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Srimathi Unnamalai Ammal and anr. Vs. Sri Vellaya Pillai Alias Kalia Pillai - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1971)1MLJ147
AppellantSrimathi Unnamalai Ammal and anr.
RespondentSri Vellaya Pillai Alias Kalia Pillai
Cases Referred and Pappu Reddiar v. Amaravati (alias) Avudayammal
Excerpt:
.....was for a declaration that the first defendant (first appellant herein) is entitled to enjoy the suit properties only till her lifetime and that the othi deed dated 14th september, 1961, executed by her in favour of the second defendant (second appellant herein) is not binding on the plaintiff (respondent herein). the plaintiff's case was that the suit properties originally belonged to one kalia pillai, the paternal grandfather of the plaintiff. after the father's death, the three sons divided the family properties and each enjoyed his separate share thereof. the plaintiff's father vaiyapuri objected to the sale and the dispute was referred to a caste panchayat on 28th march, 1930. as per the terms of the award given by the panchayat, the first defendant agreed to enjoy the properties..........was for a declaration that the first defendant (first appellant herein) is entitled to enjoy the suit properties only till her lifetime and that the othi deed dated 14th september, 1961, executed by her in favour of the second defendant (second appellant herein) is not binding on the plaintiff (respondent herein). the plaintiff's case was that the suit properties originally belonged to one kalia pillai, the paternal grandfather of the plaintiff. kalia pillai had three sons : the plaintiff's father vaiyapuri, the first defendant's husband palaniappa, and another, muthappa pillai. after the father's death, the three sons divided the family properties and each enjoyed his separate share thereof. muthappa pillai and his wife died leaving no issues. the plaintiff was in enjoyment of.....
Judgment:

P.R. Gokulakrishnan, J.

1. The defendants are the appellants herein.

2. The suit was for a declaration that the first defendant (first appellant herein) is entitled to enjoy the suit properties only till her lifetime and that the othi deed dated 14th September, 1961, executed by her in favour of the second defendant (second appellant herein) is not binding on the plaintiff (respondent herein). The plaintiff's case was that the suit properties originally belonged to one Kalia Pillai, the paternal grandfather of the plaintiff. Kalia Pillai had three sons : the plaintiff's father Vaiyapuri, the first defendant's husband Palaniappa, and another, Muthappa Pillai. After the father's death, the three sons divided the family properties and each enjoyed his separate share thereof. Muthappa Pillai and his wife died leaving no issues. The plaintiff was in enjoyment of Muthappa Pillai's properties. The first defendant's husband Palaniappa died thirty-two years ago leaving no issues. The first defendant was in enjoyment of her husband's properties. While so, she alienated one of the items belonging to her husband to one Arunachalam Pillai. The plaintiff's father Vaiyapuri objected to the sale and the dispute was referred to a caste panchayat on 28th March, 1930. As per the terms of the award given by the panchayat, the first defendant agreed to enjoy the properties for her lifetime without any power of alienation. The plaintiff's father undertook to pay the first defendant's debts. The vendee Arunachalam Pillai was also directed to reconvey the property sold to him by the first defendant, to the plaintiff's father. The plaintiff's father discharged the debts as per the award. The first defendant is bound by the family arrangement entered into between her and the reversioner. However, as against the arrangement, the first defendant othied the properties for a sum of Rs. 2,000 on 14th September, 1961, in favour of the second defendant nominally. The othi deed is illegal and would not be binding on the plaintiff. With the abovesaid allegations, the plaintiff filed O.S. No, 574 of 1961, on the file of the Court of the District Munsif, Dindigul.

2-A. The first defendant, in her written statement, while admitting that she was in enjoyment of her husband's share, would however contend that there was no family arrangement, that the Panchayat alleged was false and no award as alleged by the plaintiff was given. She further contended that she is absolutely entitled to the properties and had only othied the properties to the second defendant for consideration received.

3. The second defendant would also contend that the first defendant borrowed the money from him for family expenses and for installing a pump-set in the suit properties.

4. The trial Court found that the award and the family arrangement are true, valid and binding on the first defendant. On that finding, the trial Court decreed the suit as prayed for. On appeal, the Sub-Court, Dindigul, found that the award is binding upon the appellant and after elaborately discussing both the documentary and oral evidence, confirmed the finding of the trial Court. Aggrieved by the decisions of the Courts below, the defendants have preferred this second appeal.

5. Thiru U. Somasundaram, the learned Counsel for the appellants, does not question the finding as regards the validity of the award. But he advances an argument based upon the Hindu Succession Act (XXX of 1956). According to Thiru U. Somasundaram, the widow (first defendant) got limited right in the suit properties after the demise of her husband about thirty-two years ago, and the said limited right got enlarged into an absolute right subsequent to the passing of the Hindu Succession Act.

As per Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act,

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.

Thiru U. Somasundaram further contends that Section 14(2) will not apply to the facts of the present case, since the widow cannot be deemed as a person who got the suit properties under the award. Section 14(2) states-

Nothing contained in Sub-section (1) shall apply to any property acquired by way of gift or under a will or any other instrument or under a decree or order of a Civil Court or under an award where the terms of the gift, will or other instrument or the decree, order or award prescribe a restricted estate in such property.

Thiru U. Somasundaram cites the decision in Sampathkumari v. Lakshmi Ammal : (1962)2MLJ464 . In that case, the widow got, by partition, certain properties belonging to her husband and later the said properties were construed to have been got enlarged in spite of the partition, and Section 14(2) was held to be not a restriction for such properties acquired by the Hindu widow It has been stated in the said decision:

It cannot be said that the widows acquired the right to the properties only under the partition deed, for the simple reason that they had acquired the right even previously by inheritance as widows of their husband and the partition merely divided the properties. The word 'acquired' means that prior to the acquisition, the widows could not have had any interest in the lands whatever.

The learned Counsel for the appellant urges that even though the award has given the widow certain rights in the suit properties, it cannot be said that the widow got the properties under Section 14(2) inasmuch as the widow, independent of the award, had the right in the suit properties owing to the fact that they belonged to her husband.

6. The learned Counsel for the appellants, apart from this legal argument, also submits that the award cannot be binding since it is without consideration and that in any event the same cannot be construed as an agreement entered into by the first appellant in order to bind her absolute rights.

7. The learned Counsel for the respondent has taken me through the award and the pleadings, and contended that there is consideration for the award and that the first appellant is bound by the terms of the award. He stated that there is a contract and the widow would take the properties as per the contract, which is the award in this case. He further contends that it is a pure and simple family arrangement and the properties must devolve as per the family arrangement contained in the award. Various decisions have been adverted to by the learned Counsel, Thiru V.C. Veeraraghavan in support of his contention which I will presently deal with.

8. Exhibit A-8 is the award. As per the terms of the award, it was agreed that the property conveyed to Aruna-chalam Pillai by Unnamalai Ammal (first defendant) must be reconveyed by Arunachalam Pillai to Vaiyapuri Pillai, the father of the plaintiff. The award further states that Vaiyapuri Pillai must discharge the debt due by Unnamalai Ammal amounting to Rs. 582 and that the suit properties will be enjoyed by Unnamalai Ammal for her lifetime without any power of alienation and after her death the properties must come back to Vaiyapuri Pillai. We further find from Exhibit A-8 that Unnamalai Ammal had complained to the panchayatdars that Vaiyapuri had not paid the money to Arunachalam Pillai and got the property in terms of the award. On that, Vaiyapuri was fined Rs. 5 and was directed to carry out the direction in the award. From Exhibit A-3, we find that Arunachalam Pillai has executed the sale deed as per the award. The award is dated as early as 1930, and from Exhibit A-3 and from other attendant circumstances, after a lapse of so many years, we can take it that the conditions regarding the re-conveyance of the land sold to A -unachalam Pillai and paying off the debt of Rs. 582 have been complied with. In the light of these findings, I am of the view that the first appellant has agreed by way of a contract or agreement that the suit properties have to be given absolutely to the plaintiff's father subsequent to her death and that during her lifetime she will not have any power of alienation. Further, the first appellant has kept quiet for over a period of thirty-five years without questioning the legality of the award or setting aside the same before appropriate forum. On the other hand, the respondent herein has acted upon the award.

9. Thiru Veeraraghavan, the respondent's learned Counsel, reads from Halsbury's Laws of England, Third Edition, Volume 15, page 175, paragraph 344, the principles of'promissory estoppel' which is based up3i principles of equity enunciated in Hughes v. Metropolitan Rail Co. (1877) 2 App. Cas. 439 . The passage reads:

When one party has, by his words or conduct, made to the other a promise or assurance which was intended to affect the legal relations between them and to be acted on accordingly, then, once the other party has taken him at his word and acted on it, the one who gave the promise or assurance cannot afterwards be allowed to revert to their previous legal relations as if no such promise or assurance had been made by him, but he must accept their legal relations subject to the qualification which he himself has so introduced.

On a reading of the said principles evolved in the doctrine of 'promissory estoppel', I am of the view that we can safely take the award of the year 1930 as a promise made by the first appellant herein which was acted upon by the respondent through his father, Vaiyapuri.

10. The decision reported in Seetharama Pillai v. Sevu Pillai (1970) 83 L.W. 226, states:

It is well settled that in a family settlement each party takes a share in the property by virtue of the independent title which is admitted to that extent by the other parties. The family settlement which governed the rights of parties in the instant case does not declare the pre-existing title of V as the holder of a woman's estate from her father. After the family settlement it is not open to any one to assert that they have any higher rights in the property. All parties to the settlement are bound by its terms.

This decision rendered by Natesan, J. is authority for the position that the award in this case is more or less in the nature of a family arrangement and that the parties to the said arrangement are bound by the conditions made therein irrespective of the rights under the Hindu Succession Act. Once the appellant has accepted the award, that is, the family arrangement, she cannot now put forth the plea to the effect that she is absolutely entitled to the properties as per Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act and that she did not get the properties under the award as stated in Section 14(2) of the said Act. The award, without declaring the pre-existing title independently, made the parties agree for certain rights mentioned in the award. In such cases, the parties to such arrangement are bound to abide by the terms contained in the said award.

11. In Mt. Kirpo v. Bakhtawar Singh A.I.R. 1964 P.&H.; 474, it has been laid down:

Where there is a dispute about property between two rival claimants and that dispute is settled by a compromise, their title flow from the compromise because they give up their respective claims and accept the compromise as the basis of their title. In these circumstances, they acquire property under the compromise.

In the present case also, the first appellant has given up her rights and has accepted to enjoy the limited right in the suit properties with an agreement that the suit properties will be taken absolutely by the respondent's father after her death. Hence, the decisions in Mt. Kirpo v. Bakhtawar Singh A.I.R. 1964 P.&H.; 474, clearly covers the present case. The first appellant is bound by the agreement by way of family arrangement which was given in the shape of the award in the present case.

12. The binding nature of the family arrangement and the nature of consideration and as to how the family arrangement is always binding upon the parties, have been discussed in Laxmi Narain v. Bansi Lal : AIR1965All522 , Ram Charan v. Girja Nandini : [1965]3SCR841 , and Pappu Reddiar v. Amaravati (alias) Avudayammal (1968) 81 L.W. 59. In the present case also, we are able to see that to purchase peace in the family, an arrangement was made, and the respondent's father acted upto the arrangement by getting a reconveyance of the property from Arunachalam Pillai and paid off the debts. It was strenuously contended by Thiru U. Somasundaram that there is no positive evidence as regards the payment of the debt amounting to Rs. 582. Considering the lapse of time and also the fact that certain of the property was got back by the father of the respondent herein, it can be clearly presumed that the parties have acted on the family arrangement and there is enough consideration passed for such an agreement.

13. In view of the fact that we are proceeding on the family arrangement and the binding nature of the award, I am not able to see how the question of applicability of Section 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act is relevant at all to the facts of this case. Nevertheless, from the discussion above, I am of the view that the present case comes under the category of Section 14(2) of the Act, that the first appellant has agreed for such a course and an award has been passed. It cannot be deemed that the first appellant's pre-existing right has been declared by the award; but, in view of the award and arrangement, the right of the first appellant in the suit properties, is independent of her pre-existing right and hence Section 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act alone applies to the facts of this case. Apart from that, she is estopped by the principles of 'promissory estoppel' and is bound by the family arrangement to which she was a consenting party in giving away the suit properties absolutely to the respondent after her lifetime.

14. In these circumstances, the second appeal is dismissed, but, without costs. No leave.


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