Skip to content


Lakshmi Ammal Vs. the Special Tahsildar (LA.) Miscellaneous Scheme and 19 ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1979)2MLJ26
AppellantLakshmi Ammal
RespondentThe Special Tahsildar (LA.) Miscellaneous Scheme and 19 ors.
Cases ReferredRatnasdmi Pillai v. Kathija Bivi Ammal
Excerpt:
- .....such as sale, mortgage etc. sundarammal died on 5th may, 1936. after the lifetime of sundarammal, lakshmi ammal and her husband late jayarama mudaliar got the properties absolutely. it is provided in the will that in the event of jayarama mudaliar marrying another wife without the consent or permission of lakshmi ammal, jayarama shall lose all the rights in the properties enjoyed by lakshmi ammal. contrary to the above direction, jayarama married a second wife against the wishes of his first wife and thereby jayarama forfeited all his rights. as a matter of fact, the high court of madras in its decision in c.s. no. 228 of 1938 held that jayarama had forfeited his rights to the property covered by the will in view of the forfeiture clause above mentioned. this decision was.....
Judgment:

S. Mohan, J.

1. This appeal arises out of a reference made under sections, 30 and 31 (2) of the Land Acquisition Act.

2. An extent of 3 acres 68 cents in S. No. 18/5 of Eraravur village in Saidapet Taluk, was acquired for the purpose of establishing a thermal station in Eraravur village. A compensation totalling Rs. 67,185-30 was deposited into Court. Since there were disputes concerning this amount, a reference was made under sections 30 and 31 (2) of the Land Acquisition Act. The question arose this way. The claimant (Lakshmi Ammal), who is the appellant herein, put forth a claim on the basis that the property belonged to her absolutely under a registered will and testament of Ponnambala Mudaliar, her paternal grandfather. The will is dated 18th October, 1918. The said Ponnambala Mudaliar died in 1919. The will was duly probated in the High Court of Madras. Under the terms of the will, he created a life interest in respect of his properties in favour of his second wife Sundarammal without any powers of alienation such as sale, mortgage etc. Sundarammal died on 5th May, 1936. After the lifetime of Sundarammal, Lakshmi Ammal and her husband late Jayarama Mudaliar got the properties absolutely. It is provided in the will that in the event of Jayarama Mudaliar marrying another wife without the consent or permission of Lakshmi Ammal, Jayarama shall lose all the rights in the properties enjoyed by Lakshmi Ammal. Contrary to the above direction, Jayarama married a second wife against the wishes of his first wife and thereby Jayarama forfeited all his rights. As a matter of fact, the High Court of Madras in its decision in C.S. No. 228 of 1938 held that Jayarama had forfeited his rights to the property covered by the will in view of the forfeiture Clause above mentioned. This decision was affirmed in A.S. No. 27 of 1939. Jayarama died in 1949 leaving Lakshmi Ammal as the sole heir. His second wife had predeceased him. No children Were born to Lakshmi Animal and Jayarama. As such, she became absolutely entitled to the amount lying in Court deposit representing the compensation. As a matter of fact, her right had been recognised in the prior proceedings in the Court of reference (Sub-Court)(Chingleput) in C.R.O.P. No. 641 of 1968, on 17th February, 1969.

3. The other relations of Ponnambala Mudaliar, who were the legatees under the will, in short contended that what Lakshmi Ammal took under the will dated 18th October, 1918, of Ponnambla Mudaliar was a life estate and not an absolute estate. On this, (two paints were posed for determination:-

1. Whether the first claimant is entitled to draw the entire compensation amount as the absolute owner of the reference land as per the terms of the will executed by the deceased Ponnambala Mudaliar on 18th October, 1918 ?

2. Whether the first claimant has been given only a life estate under the terms of the will above referred and she is entitled to draw only the interest for the amount concerned in this reference and the compensation has to be drawn by claimants 2, 4, to 6 and 7 to 21 ; the claimants 2, 4 to 6 and 19 to 21 being entitled to l/4th share ; claimants 7 to 12 being entitled to half share and claimants 13 to 18 being entitled to the balance of l/4th share? On a detailed consideration of the recitals of the will marked as Exhibit A-1 of; Ponnambala Mudaliar, dated 18th October, 1918, the Court of reference held that what was taken by Lakshmi Ammal was only a limited interest. Accordingly, it answered the reference. Hence the present appeal by Lakshmi Ammal, who figured as the first claimant in the Court of reference.

Mr. V.C. Veeraraghavan, learned Counsel appearing for the appellant, after taking me through the recitals in the Will, Exhibit A-1, urges the following:-

(1) having regard to the use of the words it would mean that what was taken by Lakshmi Ammal was an absolute estate. Wherever the testator wanted to give only a life estate, he had clearly mentioned so. In the absence of any restrictive words of that kind would take in an absolute estate and not a restricted estate. In support of this submission, he relies on a decision of this Court reported in Ratnasami Pillai v. Kathija Bivi Ammal : (1950)2MLJ496 . The contingency contemplated in the will, namely, children being born to Lakshmi Ammal, had not arisen. If the object was to preserve the estate to the children of Lakshmi Ammal, and in the absence of any issue if it is construed to be a limited estate, it would result in a defeasance or intestacy. Law abhors intestacy. Nor again, can there be a defeasance Clause. As to how defeasance brought about is dealt with by Mr. Mantha Ramamurti on the Law of Wills, page 442, paragraph 31 on which the learned Counsel would place reliance. On the same lire of argument, he would also draw support from Halsbury's Laws of England, Third Edition, Volume 39 at page 929, praragraph 1405 and submits that a condition to operate as a defeasance of a vested estate must be shown to have happened strictly and to the letter of it. That is not the position here.

4. The learned Subordinate Judge, had gone wrong in trying to construe the nature of the estate derived by Lakshmi Ammal with reference to the later Clause found in the will in the event of the death of Lakshmi Ammal. The word must be given a definite meaning and according to the learned Counsel, it must connote not her taking a life estate, but an absolute estate. If the property had already vested in Lakshmi Ammal, that vesting cannot be cut down or that absolute estate cannot be whittled down by the later Clause. Then again, according to the learned Counsel, what is important to be noted is, in the event of Lakshmi Ammal dying in the middle, her husband Jayarama would be deprived of his life enjoyment of the portion of the estate. Lastly it is urged that this very will came up for interpretation earlier before this Court and it has been construed as if Lakshmi Ammal took an absolute estate. That judgment, though not directly on point, Would support the stand of the appellant.

5. Mr. Srinivasagopalan, learned Counsel for the respondents would urge, after taking me through the entirety of the will that the object of the testator was to benefit each and everyone of his relations. That the testator was a wordlywise man is evident from the language employed in the will. By a reading of the entirety of the will, which is a cardinal principle in construing the will it appears that he did not Want any of his female relations to take an absolute estate. On the contrary, he restricted the enjoyment during the lifetime of these female-holders. Even in the case of the second wife Sundarammal, he had so provided. While dealing with the rights of Lakshmi Ammal, all that is said is Nowhere, right is created: The said is followed by The later words cannot connote anything more than a mere enjoyment. If the object was to preserve the estate for the issues of Lakshmi Ammal in the absence of the issue there is no defeasance Clause. As a matter of fact, the testator had provided a model devolution in both the contingencies, in the event of Lakshmi Ammal predeceasing Jayarama without issues. This is clear by the use of the word That word means only that. In such a contingency the property was to devolve on Lakshmi Ammal's father Ganapathi Mudaliar on the one hand and Subramania Mudaliar and Balasundara Mudaliar on the other, in equal moieties. Therefore, no intestacy whatever arises. If the construction as sought to be made out by the appellant is accepted, all the later Clauses Would be rendered otiose or ineffective. That certainly is not the correct way of interpreting a solemn document like' a will, since it is well-settled law that each and every Clause must be given effect to. The decision cited, namely, Ratnasami Pillai v. Kathija Bivi Ammal : (1950)2MLJ496 . merely dealt with But that phrase alone cannot be pressed too much into service because they are qualified by later words The passages in the text relating to law of Wills in Halsbury cannot support the interpretation sought to be placed by the learned Counsel for the appellant.

6. Having regard to the above controversy, the only point that arises for my determination is, what is the nature of the estate taken by Lakshmi Ammal. In order to answer this question necessarily a detailed reference has to be made to the various Clauses occurring in, the will. The will is marked as Exhibit A-1, dated 18th October, 1918 executed by Ponnambala Mudaliar. He says in the beginning

After detailing out the property he adds on:

Stopping here for a moment, if a comparison is made between the nature of the estate conferred upon Sundarammal and Lakshmi Ammal, at the first blush it may appear that what was conferred upon Lakshmi Ammal' was not a mere life estate, but an absolute estate. A careful reading of the later Clause dealing with the rights of Lakshmi Animal' will disclose the following:There is no use of the word after the words In such a case alone, a right or interest is created. Then again there is no gainsaying that the words would connote only a right of enjoyment. That is made clear by stating in the later Clause:

There is a clear restraint against alienation. One way of looking at the matter would be having conferred an absolute estate on Lakshmi Animal, any later restraint against alienation so as to defeat or whittle down that absolute estate, must be held to be invalid. But such a construction is not possible in this case, because the object of conferring a life estate on Lakshmi Ammal is to preserve the property to the issues of Lakshmi Ammal through Jayarama. As to how this conclusion is inescapable, I will also demonstrate by reference to a later Clause in the will. Suffice it at this juncture to state the words alone may not connote an absolute estate because at the risk of repetition I maystate there is no word The decision in Ratnasdmi Pillai v. Kathija Bivi Ammal : (1950)2MLJ496 , dealt with a Clause That decision, in my view, has no application to the facts of the presenst case because there are no qualifying words mentioned in the later Clause dealing with the nature of the estate conferred on Lakshmi Ammal.

7. What has to happen in the event of Lakshmi Ammal dying is also provided for under the will, since it proceeds to state:

It is relevant to note at this stage that the earlier forfeiture Clause in the event of Jayarama marrying against the wishes of Lakshmi Ammal alone came up for interpretation in this Court in G. S. No. 228 of 1938 Vide Exhibit A-2. The learned Judge Venkataramana Rao, J., held :

The dominant intention of the testator was to provide for Lakshmi Ammal, and her husband was jointly associated with her in the bequest, the main object being that they should jointly enjoy the property and thereafter transmit to their children. Whether in law a joint bequest can be taken by them with a right of survivorship or whatever the testator may have intended, Lakshmi Ammal and her husband can in law only take the property as tenants in common, the intention of the testator is clear that it should be enjoyed jointly by them both and the property that was meant to be enjoyed by Lakshmi Ammal was the same as the property intended to be enjoyed by her husband. Therefore, when he used the expression, 'properties enjoyed by her' in the forfeiture Clause, he clearly meant the properties already bequeathed to both and intended to be enjoyed by them in the previous Clause of the will.

This decision was appealed against in O.S. A. No. 27 of 1939 vide Exhibit A-3. A Division Bench consisting of Leach, C.J. and Horwill, J. dismissed the appeal and held:

It is clear that the testator did not intend that they should have an absolute estate because the will then proceeds to direct that neither the husband nor the wife shall 'gift mortgage or sell all the said properties'. This indicates that it was his intention that these properties should go to their issue. In view of the words 'shall hold and enjoy absolutely from son to grandson and so on in succession' which are used when conferring an estate on the appellant and the respondent, the prohibition against alienation may not be a lawful one. But there can be no doubt that it was the intention of the testator that the property should eventually descend upon their children.

Even these two judgments, in my view, do not support the contention of the learned Counsel for the appellant that what was taken by Lakshmi Ammal was an absolute estate.

8. The word would only mean in my view, if Lakshmi Ammal were to predecease Jayarama without any issues and not as is contended by the learned Counsel for the appellant. There is a further fallacy in the argument of the appellant's counsel. If the construction as sought to be placed by him is to be accepted, then the other Clause namely the devolution on Lakshmi Ammal's father Ganapathi Mudaliar, and Subramania Mudaliar and Balasundara Mudaliar, the brothers of the testator, would be rendered negatory. There is no intestacy here. Therefore, the general principle that law abhors intestacy, cannot arise. After Lakshmi Ammal's enjoyment during her lifetime, a portion of the property is carved out of the entire estate conferred jointly on Lakshmi Ammal and Jayarama and that estate is to be taken in equal moieties by Ganapathi Mudaliar, the father of Lakshmi Ammal on the one hand and Subramania Mudaliar and Balasundara Mudaliar, the brothers of the testator on the other, because it is states' in the above Clause

That means the house and garden of Than dayarpet are excluded for the purpose of devolution on the above legatees. From this, it is sought to be argued that this Would have the effect of depriving Jayarama of his life enjoyment of the properties other than the house and garden at Thandayarpet. That is so. In fact that is what the testator intended. After the death of Lakshmi Ammal as I observed above, a portion of the estate is carved out for the purpose of devolution and the remaining alone would or could be enjoyed by Jayarama during his lifetime be -cause what was conferred was a joint right of possession during the life of Lakshmi Ammal and Jayarama. By construing in this manner, certainly no part of the will is rendered ineffective. It is axiomatic that in construing the will, it must be read as a whole and every Clause must be given effect to. Therefore, these wholesome principles should be borne in mind in construing Exhibit A-1. In fact I may say that the learned Subordinate Judge has approached the entire question in a proper perspective and I am in agreement with him. with regard to the interpretation of Exhibit A-l. In fine I hold that what was taken by Lakshmi Ammal under Exhibit A-1 was-only a life estate and not an absolute estate as contended by the learned Counsel for the appellant. As to how the estate would devolve after the lifetime of Lakshmi Ammal is not a matter which could be gone into within the narrow compass in a reference under sections' 30 and 31 (2) of the Land Acquisition Act and the parties, if so advised, would agitate the same separately.

I have already referred to the fact that the total amount of compensation is Rs. 67,815-30P. The particulars of the same are as under:-

Particulars of Land acquired:Survey Number : 18/5.Extent : 3.60 acres.

Particulars of trees, buildings, wells, etc., tree value 576-00 Particulars of compensation awards under Section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act.

@ Rs. 130 - per cent. Rs.Land Value . . 47,840-00Well value . . 1,700-0015% Solatium . . 7,517-00Interest: @ 4 per cent from9th November, 1964 to18th March, 1969 . . 1-10,18-00___________Total. . . 67,815-30Date of possession of the land 9th November, 1964.

Mr. V.G. Veeraraghavan, learned Counsel for the appellant Lakshmi Ammal would be well entitled, even on my finding, to that interest from 9th November, 1964 to 18th March, 1969 amounting to Rs. 10,181-90 P: I think this contention is well-founded. Therefore, straightaway Lakshmi Ammal would be entitled to draw the sum of Rs. 10,181-90 P. and any Other interest which had accrued subsequent to that date which can be drawn by her once in six months. The remaining, namely, the value of the land, value of the well, 15% solatium Would continue to remain in Court deposit and will be available to the claimants only after the death of Lakshmi Ammal and that portion of the judgment of the Court below in paragraph 12 is, therefore, set aside. The appeal will, accordingly, stand allowed to the extent indicated above, however, confirming the finding that what was taken by Lakshmi Ammal is only a life estate. The parties will bear their respective costs.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //