(1) This is an appeal preferred by the first plaintiff and the legal representatives of the second plaintiff. The plaintiffs' suit for a declaration that they are entitled to the suit properties of Pa. Palani Goundar was dismissed by the learned Subordinate Judge of Erode. According to the plaint, their case is that the suit properties were originally allotted to Pa. Palani Goundar at a partition effected between himself and his brother Mitta Perumal Goundar. Subsequently when Pa. Palani Goundar died in 1908, he left his two widows Kaliammal and Nanjammal, his brother Mitta Perumal, Kaliammal, their mother, and Chockkammal the widow of his deceased brother Kolanda Goundar. Soon after the death of Pa. Palani Goundar, an agreement was entered into with the then reversioner Mitta Goundar by the two widows of Pa. Palani Goundar in and by which substantial properties were allowed to be in possession of these widows for their maintenance. After the death of the widows Kaliammal and Nanjammal and Mitta Perumal Goundar the daughters of Mitta Perumal Goundar defendants 1 to 3 inherited these properties and made various alienations in favour of third parties who are figuring as defendants 4 to 20. The first plaintiff now claims that he is entitled in law to inherit the suit properties as the reversionary heir to the estate of the deceased Pa. Palani Goundar and that the alienations effected by defendants 1 to 3 are not binding on him. The second plaintiff had purchased some item of the suit properties from the first plaintiff. The suit is resisted by defendants 1 to 3 that the plaintiffs have neither title to the suit properties nor can they question the alienations effected by defendants 1 to 3. The widows Kaliammal and Nanjammal during their lifetime had completely surrendered their properties to the then nearest reversioner Mitta Perumal Goundar, the father of defendants 1 to 3. It was only as a provision for their maintenance that some properties were given to the widows and after their death, as per the agreement, these properties should go back to the reversioner or his heirs. After the death of the widows and their father, defendants 1 to 3 contend that they are entitled to the suit properties, that they can alienate the properties and that the plaintiffs cannot question their alienations. Their case is supported by the alienees defendants 4 to 20 who have filed separate written statements. On these pleadings, the parties went to trial before the learned Subordinate Judge. There the question that arose for consideration was whether the document Ex. B-1 (Karar deed) in the suit was a partition deed or a surrender. The learned Subordinate Judge after considering the documents came to the conclusion that it was a surrender, and that the plaintiffs had no right to the properties or question the alienations effected by the daughters of Mitta Perumal Goundar. In the end he dismissed the suit. It is against the dismissal of the suit that the first plaintiff and the legal representatives of the second plaintiff have preferred this appeal.
(2) In this appeal, the only question that arises for our consideration is whether Ex. B-1 (Ex. A-2 is a registration copy of Ex. B-1), a much disputed document is a surrender deed or a partition deed. The power of a Hindu widow to surrender or relinquish her interest in her husband's estate in favour of the nearest reversioner has been considered in a number of decisions in Bhagwant Koer v. Dhanukdhari Prasad Singh, 46 Ind App 259: AIR 1919 PC 75 , Sureshwar Misser v. Maheshrani Misrain, 47 Ind App 233: AIR 1921 PC 107 and Angamuthu v. Varatharajulu, AIR 1920 Mad 627 . It has been laid down in those cases that a Hindu widow can relinquish the estate in favour of the nearest reversioner by a voluntary act and effect herself from succession as effectively as if she had then died. The requisite condition for a valid surrender is that a widow can accelerate the estate of the nearest reversioner by conveying to him absolutely and destroying her life interest. The surrender to be valid must be a surrender of the whole estate. It must be in favour of the nearest reversioner and it should not be a device to divide the estate between the widow and the nearest reversioner. But a portion of the property can be retained for her maintenance. Bearing these principles in mind we have to consider the contents of the document Ex B-1 in this case.
(3) Mr. M. S. Venkatarama Iyer, learned counsel for the appellants, has taken us through the contents of the document. The document itself is styled as Karar. The document begins by saying that the suit properties are allotted to Pa. Palani Goundar in a division effected between him and his brother and that after the death of Palani Goundar at the instance of Mitta Perumal Gounder, these widows entered into an agreement in and by which properties were given for their maintenance. The estate consists of 20 acres of land (wet 9 acres 74 cents, dry 10 acres 8 cents). According to the arrangement, the widows were to be in possession of about ten acres of land, Kaliammal to be in possession of 4 acres 531/2 cents and Nanjammal to be in possession of 4 acres 681/2 cents. The remaining estate was taken by Mitta Perumal Goundar absolutely for his own use and enjoyment. It is further provided in the document that when any of the widows dies, her property should not be inherited by survivorship by the other widow then alive and should go back to the nearest reversioner Mitta Perumal Gounder if he is alive or his heirs. It is also further provided in the deed that portions of the house property were allotted to the widows in the two houses belonging to the estate of the last male holder.
By reading the whole document, according to the learned counsel for the appellants, it is only a device to divide the estate between the widows and the reversioners. His contention is that the properties that were allotted for the maintenance of the widows were more than half the extent of the properties and that therefore this document cannot be styled as a surrender deed but can only be considered as a partition deed. But we have gone through the contents of the document carefully. It is well settled that no particular form is necessary to effect a surrender. Surrender can be effected orally but if it is reduced into writing, it must be registered. We have to take into consideration the surrounding circumstances, the extent of the estate and the portion of the estate given to the widows for their maintenance and then come to a decision whether it is a surrender or whether it is a device to divide the estate between the widows and the reversioner. As we have already stated, the extent of the estate is about 20 acres. The extent of the property given to the widows is about half the estate, namely, 10 acres, five acres to each widow. We cannot say that the extent of five acres to each is more than enough for them. The document itself says that the five acres were given to each widow for her comfortable livelihood. The question is whether five acres are more than sufficient for each widow for her livelihood. What Mr. M. S. Venkatarama Aiyar says is that both the widows were given half the estate and it is very unreasonable to give half the estate to the widows at the time of the surrender. We do not think it so. What is fair, just and reasonable depends upon the status of the widows, the extent of the properties and the understanding arrived at between the parties. After all the widows were given only life interest and not an absolute one. If really the intention of the parties was to divide the properties into three shares, the widows would have insisted in getting their properties allotted to them as absolute estate. But it was specifically understood that the properties were given to the widows as life-interest and that too for their maintenance and that after their death the properties should go back to Mitta Perumal Gounder and his heirs. This is quite inconsistent with the division of the properties as suggested by Mr. M. S. Venkatarama Aiyar, learned counsel for the appellants. It is clear that the reversioner in whom the estate is vested as a result of the surrender is bound in law to provide the widow with maintenance. The liability to provide maintenance is not contractual but is based on her right as a widow to be provided with maintenance out of her husband's estate. The mere fact that she entered into an arrangement at the time of the surrender with the nearest reversioner to receive maintenance at a particular rate does not affect her right to claim enhanced maintenance if there is a change in the circumstances so as to warrant her to receive higher rate of maintenance. Therefore, we cannot say that the five acres provided for each widow at the time of the surrender is not fair, reasonable and just when once we come to the conclusion that there is a bona fide surrender and it is not a device to divide the estate between the widows and the nearest reversioner and that it must be treated only as a surrender.
Mr. Venkatarama Aiyar stresses that the word 'karar' in the document implies that it is not a surrender deed but only an agreement for a consideration. It has been held in many cases that a mere description of a document as Karar cannot make it a karar document. What we have to consider is the substance of the document. After going through the contents of the document it is clear to us that the then nearest reversioner in order to give a comfortable livelihood to the widows had entered into an agreement with the widows giving them a reasonable portion of the properties for their maintenance. Nowhere in the Hindu law has it been suggested that the widows must themselves surrender but not at the instigation or instance of the then reversioner. The surrender itself denotes a sort of agreement or arrangement entered into between the nearest reversioners and the widows in this case. Therefore, it cannot be said that under this arrangement, the widows continued to be in possession of their husband's estate. In this case, we are satisfied that the requisites of a valid surrender have been fully made out. On the view we take on the construction of this document, the other points raised by learned counsel for the appellants are unnecessary to be considered.
(4) We think therefore that the conclusion arrived at by the learned Subordinate Judge on the construction of the document is correct. The appeal is accordingly dismissed and each party will bear its costs throughout.
(5) Appeal dismissed.