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Muthuraman Chettiar Vs. Adaikappa Chetty and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai
Decided On
Judge
Reported inAIR1934Mad730a; 153Ind.Cas.325
AppellantMuthuraman Chettiar
RespondentAdaikappa Chetty and ors.
Cases ReferredIn Sripat Narain Rai v. Tirbeni Misra
Excerpt:
civil procedure code (act v of 1918) order xxii, rule 4, order xli, rule 4 - death of defendant--begat representatives brought on record--death of legal representative--heirs of deceased legal representative not brought on record--validity of decree--power of some of several legal representatives to represent estate--order xli, rule 4, scope of. - .....died and his two sons, viz., this plaintiff's father and another were brought on record as his legal representatives as defendants nos. 4 and 3. when the matter was pending before the appellate court, the present plaintiff's father died in or about 1924. no legal representative was brought on record in his place and the appellate court reversed the lower court's decree perhaps in ignorance of the death. the plaintiff now contends that the decree passed by the appellate court in reversed the lower court's decree after the death of his father and without his legal representative on record is null and void as against him.2. the first court dismissed this suit on the ground that the other son, i.e., the 3rd defendant in that suit who still continued on the record of a.s. no. 85 of 1924.....
Judgment:

Vardachariar, J.

1. This second appeal raises a point of processual law, namely whether the plaintiff can maintain this suit for a declaration that the judgment in A.S. No. 85 of 1924 on the file of the Ramnad Sub-court and the proceedings subsequently taken on the basis there of are null and void as against him or whether his only remedy is to apply to the Court which passed that decree to vacate it. That appeal arose out of a suit O.S. No. 766 of 1918 on the file of the District Munsif's Court of Sivaganga which at later stages by reason of transfer to different Courts came to be numbered as O.S. No. 348 of 1922 and O.S No. 412 of 1925, the last being the stage after the remand consequent upon the appellate decision in A.S. No. 85 of 1924. That suit had been instituted by the present 1st defendant claiming a half share in certain properties as against the 2nd defendant and one Muthuraman Chetti, the grandfather of the present plaintiff. The District Munsif dismissed that suit but on appeal that decree was reversed and the suit was remanded to the Munsif's Court for passing a final decree in plaintiff's favour Even while the suit was pending before the Mnnsif in the first instance Muthuraman Chetti the then 1st defendant died and his two sons, viz., this plaintiff's father and another were brought on record as his legal representatives as defendants Nos. 4 and 3. When the matter was pending before the Appellate Court, the present plaintiff's father died in or about 1924. No legal representative was brought on record in his place and the Appellate Court reversed the lower Court's decree perhaps in ignorance of the death. The plaintiff now contends that the decree passed by the Appellate Court in reversed the lower Court's decree after the death of his father and without his legal representative on record is null and void as against him.

2. The first Court dismissed this suit on the ground that the other son, i.e., the 3rd defendant in that suit who still continued on the record of A.S. No. 85 of 1924 had the same defence as the plaintiff's father that both of them had been represented by the same Vakil when the matter was before the Court pf first instance that this common defence was also urged before the Court of Appeal and that the case is governed by Order XLI, Rule 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure according to which one of several plaintiffs or defendants may obtain a reversal of the whole decree where it proceeds on a ground common to all. In the opinion of the learned District Munsif, A.S. No. 85 of 1924 did not abate by reason of the plaintiff's father's death. The lower Appellate Court has confirmed his decree but on somewhat different grounds. In the opinion of the learned Subordinate Judge the Judgment passed by a Court even without a legal representative of a deceased party is not a nullity and hence cannot be set aside by a suit but the legal representative who has not had a hearing can claim re-hearing on the ground that he has been prejudiced. Reliance has been placed by the learned Subordinate Judge on Vellayan Chetty v. Jothi Mahalinga Iyer : (1915)28MLJ138 in support of this view and also on a passage from Black on Judgments cited in Goda Coopooramier v. Soondarammall 3 Ind. Cas. 739 : 33 M. 167 : 6 M.L.T 27.

3. I may say at once that cases like Vellayan Chetty v. Jothi Mahalinga Ayer : (1915)28MLJ138 have really no bearing upon the question now in dispute because where the decision is in favour of a dead man the position is different from a cage where the decision is against the dead man. See Subramania Aiyar v. Vaithianatha Aiyar 31 Ind. Cas. 198 : 38 M. 682. As explained in Thamarapalli Surya Narayana v. Co panajhala Joga Rao : AIR1930Mad719 , the principle underlying that class of cases is that a party who is alive and has been heard cannot take advantage of the death of-his opponent and claim a re-hearing Whether the death of any party does not wholly put an end to the jurisdiction of the Court to give judgment so far as he is concerned whether in his favour or against him, is a larger question that need not be considered here. Some cases seem to go that length: cf., Viswanath Duyanoba v. Lallu Kabla Ind. Cas. 137 4 Ind. Cas. 137 : 11 Bom. L.R. 1070.

4. The passage from Black on Judgments is no doubt of very wide import and putting both cases on the same footing goes to the other extreme of holding the decision prima facie valid in both cases. The tenor of the discussion in Goda Coopooramier v. Soondarammall 3 Ind. Cas. 739 : 33 M. 167 : 6 M.L.T 27 would, however, show that the learned Judges were not prepared to go so far. They rest their conclusion upon the distinction between a case where the decision is in favour of a dead person, and a case where it is against a dead person. Though the passage from Goda Coopooramier v. Sundarammall 3 Ind. Cas. 739 : 33 M. 167 : 6 M.L.T 27 has been cited without comment in a decision of the Lahore High Court in Tota Ram v. Kundan 112 Ind. Cas. 704 : A.I.R. 1928 Lah. 784 it seems to me impossible in view of a long line of authority to the contrary to apply the rule stated by Black in all its generality in this country.

5. As early as in Radha Prasad Singh v. Lal Sahib Rai 13 A. 53 : 17 I.A. 150 : 5 Sar. 600 (P.C.) the Privy Council observed that a decree obtained after the death of a defendant cannot bind the representatives of the deceased unless they had been made parties to the suit in which it was pronounced and the same principle is re-affirmed by their Lordships in Wajid Ali Khan v. Puran Singh 114 Ind. Cas 601 : 51 A. 267 : A.I.R. 1929 P.C. 58 : 49 C.L.J. 141 : 33 C.W.N. 318 : 29 L.W. 423 : (1929) M.W.N. 220 : (1929) A.L.J. (sic) : 56 M.L.J. 301 (P.C.) their Lordships observe at p. 273 Page of 51 A.--[Ed.] that where the appeal is heard in the absence of the legal representatives of the deceased respondent and the decree of the first Court is reversed...it is clear that the legal representatives of the deceased respondent against whom the appeal has abated cannot be bound by the appellate decree'. Much stronger and clearer language has been used in several judgments of the High Courts in India among which it is sufficient to refer to Subramania Aiyar v. Vaithianatha Aiyar 31 Ind. Cas. 198 : 38 M. 682 American Baptist Foreign Mission Society v. Ammalanadhini Pattabhirarnayya 48 Ind. Cas. 859 Narendra Bahadur Chand v. Gopal Sah 20 Ind. Cas. 506. In some of these cases the question arose in the course of proceedings in execution of the decree and it was held that the decree is so far void as even to entitle the executing Court to refuse to execute it. That this is the true import of the Privy Council decision in Radha Prasad Singh v. Lal Sahib Rai 13 A. 53 : 17 I.A. 150 : 5 Sar. 600 is also the view taken in the case in Imdad Ali v. Jagan Lal 17 A. 418 which is referred to and followed m many of the later cases. See also Sripat Narain Rai v. Tirbeni Misra 45 Ind. Cas. 21 : 40 A. 423 : 16 A.L.J. 27.

6. The other reason, stated in para. 2 of the lower Appellate Court's judgment, that proceedings taken by a Court even after the death of a party are not void so long as no application is made to bring the legal representatives on record is unintelligible. 'If the learned Judge meant that so long as there is time to bring them on record, the statement may be intelligible even though it would not be correct. Anyhow that was not the fact in the present instance.

7. Turning now to the reasons given by the District Munsif I must observe that his reasoning based upon Order XLI, Rule 4, Civil Procedure Code, is not correct. There has been a difference of opinion as to whether this rule can fee, relied on by legal representatives when their predecessors-in-title had actually been parties to an appeal but on whose death the legal representatives have not chosen to come on the record: Chenchwamayya v. Venkatasubbayya Chetty : AIR1933Mad655 with Aminchand v. Baldeo Sahai 151 Ind. Cas. 784 : A.I.R. 1934 Lah. 206 : 35 P.L.R. 92 : 7 R.L. 204. But it is unnecessary to consider that point here, for Order XLI, Rule 4 can be invoked only in the case of appellants with a common defence in the lower Court and not in the case of respondents. Further, Order XLI, Rule 4 provides only for some of the appellants getting a decision in favour of all persons having a common interest and has no application to or bearing on a case like the present, where the question is whether a decree can be passed against a dead man, though there is another person on record with the same defence as that of the dead man.

8. I am however of opinion, that apart from the reference to Order XLI, Rule 4, the conclusion of the District Munsif is correct. The position in the present case was that the suit had been originally instituted against the plaintiff's grandfather as one of the defendants, and all that was required for the purpose of upholding the jurisdiction of the Court to deal with the matter to the end was that the estate of the grandfather should continue to be duly represented. As stated already, on the death of the grandfather, his two sons were brought on record, that is, the estate was represented by two persons as legal representatives. The question for consideration is, when one of them dies and his legal representative is not brought on record, does the original estate that was at first represented by two persons as legal representatives and is later on represented by one of them only cease to be represented, for the purpose of that litigation. If the answer is in the negative, the Court will undoubtedly continue to have jurisdiction to deal with the matter in controversy, whatever other remedies any person may have, on the ground that he was interested in the controversy but was not brought before, the Court. Argument has accordingly been directed to this aspect of the matter and a number of cases have been brought to my notice. In dealing with these cases it seems to me, though Mr. Krishnaswami Iyer for the appellant maintains the contrary, that a difference has to be kept in view, between cases in which the original party to the action dies and his legal representative is not brought on record, though there may be others having common interest with him and cases, in which only one of several legal representatives brought in as such during the pendency of an action dies and the estate continues to be represented by the remaining legal representatives. Whatever the position may be as regards the first group of cases, I am of opinion that in the second group there is no lack of representation of the estate, that the remaining representatives can as well represent the estate as the original group did and that the principle applicable to this class of cases is to be gathered from those decisions which uphold the doctrine of representation of an estate by some of the heirs of a deceased person when such heirs are sued as defendants in the first instance.

9. Some of the steps in the arguments bearing upon the above question, are rendered doubtful by conflict of authority. Some decisions put a very strict construction upon the rules in Order XXII and go the length of holding that unless all the legal representatives are actually on record, there can be no representation at all and the whole decree is void. See for instance Chuni Lal v. Amin Chand 142 Ind. Cas. 619 : A.I.R. 1933 Lah. 356 : 34 P.L.R. 11 : Ind. Rul. (1933) Lah. 236 Muhammad Hussain v. Inayat Hussian 100 Ind. Cas. 418 : A.I.R. 1927 Lah 94 : 28 P.L.R. 3. The preponderance of authority is however in favour of the view that there will be no abatement if at least some representatives are on record. See for instance Shil Dutta Singh v. Shaik Karim Bakhsh : AIR1925Pat551 and Begam Jan v. Jannat Bibi 98 Ind Cas. 612 : 7 Lah. 438 : A.I.R. 1927 Lah. 6 : 28 P.L.R. 287; see also Ramanathan Chettiar v. Ramanathan Chettiar : AIR1929Mad275 . Apart from the provisions of Order XXII, the question whether in any suit, an estate can in the first instance be represented by some of the heirs entitled thereto in the absence of other heirs, has often come up for consideration and the preponderance of authority is in favour, of the view that, in the absence of fraud or collusion, the representation by some of the heirs Will be sufficient representation. See Kadir Mohideen Markkayar v. Muthukrishna Ayyar 26 M. 230 : 12 M.L.J. 338 Garudasami v. Anndmalai : AIR1927Mad1071 Abdulla Sahib v. Vageer Beevi Ammal : AIR1928Mad1199 , Jehrabi v. Bismillabi 80 Ind. Cas. 758 : 26 Bom. L.R. 375 : A.I.R. 1924 Bom. 420. Much the same reasoning has been imported even in the construction of provisions of the old Code corresponding to Order XXII in the judgment of this Court in Musala Reddi v. Ramayya 23 M. 125.

10. In Sripat Narain Rai v. Tirbeni Misra 45 Ind. Cas. 21 : 40 A. 423 : 16 A.L.J. 27 the Court left the question open, as to what the effect of representation of the estate by other persons might be. It contented itself with saying that for the purpose of execution against the legal representatives of the deceased persons, there was no executable decree, because the predecessor had died before the decree was passed.

11. I am unable to agree with Mr. Krishnaswami Ayyar's contention that the omission to bring on record the legal representative of the 4th defendant in A.S. No. 85 of 1924 made the estate of the deceased Muthuraman Chetti (1st defendant) unrepresented. It is not necessary for the purpose of this case to say whether it is such a complete representation as to preclude the plaintiff even from seeking to re-open the decree in A.S. No. 85 of 1924, by appropriate proceedings in the Court which passed that decree. It is sufficient to say that it is not a case of such non-representation as would entitle the present plaintiff to treat that decree as null and void. In this view the second appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.


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