(1) This appeal arises out of a suit filed by the appellants for a declaration that the sale deed dated 19-9-1957 executed by the first respondent herein in favour of the second respondent was not valid and binding on them (appellants).
(2) The appellants are the reversioners of deceased Kaliappa Goundar. The deceased was the husband of the first defendant. He died leaving behind his widow, the first defendant (first respondent), his only daughter, Valliammal, his mother, step-mother, his sister and his sister's son. The sister and sister's son are the appellants (plaintiffs). The deceased Kaliappa Gounder gave directions to his wife Andiammal to divide his properties and in pursuance of such direction came into existence a partition arrangement Ex. A. 1 in and by which the plaint A schedule properties were allotted to the first defendant and her daughter. In the partition deed, it was stated that the first defendant would get only a life estate, that is, she was to enjoy the properties during her lifetime without any power of alienation and after her death, it was to go to her daughter minor Valiammal.
After the death of Kaliappa, the first defendant entered into possession of the A schedule properties. Subsequently, her minor daughter, Valliammal, died unmarried. Subsequently, on 18-9-1957, the first defendant executed a registered deed of surrender in her own favour referring to the death of her minor daughter and asserting her absolute ownership of the properties. The very next day, the first defendant, that is the widow of Kaliappa, executed a sale deed, which is the subject-matter of discussion in this appeal, to the second defendant (second respondent) for Rs. 20000. It is this sale deed which the reversioners appellants are attacking as not valid and binding on them.
(3) The defence was that the suit was vexatious and unsustainable at law, that, as per the registered partition deed, Ex. A. 1, Valliammal had a vested remainder without any restriction, that on Valliammal's death as unmarried minor, the vested remainder immediately vested in the first defendant as heir of Valliammal, that after the death of her unmarried daughter, she became the full owner of the properties, since she inherited the estate of her minor daughter, though she was given only a life estate in the partition deed. Nevertheless, she executed the surrender deed thereby declaring her intention that she had become the absolute owner of the properties, as heir of Valliammal. The second defendant adopted the written statement of the first defendant and further added that he was a bona fide purchaser for cash consideration of Rs. 20000 and also in possession of the suit properties, and that the plaintiffs had no manner of right or title in them.
(4) The court below found that the sale deed executed by the first defendant in favour of the second defendant was valid and binding on the plaintiff-appellants as she was the absolute owner of the properties, that the second defendant was a bona fide purchaser for value and that the plaintiffs were not entitled to the declaration prayed for. It is against this judgment and decree the plaintiffs have preferred the second appeal.
(5) Learned counsel for the appellants reiterated the same arguments advanced in the courts below that the first defendant had no manner of right or title in the suit property except a life estate, and as life estate holder of the second defendant. Learned counsel further contended that according to S. 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act XXX of 1956, if a female Hindu acquires property under a gift or will or any other instrument, she takes the property according to the terms of the deed and does not become its full owner. In other words, she gets a restricted estate, even though under sub-sec. (1) of S. 14, any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of the Act, would be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner. Thus, there was a controversy in the courts below, whether, by virtue of the partition deed, Ex. A. 1, the first defendant took only a restricted estate under S. 14(2) of the Act?
(6) Ex. A. 1, no doubt, is called a partition deed, in and by which directions were given by Kaliappa, the husband of the first defendant that A schedule properties should be enjoyed by his wife and daughter, and B schedule properties should be enjoyed by his mother, step mother, sister and nephew. Even without this partition deed, the first defendant could have inherited the properties of her husband, on his death. Further, the explanation to sub-section (1) of S. 14 clearly states that the property acquired by a woman in a partition would become her absolute property, after the passing of the Act. Ex. A. 1 cannot strictly be called a partition deed, because the parties mentioned therein are not all members of the joint family of Kaliappa. In the partition deed, he had included his sister and sister's son, and they cannot be called members of the joint family of Kaliappa Gounder. Therefore, it is very difficult to say that the first defendant got the properties under the partition deed. The courts below rightly came to the conclusion that she inherited the properties on he death of her husband and after passing of the Act, she became the absolute owner of the property, she can deal with it as she likes, and, in this case, she has sold away the properties to the second defendant, and the reversioners-plaintiff cannot question this transaction.
Even assuming that the widow and daughter of Kaliappa got the A schedule properties, and the mother, stepmother, sister and sister's son of Kaliappa got the B schedule properties under Ex. A.1, still the questions, what is the nature of her estate, after the death of her minor daughter, Valliammal. Under Ex. A. 1, she was to get only a life estate and after her lifetime, it was to go to Valliammal absolutely. But, unfortunately, Valliammal died unmarried. The first defendant, as the only her, inherited the properties of her daughter, while she was is in possession of the properties as a limited owner. Thus she was holding the properties in a dual capacity, one as a limited estate owner and the other as an heir inheriting the vested remainder of the estate of her daughter. When a person is having the estate in a dual capacity, the larger interests of the properties get merged in her and she becomes the absolute owner of the property. It is unnecessary for her to have executed the surrender deed to herself and then to proclaim that she is the absolute owner. It was only the execution of the surrender deed by her that complicated the matter and this gave a handle to he reversioners to raise all sorts of complicated questions of law. It is a simple case where a mother inherited the daughter's estate, as heir of her daughter.
The courts below rightly repelled the contention of the reversioners that Valliammal got only a limited estate under Ex. A. 1 Valliammal got an absolute or an alienable interest in such properties, and the intention of Kaliappa was only to give an absolute estate to her daughter after her death of his wife, the first defendant. Therefore, I do not agree with the contention of the learned counsel for the appellants that the widow got the property only by virtue of Ex. A. 1, and therefore she had only an interest and as such, under S. 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act, she could not dispose of the properties, as she got only a restricted estate.
On the other hand, it is clear that Ex. A. 1, cannot be called either a partition deed or a family settlement, but it can only be construed as certain directions to be carried out. She inherited the properties of her husband under Ex. A. 1, and after the passing of the Act, she became the absolute owner. Even assuming that she got the estate under the directions of he deed, she inherited the estate of her daughter which was a vested remainder under the terms of the deed, and she became the absolute owner, and after declaration of her intention that she had ceased to be the limited estate owner. Therefore the disputed sale deed executed by the first defendant in favour of the second defendant was rightly held to be valid and binding on the plaintiffs, reversioners. There is also the further finding that the second defendant is a bona fide purchaser for valuable consideration. Therefore taking all these into consideration, I am of the opinion that the decision arrived at by the courts below is correct.
(7) The second appeal is accordingly dismissed. There will be no order as to costs. No leave.
(8) Appeal dismissed.