as an unconditional rule of law that an absolute alienation of any portion of the family property in favour of one entitled to maintenance, if made by a guardian of the minor who was bound to provide for such maintenance, would be ipso facto invalid and unenenforceable. On p. 319 it is observed by Spencer, J., that the more important question to be decided was whether the alienation of joint family properties can be justified under the circumstances of that case. The test was whether the absolute disposition would be a prudent act considering the circumstances of that case. The learned Judges held that an absolute disposition would be prima facie beyond the competence of the guardian. It should not be taken that a presumption raised on account of the fact of the disposition being an absolute one is in every case an irrebuttable presumption. In a case it may be clearly shown that an absolute gift of a small portion of the joint family property in satisfaction of the claim for maintenance would be far more advantageous to the family than the grant of a much larger portion of the property for her life enjoyment alone. That being so, the validity and binding nature of the alienation made by the guardian is a question of fact to be 'determined according to the circumstances of each case. In the present case, I have no hesitation to hold that the provision in question is a fair and reasonable one and is in no way detrimental to the interests of the minor.

7. Inasmuch as Ex. C was executed by defendant 1 also, and as he was doubtless the manager of the family, the settlement may even be deemed to be one effected by him as the manager of the family in respect of a portion of the family property. It has been held by a Bench of this High Court in Seeni Ammal v. Angamuthu Nadar [1912] 13 I.C. 802 that the managing member of a Hindu family can alien- ate absolutely ancestral land by way of a1 provision for maintenance to a member, of that family. The gift in question: being a fair and reasonable one it was within the legitimate powers of a managing member to make in satisfaction of the claim for maintenance.

8. It is further proved in this case that this arrangement or settlement in favour of Venkamma was made in pursuance of the oral directions given by her late husband and assented to by defendant 1 who was also representing the minor defendant 2 as his natural father and guardian. Ex. C itself recites that Venkamma's husband said that out of the property which he was likely to get, if he should effect a division of his share, he was intending to give her land worth Rs. 500, Rs. 300 for residence, cash Rs. 700, besides her ornaments worth Rs. 500, in full settlement of her claim for maintenance with absolute powers of disposal over the properties so given to her. It is further alleged that defendant 1 gave his assent to what his brother Ramayya proposed to do Prom the recital in Ex. C it would appear that he gave these directions when he intended to adopt defendant 2. It seems that even subsequent to the adoption when Maddi Ramayya was about to leave for Pittapur for treatment, he repeated the aforesaid oral directions in the presence of some respectable persons as spoken to by the witnesses on the plaintiff's side and that the arrangement proposed by him was assented to by defendant 1: vide para. 22 of the lower appellate Court's judgment. There is no doubt that defendant 1 assented to that arrangement not only on his own behalf but also on behalf of defendant 2, his minor son, in whose welfare he was highly interested. If this should be considered as a, bequest by the late Maddi Ramayya of a portion of the family property appertaining to his share, in favour of his wife in satisfaction of her claim for maintenance, it would be a valid disposition inasmuch as it was made with the consent of the remaining coparcener or coparceners The decisions in Arunachalam Pillai v. Sampurnathachi [1914] 26 I.C. 208 and Appana Patrachariar v. Srinivasachariar [1917] 40 Mad. 1122, fully support the validity of such a transaction. It is unnecessary to discuss the reasoning adopted by the learned Judges in coming to that conclusion: vide also the decision of the Privy Council in Lakshmi Chand v. Mt. Anandi A.I.R. 1926 P.C. 54, which is to the same effect. The settlement in question made under Ex. C being in perfect consonance with the oral bequest made by the deceased Maddi Ramayya with the consent of defendant 1 who sufficiently represented the interests of defendant 2 also, lit must be deemed to be valid and defendant 2 cannot now question it. There is no doubt that this was accepted as a fair arrangement by all the parties, inasmuch as there was no objection to it by defendant 2 for about ton years thereafter during the lifetime of Venkamma.

9. Lastly, the settlement in question is sought to be supported on the ground that it is an ante-adoption arrangement between the adoptive father and the natural father of the minor who acted as his guardian. The recital in Ex. C indicates that it was an ante-adoption arrangement. But in the plaint there is no specific mention of any ante-adoption arrangement nor is the validity of the settlement sought to be based on any arrangement. The lower appellate Court has however proceeded to view the settlement even as an ante-adoption arrangement because of the recitals in Ex. C itself. As regards this question, considerable stress was laid by the learned advocate for the appellant on the decision of their Lordships of the Privy Council in Krishnamurthi Ayyar v. Krishnamurthi Ayyar . It is argued that a gift of any portion of the property to the widow absolutely under an ante-adoption agreement would be invalid according to the principle enunciated by their Lordships in that case. Reliance is placed strongly on the following passage at p. 526 in their Lordships' judgment:

As soon however as the arrangements go beyond that, that is, either give the widow property absolutely or give the property to strangers, they think no custom as to this has been proved to exist and that such arrangements are against the radical view of the Hindu law.

10. In the previous paragraph their Lordships have observed:

But the consensus of judgments seems to solve those two questions in this way, namely, that the consent of the natural father shows that it is for the advantage of the boy, and that the mere postponement of his interest to the widow's interest, even though it should be one-extending to a life interest in the whole property, is not incompatible with his position as a son. Their Lordships are therefore prepared to hold that custom sanctions such arrangements.

11. In view of the aforesaid observations it is argued that the grant of a life interest in the whole property to the adoptive mother under an ante-adoption agreement would be valid as having the sanction of custom, but even an absolute gift of a microscopical portion of property in her favour by virtue of such arrangement would be altogether invalid. This contention may have great force if before the word 'property' in the expression 'either give the widow property absolutely' some such word as 'any' was used by their Lordships. The interpretation of the exact nature of the pronouncement made by the Privy Council in the aforesaid judgment was the subject for consideration in a recent case decided by a Full Bench of this High Court and reported in Raju v. Nagammal A.I.R. 1928 Mad. 1289. A correct interpretation of what was meant by their Lordships of the Privy Council in the case of dispositions in favour of the adoptive mother under ante-adoption agreements is doubtless beset with some difficulty. This question having been carefully considered and decided after a full discussion by the learned Judges in Raju v. Nagammal A.I.R. 1928 Mad. 1289, I take that interpretation as binding on me. If the decision in this case mainly rested upon the ante-adoption agreement alone the matter will be governed solely by the Privy Council decision. But, as I have already stated, the settlement is valid in two other aspects. In the result, the decision of the lower appellate Court is confirmed and this second appeal is dismissed with costs.


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