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Nammalwar and ors. Vs. Appavu Udayar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberAppeal No. 663 of 1954
Judge
Reported inAIR1960Mad283
ActsEvidence Act - Sections 90; Indian Succession Act - Sections 67, 117, 129 and 130; Madras Hindu Transfers and Bequests Act, 1914 - Sections 2(2); Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908 - Sections 92; Hindu Law
AppellantNammalwar and ors.
RespondentAppavu Udayar and ors.
Cases ReferredMadras v. Vedavalli Thayarammal
Excerpt:
.....to grandsons and charity, not independent gifts nor substitutional gifts but conditional gifts--gift in favour of charities only on failure of gift to grandsons in particular manner indicated in will-- section 130 of indian succession act (xxxix of 1925)--madras hindu transfers and bequests act (i of 1914)--property vested in grandsons in 1912--no postponement of time of distribution to 1914 ; a will was executed on 17th september 1885. at the time of the execution of the will the testator had an only daughter and three wives. under the terms of the will the testator gave properties described in a schedule annexed to the will to his daughter. by a subsequent clause he gave the same properties to his three wives for their lifetime and directed the gift to her heirs and if she..........subordinate judge upheld the genuineness of the codicil, and, construing it, he held that the gift in favour of the charity was void and inoperative. he even held that there was no valid bequest in favour of any charity either by the will or by the codicil and that the suit was barred by adverse possession and limitation. on these findings, he dismissed the suit.(4) mr. r. ramamurthi aiyar, learned counsel for the appellants, stressed two points before us. the first related to the genuineness of the alleged codicil, ex. b. 27. the second related to the construction of the will as modified by the codicil.(5) appavu udayar died on 31st july 1902. that is the date on which he is said to have executed the codicil on the back of the registered will. ex. a. 1. nobody questions the.....
Judgment:
(1) This appeal against the dismissal of O. S. No. 128 of 1950 on the file of the Subordinate Judge's Court, Tiruchirapalli, is by the plaintiffs. The suit was laid against 32 defendants for a declaration that the properties described in the schedules to the plaint belonged to the Trust specified in the will of one Appavu Udayar who died on 31-7-1902. The further reliefs claimed in the plaint were recovery of possession of the alienated properties from the alienors and restoration of possession to the first defendant or to such other person as the court might deem fit for and on behalf of the Trust and recovery of mesne profits at Rs. 10,000 for annum.

The case in the plaint is that the properties described in schedules B and C to the plaint belonged to Appavu Udayar who executed a will on 17-9-1885, bequeathing them to a Trust for feeding 10 brahmins every day in a house bearing door No. 211 North Chitrai St., Srirangam, belonging to him. The three widows of the testator who survived him were appointed trustees of the charities for their lives. The first defendant to the suit was the only surviving widow of the testator on the date of plaint. The second defendant in the suit is the son of a daughter of the testator. On the date of the will, the testator had only one daughter, Annapoornamma, by his wife, Meenakshi.

The testator is said to have executed, according to the contesting defendants 1 and 2, a codicil Ex. B. 27, on 31-7-1902, by which he materially altered the dispositions made by his will. The truth and genuineness of this codicil are not admitted by the appellants. The 2nd defendant was not born on the date of the will or codicil of the testator, but was born only in 1912. The 1st defendant was not in possession of any of the suit properties as she and her co-widow, Minakshi, are said to have relinquished their interest in the testator's properties in favour of defendant 2 even in 1930 by the release deed Ex. A. 2. Defendant 2 is said to have alienated many of the trust properties in favour of the other defendants to the suit. The first plaintiff and another applied to the Advocate General, Madras, in 1949 for sanction being granted under S. 92 C.P.C. to file a suit in respect of the suit charity. The Advocate General refused sanction on the ground that there was no charity in existence.

(2) The defendants raised various pleas which are covered by the 12 issues framed in the suit. The principal issues were that no valid trust had been created by the will of Appavu Udayar, that the codicil had revoked the provisions of the will of 1885, that the bequest in favour of the charity was void and consequently there was intestacy and the 2nd defendant as the grandson of the testator became entitled to all the properties, and the alienees had acquired title by adverse possession and the suit was barred by limitation.

(3) The learned Subordinate Judge upheld the genuineness of the codicil, and, construing it, he held that the gift in favour of the charity was void and inoperative. He even held that there was no valid bequest in favour of any charity either by the will or by the codicil and that the suit was barred by adverse possession and limitation. On these findings, he dismissed the suit.

(4) Mr. R. Ramamurthi Aiyar, learned counsel for the appellants, stressed two points before us. The first related to the genuineness of the alleged codicil, Ex. B. 27. The second related to the construction of the will as modified by the codicil.

(5) Appavu Udayar died on 31st July 1902. That is the date on which he is said to have executed the codicil on the back of the registered will. Ex. A. 1. Nobody questions the genuineness of the will. It is said that all the attestors to the codicil,--there are three of them--were dead on the date of the suit. The writer also was dead. This fact is not disputed. The document, Ex. A. 1, on the back of which is written the codicil, was produced by the Land Mortgage Bank, Turichirapalli, with whom the 2nd defendant had lodged it in connection with a transaction which he had with the Bank. The document is certainly more than 30 years old and it has been produced from proper custody.

Under the circumstances, the presumption arising under S. 90 of the Evidence Act, can be drawn as to the due execution of the documents and attestation of it. The only two circumstances relied on by Mr. Ramamurthy Aiyar as negativing the presumption are that the codicil was not published till 1930, when for the first time it is mentioned in the surrender deed, Ex. A. 2, and the document was not executed on a separate piece of paper, but appears to be endorsed on the last page in the will. Neither of them, in our opinion, is sufficient to rebut the presumption arising under S. 90 of the Evidence Act. From 1902 till 1930, both the widows and the grandson of the testator have been dealing with the properties without any protest on the part of anybody by way of creating sales and mortgages.

They did not acknowledge the title of the Trust at any time after the testator's death. They dealt with the properties as the heirs-at-law of the testator. Consequently, there was no occasion to mention the codicil in any of these alienations till 1930. There was a litigation in 1930 with reference to a property left by the testator in O. S. No. 48 of 1930 in the Sub Court, Tiruchirapalli, which was a suit laid by a mortgagee. The second defendant was the defendant in that suit and he was contesting it. In connection with this suit, the surrender deed, Ex. A. 2, was executed. Mention had to be made in that deed of the will of Appavu Udayar and of the unregistered codicil.

The widows did not claim the properties under the will or codicil because, they asserted in Ex. A2 that they obtained the properties as the heirs of their husband. They mentioned the codicil in Ex. A. 2 only by way of enumerating the properties which they obtained from their husband. Obviously, there was nothing in 1930 which suddenly induced the windows or the 2nd defendant to fabricate a codicil for the purpose of effectuating the surrender deed. The object could have been achieved without bringing into existence any false document on the back of the last page of the will. We see therefore nothing suspicious in the codicil being published for the first time only in 1930. The other circumstance that the codicil was not written on a separate sheet of paper and was not registered deserves no consideration. We entirely agree with the learned Subordinate Judge that the codicil is a true document which was executed by the testator and duly attested as required by law.

(6) The next contention of Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar is that the learned Subordinate Judge went wrong in entirely ignoring the dispositions made under the Will on the assumption that the codicil displaced those dispositions. He maintained that the codicil merely modified the dispositions made by the will in one respect, and that, both under the will and the codicil, the gift to the charity was affirmed. His argument was that there was an overriding intention of the testator expressed both in the will and the codicil to give the properties described in the B schedule to the will to the charity, and that the only alteration made in the codicil was the substitution of the daughter's son for the daughter in respect of the bequest of the properties described in A schedule to the plaint. To understand this and the further argument of Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar, we would set out in brief the provisions of the will and the codicil.

(7) The scheme in the will is that the properties of the testator are divided into two Schedules--A and B. The A schedule properties are given to Annapoornam, the daughter of the testator by one of his wives, Minakshi. That daughter was then alive. The testator provided that, if he should beget other daughters by his wives, such daughters, should be got married suitably by Annapornam. These daughters however, did not take any share in the A schedule properties by the terms of the will. A schedule properties were given by a subsequent clause to the three widows of the testator and the gift to Annapoornam was directed to take effect after the lifetime of the three widows. After Annapoornam's lifetime, the A schedule properties were given to her heirs, and, if she had no heirs, these properties were to be added to the B schedule properties which were given to the charity.

The testator gave the B schedule lands and properties to charity and directed that the charity should be performed by his widows and, after their lifetime, by Annapoorna and her husband. Over one item of nanja lands included in the B schedule, the testator made provision for maintenance of Seeniamal, the widow of his predeceased son. Finally, both the bequests in favour of Annapoornam and the charity were to stand cancelled in case the testator begot a son. For seven years after his death, the testator directed, the A and B schedule properties should be enjoyed by his widows, and, if they should die within that period, by Annapoornam, and, out of the income, the debts of the testator amounting to Rs. 3000 should be discharged. Till such debts were discharged the charity had no claim over the income during that period. Thereafter, even if the debts were not fully discharged, the income from the B schedule properties should be utilised for the conduct of the charity.

(8) After the execution of the will and before the date of the codicil, Annapoornam had died. The testator had begotten two other daughters by his wife, Minakshi, and one of them, Nagaratnammal, is the mother of the present 2nd respondent (second defendant). Since the gift in favour of Annapoornam given under the original will could not take effect as she had already died, the testator had to make fresh provisions by his codicil. He directed by his codicil that his three widows should after his lifetime take both A and B schedule properties for their lives without power of alienation. The wives should maintain the daughters and get them married and keep the sons-in-law in the family itself. If any of his daughters should beget male heir, all the properties of the testator should belong to that male heir. Till that male heir attained majority, all the wives of the testator should be his guardian. In case no male heir was born to any of his daughters, all the properties of the testator should go to the charity mentioned in the will.

(9) Reading the will and the codicil together, we are unable to find any overriding intention of the testator to give his properties to the charity irrespective of any contingency. A reasonable construction of the will and the codicil would be to hold that the testator's intention to give the properties to the charity was conditional upon none of his daughters begetting a male child. We do not there agree with Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar that there is an overriding intention on the part of the testator to make a bequest both under the will and the codicil to the charity and that the construction of the will should be such as to give effect to this intention.

(10) The conclusion of the learned Subordinate judge that the bequests made under the codicil failed and there was an intestacy is attacked by Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar mainly on the ground that the gift to the charity is only a substitutional gift and not a conditional gift. We do not agree. The following clause in the codicil "should any of my daughters beget male heir, my aforesaid entire properties should belong to that male heir" is not capable of any dubious meaning. The first bequest is in favour of the three wives of the testator for their lives. Of course, this bequest is terminable on the birth of a son to any of the daughters of the testator.

Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar contends that the gift in favour of the grandson was a void gift, because it offended the rule in the Tagore case. Jatindra Mohan Tagore v. Ganendra Mohan Tagore, 9 Beng LR 377 (PC), and even though the prior bequest failed not in the manner contemplated by the testator, under S. 129 of the Succession Act the subsequent bequest in favour of the charity should take effect. For this purpose, he relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Mrs. Shirinbai Manekshaw v. Nargacebai J. Motishaw, . There, a Parsi testator gave all his properties to his adopted mother and also to her heirs. The husband of the mother had attested the will, and, consequently, the gift in her favour was void under the provisions of S. 67 of the Indian Succession Act.

The question arose whether, on the failure of the gift to the adopted mother, any intestacy intervened, or, on a true construction of the will there was a substitutional bequest in favour of the heirs of the adopted mother. The mother had two daughters on the date of the death of the testator. The question posed for consideration by the Supreme Court was the construction of the will to ascertain whether there was a single bequest to Shirinbai, the adopted mother, as contended by the respondents, or, whether there was also a substituted bequest to take effect on the failure of the bequest to the mother, as contended by the appellants. The Supreme Court ruled that if there was no substitutional bequest neither S. 129 nor S. 130 of the Indian Succession act would be called into play. But the Supreme Court construed the will as containing a substitutional bequest in favour of the heirs of the adopted mother, and, in the circumstances that had happened, Sec. 130 of the Succession Act would not apply and S. 129 alone would apply. Section 129 is in the following terms:

"Where there is a bequest to one person and a bequest of the same thing to another, if the prior bequest shall fail, the second bequest shall take effect upon the failure of the prior bequest although the failure may not have occurred in the manner contemplated by the testator."

S. 130 runs thus:

"Where the will shows an intention that the second bequest shall take effect only in the event of the first bequest failing in a particular manner, the second bequest shall not take effect, unless the prior bequest fails in that particular manner.' On the construction of the will in that case, the Supreme Court having ruled that the will did contain a substitutional bequest in favour of the heirs of the adopted mother, the further question whether S. 129 of S. 130 applied had to depend equally on the terms of the will. The facts of the case before us have no resemblance to the facts in the Supreme Court decision. Here, the gifts in favour of the grandson and in favour of the charity are not independent gifts. Nor could they be considered substitutional gifts. Clearly, the gift under the will in favour of the charity and any gift which can be spelled out in its favour under the codicil is a conditional gift, the specific condition being that there would be no male child born to any of the daughters of the testator who could take at the date of the death of the widows of the testator.

The gift in favour of the charity is not therefore substitutional, but is clearly a conditional gift, the condition being the absence of any male grandson of the testator through his daughters. The gift in favour of the charity could therefore take effect only if the gift in favour of the grandson failed in the particular manner indicated by the testator. Here, the gift in favour of the grandson failed, not because there was no grandson to take the gift, but because of the rule in the Tagore case. Consequently, it is S. 130 of the Succession Act that applies and the second bequest cannot take effect since the first bequest did not fail in the manner indicated by the testator.

(11) The argument of Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar that the gift in favour of the grandson was void and could not take effect was answered by Mr. A. V. Narayanaswami Aiyar, counsel for the respondents, by relying on the provisions of the Madras Hindu Transfers and Bequests Act, I of 1914, S. 2(2) of that Act runs thus:

"In the case of transfers inter vivos or wills executed before the date of this Act, the provisions of this Act shall apply to such of the dispositions thereby made as are intended to come into operation at a time which is subsequent to such date; Provided that nothing contained in this section shall affect bona fide transferees for valuable consideration, in whom the right to any property has vested prior to the date of the Act."

The Act came into force on 14-2-1914. It was intended to declare the rights of persons governed by the Hindu Law to make testamentary transfers and bequests in favour of unborn persons, which right had been denied by the decision of the Privy Council in the Tagore case. The argument was that a life estate had been conferred upon the widows and a grandson had come into existence before the termination of the preceding life estate, and since the time of distribution was indicated in the will to be only after the termination of the life of the widows and the grandson was alive to take at the time of distribution, clause (2) of S. 2 of Act I of 1914 rendered the gift in favour of the grandson valid.

This argument found favour with the learned Subordinate Judge. The second defendant had been born even in 1912, that is, before the date when Madras Act I of 1914 came into effect. Under the terms of the codicil, the life estate given to the widows is to terminate on the birth of a son to any of the daughters. Therefore, the moment the second defendant was born in 1912, the life estate of the widows terminated and the properties vested in the second defendant. We are unable to see how the time of distribution could be postponed after the birth of a grandson. It is true that the widows of the testator are appointed guardians of the grandson; but, that would not have the effect of postponing the time of distribution.

(12) This question has been considered in two decisions of this court--Venkayamma v. Narasamma, ILR 40 Mad 540: (AIR 1917 Mad 243) and Sivarama Aiyar v. Gopalakrishna Chettiar, 47 Mad LJ 337: (AIR 1925 Mad 88). In construing the terms of the will in the former case, the court held that the disposition in favour of the unborn heirs was to take effect after the coming into force of Madras Act 1 of 1914. But, in the latter case, it was held that the vesting in the unborn son under the terms of the will was before the Act, and since the devisee did not live up to the termination of the preceding estate nor even up to beyond the date of the passing of the Act so as to give an opportunity for the Act to operate upon his contingent and void estate and convert it into a vested and valid estate, the Act did not apply.

In the case before us, though the vesting was before the Act, the devisee lived up to the commencement of the Act. That is, of course, one difference. But the decision in Sivarama Aiyar's case, 47 Mad LJ 337: (AIR 1925 Mad 88) is no authority for the contention that merely because a devisee had lived up to the commencement of the Act even when the vesting had taken place before the commencement of the Act, the disposition would be made good by the application of the provisions of Act 1 of 1914. To accede to the argument of the learned counsel for the respondents would mean to write a new will for the testator, that is to say, to provide for the vesting of the estate in the grandson after 1914 and not as soon as the grandson was born in 1912. We therefore reject the argument of learned counsel for the respondents that Madras Act I of 1914 validated the gift in favour of the unborn grandson.

(13) Mr. Narayanaswami Aiyar, learned counsel for the respondents, maintained that the decision in the Tagore's case, 9 Beng LR 377 (PC), itself was wrong, and, in support of this opinion, he cited many text book writers. We are relieved of the necessity of examining this point, as, in our view, even on intestacy consequent upon the failure of the gift in favour of the grandson, the grandson (respondent 2 before us) takes the property as the heir at law after the widows.

(14) Our view that there was an intestacy in this case consequent upon the failure of the gift in favour of the grandson is supported by a Bench decision of this Court in the Official Assignee, Madras v. Vedavalli Thayarammal, 51 Mad LJ 182: (AIR 1926 Mad 936). There he testator had given the whole of his residuary estate to his grandson or sons who might be born or would be born to his son S within ten years after his death. It there were no such grandsons, the residuary estate was directed to be divided equally between his grand-daughters after the death of his wife. By a codicil, the distribution of the estate among the grand-daughters was postponed till after the death of his wife, his son and daughter-in-law.

The testator died in 1887, leaving a widow, son and three grand daughters. A grandson was born in 1889. On a construction of this will, it was held that the bequest in favour of the grandson born in 1889 after the death of the testator was invalid under the rule in the Tagore's case, (9 Beng LR 377 PC) that as the will provided that the gift over to the grand daughter was to take effect only if there was no grandson born within ten years of the testator's death but a grandson was actually born within ten years, the case fell within S. 117 of the Indian Succession Act, corresponding to the present S. 130, and the gift over would not take effect, and the result was an intestacy.

Ramesam J. in his separate concurring judgment, supported the failure of the first gift upon the additional ground that there was an interval after the testator's death, during which the estate was not vested in any person. On this ground, he held that the disposition in favour of the grandson was void and consequently the disposition in favour of the granddaughters was also void. This ground of the decision cannot be held to be impliedly overruled by the decision of the Supreme Court in . We agree with the learned Subordinate Judge that

there was an intestacy in this case, even though we do not agree with him that the gift in favour of the grandson was validated by the provisions of Madras Act I of 1914. The result is that there was no valid gift in favour of the charity, which could take effect.

(15) It is unnecessary in this view to consider the other questions whether the bequest in favour of the charity was ineffective for any reason like the charity not having come into existence on the death of the testator or the widows having repudiated the charity, or because of the provisions in the will regarding the gift in favour of the charity being inchoate. It is also unnecessary for the disposal of this appeal to consider the question whether the suit fails by reason of limitation or adverse possession. However we fail to understand the observations of the learned Subordinate Judge that the alienors and the widows had prescribed title by adverse possession.

The widows and the second defendant were in the position of trustees of the charity if there was a valid creation of a Trust under the will. Consequently their possession could never be adverse to the trust. In view of the admitted fact that the widows and the 2nd defendant had consistently denied the charity, we fail to see against when the alienors could acquire title by adverse possession. Anyway, to support the decree of the lower court it is not necessary to agree with the conclusions of the lower court upon these questions of limitation and adverse possession. On our finding that the bequest in favour of the grandson failed, and consequently, even if there was a valid bequest in favour of the charity under the will and the codicil, that also failed and an intestacy followed, the suit must necessarily be dismissed.

(16) The appeal is dismissed with the costs of the contesting respondents

(17) Appeal dismissed.


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