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Thayammal (Died) and anr. Vs. Salammal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberAppeal No. 103 of 1963
Judge
Reported inAIR1972Mad83; (1971)IIMLJ286
ActsHindu Succession Act, 1956 - Sections 14 and 14(1)
AppellantThayammal (Died) and anr.
RespondentSalammal and ors.
Cases ReferredRao v. Lachmi Bai
Excerpt:
hindu secession act (xxx of 1956), section 14(1) -- scope-- property held by a limited owner alone can become absolute under section--limited owner, words have definite meaning under hindu. law--it is not life estate--female owner in possession other than as limited owner--section has no application--woman in possession of property under tentative arrangement--section 14(1) has no application; under section 14(1) of the hindu secession act, (xxx of 1956) any property possessed by a female hindu as a limited owner shall be held by her as a full owner thereof. the use of the expression limited owner is very significant and the scope of the section is governed by this expression. the object of the section is to extinguish the estate called limited estate or widow's estate in hindu law and..........or after the commencement of this act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner.,"we can paraphrase this provision as any property possessed by a female hindu as a limited owner shall be held by her as a full owner thereof. the use of the expression 'limited owner' is very significant and the scope of the section is governed by this expression. in eramma v. veerupana. the supreme court held""the property possessed by a female hindu as contemplated in the section is clearly property to which she has acquired some kind of title whether before or after the commencement of the act. it may be noticed that the explanation to section 14(1) sets out the various modes of acquisition of the property by a female hindu and indicates that the section applies only to.....
Judgment:
1. The 7th defendant is the appellant. The suit was filed by the plaintiffs for partition and separate possession of their share in the suit properties. In order to appreciate the point that arises in the appeal it is necessary to set out the relationship of parties to the suit. One Kuppu Naidu had four sons by name Balakrishna Naidu, Kesava Naidu, and Rangaswami Naidu died issueless. The 7th defendant is the widow of Kesava Naidu. Balakrishna Naidu died leaving two sons Venkatachala Naidu and Sami Naidu. Venkatachala Naidu died in 1948. The first plaintiff is the widow of Venkatachala and the second plaintiff is the daughter by another wife of Venkatachala. Sami Naidu is the first defendant in the suit, and his son through the first wife is the second defendant, and his second wife is the sixth defendant. Krishnaswami Naidu died leaving his son, the third defendant and grandsons, the fourth and fifth defendants. In the suit the first plaintiff claimed one-fourth share in the plaint B schedule properties of plaintiffs and defendants 1 to 6 and half share in the plaint C to J schedule which belonged to Venkatachala's branch. Though defendants 1 to 6 filed written statements and a number of issues were framed on the basis of their written statements, when the suit came on for trial, the plaintiffs and defendants 1 to 6 entered into a compromise and a partition decree was passed in terms of the compromise.

2. So far as the 7th defendant is concerned, her husband Kesava Naidu having died in 1925, it was pleaded in the plaint that she was entitled to be maintained from the family properties and that therefore she had been impleaded in the suit. The 7th defendant filed a written statement claiming maintenance at the rate of Rs. 100 per month and also a sum of Rs. 500 per annum for pilgirmage expenses and a provision for residence. On this written statement issue 21. viz what is the maintenance payable to the 7th defendant, was framed. Pending the suit, the Hindu Succession Act (Act 30 of 1956) came into force on 17-6-1956. The 7th defendant filed an additional written statement claiming that she was given for the maintenance items 1173 to 1194 and items 1196 to 1201 of plaint B schedule properties and that after the Hindu Succession Act she had become the absolute owner of these items of properties.

3. The learned Additional Subordinate Judge framed additional issues on this. The suit having been compromised in so far as the other defendants are concerned, the parties went to trial so far as the claim of the 7th defendant alone is concerned. The learned Additional Subordinate Judge held that the 7th defendant was only a licensee having been permitted by the owners of the properties to remain in possession of certain items and that such being the nature of her possession she did not acquire absolute title by virtue of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession, Act, but that she was entitled to a maintenance of Rs. 100 per month and also a sum of Rs. 500 per annum towards pilgrimage expenses. A charge was also created on the joint family properties for due payment of the maintenance to the 7th defendant. The 7th defendant has filed this appeal claiming that she had become the full owner of the items of properties which were in her possession under Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act. Pending the appeal the 7th defendant died leaving a settlement deed conveying the properties in her possession in favour of the wife of the 4th defendant, Ramalakshmi Ammal. The said Ramalakshmi Ammal has been impleaded as the second appellant in this appeal and she claims the properties conveyed in her favour as the absolute properties of the settlor. the 1st appellant.

4. The point that arises for consideration in this appeal is whether the 7th defendant had become the full owner of items 1173 to 1194 and 1196 to 1291 of B schedule properties by reason of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. No evidence, either oral or documentary, had been let in by the parties., The facts are to be gathered only from the pleadings. The plaintiffs had stated in the plaint that in or about 1944 there was a notice given by the 3rd defendant to Venkatachala, the husband of the 1st plaintiff, and Sami Naidu demanding partition of the family properties and that therefore there was a division in status between the parties but that there had been no partition by metes and bounds. that there was a tentative arrangement by which some of the properties were given to the husband of the 1st plaintiff and his brother Sami Naidu and some of the properties to the third defendant, but that the said arrangement was not a complete and final partition and that therefore the plaintiffs were entitled to claim partition. So far as the 7th defendant is concerned, as already stated. it was pleaded that her husband Kesava Naidu having died in 1925, she was entitled to be maintained from the family properties.

In the written statement filed by the 7th defendant, she contended that she had been in possession and enjoyment of plaint B schedule items 1173 to 1194 and 1196 to 1201 in lieu of her maintenance ever since April 1945. that she was definitely made to understand at that time that it was an arrangement purely provisional and that she was assured that in proper time suitable and adequate provision would be made for her, having regard to the vastness of the estate, her seniority, status of the family and large income from the properties. She further contended that she acquiesced in the family arrangement at that time solely and simply for the sake of the well being of the family purely as a temporary measure. She claimed maintenance at the rate of Rs. 100 per month and Rs. 500 per annum towards the pilgrimage expenses and a provision for habitation. She also prayed that the maintenance amount to be paid shall be made a charge on the suit properties or on such extent as would be necessary to satisfy her claim during her lifetime. It can be seen from these pleadings that the arrangement that was entered into in 1944 was purely a provisional arrangement and she did not get any right in the properties themselves; nor could it be said that the properties were allotted to her in lieu of her maintenance. Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act reads:--

Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner.,"

We can paraphrase this provision as any property possessed by a female Hindu as a limited owner shall be held by her as a full owner thereof. The use of the expression 'limited owner' is very significant and the scope of the section is governed by this expression. In Eramma v. Veerupana. the Supreme Court held"

"The property possessed by a female Hindu as contemplated in the section is clearly property to which she has acquired some kind of title whether before or after the commencement of the Act. It may be noticed that the Explanation to Section 14(1) sets out the various modes of acquisition of the property by a female Hindu and indicates that the section applies only to property to which the female Hindu has acquired some kind of title, however restricted the nature of her interest may be. The words 'as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner' as given in the last portion of sub-section (1) of S. 14 clearly suggest that the legislature intended that the limited ownership of a Hindu female should be changed into full ownership. In other words, Section 14(1) of the Act contemplates that a Hindu female who, in the absence of this provision, would have been limited owner of the property, will now become full owner of the same by virtue of this section. The objection of the section is to extinguish the estate called 'limited estate' or 'widow' estate' in Hindu law and to make a Hindu woman. who under the old law would have been only a limited owner, a full owner of the property, with all powers of disposition and to make the estate heritable by her own heirs and not revertible to the heirs of the last male holder."

5. The phrase "limited estate" or "widow's estate" is well known in Hindu Law and has a definite meaning. The connotation as stated in Mayne on Hindu Law, at page 756, 11th Edn. is:--

"It is not a life estate because in certain circumstances she can get an absolute and complete title.............. she fully represents the estate and so long as she is alive no one has any vested interests in the succession."

6. The Privy Council observed in Janaki Ammal v. Narayanaswami. 43 Ind App 207 at p.209 = ILR 39 Mad 634 at p, 637 = (AIR 1916 PC 117):--

'Her right is of the nature of a right of property; her position is that of owner; her powers in that character are, however, limited."

7. The interest of a reversioner is an interest expectant on the death of a limited heir. It is not a vested interest. It is a spes successionis or a mere chance of succession. On the death of the female Hindu the property passes not to her heirs but to the next heir of the last full owner. But in the case of a life estate her right becomes extinct with the end of her life and the ownership is wholly vested in the remainder-man. The ownership in a life estate is split and the vested remainder-man is also an owner.

8. The maintenance grants on the other hand have to be understood with reference to the facts and circumstances in each case. Natesan. J.held in S.A. No. 1415 of 1965 (Mad) Lakshmi Ammal v. Suppanimuthu Nadar:--

"Maintenance grant is prima facie an allotment of personal nature to the grantee and a court would be justified in presuming that a personal grant of the kind enures for the lifetime of the grantee. until the contrary is established A maintenance grant to a female Hindu is ordinarily for her lifetime. She has no right of alienation of the property, and after her death the property comes beck to the joint family out of whose assets it was carved out. Now under Section 14(1) read with explanation, a land given to a female Hindu who has no pre-existing right to a share in the property, without any express terms limiting her estate in the land, would become her absolute property. But where there is no pre-existing right to share the property, and the female Hindu is expressly given only a life estate, as she does not take the property as a 'limited owner'. The full ownership conferred under Section 14(1) cannot enlarge her proprietary right over the property beyond her lifetime, for the remainder is vested in some one else."

The facts in S. A. No, 1415 of 1965 (Mad) are almost similar to the facts of this case. It was held by Natesan. J. that the property given to the widow in lieu of her maintenance was not held by her as a limited owner and as such she did not become the full owner under Sec. 14(1) to become a fresh stock of descent. A similar view was also taken in Venkat narasing Rao v. Lachmi Bai, 1964-2 Andh WR 383. In this decision it was held that mere possession of properties is not sufficient to attract the operation of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, that it is possession as limited owner that the section contemplates, that if a Hindu female is in possession of a property other than as limited owner thereof, Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act cannot successfully be invoked and she does not become the full owner.

As stated already in this case the 7th defendant was put in possession of the property was put in possession of the property now in dispute on a purely provisional or tentative arrangements pending final partition. This was her specific case in the written statement filed in the suit, in which she has only claimed maintenance and did not claim that she was possessing the properties as a limited owner. Having regard to the specific plea in the written statement the plaintiffs were not bound to let in evidence and if the 7th defendant wanted to contend that she was sin possession as a limited owner contrary to her written statement, she ought to have let in evidence to that effect at least. As already stated, the parties did not adduce any oral or documentary evidence. In the foregoing circumstances, we are of opinion that the 7th defendant did not become the full owner of the properties that were in her possession under Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act.

9. I n the result, the appeal fails and is dismissed with costs (one set).

10. Appeal dismissed.


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