Skip to content


Pugalumperumal Pillai Vs. Thangathammal - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported in(1949)1MLJ389
AppellantPugalumperumal Pillai
RespondentThangathammal
Cases Referred and Damodara Moothan v. Ammu Amma
Excerpt:
.....hold and enjoy the property hereditarily, there would not be much difficulty in construing it as a gift absolute. these are words of disposition so well known and accepted as implying absolute rights that they have come to be recognised as practically terms of art and as the learned judge says, it is difficult to see what more words could have been used by any donor to confer an absolute estate on the donee than the words used in this deed. the second is that technical words, or words of known legal import, must have their legal effect, even though the testator uses inconsistent words, unless those inconsistent words are of such a nature as to make it perfectly clear that the testator-did not use the technical terms in their proper sense. 8. learned counsel for the appellant next relied..........law, then it is the common case that the appellant will succeed.2. the relevant portions of the gift deed are as follows:as i have given away to you the property in the schedule herein worth rs. 1,500 as stridhanam gift, you shall hold and enjoy the aforesaid property hereditarily and from son to grandson and so on as long as the sun and moon last. after your lifetime, your, issues if there are any, shall get the aforesaid property. if you have no male or female issues, the aforesaid property shall revert to me and to my male heirs. i shall, till my lifetime, reside jointly with you in the thatched house mentioned in the schedule.the learned judge, after an exhaustive consideration of some of the leading cases, relating to the construction of such deeds of gift and wills and relying.....
Judgment:

Govinda Menon, J.

1. This is an appeal under Clause 15 of the Letters Patent against the judgment of Rajamannar, J., as he then was, reversing the decision of the Subordinate Judge of Tuticorin, in A.S. No. 10 of 1944, which in its turn reversed: the decree of the District Munsiff of Tuticorin in O.S. No. 236 of 1942. As the facts and circumstances have been stated in great detail in the judgment appealed against, we do not consider it necessary to set them out at all. What the true construction of the deed of gift dated 8th May, 1905, executed by Pichiyarammal in favour of her daughter Veeraperumal Ammal is, is the only subject of controversy. If the donee Veeraperumal Ammal took the property the subject-matter of the gift, as an absolute property, then, the appellant necessarily fails. If, on the other hand, what was donated under Ex. P-7 in favour of Veeraperumal Ammal is only a life estate, or a woman's estate as is known under the Hindu law, then it is the common case that the appellant will succeed.

2. The relevant portions of the gift deed are as follows:

As I have given away to you the property in the schedule herein worth Rs. 1,500 as stridhanam gift, you shall hold and enjoy the aforesaid property hereditarily and from son to grandson and so on as long as the sun and moon last. After your lifetime, your, issues if there are any, shall get the aforesaid property. If you have no male or female issues, the aforesaid property shall revert to me and to my male heirs. I shall, till my lifetime, reside jointly with you in the thatched house mentioned in the schedule.

The learned Judge, after an exhaustive consideration of some of the leading cases, relating to the construction of such deeds of gift and wills and relying upon the meaning of the terms mentioned in the deed, came to the conclusion that Veeraperumal Ammal took the properties absolutely under the gift deed.

3. The appellant's counsel urges as the first contention that what was intended by the donor was the granting of a life estate to Veeraperumal Ammal with a remainder to her, issues and that this is made plain by the second sentence showing that the donor wanted the issue of Veeraperumal Ammal to get the property after her death. He further contends that as the clause stood, in the absence of any issue for Veeraperumal Ammal, the property should revert to the donor and her male heirs. There is a defeasance clause or a reverter which shows. that the donee had only a life estate. No powers of alienation as such have been granted in favour of the donee and from this fact an inference is sought to be drawn that the intention of the donor was in favour of a life estate and not of an absolute one. For this purpose, Ex. P-4, a sale deed dated 12th February, 1930, executed by Veeraperumal Ammal, the donee, is referred to. But we are satisfied that no guidance in the construction of Ex. P-7 can be gained by looking at an absolutely different kind of document executed by the donee twenty-five years after the date of gift.

4. It is unnecessary to consider any long list of cases in construing this document. In the very first sentence of the operative portion of the deed itself, it is clearly stated that the donee is to have the property as stridhanam in addition to a further recital that she shall hold and enjoy the property hereditarily and from son to grandson and so on as long as the sun and moon last. This contains three distinct and clear phrases indicating the nature of the estate to be taken by the donee. Any one of such phrases occurring alone in a deed of gift will be sufficient ordinarily to enable the Court to construe the document as one granting an absolute estate. If the donor had stated that the donee shall hold and enjoy the property hereditarily, there would not be much difficulty in construing it as a gift absolute. But here other phrases such as ' from son to grandson and so on ' and also ' as long as the sun and moon last' are indicative of nothing but an absolute grant. These are words of disposition so well known and accepted as implying absolute rights that they have come to be recognised as practically terms of art and as the learned Judge says, it is difficult to see what more words could have been used by any donor to confer an absolute estate on the donee than the words used in this deed.

5. As observed by their Lordships of the Privy Council in Lalit Mohan Singh Roy v. Chukkun Lal Roy there are two cardinal principles in the construction of wills, deeds and other documents. The first is that that clear and unambiguous dispositive words are not to be controlled or qualified by any general expression of intention. The second is that technical words, or words of known legal import, must have their legal effect, even though the testator uses inconsistent words, unless those inconsistent words are of such a nature as to make it perfectly clear that the testator-did not use the technical terms in their proper sense. Applying the principle mentioned above to the document in question, we do not feel any difficulty in holding that the intention of the donor was that her daughter should take an absolute estate. We need not discuss the effect of the last clause in the deed, because the contingency contemplated therein has not and cannot come to pass. The donee has left daughters: and the dispute in the case has arisen as a result of transfers and claims made either by one of them, or all of them on the one hand and the alienees from another.

6. Relying upon the decision in Subbamma v. Ramanaidu : (1937)1MLJ268 , it is argued that there is a donation in this case to Veeraperumal Ammal with a gift over to her issue and such being the case the whole document should be given effect to which can be done only by construing the gift as a life estate. No doubt Varadachariar, J., in construing the will, the subject-matter of the dispute in that case, was of opinion that in order to avoid the possibility of not giving effect to certain portions of the will, the proper rule of construction has been to take the will as a whole; and the presence of a gift over, which is not a mere gift by way of defeasance, was held to be an. indication that the prior gift was only a limited estate. Special circumstances which were present in that will, also led the learned Judge to come to that conclusion. Having considered that case carefully, we are of opinion, that the observations therein do not afford much assistance for the construction of Ex. P-7, where, as stated already, there are clear and unambiguous words denoting the grant of an absolute estate in favour of Veeraperumal Ammal.-

7. Another decision on which the appellant's learned Counsel relied was Swamidayal v. Ramadhar I.L.R. (1931) Luck. 715, in which the observations at pages 721 and 724 are stressed as indicating dicta supporting the appellant's argument. The principle underlying that decision of the Chief Court of Oudh at Lucknow was the use of certain words. denoting proprietary rights and therefore we are not able to find that there can be any resemblance between the document construed there and Ex. P-7. Words such as ' Hakdar ' in Subbamma v. Rama Naidu : (1937)1MLJ268 and 'Malika' in Swamidayal v. Ramadhar (1931) I.L.R. 6 Luck. 715, might denote rights of ownership, but certainly they are not of such wide and untrammelled amplitude as those used in the document under consideration.

8. Learned Counsel for the appellant next relied upon certain observations contained in Theobald on Wills, 10th edition, page 332, to the effect that a gift without words of limitation may be cut down to a life interest, if the same property is disposed of at the death of the first taker and that words indicating that the property is to be enjoyed by some one else after the death of the first taker may have the effect of cutting down the first taker's estate to that of a life interest. It is further stated there that where the testator's whole property is given to a person absolutely, followed by a gift of the residue at his death, the first gift may be cut down to a life interest. An analogy is sought to be drawn between the second clause to the effect that on the death of the donee her issue, if there be any, shall get the property, and the circumstance envisaged in the portions considered above in Theobald on Wills.

9. We are of opinion that the analogy is not apt.

10. The second line of argument of Mr. K. R. Rama Aiyar is that the right of reverter to the donor and her male heirs is indicative that what was contemplated by the earlier portion of the deed was only a life estate. We do not think that it is possible to construe this document like that. We have already referred to the observations of the Privy Council in Lalit Mohan Singh Roy v. Chukkun Lal Roy (1897) L.R. 24 L.A. 76 : I.L.R. 24 Cal. 834 and these have been affirmed in a later decision in Sarajubala Debi v. Jyotirmoyee Debee , where the earlier case in Lalit Mohan Singh Roy v. Chukkun Lal Roy (1897) L.R. 24 LA. 76 : I.L.R. 24 Cal. 834 has been specifically referred to. In view of the fact that by the first clause an absolute estate is granted to the donee, the next clause should be read rather as an attempt to restrict the powers of an absolute owner than as an intention to grant a life estate. Such a restriction is repugnant to an absolute estate and is void on the ground.

11. We are asked to hold that the intention of the donor would have been only to grant a life estate because ordinarily under the Mitakshara law what is known as a woman's estate enures only for her lifetime. To substantiate this argument, a passage from the well-known case in Mohamed Shumsool Hooda v. Shewukram Mulli cited by their Lordships of the Privy Council in Radhaprasad Mullick v. Ranee Mani Dasee ., to the following effect, was stressed on us:

In construing the will of a Hindu, it is not improper to take into consideration what are known to be the ordinary notions and wishes of Hindus with respect to the devolution of property. It may be assumed that a Hindu generally desires that an estate, especially an ancestral estate, shall be retained in his family, and it may be assumed that as a general rule, at all events, women do not take absolute estates of inheritance, which they are unable to alienate.

But so far as the donor here was concerned, she was the sole owner entitled in absolute fee-simple to the estate she was making a gift of and from the words 'stridhanam' and the other expressions which we have considered, we have necessarily to hold that her intention would have been that her daughter should have the same kind of rights in the property as she herself was enjoying. It is undisputed that she was the absolute owner and there are no materials gatherable from the four corners of the document from which it can even be surmised that the intention of the donor was to give a lesser estate to the donee than she was herself enjoying. In addition to the cases discussed above, our attention was also invited to a judgment of the Calcutta High Court in Nandagopal v. Pareshmoni Debi (1910) 6 IND.CAS. 354. The learned Judges there do not lay down anything contrary to the well-known accepted principles which can be ascertained from cases of highest authority, but on the other hand what the learned Judges have decided is that the intention of the donor must be ascertained from a consideration of the entire passage in the deed of gift, and that in considering that passage, effect must be given to what is known to be the usual intention of a Hindu in disposing of his property, which is to keep the property in the family so that it may pass to persons who may be able to confer spiritual benefits on the donor. The donor in that case was a father who made a gift in favour of his daughter and from the words of the document the learned Judges came to the conclusion that the intention was only to confer a woman's estate. It is unnecessary to discuss this case at any length because the observations there, if we may say so, fit in with the facts of that case.

12. Learned advocate for the respondent invited our attention to two cases, viz., Tiruchendur Sri Subramaniaswami Temple v. Ramasamia Pillai 6 IND.CAS. 354 and Damodara Moothan v. Ammu Amma : AIR1944Mad22 , where words, though not very similar to those in Ex. P-7 but somewhat akin, have been construed as conferring an absolute estate. We do not think it necessary to discuss these cases at any length because when once it is found that by the first portion of the grant an absolute estate is intended to be conferred upon the donee, the subsequent clauses can only be read as a mode of devolution of property according to the known ideas of the community to which the donor and the donee belong. We are therefore in entire agreement with the learned Judge that on a true and proper construction of the deed of gift, Ex. P-7, Veeraperumal Ammal takes an absolute estate in the properties.

13. The appeal is therefore dismissed with costs.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //