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Janaki Ammal Vs. Sanjeevi Chettiar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1941Mad552; (1941)1MLJ510
AppellantJanaki Ammal
RespondentSanjeevi Chettiar and ors.
Cases Referred and Muthukumaraswami Pillai v. Subbaraya Pillai
Excerpt:
.....brothers other than the plaintiff shall divest themselves altogether of all right of control over the..........succeed to the office as heirs, and the grandfather did nothing more than relinquish his right in their favour. there have been previous dealings with this office of a somewhat similar nature, which is some evidence of a usage justifying the alienation in the present case.7. after referring to this observation melvill, j., observed:we do not think that there is much difference, in principle, between the case just cited and that now before us, though the endowment in the present case is of too recent a foundation to render any evidence of usage possible. in both cases the purchasers are persons standing in the line of succession, and claiming through females; and though in the present case the purchaser is not the next heir but only a possible heir--for he is ganpatram's sister's son, and.....
Judgment:

Venkataramana Rao, J.

1. The question for decision in this second appeal is whether a deed of release Ex. B in and by which the husband of the fourth defendant one Pattabhirama Chetti relinquished his right to the management of the temple of Sri Anjaneyaswami described in Schedule A to the plaint in favour of his brother Sanjeevi Chetti is valid. The learned District Munsif was of the opinion that it was invalid; the learned Subordinate Judge took a different view. It is against this?decision that the present appeal has been preferred by the fourth defendant.

2. It is necessary to set out a few facts. The said Anjaneyaswami temple was founded by the plaintiff's father Singaperumal Chetti, the first defendant's grandfather Thiruvengadam Chetti and the father of defendants 2 and 3 Muthukrishna Chetti. They were members of an undivided Hindu family. They also made certain endowments for the due administration of the said temple. On 15th June, 1887, they became divided and entered into an arrangement by which all the family property they were possessed of including the right to the management of the temple and its properties was divided among themselves in accordance with the decision of the panchayatdars who were appointed by them to effect the said division. The arrangement is embodied in Ex. A. So far as the management of the temple and its properties is concerned, the arrangement is set out thus:

That Thiruvengadam Chetti, the eldest member shall be in management of the aforesaid temple and the properties for a period of two years from the 1st Ani of Sarvajit year corresponding to 13th June, 1887, that from the 1st Ani of the third year next the said Singaperumal Chetti shall be in management for a period of one year and that from the 1st Ani of the next year Muthukrishna Chetti shall be in management till the end of a period of one year and thus they shall be managers by rotation and conduct the charities of the said temple, that when the management changes hands from one sharer to the other sharer, the outgoing manager shall hand over possession of the moveable properties of the said temple such as jewels, vessels etc., and also the fund and lands to the incoming manager and that he shall hand over possession of these things? along with an account relating to the profits and expenses of the previous years. In this manner the aforesaid three parties and those persons succeeding them respectively by hereditary right shall be managers by rotation.

3. The arrangement was acted on and the property was managed in rotation by the parties and their sons. Muthukrishna Chetti died leaving him surviving his two sons Pattabhirama Chetti husband of the fourth defendant and Sanjeevi Chetti the plaintiff herein. Pattabhirama Chetti and Sanjeevi Chetti became divided on the 31st January, 1915, and in regard to their turns of management they came to an arrangement by which each of the brothers should manage the property for a period of six months. Thus even this right of management was divided between the brothers. Pattabhirama Chetti and Sanjeevi Chetti managed the temple by turns in accordance with the arrangement and on 7th July, 1926, Pattabhirama Chetti executed a deed of release the validity of which is now in question in favour of Sanjeevi Chetti, the plaintiff, and the operative portion of the said release runs thus:

We both effected division on 31st January, 1915 and as regards the rotation management which we both made for one year out of four years in the said temple, each of us looks after the same for six months according to the turn of each; and as I have no male issue, as I am suffering from diabetes, heart trouble and other troublesome diseases and have become bodily weak and am quite infirm, as I am afraid of death at any moment and as you yourself are my future heir and brother, I have hereby released to you my six months' rotation--hereditary management--right in the said temple; and hence along with your six months' rotation--management--right you and your heirs shall hereditarily and absolutely manage the entire one year's rotation--management--right of our family inclusive of my six months' right .... Hereafter I and my heirs have no right or claim whatsoever in respect of the right of management to the temple or its properties.

4. Apparently this too was given effect to for some time but later its validity was questioned by the widow and the 1st defendant refused to recognise the plaintiff's sole right to manage the property during the turn of management of Muthukrishna Chetti's branch of the family. Hence the plaintiff has filed the suit for a declaration that he is entitled solely to manage the temple for a period of one year in every four years according to Ex. A by virtue of the said deed of release executed by his brother and for a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from interfering with the plaintiff's management of the trust during his turn of office. If the deed of release is valid he is bound to succeed in the suit or else he fails. The question therefore is whether it is valid.

5. It will be seen from Ex. A that it provides a distinct rule of succession namely that the parties to the deed and their successors shall be managers by rotation. Prima facie therefore the deed of release contravenes the rule of succession and therefore is invalid. But it is contended that a renunciation of the right of management in favour of a person who is in the line of heirs is valid and that Sanjeevi Chetti being in the line of heirs, the release is valid though it may operate to defeat the right of the next heir, namely, the widow and this is the view taken by the lower Court. In support of this view reliance was mainly placed on a decision of the Bombay High Court in Mancharam v. Pranshankar I.L.R.(1882)Bom. 298, a decision of Varadachariar, J., in Sri Mahant v. Govindacharlu (1934) 68 M.L.J. 295 : 1935 M.W.N. 59, and a decision of mine reported in Alasinga Bhattar v. Venkatasudarsana Bhattar (1935) 70 M.L.J. 424 : 1936 M.W.N. 585. So far as my decision is concerned, I may at once state that I had not to consider this question in that case. The question there was whether a certain partition arrangement among the members of a family with reference to the trusteeship of a temple was valid. I referred to Mancharam v. Pranshankar I.L.R.(1882)Bom. 298 and Sri Mahant v. Govindacharlu (1934) 68 M.L.J. 295 : 1935 M.W.N. 59, to illustrate that usage was resorted to for supporting an alienation under certain conditions.

6. There can be no doubt that an alienation of the office of trustee of a temple, whether public or private, is invalid, though as pointed out in Rajaram v. Ganesh I.L.R.(1898)Bom. 131, by force of custom alienation was permitted under certain conditions. Sri Mahant v. Govindacharlu (1934) 68 M.L.J. 295 : 1935 M.W.N. 59, is an instance in point and I shall discuss this decision later. In Mancharam v. Pranshankar I.L.R.(1882)Bom. 298, an alienation by will in favour of a person who was not the immediate heir was upheld. I shall also discuss how far the view expressed in it is correct. It is settled by a uniform course of decisions that an alienation for value in favour of a stranger is invalid. But the question has arisen whether an alienation by a person in favour of a heir either next or remote is not valid. The question again would be whether such an alienation is for value or for no consideration : the better and sounder view is that if for value it is invalid. In Mancharam v. Pranshankar I.L.R.(1882) Bom. 298, what happened was this. Two brothers were jointly entitled to an office and each was enjoying severally by rotation. One of the brothers made a will bequeathing his right to the office in favour of his sister's son. The bequest was held to be valid. Melvill, J., relied on the decision in Sitarambhat et al v. Sitaram Ganesh and Kashiraj Nanabhat (1869) 6 B.H.C.R. 250 particularly on the following observation referring to the facts of that case:

In this case the purchasers were grandchildren, who would eventually succeed to the office as heirs, and the grandfather did nothing more than relinquish his right in their favour. There have been previous dealings with this office of a somewhat similar nature, which is some evidence of a usage justifying the alienation in the present case.

7. After referring to this observation Melvill, J., observed:

We do not think that there is much difference, in principle, between the case just cited and that now before us, though the endowment in the present case is of too recent a foundation to render any evidence of usage possible. In both cases the purchasers are persons standing in the line of succession, and claiming through females; and though in the present case the purchaser is not the next heir but only a possible heir--for he is Ganpatram's sister's son, and therefore, a bandhu, if not a sapinda--Yet the next heir, Ganpatram's widow, has expressed her acquiescence in the bequest to the plaintiff.

8. The learned Judge concluded by the following observation:

(in the absence of any restriction to a particular class of heirs, imposed either by the founder or by usage), there would appear to be no reason why an alienation should not be upheld, which is made in favour of any person standing in the line of succession, and not disqualified by any personal unfitness.

9. It will be seen from this judgment that reliance was placed by Melvill, J., on Sitarambhat et al v. Sitaram Ganesh and Kashiraj Nanabhat (1869) 6 B.H.C.R. 250, which itself is founded on the usage governing a particular office. Again, in the case which the learned Judge was deciding, he relies also on the acquiescence of Ganpatram's' widow and whether Ganpatram's sister's son was the next immediate heir after the widow or not it is not clear, in which case the decision can be supported on the ground that Ganpatram's widow would be deemed to have disclaimed and that therefore the alienation in favour of Ganpatram's sister's son would be taken to be an alienation in favour of the next heir. So far as the actual decision on the facts is concerned, it may be possible to support the view of Melvill, J., either on the ground of the custom or on the ground of the alienation being in favour of the next heir. But what is relevant for the purpose of this case is the observation in the concluding portion of the judgment which I have just given. It seems to me that an alienation in favour of a person who is not the next heir would be contravening the intention of the founder if there is a deed which says that the office should be enjoyed by a trustee and his heirs. An alienation in favour of the next heir, if not for consideration, can be supported and is generally supported on the ground that it operates as a renunciation by the person making it of the office, and that the renunciation would in effect operate as a civil death just as in the case of a Hindu widow by a surrender accelerating the succession and the next heir in whose favour the alienation is made will be succeeding him in the office. In Girts Chandra Saw v. Upendranath Giridas 35 C.W.N. 768, Suhrawardhy, J., took this view with which I agree. In the course of the judgment he observed thus:

A holder of a life estate is entitled to accelerate succession by relinquishing his right in favour of the reversioner. This is the settled law in the case of a Hindu widow qualified by the condition that the relinquishment must be of the entire estate. The same view may legitimately be adopted in the case of a shebait who is the manager for life of an endowment and there is no violation of any principle of law in holding that such a manager is entitled to accelerate the succession of his successors in office by relinquishing or resigning the office.

10. In Mr. Ganapathi Aiyar's Book on Religious Endowments at page 556, I find the following passage:

The same considerations which may apply to gifts in favour of the next heir will not apply to gifts in favour of a person who though a member of the family is not the next or immediate heir. In the latter case the gift in effect contravenes the intentions of the founder. If the office is hereditary, the founder whose right it is to make rules has prescribed a course of succession, and it is contravening the course of succession pointed out by the founder if we uphold a gift to a member of the family who may be remotely connected as a Samanodaka or a Bandhu.

11. I would adopt this reasoning as sound in principle. Once it is held that a transfer can be in the line of heirs it would depend on the caprice of the last holder and he can disinherit the next heir however fit he may be, thus frustrating the intention of the founder. In Narayana v. Ranga (1891) 2 M.L.J. 19 : I.L.R. 15 Mad. 183, the question directly arose for decision. In that case there was an alienation by the last holder of an office in favour of the plaintiff's father. The learned Judges called for a finding whether the plaintiff's father was the next heir; if next, whether he was the sole heir. The finding was that the plaintiff's father was not the sole next heir because he had three brothers. They held that the alienation was invalid. Muthuswami Aiyar and Shepherd, JJ., made the following observations:

Unless the alienee is the sole heir the alienor might be under the temptation to make the office the subject of bargain and thereby defeat the intention of the founder. It was in this view that we tailed for a finding at the former hearing. We are not prepared to dissent from the dictum above quoted, and to hold that in the absence of special usage an alienation would be valid if made in favour of any person other than the sole immediate heir.

12. Therefore this decision is direct authority for the view that an alienation of the office of a trustee in order to be valid must be in favour of the sole immediate heir. Though the alienation was for value, the decision was rested on this ground. This was also the view taken by Phillips and Kumaraswami Sastri, JJ., in Rajam Bhattar v. Singarammal (1918) 51 I.C. 979 : 36 M.L.J. 355. They seem to regard Mancharam v. Pranshankar (1882) 6 Bom. 298 as relating to a transfer to one next in the line of succession. In Muthukumaraswami Pillai v. Subbaraya Pillai : AIR1931Mad505 Madhavan Nair J. followed Narayana v. Ranga (1891) 2 M.LJ. 19 : I.L.R. 15 Mad. 183, and referred to that decision as enunciating the proposition that in the absence of special usage the alienation of a religious office would not be valid if made in favour of any person other than the sole immediate heir. Then he dealt with the decision in Mancharam v. Pranshankar (1882) 6 Bom. 298, thus:

The decision in Mancharam v. Pranshankar (1882) 6 Bom. 298, relied on by the appellants in support of the general proposition is accepted by this Court only for the view that a transfer to one next in the line of succession may be held to be valid. See Rajam Bhattar v. Singarammal (1918) 51 I.C. 979 : (1918) 36 M.L.J. 355.

13. The learned Judge decided against the validity of the transfer in the case with which he was dealing on the ground that the plaintiffs in whose favour the alienation was made were not the immediate heirs next in the line of succession. In Sri Mahant v. Govindacharlu (1934) 63 M.L.J. 295 : 1935 M.W.N. 59, Varadachariar, J., was dealing with an alienation of the office of archaka by the last holder of the office in favour of his sister's son. The learned Judge adverted to several considerations for supporting the alienation. On page 304 he says the case of an alienation of the office of archaka must be viewed differently from a bare transfer of a trustee's office. After referring to Raja Verma Valia v. Ravi Vurma Kunhi Kutti (1876) I.L.R. 1 Mad. 235 : L.R. 4 IndAp 76 , where their Lordships of the Privy Council refer to the doctrine of delegatus non potest delegare and the possibility that the recognition of a right of transfer may defeat the presumed intention of the founder of the endowment, the learned Judge remarks thus:

These two considerations have greater relevancy to cases where the trustee's office is sought to be alienated than to transfers of archakaship; indeed, in the case of archakas, the right of delegation has been expressly recognised by permitting the system of proxies.

14. Then referring to the observation of Ranade, J., in Rajaram v. Ganesh I.L.R.(1898)Bom. 131, that by 'force of custom a limited right of partition and alienation might be established', the learned Judge again remarks:

This observation would suggest that custom must be invoked to justify alienation.

15. After indicating these views in support of the alienation in question before him, he concludes thus:

In this state of the authorities, we think that in the circumstances of this case, our decision may be rested on a narrow ground. The facts here are almost ad idem with those in Mancharam v. Pranshankar I.L.R.(1882) Bom. 298, and we have not been referred to any reported case where this decision has been dissented from on similar facts.

16. Then he referred to the cases in Kuppa Gurukkal v. Doraisami I.L.R.(1882)Mad. 76, Narayana v. Ranga (1891) 2 M.L.J. 19 : I.L.R. 15 Mad. 183, Alagappa Mudaliar v. Sivaramasundara Mudaliar (1895) Mad. 211, Sundarambal Ammal v. Yogavanagurukkal I.L.R.(1914)Mad 850 and Rajam Bhattar v. Singarammal (1918) 36 M.LJ. 355 and observed:

This Court merely refused to apply the principle of Mancharam v. Pranshankar I.L.R.(1882) Bom. 298, to transfers for value or to transfers in favour of strangers. This does not seem to require or justify our refusing to follow the decision in Mancharam v. Pranshankar I.L.R.(1882)Bom. 298, even when the alienation is to one in the line of heirs, is not for consideration, and is not in any way opposed to or inconsistent with the interests of the institution.

17. Ultimately the learned Judge held that the custom of the institution was established in favour of the alienation in question. So far as the interpretation placed by the learned Judges on the Madras decisions is concerned, it seems to me, if I may say so with respect, that it is not accurate. In Narayana v. Ranga (1891) 2 M.L.J. 19 : I.L.R 15 Mad. 183, as I have already pointed out, the view taken was that an alienation could be upheld only in favour of the immediate heir and not to one in the line of heirs. In Kuppa Gurukkal v. Doraisami I.L.R.(1882) Bom. 76, he learned Judges expressly left open this question because referring to Mancharam v. Pranshankar I.L.R.(1882) Mad. 298, they made the following observation:

It is not necessary for us to determine in this case whether we should be disposed to go the length of what is decided in Mancharam v. Pranshankar I.L.R. Mad. 298, that a purchase by a person standing in the line of heirs or otherwise qualified should be upheld.

18. In Alagappa Mudaliar v. Sivaramasundara Mudaliar I.L.R.(1895) Mad. 211, the learned Judges were inclined to accept the view taken in Narayana v. Ranga (1891) 2 M.L.J. 19 : I.L.R 15 Mad. 183, because in the course of the judgment they referred to Narayana v. Ranga (1891) 2 M.L.J. 19 : I.L.R 15 Mad. 183, with approval thus:

It is clearly intended that the brothers other than the plaintiff shall divest themselves altogether of all right of control over the choultry. For the future it was intended that the right of management should devolve in the line of the plaintiff and his heirs to the exclusion of his brothers. In our opinion it makes no difference that the alienee is a member of the same family (vide Kuppa Gurukkal v. Doraisami (1882) Bom. 76 and Narayana v. Ranga (1891) 2 M.L.J. 19 : I.L.R 15 Mad. 183. We think the Subordinate Judge was right in holding the alienation to be invalid.

19. No doubt the alienations in those cases were for value but the decisions were not put on that ground. The decision in Sri Mahant v. Govindacharlu (1934) 68 M.L.J. 295 : 1935 M.W.N. 59, can be distinguished on the ground that there was a finding that a custom in support of the alienation in question was established and that it was a case of the office of archaka which according to Varadachariar, J., ought to be viewed differently from the office of a bare trustee. In dealing with Rajeswar Mullick v. Gopeshwar Mullick (1907) I.L.R. 35 Cal. 226, the learned Judge observes thus:

Cases where the hereditary office involves considerable beneficial interest cannot be put on the same footing as bare trusts for all purposes.

20. The present case is a case of a bare trust. It will also be seen that Varadachariar, J., does not refer to the decision in Rajam Bhattar v. Singarammal (1918) 51 I.C. 979 : 36 M.L.J. 355, or in Muthukumaraswami Pillai v. Subbaraya Pillai : AIR1931Mad505 . It seems to me that on principle the view enunicated in Narayana v. Ranga (1891) 2 M.L.J. 19 : I.L.R. 15 Mad. 183 and followed in Rajam Bhattar v. Singarammal (1918) 51 I.C. 979 : 36 M.L.J. 355 and Muthukumaraswami Pillai v. Subbaraya Pillai : AIR1931Mad505 , is sound. I would therefore hold that an alienation or release or renunciation of an office of a trustee not for value in favour of the next or immediate heir is valid; otherwise it is invalid. In this case the renunciation was made by Pattabhirama Chetti in favour of his brother on the assumption that he was the next heir. As the renunciation was not in favour of the next heir, the widow, the release must be deemed to be invalid. I therefore reverse the decision of the lower appellate Court. I direct each party to bear his own costs throughout. Leave to appeal is refused.


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