(1) This appeal is directed against the judgment and decree of the learned Additional Subordinate Judge, Madurai, in A. S. No. 55 of 1957, which was in appeal from the decision of the District Munsif, Madurai taluk at Madurai in O. S. No. 244 of 1955.
(2) The facts of the case so far as they are necessary for the consideration of the points in issue in this second appeal are the following.
(3) The suit property is 54 cents of nanja land. It originally belonged to one Subbiah Pillai. Subbiah Pillai executed a will, Ex. A-1 dated 5-8-1931 and died son afterwards. He left behind his widow, Lakshmi Ammal, and two daughters Amirthammal and Ammakutti alias Vadamalai Ammal. The will purported to deal with the suit property (item 1) and another item of property (item 2). It gives these two properties to the widow with absolute rights and also provided that after her lifetime item 1 (suit property) should go to Amirthammal and item 2 should go to Ammakutti. Amirthammal was married to Muthuswami Pillai, the 4th respondent and they had a son Muthukamakshia Pillai, the 5th defendant, and a daughter 6th defendant Ammakutti is the 3rd defendant.
The plaintiff obtained item 1 under a sale deed (Ex. A3/20-10-1952) executed by the 4th defendant, the husband of Amirthammal on behalf of his minor daughter, Nacharammal. It may be mentioned at this stage, that the widow, Lakshmi Ammal, died in 1948 and Amirthammal predeceased her, she having died in 1941. Defendants 4 and 5 subsequently executed some documents by way of mortgage and sale in favour of defendants 2 and 3. There is also some more history of alienations showing that the parties dealt with the properties in a somewhat haphazard manner. For example, the 4th defendant, as guardian of the fifth defendant executed a mortgage in respect of the suit property to the 3rd defendant who sub-mortgaged it to the 2nd defendant. Subsequently the 3rd defendant executed a sale deed of the said property asserting title as against Amirthammal in favour of the first defendant. The second defendant who is a co-wife (the first wife being the first defendant) of one Pambal Asari had also taken a sale deed from defendants 4 and 5 admitting title in Amirthammal.
It is unnecessary to go into these alienations because the point in controversy has reduced itself to a shore one namely to determine whether the will of Subbiah Pillai granted an absolute estate to Lakshmi Ammal, or only a limited estate with a vested remainder in the two daughters.
(4) The trial court found that the first part of the will granted an absolute estate to Lakshmi Ammal and the gift over to the daughters was a repugnant clause and, therefore, invalid. The appellate court however decided that the will had to be construed as a whole, and if so construed, the subsequent clause had the effect or reducing the interest of Lakshmi Ammal to a life estate. The result of this finding of the appellate court, was that the alienation in favour of the plaintiff was upheld and the plaintiff obtained a decree declaring his title to the suit property and permitting him to recover possession on payment of certain amounts covered by the mortgages to some of the defendants. Mesne profits were also ordered to be determined in separate proceedings.
It may be mentioned that in this second appeal no attack is made regarding the latter provisions of the appellate court's decree. They flow from the main decision about the nature of the estate conferred on Lakshmi Ammal. It is the nature of this estate which the will conferred upon Lakshmi Ammal that was the sole point urged for consideration in this second appeal; the other provisions of the decree following as a result of the finding on the main point, are not in dispute.
(5) It is, therefore, necessary to consider the terms of the will carefully. It is a brief document and the entire document is put down below :
'The will dated 21st Audi Prajotpathi corresponded to 5th August 1931, executed by Subbiah Pillai son of Muthu Pillai, Karkatha Vellala cultivation, residing at Melakal village Nilakottai.
(1) Since I am now aged about 55 and my body day by day getting weaker by frequent gastric trouble, I am writing and leaving this will on account of the necessity to make some arrangement for the salvation of my soul after my death.
(2) Myself having married Lakshmi Ammal daughter of Malkal Arunachalam Pillai and we both having led family life, we have only 2 daughters (1) Amirthammal daughter aged about 20 and (2) Ammakutti alias Vadamalai Ammal aged about 15 and no male heirs.
(3) The aforesaid Amirthammal was married to Muthuswami Oduvar son of Kamakshi Oduvar of Vadakarai Pedikulam and she is living with her in his house.
(4) The undermentioned properties were purchased in the name of my mother and patta was obtained in my name and I am in enjoyment of the same. No near or distant dayadies have any right to them.
(5) After my lifetime, my wife Lakshmi Ammal should perform my death ceremonies, the aforesaid Lakshmi Ammal should possess and enjoy the undermentioned properties with full powers of alienation, gift, sale and with absolute rights.
(6) During my lifetime my second daughter Ammakutti alias Vadamalai Ammal, should be got married. If she has got to be married after my lifetime, my wife should choose a bridegroom for her and get her married.
(7) After my wife's death, my daughters both the said Amirthammal and Ammakutti alias Vadamalai Ammal should perform her death ceremonies, Amirthammal my first daughter should take the first item and Ammakutti alias Vadamalai Ammal should take second item with absolute rights and enjoy the same.
(8) This will should come into force after my lifetime.
(9) I have power to alter and cancel this will.'
Paragraph 2 expresses the awareness of the testator of the existence of his wife and daughters as his next of kin. Paragraph 4 after describing the mode of acquisition of the property, expresses the testator's opinion that his dayadhis had no right to the properties. It was clearly his intention therefore to save his successor's interest from any adverse claim that this dayadhis might put forward to the property. Clause 5 gives what appears, according to its tenor, an absolute rights to Lakshmi Ammal with right to possession and enjoyment of the properties with full power or alienation, gift and scale. Paragraph 6 expresses his concern over the remaining unmarried daughter Ammakutti alias Vadamalai Ammal. Though the testator was not sure whether she would get married in his lifetime, still he expresses his hope that she should got married in his lifetime.
Therefore, it could not be said conclusively that the testator's object in giving power of alienation to his wife in paragraph 5 of the will was intended to enable her to raise money for her daughter's marriage, because, as pointed out just now the contingency of the daughter getting married during the lifetime of the testator was also present in his mind. But what is important to notice is that at all stages of the document he was clearly having in mind also the interest of his daughters. Now comes paragraph 7, which provides that after Lakshmi Ammal's death Amirthammal should take item 1 and Ammakutti should take item 2 of the properties was absolute rights. The schedule to the will contains only these two items and it is significant to not that despite the power given to Lakshmi Ammal to enjoy them with absolute rights, the concluding portion of the will provides that item 1 (without any diminution) should go to Amirthammal and item 2 likewise (without any diminution should go over to Ammakutti.
(6) It is well known that in construing the clauses of a will, the main purpose is to find out the predominant intention of the testator. For that purpose the will has to be construed as a whole, and a apart of the will shall be rejected as destitute of meaning, if it is possible to put a reasonable construction upon it. Again, the intention of the testator shall not be aside because it cannot take effect to the full extent. Effect has to be given to it as far as possible. As laid down in S. 88 of the Indian Succession Act
'where two clauses or gifts in a will are irreconcilable, so that they cannot possibly stand together the last shall prevail.'
Again, as pointed out in the classical decision of the Privy Council in Raghunath Prasad Singh v. Dy. Commr of Partabgarh 58 MLJ : AIR 1929 PC 283 decisions on the construction of other wills are useful only in so far as they lay down the principles of law which have to be observed in construing the will in question. The same decision is authority for the view
'the question for determination has always been whether there are dispositive words creating an estate of inheritance, in the first instance; and, if so, whether the subsequent restrictive clauses are sufficient to displace the effect of such dispositive words or whether such subsequent clauses are merely repugnant to the absolute estate.'
The various decisions cited at the Bar both by the appellant's counsel and the learned counsel for the respondent are only instances where the above general principles have been applied. Where as in this case, two kinds of dispositions are found, the first creating an absolute estate and the second a gift over, after the lifetime of the donee of the absolute estate the language of the will has been considered in each particular case to find out whether the predominant intention of the testator in regard to the subsequent disposition was to whittle down the first estate to a limited estate. Thus, Varadachariar, J, in Subbamma v. Ramanaidu, : (1937)1MLJ268 had to deal with a will which conferred on the testator's wife an estate described as the right of 'Hakdar' and also provided that she should enjoy the property in the same way as the testator himself had been doing. There was a gift over in favour of the testator's grandchildren of the entire properties. It was observed by the learned Judge that
'it was doubtful if the first gift in favour of the testator's wife was held to be an absolute estate, whether a gift over in these terms would be valid at all and that to avoid such a possibility the proper rule of construction has been held to be of take the will as a whole; and the presence of a gift over which is not a mere gift by way of defeasance has generally been held to be an indication that the prior gift was only of a limited interest.'
The learned Judge also referred to the decision of a Division Bench of this court in Thayalai Achi v. Kannammal A. S. No. 232 of 1929 : AIR 1935 Mad 704 dealing with a similar will where the language was even stronger in favour of an absolute estate to the widow because the dispositive clause contained words conferring wide powers of disposition on her but in view of the gift over and the reference in the context to the discharge of debts the learned Judges thought it right to limit the power of disposition to circumstances of necessity or the discharge of debts.
(7) On the other hand the learned counsel for the respondent before me referred to the decision of Venkataramana Rao, J. Anatha Sayana Naidu. Kondapa Naidu : AIR1940Mad479 . It dealt with a will in which the testator gave to the wife property with powers of alienation, gift, mortgage, will etc., and directed that after her lifetime the properties then remaining' (italics (here in ' ') mine) shall devolve on the daughter of the testator with powers of alienation etc. The learned Judge held in the circumstances of the above disposition that the nature of the first estate was an absolute one. Particular stress was laid on the words the properties then remaining'. But the learned Judge expressed his awareness of the fact that though the words might be absolute in the first instance the words subsequently occurring might be sufficiently strong to cut down the absolute interest to a life interest. But he opined that before this is done there must be words sufficiently precise and certain to cut down the said interest. The same principle had been laid down by the Supreme Court in Bajrang Bahadur Singh v. Bakhtraj Kuer : 4SCR232 thus.
'The words 'absolute estate' used with reference to estate conferred under a will no doubt are descriptive of a heritable and alienable estate in the donee and they connote full proprietary rights unless there is something in the context or in the surrounding circumstances which indicate that absolute rights were not intended to be conferred. In all such cases the true intention of the testator has to be gathered not by attaching importance to isolated expressions but by reading the will as whole with all its provisions and ignoring none of them as redundant or contradictory.'
I think I have made sufficient reference to the authorities for bringing out the main principles for application in such cases. The question that remains is to apply to the will in this case the above principles. The clauses in the will Ex. A-1 clearly show that the testator was having in his mind the interest of his daughters as prominently as the interest of his wife all three of them being his heirs. The fact that the marriage of the second daughter was still to be performed was also in his mind. After giving an absolute estate to his wife over the two items of scheduled properties he provided that these scheduled properties after the wife's lifetime should devolve item 1 on the first daughter and item 2 on the second daughter who would have absolute rights. When the testator took care to indicate that the properties without any diminution even after his wife's lifetime should go to each of the daughters it should be presumed that it was clearly in his mind that the wife's estate was only to be a limited estate or life estate and not an absolute one.
(8) I therefore agree with the finding of the lower appellate court in regard to the construction of the will and hold that Lakshmi Ammal had only a life estate.
(9) The appeal is therefore dismissed with costs. No leave.
(10) Appeal dismissed.