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The State of Madras by the Collector of Thanjavur Vs. K. Devaki Ammal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1972)2MLJ249
AppellantThe State of Madras by the Collector of Thanjavur
RespondentK. Devaki Ammal and ors.
Cases ReferredIn Gulraj Singh v. Motos Singh
Excerpt:
- .....the said karuppan chettiar. karuppan chettiar had settled certain properties individually on his illegitimate children, respondents 2 to 11 by various settlement deeds long before the date of the commencement of madras act lviii of 1961. the first respondent was called upon by the authorised officer by a notice under section 9(1) of the act to submit a return under section 8(1). she declined to file the return stating that herself and her children, respondents 2 to 11 cannot be considered to be a 'family' (as defined in section 3(14) of the act). to a further notice by the authorised officer under section 9(2) the respondents 1 to 11 again contended before the authorised. officer that they being illegitimate children, will not come within the scope of section 3(14) of the act and that.....
Judgment:
ORDER

G. Ramanujam, J.

1. The State is the petitioner herein. One Karuppan Chettiar owned vast extent of land and the first respondent was his permanently kept concubine. Respondents 2 to 11 are the children of the first respondent herein through the said Karuppan Chettiar. Karuppan Chettiar had settled certain properties individually on his illegitimate children, respondents 2 to 11 by various settlement deeds long before the date of the commencement of Madras Act LVIII of 1961. The first respondent was called upon by the Authorised Officer by a notice under Section 9(1) of the Act to submit a return under Section 8(1). She declined to file the return stating that herself and her children, respondents 2 to 11 cannot be considered to be a 'family' (as defined in Section 3(14) of the Act). To a further notice by the Authorised Officer under Section 9(2) the respondents 1 to 11 again contended before the Authorised. Officer that they being illegitimate children, will not come within the scope of Section 3(14) of the Act and that each of them should, therefore, be treated as-separate units for the purpose of the Act. The Authorised Officer, however, held that though respondents 2 to 11 were the illegitimate children of Karuppan Chettiar they would constitute members of the family of the first respondent, they being her children and in that view he aggregated the separate properties given by Karuppan Chettiar in favour of each of these, and declared 46.35 standard acres as surplus lands.

2. On appeal by the respondents, the Land Tribunal had taken the view that the definition of 'family' will take in only legitimate sons and daughters, that the first respondent not being the legally wedded wife of Karuppan Chettiar, she cannot be brought in as the head of the family as per Section 3(14), and that therefore respondents 1 to 11 cannot be treated as members of a family as defined therein. The Tribunal also found that, in any event, three daughters of the first respondent had been married long before the notified date and that as such, they had ceased to be the members of the so-called family of the first respondent. In that view the Tribunal set aside the order of the Authorised Officer. Aggrieved against the decision of the Tribunal the State is before this Court.

3. It is contended on behalf of the State that though respondents 2 to 11 cannot be considered to be the legitimate children of Karuppan Chettiar and be brought within his family for purpose of the ceiling, with reference to the first respondent, respondents 2 to 11 are directly related as mother and children, and as such they can be treated as the members of the family headed by the first respondent. It is conceded on behalf of the State that Section 3(14) contemplates only legitimate children being the members of the family and not illegitimate children, and that in proceedings for fixing the ceiling area of Karuppan Chettiar, respondents 2 to 11, who are his illegitimate children cannot be treated to be within his family But what is contended is that with reference to the first respondent who the natural mother of respondents 2 to 1-1, the latter are to be treated as members of her family. I am not in a position to accept the said contention.

Section 3(14) so far as it is relevant is as follows :

'Family' in relation to a person means the person, the wife or husband, as the case may be, of such person and his or her (1) minor sons and unmarried daughters, and (ii) minor grandsons and unmarried grand-daughters, in the male line, whose father and mother are dead.

Explanation. - For the purpose of this clause, in the case of persons governed by Hindu Law, 'minor son' and 'minor grandsons' shall not include sons or grandsons:

(i) between whom and the other members of the family a partition by means of a registered instrument has taken place, or

(ii) in respect of whose family properties a preliminary decree for partition has been passed before the date of the commencement of this Act.

'Family' as defined refers to 'a person', wife or husband as the case may be, of such person, and his or her minor sons and unmarried daughters or minor grandsons or unmarried grand-daughters in the male line whose father is dead. What the definition contemplates is a person, his or her spouse, and the children born to that person. As it has been conceded that illegitimate children will not be attracted by this definition the words 'sons and daughters' have to be taken as referring to only legitimate children. Even though there is the natural relation-ship of mother and children between the first respondent and others, the question is whether the first respondent can be treated as 'a person' referred to in Section 3(14) and the others as that person's children. Having regard to the setting in which the words 'person', his or her minor sons and unmarried daughters, have been used in the definition Section, it appears to me to indicate a person and the children born to that person out of lawful wedlock. Construed in that light, respondents 2 to 11 who are the illegitimate children of Karuppan Chettiar cannot be said to is have been born to the first responded as a result of any marriage. In Commissioner of Income-tax v. C.S. Rajasundaram Chetty : [1950]18ITR145(Mad) this Court has held while construing the scope of the word 'child' that it should be taken to have been used in its natural sense of legitimate child so as to exclude an illegitimate child. The learned Judges in that case relied on the following passage in Halsbury's Laws of England, Volume 17, Second Edition, page 688:

In the absence of a contrary intention either expressed or deducible by necessary inference, all provisions respecting 'children', contained in any laws or instruments having legal operation, refer exclusively to legitimate children.

Viswanatha Sastri, J. in his concurring judgment has expressed as follows:

Whether you have to construe a will or deed or the language of a statute, the word 'child' taken simpliciter means a legitimate child; out this meaning can be qualified or extended by other suitable words or by thereon -text or by the object and purpose of the statute or document in which the expression occurs. It may be that the position and status of a testator could be looked into in order to find out whether by the use of the general word 'children' he intended to include illegitimate children also; but there must be some indication in the document that illegitimate children are also to be included within the expression 'child' or 'children'. Similarly with reference to statutes as pointed out in the passage from Halsbury's Laws of England cited in the judgment of my learned brother the term 'children' would prima facie mean legitimate children, but a consideration of the object and purpose of the statute or the context in which the expression occurs may control or expand the meaning of the word 'children' so as to include illegitimate children. The prima facie meaning however of the word 'child' is 'legitimate child both according to English law and according to Section 110 of the Indian Succession Act.

In Gulraj Singh v. Motos Singh : [1964]7SCR205 the Words 'son or daughter' used in Section 15(2)(b)(1) of the Punjab Pre-emption Act were construed by the Supreme Court to mean only a legitimate son and a legitimate daughter of the female vendor and the illegitimate son or illegitimate daughter of a female vendor had no right to pre-emption. In that case the Supreme Court was of the view that the words 'son or daughter' used in Section 15(2)(b)(1) of the Punjab Pre-emption Act cannot be read or construed in conjunction with the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act which recognised the rights of succession of illegitimate children. The following observations are pertinent:

We have, therefore, to ascertain whether by the expression son or daughter only the legitimate issue of such females is comprehended or whether the words are wide enough to include illegitimate children also. That the normal rule of construction of the words 'child' 'son', or 'daughter' occurring in a statute would include Only legitimate children i.e., born in wedlock is too elementary to require authority.

As pointed out in the above decision the words 'minor sons and unmarried daughter' used in Section 3(14) can Only refer to legitimate children born of lawful wedlock. Even if the first respondent is treated as 'a person' referred to in Section 3(14) respondents 2 to 11 not being her children born in lawful wedlock, they cannot be lugged in within the definition of the family along with first respondent. The only other question is whether respondents 2 to 11, the illegitimate children of Karuppan Chettiar, can be treated as an association of individuals so as to attract the definition of 'a person' in Section 3(34) which includes any trust, company, family, firm, society or association of individuals, whether incorporated or not. But in this case respondents 2 to 11 have been given sepa, ate properties by Karuppan Chettiar and as such, there is no common bond which will bring them within the term 'association of individuals' If Karuppan Chettiar had given a joint gift in their favour, it is possible to say that they will come within the term 'association of individuals'. But, in this case the properties having been gifted individually to each of the respondents 2 to 11, they cannot be grouped as association of individuals and brought in within the definition of 'a person'. I am, therefore, inclined to accept the view taken by the Tribunal and hold that respondents 1 to 11 cannot be treated as members of the family. The other finding of the Land Tribunal that three of the respondents have married before the notified date and as such they ceased to be members of the family has not been challenged before this Court.

4. In the result, the civil revision petition is dismissed, but in the circumstances, no costs.


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