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Nagalakshmi Ammal and ors. Vs. Rajagopala Iyer and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty;Civil
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1969)1MLJ524
AppellantNagalakshmi Ammal and ors.
RespondentRajagopala Iyer and ors.
Cases ReferredAiyathurai v. Municipal Council
Excerpt:
- .....to her wishes' it was held that there was an absolute bequest in favour of the wife and not a mere life estate coupled with a power of appointment. krishnan, j., observed 'it is not a case at. all of any power of appointment. it is merely a case of absolute bequest to the widow with a recommendation to her, so as to deal with the properties in the manner mentioned which is not binding on her.'3. i am unable to see how the fact that the parties in that case were christians makes any difference to the principle applicable because in this case the parties are hindus, as considered by the learned district munsif. reliance was also placed on behalf of the respondents on the decision of the supreme court in lakshmana nadar v. ramier : [1953]4scr848 . there, the will was as follows:after my.....
Judgment:

A. Alagiriswami, J.

1. By a will dated 21st August, 1907, one Srinivasa Iyengar bequeathed certain properties to his daughter-in-law, Alamelu. The interpretation of the will and its effect is the question to be decided in the second appeal. The plaintiffs are the daughters of one of Alamelu Ammal's daughters, Rajammal. The defendants are alienees from Rajammal herself. The question is whether the effect of the will is to give the absolute estate to Alamelu Ammal, so that her daughter as streedhana heir would only have a life interest in the property and, therefore, after her death in 1953, the defendants would have no further rights in the property or whether what Alamaleu got was a life interest and Rajammal took an absolute interest after her and the defendants therefore get absolute title to the suit properties. The relevant portions of the will are found in page-6 of the trial Court's judgment. The Courts below have held that the effect of that will is to give a life interest to Alamelu and absolute interest to her daughters after her life. It appears to me that the decision of the Courts below cannot be supported.

2. In Karunakaran Stephen v. Administrator-General of Madras : AIR1925Mad686 , where an Indian Christian gave his property to his wife saying ' After me she should enjoy the said properties and she should at her death divide and give (the same) to those three persons, i.e., A, B and C, according to her wishes' it was held that there was an absolute bequest in favour of the wife and not a mere life estate coupled with a power of appointment. Krishnan, J., observed 'it is not a case at. all of any power of appointment. It is merely a case of absolute bequest to the widow with a recommendation to her, so as to deal with the properties in the manner mentioned which is not binding on her.'

3. I am unable to see how the fact that the parties in that case were Christians makes any difference to the principle applicable because in this case the parties are Hindus, as considered by the learned District Munsif. Reliance was also placed on behalf of the respondents on the decision of the Supreme Court in Lakshmana Nadar v. Ramier : [1953]4SCR848 . There, the will was as follows:

After my life time you, the aforesaid B, my wife, shall till your life time, enjoy the aforesaid entire properties, the outstandings due to me, the debts payable by me, and the chit amounts payable by me. After your life time L, our daughter and wife of M and her heirs shall enjoy them with absolute rights and powers of alienation such as gift, exchange, and sale from son to grandson and so one for generations....

Considering the effect of this will, their Lordships observed as follows at page 836:

Considering the will in the light of these principles, it seems to us that Lakshminarayana Iyer intended by his will to direct that his entire properties should be enjoyed by his widow during her lifetime but her interest in these properties should come to an end on her death, that all these properties in their entirety should thereafter be enjoyed as absolute owners by his daughter and her, heirs with powers of alienation, gift, exchange and sale from generation to generation. He wished to make his daughter a fresh stock of descent so that her issue, male or female, may have the benefit of his property. They were the real persons whom he earmarked with certainty as the ultimate recipients of his bounty. In express terms he conferred on his daughter powers of alienation by way of gift exchange, sale, but in sharp contrast to this, on his widow he conferred no such powers. The direction to her was that she should enjoy the entire properties including the outstandings, etc., and these shall thereafter pass to her daughters. Though no restraint in express terms was put on her powers of alienation in case of necessity, even that limited power was not given to her in express terms. If the testator had before his mind's eye his daughter and her heirs as the ultimate beneficiaries of his bounty, that intention could only be achieved by giving to the widow a limited estate, because by conferring a full Hindu widow's estate on her the daughter will only have a mere spes successions under the Hindu Law which may or may not mature and under the will her interest would only be a contingent one in what was left undisposed of by the widow. It is significant that the testator did not say in the will that the daughter will enjoy only the properties left undisposed of by the widow. The extent of the grant so far as the properties mentioned in the schedule are concerned, to the daughter and the widow is the same. Just as the widow was directed to enjoy the entire properties mentioned in the schedule during her life time, in like manner the daughter and her heirs were also directed to enjoy the same properties with absolute rights from generation to generation. They could not enjoy the same properties in the manner directed if the widow had a full Hindu widow's estate and had the power for any purpose to dispose of them and did so. If that was the intention, the testator would clearly have said that the daughter would only take the properties remaining after the death of the widow.

4. In that case, there was a gift over after the lifetime of the widow granting specifically an absolute interest in favour of the daughter. There is no such gift over in this case.

5. In Aiyathurai v. Municipal Council Kumbakonam I.L.R. (1965) 1 Mad. 598, a Bench of this Court had to consider a will in the following terms:

The properties obtained by me by way of partition of my maternal grandfather's properties and the jewels worn by my wife B shall be taken by B alone, who Will be entitled to enjoy them throughout her life, thereafter B can dedicate them to any charity she might desire. But the house situate to the west of my residential house shall be enjoyed by B for the duration of her life-time. Thereafter she shall make a gift of the same to any one of my brother C's sons who might be beholden to her.

6. The Bench interpreted the first portion of the will as giving an absolute estate to B the widow and the second portion as giving her a limited interest because there was a mandatory direction that she should give the house to the west of the residential house to any one of the testator's brother's sons. In that case, the words used in respect of the estate taken by the widow was In the present case, the word used is : Both mean exactly the same thing. In considering the effect of these words, the Bench observed as follows : See page 601:

The words (enjoy) is of wide import. The word enjoy itself will include within it, power of alienation, etc., unless there be other indications in the document to show that a more limited meaning was intended. An example of the latter kind is found where property is given to a person to be enjoyed in apparently wide terms but there are other dispositions of the same property by way of remainder or otherwise. In such a case, difficult questions will arise whether the latter disposition of the property is invalid as being repugnant to the former, or only thus reveal an intention in the donor to restrict the apparently absolute estate conferred on the first taker.

Discussing further the provision that where the testator provided that B was to enjoy the properties obtained by the testator by way of partition for life and thereafter she can dedicate them to any charity she might desire, they have taken the view:

Applying the principles referred to above, we are unable to find either a trust or a power of appointment in favour of the charity in the first clause of the will. What was intended was a mere recommendation to devote the properties to such charities as Bagirathi might choose. Probably, Ranganathan Chettiar expected that his wife would respect his wishes. But that cannot mean that her powers over the properties were in any way curtailed.

7. Similarly, in the present case also, the grandfather Srinivasa Iyengar must have expected that the daughter-in-law would give the properties to her own daughters. Even so it is only provided that she was to give it to her daughters as she pleased. Unlike in the case just mentioned where the direction to give to the testator's brother's sons was in a mandatory form, any reference to the grand daughters was only an expectation rather than a mandatory direction or even a recommendation. As in the other case, Srinivasa Iyengar probably expected that his daughter-in-law would respect his wishes and give it to the grandchildren.

8. It is now well-settled that merely because a property is given to a Hindu woman, a limited interest is not to be inferred. It is always a question of a construction. In most of the cases where a life interest is said to be taken by a woman, there is always a gift over to some other person and in such case, it could very well be said that what was given to the first taker was only a life interest. There is no gift over in this case. There is no power of appointment. There is no trust created. Therefore, what Alamelu got was an absolute estate. There was no cutting down of the effect of the earlier portion by which she was directed to enjoy the properties for her life which as explained by the Bench in Aiyathurai v. Municipal Council, Kumbakonam I.L.R. (1965) 1 Mad. 598, are words of wide import. If Srinivasa Iyengar had really intended to create a life interest in favour of his daughter-in-law and an absolute right in favour of the grand daughters, he might have said that he was giving it to the daughter-in-law for maintenance. He might have put in words limiting her powers of alienation or he might have stated that after her life time, her daughters were to take it. He has done none of these things. It is, therefore, clear that what Alamelu got under the will was an absolute estate. The appellants are, therefore, entitled to succeed.

8. The second appeal is, therefore, allowed and the plaintiffs' suit would stand decreed. But the parties will bear their own costs throughout. No leave.


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