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Sri Mahaliamman Temple and Vigneswaran Koil, Represented by Its Trustee, T. Subramanian Chettiar and anr. Vs. Vijayammal - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1983)2MLJ442
AppellantSri Mahaliamman Temple and Vigneswaran Koil, Represented by Its Trustee, T. Subramanian Chettiar and
RespondentVijayammal
Cases ReferredV. Tulasamma v. Sesha Reddi
Excerpt:
- .....properties. the case of the plaintiff was that the suit properties originally belonged to the joint family of one c.s. arumugham pillai and his son manickam. the plaintiff is the widow of manickam. manickam pre-deceased his father arumugham in the year 1934. arumugham died in 1946 leaving his widow sadaichi ammal, who also died in 1957. arumugham pillai died leaving a will exibit b-11, dated 29th august, 1982. under the will he bequeathed a life-estate in respect of a schedule properties in favour of his wife sadaichi ammal and the remainder to the first defendant temple with certain directions for the performance of certain charities. in the b schedule a life-interest was given to the plaintiff and the remainder to the first defendant temple for the performance of the said.....
Judgment:

V. Ramaswami, J.

1. The first defendant-temple is the appellant. The suit was filed by the respondent-plaintiff for a declaration of her title to the plaint A and B schedule properties. The case of the plaintiff was that the suit properties originally belonged to the joint family of one C.S. Arumugham Pillai and his son Manickam. The plaintiff is the widow of Manickam. Manickam pre-deceased his father Arumugham in the year 1934. Arumugham died in 1946 leaving his widow Sadaichi Ammal, who also died in 1957. Arumugham Pillai died leaving a will Exibit B-11, dated 29th August, 1982. Under the will he bequeathed a life-estate in respect of A Schedule properties in favour of his wife Sadaichi Ammal and the remainder to the first defendant temple with certain directions for the performance of certain charities. In the B Schedule a life-interest was given to the plaintiff and the remainder to the first defendant temple for the performance of the said charities. The case of the plaintiff was that this will was not intended to be acted upon and it was a device to shield the properties from the son of the testator, who was said to be leading a wayward life. It was also the case of the plaintiff that the properties are not the self-acquired properties of Arumugam Pillai, that they were acquired by the joint exertions of Arumugham Pillai and his son Manickam Pillai and in any case, they were treated as the joint family properties for a long time and that therefore the testator had no testamentary capacity for executing the will. There was a further allegation that having regard to the charities to be performed and the amount of income allowed to them, the property itself could not be said to have been given to the temple and that only a charge had been created in favour of the temple for the performance of the specific charities mentioned in the document.

2. These were twenty-five defendants, many of whom appear to be tenants in possession of the properties. The first defendant temple is the main contestant in the suit. The case of the first defendant was that all the properties are the self-acquired properties of Arumugham Pillai, that the will was legally and validly executed, that under the document, the entirety of the A Schedule properties was given to the temple after the life-time of Sadaichi Ammal and the B Schedule properties are to be given to the first defendant after the lifetime of the plaintiff.

3. The Court below held that the properties were the joint family properties of Arumugham Pillai and Manickam, that the will executed by the deceased Arumugham Pillai was therefore not valid and binding on the plaintiff and in that view, decreed the suit as prayed for. The first defendant has filed the present appeal.

4. The main contention of the learned Counsel for the appellant was that all the properties were acquired in the name of Arumugham Pillai during the period from 1907 to 1933, that at the time in 1934, when Manickam died, he was only 27 years of age and that the plea of joint acquisition could not be true. He also contended that there was absolutely no evidence of the father treating the properties or throwing the properties into the hotshot so to say and that therefore the finding on the question whether the properties; are the self-acquired properties or not is liable to be set aside. He also contended that even if the properties were to be treated as joint family properties, since the will takes effect on the death of Arumugham Pillai and since Manickam Pillai had pre-deceased him, it should be treated as a case of will executed by a sole surviving coparcener which is valid in law. The learned Counsel for the plaintiff-respondent on merits has taken a slightly different line of argument from that taken in the trial Court. In this Court, the learned Counsel contended that in so far as the A Schedule properties are concerned, the life estate given to Sadaichi Ammal under the will enlarged into an absolute estate in view of the provisions of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act. He also contended that even in respect of the P. Schedule properties, the life estate given to the plaintiff under the will was in lieu of or in recognition of her right to maintenance and that therefore under Section 14(1), that life estate had now enlarged into an absolute estate and that therefore the declaration of title given by the Court below does not call for any interference. If this contention were to be accepted, it does not matter whether the properties were joint family properties or the self-acquired properties of Arumugham Pillai.

5. A number of cases have considered the scope and ambit of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act with reference to the provisions of Section 14(2). But suffice it to refer to the decision of the Supreme Court in V. Tulasamma v. Sesha Reddi : [1977]3SCR261 . In that decision, Bhagwati, J., for himself and on behalf of A.C. Gupta, J., held as follows:

Sub-section (2) must therefore be read in the context of Sub-section (1) so as to leave as large a scope for operation as possible to Sub-section (1) and so read, it must be confined to cases where property is acquired by a female Hindu for the first time as a grant without any pre-existing right, under a gift, will, instrument, decree, order or award, the terms of which prescribe a restricted estate in the property.

Therefore, unless the testamentary disposition is to a person who had no pre-existing right in the property, the disposition itself will come within the provision of Section 14(1) so that the life estate will get itself enlarged into an absolute estate and the reverted will come to an end.

6. In this case, there could be no doubt that Sadaichi Ammal, the widow of Arumugam Pillai who was given the life estate in respect of the A Schedule properties had a pre-existing right to maintenance and that therefore the decision of the Supreme Court directly, covers, and the life estate will get enlarged. Even in respect of the B Schedule properties, we are of the view that the plaintiff who had a life estate under the will now has an absolute interest in view of the provisions of Section 14(1). It must be mentioned that after the death of her husband Manickam, the plaintiff filed O.S. No. 191 of 1937 on the file of the Sub-Court, Coimbatore claiming maintenance against her father-in-law. She put forward a case for maintenance on the ground that all the suit properties were the joint family properties of Arumugham Pillai and his son Manickam and that she was entitled to maintenance. Arumugham Pillai filed a written statement claiming that the suit properties were his self-acquired properties and not the joint family properties and that legally the plaintiff is not entitled to maintenance. The suit went for trial and the plaintiff examined herself as a witness. At that stage, the parties seemed to have compromised the matter by which the father-in-law-agreed to pay maintenance at the rate of Rs. 15 per month on a charge of the first item of the B Schedule in this suit.

7. The learned Counsel for the appellant wanted to contend that this decrees gives for maintenance could not be treated as one recognising the claim of the plaitiff for maintenance, but is only evidence of acceptance of moral obligation to maintain the daughter-in-law. The question whether the suit properties were the joint family properties or the self-acquired properties was not decided. In the circumstances when the defendant in that suit agreed to pay maintenance on a charge of the property which was claimed as joint family property we can reasonable presume that it was on the basis either that they did not want to go into the question of joint family nature of the properties or the acceptance of the right of the plaintiff for maintenance. On the basis that it was an acceptance of the right of the plaintiff to maintenance, there could be no doubt that she had a pre-existing right which in fact fructified into a decree for maintenance and therefore when the very same property was shown as the first item in the B schedule and given as a life interest, it could only foe on the basis of recognition of the pre-existing right. The plaintiff B Schedule consisted of only two items. The second item is an insignificant one and from the description, it appears that it is part of the first item itself. We are satisfied that the testator was conscious of the fact that he had already accepted his liability to maintain the daughter-in-law and when he was disposing of the entirety of the properties, he shall be deemed to have given this as a provision for maintenance. In fact, at the time when the document was executed, the son was alive and there is no dispute even in these proceedings that the father and son were not divided, though what were the joint family properties was in dispute. In these circumstances, even at the time when the document was executed, we can easily assume that the testator wanted to provide for the maintenance of his daughter-in-law who would have been entitled even on that date to claim maintenance as against his own son who was a member of the joint family. We are therefore of the view that the decision of the Supreme Court cited supra would be applicable even in respect of the B Schedule properties and that by virtue of the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act, the plaintiff's title had become absolute with effect from 1956 when the Succession Act came into force. The decree for declaration of title given by the Court below is not assailable and the appeal is accordingly dismissed.

8. The learned Counsel for the respondent raised a preliminary objection as to the maintainability of the appeal on the ground that the tenants who were impleaded as parties to the suit and who are bound by the decree of declaration in favour of the plaintiff have not been impleaded in the appeal. But in view of the fact that even on the other contentions we have dismissed the appeal, it is not necessary for us to go into that question.

9. The appeal has been filed in forma pauperis by the temple. The appellant is directed to pay the court-fee due to the Government on the appeal memorandum.


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