1. This is an appeal preferred against the decree and judgment of the learned District Judge of Coimbatore in A.S. No. 329 of 1953, reversing the decree and judgment of the learned District Munsiff of Coimbatore in O.S. No. 991 of 1952.
2. The facts are: The plaintiff Venkatalakshmi Ammal's husband Narayana Rao had opened a 'Home Savings Safe' account with the Central Bank of India, Limited, Coimbatore branch. Narayana Rao died on. 12th September, 1950, having to his credit in the above account Rs. 2,146. The late Narayana Rao had executed and registered a will on 9th June, 1950, under which he has bequeathed this property among others absolutely to his wife Venkatalakshmi Ammal. On this Venkatalakshmi Ammal asking the Bank to pay the amount to her, the Bank has been insisting upon a succession certificate or indemnity bond. Therefore, this Venkatalakshmi Ammal filed O.S. No. 991 of 1952 for recovery of Rs. 2,200. The learned District Munsiff held that under Section 214 of the Indian Succession Act the plaintiff was bound to produce a succession certificate but she is saved from doing so by reason of the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act. He therefore decreed the suit in plaintiff's favour. The Bank appealed. In appeal the learned District Judge held that the plaintiff was not saved from producing a succession certificate and reversed the decree and judgment of the learned District Munsiff. Hence this appeal by the defeated plaintiff.
3. Section 214 of the Indian Succession Act is mandatory, and the Court cannot pass a decree even if it was otherwise satisfied that the plaintiff was really the heir or successor of the deceased. The corresponding provisions of Act X of 1865 provided for a power in the Court, to pass a decree under certain circumstances. But under this section, no decree can be passed under any circumstances. A conditional decree directing the production of certificate before the execution of a decree is illegal. If the succession certificate is not produced before the decree, after an opportunity has been given to the plaintiff to produce it, the only order which the Court can pass upon the suit is to dismiss it. But if an appeal is perferred succession certificate can be produced in the appellate Court: Bhudat Singh v. Mangat Bat : AIR1934All296 . And it is a grave irregularity, which will be remedied by the High Court, to pass a decree before a succession certificate is produced in such a case, Ghisu v. Ram Ballabh (1911) 13 I.L.C. 363; Virayan Chettiar v. Srinivasa Chariar : AIR1921Mad168 . Even a consent decree cannot be passed by the Court upon the admission of the debt by the defendant. The certificate must be produced. It is not enough to produce an order directing the issue of a certificate, Mulchand v. Motichand (1872) 9 Bom. H.C.R. 37.
4. Such being the mandatory provisions of the section, the first question that falls for consideration is its applicability. On an analysis of all the decisions on the point, it may be seen that the section applies only if all the five conditions mentioned below are satisfied at the same time:
(1) The claim must be for the recovery of a debt and the relationship of debtor and creditor must exist between the defendant and deceased.
(2) The debt must be owing at the death of the deceased.
(3) The claim must be based on succession.
(4) The claimant must be claiming to be entitled to the effects of the deceased.
(5) The claim must be against the debtor of the deceased.
5. In this case the requirements 1, 2, 4 and 5 concur. I need not point out that a bank deposit is a debt as a debt has been defined, in the words of Lord Lindley in Webb v. Stenton (1883) L.R. 11 Q.B.D. 518, as a sum of money which is now payable or will become payable in future by reason of a present obligation. Therefore, the only point to be considered is whether the claim is based upon succession.
6. Under the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, Section 3(1), when a Hindu governed by the school of Mithakshara Law dies leaving separate property, as in the instant case, his widow shall be entitled in respect of such property in respect of which he dies intestate, to the same share as a son. In other words, the Act has conferred a new right upon the widow of a deceased coparcener in amplification of the pre-existing law. Certainly the widow is not raised to the status of a coparcener as has been pointed out in the Full Bench decision in Parappa v. Nagamma (1954) 1 M.L.J. 250 : I.L.R. (1954) Mad. 183 to which I was a party, and certainly the widow does not take as the heir of her husband as pointed out in the Bench decision of this Court in Subba Rao v. Krishna Prasadam : AIR1954Mad227 . The position has been well summed up in a recent Bench decision of this Court in Rathnasabapathy v. Saraswathi Ammal : AIR1954Mad307 , that under the Act the widow does not get either by survivorship or by inheritance but it is a special statutory right which she gets solely by reason of her being the widow of her husband. The widow becomes entitled to her lights not as an heir but by statute and stands in the shoes of the deceased husband and continues to be a member of the joint family, Satyanarayana v. Narasamma : AIR1942Mad708 . It is no doubt true that the position of a widow is betwixt and between but it is certainly clear that she does not get this separate property by succession which would entail the taking out of a succession certificate. That was why it was held in Natarajan Chettiar v. Perumal Ammal : AIR1943Mad246 , that as the widow does not inherit, it is not necessary for her to produce a succession certificate. The fact that the husband made a will in this case has neither enlarged nor curtailed the right of the widow to take the separate property of her husband as if she were a son. In the present case, so far as the Bank is concerned, when once it has got satisfactory proof that this widow has succeeded to the separate property of her husband, the receipt of the widow would be full quit and the Bank cannot be made answerable by anybody else.
7. The object of taking out a succession certificate is to give security to the debtors paying the debts due to the deceased and thus facilitate the collection of debts on succession. The purpose of the Act is not to enable litigant parties to have an opportunity of litigating contested questions of title to property. Therefore, when a Bank is satisfied that the applicant is entitled to collect the debt it should not prescribe onerous conditions which are in no way necessary for its safety and it must be the endeavour of Banks to promote deposits and not make them unpopular by insisting upon totally unnecessary safeguards. In this very case the cost of obtaining a succession certificate would practically wipe off the interest on the deposit and defeat the very object of entering into this 'Home Savings Safe' scheme.
8. In this case on the production of the registered mofussil will which need not be probated, vide Namperumal v. Veraperumal (1928) 59 M.L.J. 596 : A.I.R. 1930 Mad. 956, the Bank should have held that the widow had established her claim to the amount with the Bank and disbursed it to her instead of driving her to a costly and futile litigation.
9. In the result the decree and judgment of the learned District Judge are set aside and the decree and judgment of the District Munsiff are restored and this appeal is allowed with costs throughout. (No leave.)