1. This is an appeal by the plaintiff in a suit for a declaration that the properties described in the plaint are the self-acquired properties of one Manindra Nath Chowdhury and that the defendant had only a Hindu widow's right of enjoyment for life in respect thereof and a further declaration that the plaintiff is the reversioner in respect of the said properties and that he being the reversioner in respect of the properties the defendant is bound and liable to invest in Government securities the money that would be fixed by the Government on account of the award in respect thereof.
2. The facts which are undisputed are these. One Dharanidhar Saha Chowdhury had a daughter named Jyotiriswari and the plaintiff Bhabani Prosad Saha is the son of Jyotiriswari. Before his death Dharanidhar adopted Manindranath Chowdhury as his son. The defendant Saratsundari is the widow of that son. Manindranath died some time in the year 1914 leaving Saratsundari as his sole heir. Before his death several properties were purchased in the name of Suratsundari. Subsequently the properties which stood in the name of Saratsundari were notified for acquisition by the Government for extension of the Dum Dum Air Field and under an award of the Collector a sum of Rs. 75,000/- was found payable to the owner.
The plaintiff Bhabani Prosad instituted the suit out of which this appeal arises for the declarations which I have already stated above. In the plaint the plaintiff stated that Manindranath acquired the properties in suit with his own money and that the defendant Saratsundari was merely his Benamidar. The plaintiff Bhabani Prosad being the sister's son of Manindranath is the next reversionary heir under the Hindu Law of Succession as it stood before the coming into operation of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956.
The suit was contested by the defendant on the ground that the properties which stood in her name were acquired by her with her own fund and that she was not a Banamdar for her husband but was the real owner of the properties. The learned, Subordinate Judge dismissed the plaintiff's suit upon the view that the properties which stood in the name of Saratsundari were acquired by her with her own funds. Against that decree the plaintiff has filed the presant appeal.
3. Mr. Gupta, appearing for the respondent, has contended before us that in view of the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act which came into operation on 17-6-1956 the prayers made by the plaintiff in his plaint have become infructuous and therefore the appeal is bound to fail in limine without any consideration of the merits. On hearing Mr. Mukherjee, appearing for the appellant, We have reached the conclusion that the point, raised by Mr. Gupta must be accepted. Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 provides that
'any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full ownerthereof and not as a limited owner.'
Under the explanation of that section it is stated that the property includes, amongst other things, property acquired by a Hindu female by inheritance. The property which is the subject-matter of the dispute in the present case is in the possession of Saratsundari. So, even if the case made by the appellant be true, that is to say, even if it be held that the property really belonged to her husband and she inherited it as an heir to her husband she would become the absolute owner of the property under the main provision of that section.
There can be no doubt on a plain construction of Section 14(1), Hindu Succession Act, 1956, that it confers a right of absolute ownership upon a female Hindu in respect of the properties described in the Explanation to Sub-section (1). It is, therefore, immaterial for the purposes of this suit and this appeal whether Saratsundari acquired the properties in dispute with her own funds or she was merely a Benamdar of her husband. In either view of the matter she will be the absolute owner of the properties. For these reasons We do not think it necessary to go into the question whether the case made by the plaintiff in his plaint is true or false. As I have already said, on either view Saratsundari will become the full owner.
4. Mr, Mukherjee, appearing for the appellant, strenuously contended before us that the suit is for a declaration that the property belongs, to Manindranath rather than to Saratsundari. Upon the prayers made in the plaint it cannot be said that this contention is right. But even apart from this even if it be held that the property belongs to Manindranath and Saratsundari inherited it as his heir, the plaintiff gains nothing because under the law, as it now stands, Saratsundari is the absolute owner.
There can be no doubt that the Hindu widow's estate and the right of reversion have been done away with by the provisions of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. We are also of the opinion that although the Hindu Succession Act came into operation during the pendency of this appeal in this Court the rights of the parties will be governed by that Act. Section 14 of the Act makes no reservation in favour of the pending litigations and lays down in unqualified terms that any property which is in the possession of a female Hindu whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act shall be held by her as full owner and not as a limited owner. Mr. Gupta cited before us the decision of the Judicial Committee in the case of K.C. Mukherjee, Official Receiver v. Mt. Ramratan Kuer, 63 Ind App 47 : (AIR 193S PC 49) (A), in support of the proposition that we are bound to apply the law as it now stands if we are satisfied that pending litigations were intended to be outside the purview of the Act. That decision, in my opinion, applies to the facts of this case. In support of the proposition that in a case like this this Court has a duty to apply the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act reliance was placed by Mr. Gupta upon a decision of the Cuttack High Court in the case of Laxmi Devi v. Surendra Kumar Panda, : AIR1957Ori1 . In that case also the provisions of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 were applied during the pendency of an appeal. This decision therefore, supports the conclusion at which I have arrived on a plain construction of the section.
5. Mr. Mukherjre, appearing for the appellant, faintly argues that the provisions of theHindu Succession Act, 1956, contravene Article 15, Constitution of India, and therefore it is not valid. In the case before us we are concerned with the validity of Section 14 only. Mr. Mukherjee's point is that the Indian Parliament had no jurisdiction to discriminate against any citizen on the ground only of religion, race, caste, sect, place of birth or any of them. Reliance was placed on the provisions of Section 6, Hindu Succession Act, 1956, where a reservation has been made in favour of Mitakshara coparcenary property. In the case before Us, however, we are concerned only with the constitutional validity of Section 14 of the Act which applies equally to the Mitakshara as well as the Dayabhag School of Hindu Law. That section makes no discrimination between citizens on the ground of place of birth. Mr. Mukherjee, however, did not pursue this point seriously and ultimately abandoned it.
6. Mr. Mukherjee also argued that by Section 14, Hindu Succession Act, 1956 the Indian Parliament took away the rights of a reversioner without any compensation and therefore it offends against Article 31(2) of the Constitution. That clause contemplates acquisition of property 'for public purr poses.' There is nothing to indicate that the rights of the reversioner were taken away by the Hindu Succession Act for any public purpose. We are accordingly of the opinion that Clause (2) of Article 31 of the Constitution has not the remotest application to the facts of the present case.
7. For the reasons given above we think that this appeal should be dismissed although we express no opinion on the merits of the decision arrived at by the learned Subordinate Judge and we order accordingly.
8. In the circumstances of this case the parties will bear their own costs of this appeal.
9. The security bond which has been furnished by the respondent in pursuance of the order of this Court dated 7-8-1951 stands automatically cancelled.
10. I agree.