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Hepzibah Annathai Rengachari Vs. R. Ananthalakshmi Rangachari - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberO.S. Appeal No. 60 of 1973
Judge
Reported inAIR1975Mad342; (1975)2MLJ387
ActsSuccession Act, 1925 - Sections 255; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908 - Sections 100
AppellantHepzibah Annathai Rengachari
RespondentR. Ananthalakshmi Rangachari
Appellant AdvocateP.H. Pandian, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateV.C. Srikumar, Adv.
DispositionAppeal allowed
Excerpt:
- .....in section 255. we think that, in this case, the nature of the case being such, namely, a joint account payable to either or survivor, the surviving wife is entitled to draw the money in her own right. apart from that, she is not obliged even to apply, for letters of administration. but, since the bankers, as we are told, had insisted upon such letters she had applied. in such a case, the court is not barred from granting letters as a formality to enable the appellant to meet the demands of the bankers in order to draw the amount. as we opined earlier, the consideration will apply to the other claim on account of the death benefit of the husband.4. learned counsel for the respondent strongly relied on in the matter of varadaraja mudaliar, to contend that in the case of either or.....
Judgment:

Veeraswami, C.J.

1. The appeal arises from an order of Paul, J., made in an application of the appellant for grant of letters of administration. She claimed that she was the wife of one S. Rangachariar, who died at Madras leaving a will dated 14-1-1964. He had an account No. 3188 in the United Commercial Bank, Purasawalkam, jointly with the appellant and her daughter one Rebecca. Also, she claimed the death benefit payable by the Arabian Oil Co. In respect of these two items, she applied for Letters of Administration valuing them together at Rs. 59,793.76. The respondent claiming to be the senior wife of the deceased, appeared on the scene at a later stage and contended that the assets left by Ranga-chari amounted to much more than the value mentioned in the affidavit of assets, and that all the assets of the deceased should be valued and brought into the affidavit of assets of the deceased in order that Letters of Administration might be granted subject to other conditions, if any. This objection prevailed with Paul, J., except in respect of the property covered by a sale deed which stood in the name of the appellant

2. Normally, when Letters of Administration are applied for, as envisaged by the provisions of Chapter II of the Indian Succession Act, the entirety of the assets of the deceased should be disclosed in the affidavit of assets which will count for valuation for purposes of court-fee. That this is so, was held in Parthasarathi Naidu In re, : AIR1955Mad411 . As pointed out in that decision, the rule has exceptions as provided by Sections 254 to 257. Though the appellant sought to invoke Section 254(1), in our opinion, the real exception applicable to this case is what is contained in Section 255. Where it is a case of joint account in a Bank and the amount is payable to either or survivor, the nature of the case requires that it is treated as an exception to the general rule we mentioned. This is because, though the will in this case devised the entire assets of the deceased testator in favour of the appellant, inasmuch as the account was joint and the amount standing to its credit was payable to either or survivor, the appellant, as between the Bank and herself would be entitled to draw the same in her own right. On that view, it may not even be necessary to obtain Letters of Administration, for, there is in that case little to administer, and, as we mentioned, her right to draw the amount can be independently of the will. In the case of payment of the death benefit, that again, as we take it, was payable to the wife and though it may not stand on the same footing as the joint account aforesaid, still her right to draw the money as death benefit would likewise arise even independent of the will. That being so, we are inclined to think that this is a case where Letters of Administration are totally unnecessary for the appellant so far as the above two items are concerned.

3. It is, however, strenuously contended before us that, even on the footing of the amount payable to either or survivor, since there is no presumption in favour of the wife, all that could be said is that there would be a resulting trust in favour of the surviving wife, and that, as the respondent is the senior wife of the deceased, she would be entitled to share that amount. This argument, as we think, is mixed up with the real issue, namely, whether the appellant could invoke any of the exceptions to the general rule. That question does not involve consideration and disposal of the rights of the contesting claimants in respect of the two amounts. From the stand point of administration and the requirement of mentioning the items the deceased left in the affidavit of assets, which will eventually bear on court-fee, we are of opinion that at this stage substantive, rights of the contending claimants do not fall to be decided. All that we are concerned is to see whether the nature of the case requires application of the exception contained in Section 255. We think that, in this case, the nature of the case being such, namely, a joint account payable to either or survivor, the surviving wife is entitled to draw the money in her own right. Apart from that, she is not obliged even to apply, for Letters of Administration. But, since the Bankers, as we are told, had insisted upon such Letters she had applied. In such a case, the court is not barred from granting Letters as a formality to enable the appellant to meet the demands of the Bankers in order to draw the amount. As we opined earlier, the consideration will apply to the other claim on account of the death benefit of the husband.

4. Learned Counsel for the respondent strongly relied on In the matter of Varadaraja Mudaliar, to contend that in the case of either or survivor account the money belonged to the estate of the husband, and that being so, no exception could be applied to the general rule that the entire assets should be disclosed in the affidavit of assets. But this contention is only begging the question. The authority cited does not go beyond what we have already mentioned that in case of such account, the survivor may hold the proceeds of the account in trust, if there are other valid claimants to the same. But that is entirely a matter different from, as we said, what we are concerned.

5. Also it is contended for the respondent, that the order of Paul, J., is not a final one and as such the appeal did not lie. What a final order would be in a case, will depend not merely on the abstract proposition of law but also the circumstances of each case. Cases on this part are legion. Suffice to say that in the instant case Paul, J.'s order was final, because there was nothing more to be considered So far as the main petition for granting of Letters of Administration is concerned, As a matter of fact, the appellant had once obtained such Letters, but it happened to be in the absence of the respondent at whose instance the earlier order had been set aside. The objection as to the maintainability of the appeal cannot, therefore, be accented.

6. We accordingly allow the appeal. No costs.


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