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Ramalingam Vs. Manicka Gounder and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily;Property
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1980)2MLJ350
AppellantRamalingam
RespondentManicka Gounder and ors.
Excerpt:
- .....arumugham. he also impleaded, as the fifth defendant in the suit ramalinga, who had purchased the suit property from subramania.4. opposition to the partition suit came mainly from the fifth defendant ramalinga. lie urged that the plaintiff's vendor muniammal had no saleable interest in the suit property, nor even to one-fourth share therein. he relied on the circumstance that the suit property was ancestral in character, and contended that since arumugha had died while remaining joint with his sons, the rule of survivorship operated and the property devolved only on his sons, to the entire exclusion of his two daughters, muniammal and another.5. the learned district munsif accepted the 5th defendant's contention, and dismissed the plaintiff's suit. he held that muniammal did not.....
Judgment:

V. Balasubrahmanyan, J.

1. This second appeal is from Pondicherry. It raises a question as to how the law of intestate succession operates in the territory of Pondicherry, when a Hindu father dies possessed of ancestral property and leaves both male and female issue.

2. In this case, one Arumugha of Pondicherry had two sons and two daughters. He died in 1966, possessed of an item of ancestral immovable property. After his death, one of his daughters, Muniammal, purported to sell an one-fourth share in that property to one Manicka. The sale was effected apparently under the impression that Muniammal was entitled under the law to one-fourth share as one of her father's four children. The sale was in the year 1968. While so, Arumugha's elder son, Subramanian, executed a sale of the very same property in the next year 1969, to one Ramalinga. He purported to sell the property, as kartha of the family and for necessity.

3. In 1972, Manicka brought a suit in the Additional District Munsif's Court, Pondicherry for partition and separate possession of one-fourth share in the property, as purchaser from Muniammal. In that suit, he impleaded his vendor Muniammal and also the other heirs of Arumugham. He also impleaded, as the fifth defendant in the suit Ramalinga, who had purchased the suit property from Subramania.

4. Opposition to the partition suit came mainly from the fifth defendant Ramalinga. lie urged that the plaintiff's vendor Muniammal had no saleable interest in the suit property, nor even to one-fourth share therein. He relied on the circumstance that the suit property was ancestral in character, and contended that since Arumugha had died while remaining joint with his sons, the rule of survivorship operated and the property devolved only on his sons, to the entire exclusion of his two daughters, Muniammal and another.

5. The learned District Munsif accepted the 5th defendant's contention, and dismissed the plaintiff's suit. He held that Muniammal did not inherit any interest in the suit property as heir of the deceased Arumugha and the property being ancestral property, passed in its entirety to Arumugha's two sons by survivorship.

6. On appeal by the plaintiff, the learned District Judge took a different view of the law. He said that Mitakshara, as applied in Pondicherry did not recognize a coparcenary system between a father and his sons during his lifetime and the father was the absolute and sole owner of all property, whether ancestral or personally acquired. The learned Judge accordingly ruled out the application of the Mitakshara doctrine of survivorship to the present case. He then applied the rules of succession under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, to hold that the suit property devolved on the death of Arumugha to his two sons and two daughters in four equal shares.

7. In this second appeal filed by the fifth defendant, Mr. N.S. Raghavan, his learned Counsel, canvassed the correctness of the learned District Judge's understanding of the law as applied in Pondicherry both before and after the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.

8. It may be observed by way of preface, that wherever Mitakshara law was being administered in this country according to its ancient texts, succession to ancestral or coparcenary property was by survivorship and not by inheritance. The rule was general in its application, and brooked no exception. It applied, for instance, whether the deceased died leaving undivided brothers or died leaving undivided sons. The rule of survivorship operate in both the cases. The particular reason why, even in the latter kind of case, the rule governed the devolution was because the sons had a right by birth in the ancestral property even during their father's lifetime. In the territory of Pondicherry, however, the legal position was quite different for a pretty long time. The textual Hindu law had yielded to a local variation, wrought, it would seem, by custom and usage. The position which obtained in Pondicherry was summed up by the French writer Sanmer in his well-known work on Hindu Law in the following terms:

Today, by virtue of a more correct interpretation of custom, the theory of coparcenary system between father and sons in respect of the ancestral properties in abandoned in our establishment of Coramandal Coast. It is to the head of the family only, in reality, in the juridical sense of the word, I the assets deriving from the ancestor belong, and he alone has capacity to exercise, in principle, the right to dispose, which is conferred on him by owner's right.

9. That this was the law which was being administered by Courts in Pondicherry is found from a recent application of it in a decision of the Superior Court of Appeal, Pondicherry in Appeal No. 326 of 1964. That Court, consisting of a three-member bench of which Maharajan, J., was the President echoed Sanmer with the following passage:

Under Hindu Law, as it is in force in Pondicherry, Hindu sons do not acquire any interest in the father's property by birth, whether the property be the self-acquired property of the father or his ancestral property.

10. In the event, I think, it would be proper to hold that under the Hindu Law as in vogue in Pondicherry all properties held by a father in a joint family are his absolute properties, whatever might be their origin or their modes of acquisition, and all of them devolve on his death in accordance with the law which governs succession to a male Hindu's absolute estate. This was the law as administered in Pondicherry when the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, came to be extended to that territory in 1963.

11. Mr. Raghavan then submitted that since Arumugha died in 1966 after the Act came into force in Pondicherry, succession to the suit property must be governed by the proviso to Section 6 of the Act. He recalled that the property was ancestral in character, and Arumugha had left behind him surviving both sons and daughters. According to the learned Counsel, this was the kind of situation for which the proviso to Section 6 was enacted.

12. This argument seems to be apparently aimed at reducing, if possible the plaintiff's decree from one-fourth share to an one-twelfth share, on the principle that some gain to the fifth defendant in this litigation would be better than none. I do not, however, accept the validity of this contention, based on the proviso to Section 6 of the Act. In my view, the section as well as its proviso apply only to cases where a male Hindu dies possessed of an undivided interest in Mitakshara coparcenary property, and not where he dies possessed of absolute property. The suit property, as already mentioned, has to be regarded as Arumugha's absolute property under the customary Hindu Law of Pondicherry. It cannot bear a different character merely on the introduction of the Hindu Succession Act, to that territory. There is no provision in the Act to bring about any such transformation. If, then, the property continues to retain its character as Arumugha's absolute property even after the Act, it would follow therefrom that for determining the devolution to the property on Arumugha's death the appropriate provision to be looked for in the Act cannot be in Section 6 but only Section 8. Under the latter section, the property of a male Hindu would devolve on his sons and daughters in the absence of any other Class I heirs. And, under Section 10, the sons and daughters, as Class I heirs, would share the property equally as between themselves. The learned District Judge was, therefore, quite right in upholding the plaintiff's suit claim for an one-fourth share in the suit property as purchaser from Muniammal who was one of the four children left by the deceased Arumugha.

13. The judgment and decree of the learned District Judge are accordingly confirmed and this second appeal is dismissed. There will however be no order as to costs.


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