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Adoor Arunachalam Chetty Vs. Konjiti Seshiah Chetty and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1938Mad994; (1938)2MLJ701
AppellantAdoor Arunachalam Chetty
RespondentKonjiti Seshiah Chetty and anr.
Excerpt:
- - such a contention would clearly be untenable. i fail to see how this debt due by the defendants to the plaintiff can be treated as an interest in the property of the deceased husband which the widow can claim. quite clearly, it could not......forfeited her right to maintenance from her husband's estate, the balance due under the promissory note executed in lieu of maintenance to the plaintiff cannot be claimed. the relevant words of section 2 of the hindu widows remarriage act are as follows:all rights and interests which any widow may have in her deceased husband's property by way of maintenance... shall upon her remarriage cease and determine as if she had then died.3. it is contended that the claim for the unpaid amount due under this promissory note is in fact a fight to claim maintenance out of the property of the deceased husband. it seems to me that this contention is unreasonable on the facts of the case. on the date of ex. a, there was, in my opinion, a complete settlement of the widow's claim to maintenance for all.....
Judgment:

Wadsworth, J.

1. The plaintiff sued on a promissory note which was executed in circumstances about which there is no dispute. The plaintiff is the maternal uncle of a child widow and was acting as her guardian after the death of her husband. In that capacity, he opened negotiations with the coparceners of the deceased husband of the widow and there was an arbitration and a series of documents came into existence on the same date. The plaintiff as guardian of the widow executed a release deed Ex. II. It recites that in consideration of the execution of a promissory note for Rs. 2,500 in favour of the plaintiff, a fixed amount in lieu of maintenance payable to the widow during all her life time, she surrenders her rights in the estate of her husband's coparceners and renounces all claims which she might have as a result of any change of circumstances, etc., and releases her right to maintenance. On the same date, there is Ex. 1 which is a deed of indemnity executed by the plaintiff. It recites the receipt of Rs. 2,500 in the shape of a promissory note, undertakes to get the widow to ratify the release deed as soon as she attains her majority and to hold the defendants blameless in the event of any claim by her. On the same date we have also Ex. A, the suit promissory note, executed by the defendants in favour of the plaintiff, which recites, 'We agreed to pay you the sum of Rs. 2,500 being the maintenance amount for the widow'. On this promissory note, there is an endorsement of payment of Rs. 1,250. The suit for the balance due on the promissory note was presented on 24th July, 1933. On the 9th September, 1933, after the filing of the suit, the widow executed Ex. B, in which she ratifies the action of her guardian in releasing her maintenance right as the plaintiff had undertaken in Ex. I that she should ratify his action. On 14th September, 1933, the widow remarried.

2. It is not now contended that the suit by the promisee under Ex. A is incompetent because of the absence from the array of parties of the widow who is the beneficiary under the arrangement whereby the promissory note came into existence. Such a contention would clearly be untenable. It is however contended that the District Judge was right in holding that by virtue of the provisions of Section 2 of the Hindu Widows Remarriage Act, the widow having by her marriage forfeited her right to maintenance from her husband's estate, the balance due under the promissory note executed in lieu of maintenance to the plaintiff cannot be claimed. The relevant words of Section 2 of the Hindu Widows Remarriage Act are as follows:

All rights and interests which any widow may have in her deceased husband's property by way of maintenance... shall upon her remarriage cease and determine as if she had then died.

3. It is contended that the claim for the unpaid amount due under this promissory note is in fact a fight to claim maintenance out of the property of the deceased husband. It seems to me that this contention is unreasonable on the facts of the case. On the date of Ex. A, there was, in my opinion, a complete settlement of the widow's claim to maintenance for all time and a composition whereby in lieu of an uncertain liability for a recurring payment towards maintenance, the defendants executed a promissory note for a lump sum. The nature of this transaction can be seen from the nature of the release deed executed on behalf of the widow Ex. II, which expressly puts an end to any interest which the widow might have in the property of her deceased husband in consideration of a payment which is treated as having already been made by the execution of the promissory note; that is to say, there is a completed contract whereby the coparceners of the deceased husband, taking into consideration the uncertainty of the future claims which the widow might make, compounded for those claims by a fixed sum which was treated as having been paid by the substitution for the actual payment of a promissory note executed by the defendants to the uncle of the widow. When once this promissory note and this discharge document have been executed, the widow no longer has any interest in her husband's estate. She has taken in substitution there for a claim against her uncle to the proceeds of the promissory note debt due by the defendants to the plaintiff, the uncle. I fail to see how this debt due by the defendants to the plaintiff can be treated as an interest in the property of the deceased husband which the widow can claim. The widow could not sue on this promissory note nor could she claim anything from her husband's coparceners, her right would be to sue the present plaintiff. Looking at the words of the Act, it is clear the position of the widow on remarriage is that she has no more rights in her husband's property than she would have if she had died on the date when she remarried. Could it for a moment be contended, that if this lady had died instead of remarrying, her death would have provided a defence to the suit on the promissory note by the plaintiff? Quite clearly, it could not. When this promissory note debt was incurred; it was incurred in lieu of the cash payment which was the consideration for the release deed executed on behalf of the widow. That cash payment was in fact a composition for a recurring claim which might conceivably endure for seventy years or more, or might on the other hand be terminated in a short space of time by various circumstances, one of which might be the untimely death of the widow. It may be that the defendants did not actually visualize the possibility of the widow's remarriage, but it may be taken that they agreed to the payment of a cash sum in lieu of an uncertain claim which might be affected by various contingencies, for example, a change in the circumstances of the family or a lapse into unchastity of the claimant. It is not, to my mind, open.to them to say,

There is one contingency which we overlooked in agreeing to this payment and that is the contingency of the widow's remarriage.

4. Neither on the strict letter of the Act nor in equity, have the defendants, to my mind, the right to repudiate this debt.

5. I therefore allow the appeal and restore the decree of the learned District Munsiff with costs in the first appellate Court and in this Court.


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