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Karnam Chowdappa and anr. Vs. Karnam Narasamma and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtChennai
Decided On
Judge
Reported in44Ind.Cas.299
AppellantKarnam Chowdappa and anr.
RespondentKarnam Narasamma and ors.
Cases ReferredMoraram Kolita v. Keri Kolitani
Excerpt:
hindu law - succession--apostacy by hindu widow and subsequent re-marriage, effect of--caste disabilities removal act (xxi of 1850)--hindu widows' remarriage act (xv of 1856), section 2. - - the second act to which our attention was drawn is act xv of 1856. by its preamble and by the tenor of its provisions it is clear that that act applies only to cases where a hindu widow re marries as such, because the preamble distinctly says; section 2 was introduced to placate those who pleaded that it was a sacrilege to the memory of the deceased husband that his widow who has sullied his bed by remarrying should be allowed to enjoy his property. he says that hindu text-writers allowed a hindu widow to inherit her husband's property on the principle that she was the surviving half of her deceased..........and by the tenor of its provisions it is clear that that act applies only to cases where a hindu widow re marries as such, because the preamble distinctly says; 'whereas many hindus believe that this imputed legal incapacity referring to the re marriage of widows) although it is in accordance with established custom, is not in accordance with a true interpretation of the precepts of their religion, and desire that the civil law administered by the courts of justice shall no longer prevent the hindus who may be so minded from adopting a different custom in accordance with the dictates of their own conscience; and whereas it is just to relieve all such hindus from this legal incapacity of which they complain, and the removal of all legal obstacles to the marriage of hindu widows.....
Judgment:

1. The suit is by a reversioner for a declaration that the alienation made by the 1st defendant is invalid beyond her lifetime. The 1st defendant's husband, Ramachandrappa, died 30 years ago. His widow, the 1st defendant, married a Muhammadan in 1884. There is evidence to support the conclusion of the lower Courts that she was a convert to Muhammadanism before she married her present husband and we must accept that finding. On this finding the question is whether the 1st defendant has been in possession of the property for 30 years since her husband's death, and whether the plaintiff's suit is barred by limitation. The Courts below have come to the conclusion that it is so barred because, from the moment of her marriage, her possession was adverse to the plaintiff, but we are unable to agree with them.

2. There are two Acts to be considered in this connection. The first is Act XXI of 1850, known as the Caste Disabilities Removal Act. By that Act a person who is a convert to another religion does not lose his rights in the estate which he or she inherited while that person belonged to some other religion. The effect of that Act is to remove a disability which conversion was supposed to have imposed under the common law of the country. That is the Act which really governs this case. The second Act to which our attention was drawn is Act XV of 1856. By its preamble and by the tenor of its provisions it is clear that that Act applies only to cases where a Hindu widow re marries as such, because the preamble distinctly says; 'Whereas many Hindus believe that this imputed legal incapacity referring to the re marriage of widows) although it is in accordance with established custom, is not in accordance with a true interpretation of the precepts of their religion, and desire that the civil law administered by the Courts of justice shall no longer prevent the Hindus who may be so minded from adopting a different custom in accordance with the dictates of their own conscience; and whereas it is just to relieve all such Hindus from this legal incapacity of which they complain, and the removal of all legal obstacles to the marriage of Hindu widows will tend to the promotion of good morals and to the public welfare; it is enacted etc.' It is clear from this that the Act was intended solely to apply to cases where a Hindu widow had re-married while she still remained a Hindu. Therefore, Section 2 of the Act, which speaks of her being regarded as dead on her re-marriage, can have no' application to the case of a person who has been converted to another religion and while in the second religion marries a husband. Section 2 was introduced to placate those who pleaded that it was a sacrilege to the memory of the deceased husband that his widow who has sullied his bed by remarrying should be allowed to enjoy his property.

3. Our attention has been drawn to the decision of the Full Bench in Matungini Gupta v. Ram Rutton Roy 19 C. 289. In that case four Judges of the High Court including the Chief Justice took the view that Section 2 of Act XV of 1S56 prevented a Hindu widow, who had become a Brahmo, from inheriting her husband's estate. The learned Chief Justice who delivered the judgment of the Court says: 'Section 2 includes all widows who are within the scope of the Act, that is to say, all persons who, being Hindus, become widows, and it must follow from this that if any such widow marries she is deprived by Section 2 of the estate which she inherited from her Hindu husband.' Justice Princep dissented, and in our opinion the word 'widow' in Section 2 applies only to those who continue to be Hindus at the time of re-marriage. We may point out that in the order of reference pronounced by three Judges--Justice Wilson, Justice Banerjee and Justice Princep--Mr. Justice Banerjee took the view that Section 2 would not apply to all widows. The learned Judge was further of opinion that a Hindu widow who remarried would be disentitled to inherit the property of her husband not because of Act XV of 1856 but by the precepts of Hindu Law. He says that Hindu text-writers allowed a Hindu widow to inherit her husband's property on the principle that she was the surviving half of her deceased husband and that inheritance should cease when she has become the better half of some other person. It may be anomalous that while a Hindu widow who re-marries is not entitled to the entire estate of her husband, if she is converted and then married she should be allowed to continue in possession of the property. But the Legislature has not intervened in this matter and we are not at liberty to import considerations of this nature in construing the Act.

4. The view which we take is in accordance with the decision in Abdul Aziz Khan v. Nirma 20 Ind. Cas. 335 : 11 A.L.J. 678. As pointed out in that case, Act XV of 1856 has no bearing upon a case where the widow who marries is not a Hindu at the time of marriage. We entirely agree with this proposition.

5. As regards the view taken by Mr. Justice Banerjee in Matungini Gupta v. Ram Button Roy 9 Ind. Dec. 638 if the matter were not concluded by the authority of the Privy Council we would hold with him that, under Hindu Law, a woman who has been false to her husband's bed by conversion and by re-marriage should not be allowed to inherit the property of her husband But the decision of the Privy Council in Moraram Kolita v. Keri Kolitani 6 C.L.R. 322: 3 Suth. P.C.J. 765 concludes this matter. There it was held that where property is once vested in a woman her subsequent unchastity would not divest her of the estate. The principle of that decision applies to the present case. ' At the highest this woman, who was originally a Brahmin widow and has since married a Muhammadan, can only be said to have been false to the bed of her husband. If the property had vested in her before she became a convert to Muhammadanism, the subsequent marriage cannot deprive her of the estate which she had inherited from her Hindu husband.

6. We, therefore, hold that the decision of the Courts below is wrong, and we reverse their decision. On the other questions the case will be remanded to the Court below for disposal on the merits. Costs will abide the result.


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