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Bhagwat Ram and Others Vs. Ramji Ram and Others - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtPrivy Council
Decided On
Case NumberPrivy Council Appeal No. 25 of 1945 (From Patna: Patna Consolidated Appeals Nos. 10, 11 & 14 of 1941)
Judge
Reported inAIR1947PC140
AppellantBhagwat Ram and Others
RespondentRamji Ram and Others
Advocates:Dingle Foot (for Sri Niwas Ram), for Respondents. Solicitors for Appellants, Douglas Grant and Dold; Solicitors for Respondents, W.W. Box and Co.
Excerpt:
.....the only ground on which his claim is urged by sir herbert cunliffe is that though born after the suit partition has not been completed by actual division of the estate. this argument is fallacious. delivering the judgment of the board in 43 ia 151,1 mr. ameer ali pointed out: "in hindu law 'partition' does not mean simply division of property into specific shares; it covers, as pointed out by lord westbury in 11 mia 75,2 both 'division of title and division of property.' " in the same judgment reference is made to ' another observation of lord westbnry. "it is necessary to bear in mind the twofold application of the word 'division.' there may be a division of right, and there may be a division of property." mr. ameer ali points out that severance of status which is a matter of.....
Judgment:

SIR MADHAVAN NAIR:

These are consolidated appeals by the plaintiffs, defendants 2 and 5 from a judgment and decree of the High Court of Patna dated 8-5-1941, which varied a decree and judgment of the third Subordinate Judge of Patna dated 10-4-1937, decreeing the partition of the joint family property.

[2] The appeals arise out of a suit for partition instituted by plaintiff 1 (hereinafter called the plaintiff), and his son, plaintiff 2, against defendant 1 (hereinafter called the defendant) and defendants 2 to 4, the other members of a joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara law. Defendant 3 was a minor at the time of the suit but became a major subsequently. Defendant 5 was born more than 3 years after the suit began, and was made a party to the suit.

[3] The following question's raised by the plaintiffs, defendants 2 and 5, respectively, in their appeals, arise for determination before the Board: (1) Whether items 27, 28, 59, valuable articles of jewellery, mentioned in the amended Sch. 2 of the plaint have been established to belong to the joint family. (2) Whether the Courts below should have held that defendants was entitled to arrears of maintenance. (3) Whether it was open to defendant 5, born more than 3 years after the partition suit began, but before the actual division of the estate, to claim a separate share in the joint family estate as an "after-bornson" i.e., in other words, whether the Courts below should have held that the plaintiff and defendants 1 to 3 were each entitled to 1-6 share in the property. Other questions raised in their appeals were abandoned by the appellants in the course of the hearing of the appeals.

[4] To appreciate the arguments, a few facts not disputed may be mentioned. The following genealogical table shows the relationship of the parties :

[5] The defendant was the karta of joint Hindu family composed of himself and the rest of the parties to the suit. The plaintiff and defendant 2 are his sons by his first wife deceased. Plaintiff 2 is the son of plaintiff 1. Previous to this litigation there had been a family dispute between the defendant and his father Raja Ram, on one side, and a collateral, Saligram, on the other. This was settled by a compromise in 1912, on the terms, inter alia, that each party should retain possession of the jewellery and ornaments which were in its exclusive possession at the time of the compromise, and that the remainder should be divided later. That division took place in 1918, and the present plaintiff and the defendant came into possession of the items allotted to their share.

[6] In 1918, the defendant married his second wife, defendant 4. The plaintiff was married in 1925. Soon after his marriage, ill feeling arose between the plaintiff and his father. In 1929, the defendant agreed to make a separate allowance to the plaintiff and his brother, defendant 2, and continued making the allowance till July 1931, when he ceased payment to both the plaintiff and defendant 2. The plaintiff then made a demand for partition which was refused; and then the suit out of which these appeals arise was instituted by the plaintiffs for partition of the joint family properties. The suit was instituted on 15-7-1932.

[7] For the purpose of these appeals, it is not necessary to refer to the various contentions of the parties. The findings of the Courts below to which their Lordships will now call attention show with sufficient clearness the nature of those contentions. Their Lordships will refer only to those findings which have been the subject of controversy before the Board, omitting the rest to which no exception has been taken before them.

[8] Along with the plaint, 12 classified schedules of movable properties were filed, of which sch. 1 contained, amongst other items, items 1 and 5, valuable "puja" articles. Item 1 is a dakshinavarat sankh, and item 5 is an "eakmukhi rudraksha." The Subordinate Judge found that these articles were in the possession of the defendant. As he did not produce them, the Subordinate Judge directed

"that after the preliminary decree was passed the values of these articles for the purpose of making partition should be determined by the Court itself allowing the parties to produce further evidence which they may choose to adduce."

The High Court did not think it right to interfere with this direction. It may be stated here that as regards the method of determining the value of these articles not produced by the defendant, Mr. Rewcastle, the learned counsel appearing for the plaintiffs, argued that the Courts should have held that the maxim omnia praesumuntur contra spoliatorem applied, but after some discussion the learned counsel was satisfied that the direction given by the Courts was not wrong and so the objection was withdrawn.

[9] Schedule 2 of the plaint contained a list of the jewellery which the plaintiff alleged belonged to the joint family. In the Schedule filed along with the plaint there were 26 items. Eight further items were added by an amendment of the plaint on 2-7-1936. Items 27, 28, 29, described as Moti Ka Jausan, Nilam Kangani and bunch of pearls, worth Rs. 30,000, Rs. 18, 000 and Rs. 4,000, respectively, are the first three of these 8 items. Of these, the Subordinate Judge found that item 27 was a family jewel liable to be partitioned and in the custody of the defendant, but he had not produced it. As regards items 28 and 29, be held that it was not proved that they were family jewels or that they were in the custody of the defendant. The High Court held that there was not satisfactory evidence to establish that any of 3 items were family jewels or that they were in the possession of the defendant.

[10] The Subordinate Judge disallowed the claim for arrears of maintenance made by defendant 2. The High Court accepted that finding.

[11] The Subordinate Judge further held that the birth of defendant 5 did not affect the shares to be allotted to the plaintiff and defendant 2. The High Court agreed with this view also.

[12] In the result the Subordinate Judge passed a preliminary decree for partition in accordance with the directions contained in his judgment, awarding the plaintiffs a one-fifth share, defendant 2 a one fifth share and defendants 1, 3, 4 and 5 a three-twentieth share each, in the properties of the family.

[13] Against the preliminary decree, appeals were preferred to the High Court by the plaintiffs defendants 2, 4, 5. In the appeal preferred by the plaintiffs, cross-objections were filed by defendants 1 and 3.

[14] The High Court varied the decree passed by the Subordinate Judge in certain respects. For the purpose of these appeals, the following variations may be mentioned. The High Court varied the decree to the extent that (1) the item of property in dispute, namely, a Jausan of pearls (item 27) should not be included in the list of joint family properties, (2) that defendant 3 be allotted a one-fifth share of the entire family properties. As he had attained majority during the pendency of the appeal and claimed separation of his share, the High Court, though he had not preferred an appeal, allowed him a one-fifth share which he was entitled to in order to avoid unnecessary litigation. Mr. Rewcastle stated at the commencement that he would contend that this decision was wrong, but very properly abandoned this argument.

[15] Turning now to the appeal preferred by the plaintiffs, the only question which their Lordships have to consider is whether the finding of the High Court that none of the items 27, 28 and 29 belongs to the joint family can be maintained. (After considering the evidence their Lordships proceeded.)

[16] As held by the High Court the evidence given by the plaintiff is not sufficient to prove that any of these three items belong to the joint family.

17. In his appeal, the only relief pressed by defendant 2 relates to his claims for arrears of maintenance. In their Lordships' view the Courts in India have not dealt with this question adequately. The High Court says that the remedy of a coparcener who is dissatisfied with the conduct of the karta of the family is by way of partition and not by way of claim for damages; but the claim of defendant 2 in the present case for arrears of maintenance stands on a different footing and is distinguishable. It is not disputed that the defendants entered into an agreement with defendant 2 and his brother, the plaintiff, by which in 1929 a separate allowance of Rs. 250 for each was agreed upon and their messing became separate from their father and his second wife. As a result of this arrangement, they left the family house. It is alleged that the payment went on for some time and altogether ceased after July 1931. The present suit was instituted on 15-7-1982. This agreement is referred to in the judgments of both Courts in India. The claim for relief is based upon a distinct agreement and the failure on the part of the defendant to carry it out. In their Lordships view, defendant 2 is entitled to relief to the extent to which he will be able to prove his claim. Their Lordships would therefore direct that provision should be made for this item in preliminary decree.

[18] Ground No. 4, relating to the expenses of his marriage, was given up by defendant 2, and Ground No. 5, relating to his liability to account for the value of the articles enumerated in Sch. 3 and for other articles, after being touched upon, was also abandoned.

19. The only question in the appeal by defendant 5 is whether he is entitled to get a share equal to that of persons in the same class as himself though he was born after the suit for partition. It is not disputed that he was begotten as well as born after the institution of the suit for partition. The institution of such a suit by a member of a joint Hindu family effects a severance of the joint status of the family. The plaintiff and defendant 2 had effected in this case the severance of their joint status in 1932; and from that date they became entitled each to one fifth share of the joint family properties. If the claim of defendant 5 is accepted, their shares will necessarily be reduced. The rights of a son born after partition - often referred to as an "after born son"-under the Hindu law, were much discussed by Hindu jurists, for the ancient texts bearing on the question are conflicting; but it is not necessary to examine these texts' as the law to be applied is now well understood by the Courts in India and has also been correctly applied in this case. It is enough to state that the law is well settled that a son begotten as well as born after the partition, where a share has been allotted to the father, as in the present case, is not entitled to have the partition reopened and to claim a redistribution of the shares. He is only entitled to succeed to his father's share and to his separate or self-acquired property to the exclusion of the divided sons. This is the only point which their Lordships have to decide in the appeal by defendant 5. The only ground on which his claim is urged by Sir Herbert Cunliffe is that though born after the suit partition has not been completed by actual division of the estate. This argument is fallacious. Delivering the judgment of the Board in 43 IA 151,1 Mr. Ameer Ali pointed out:

"In Hindu law 'partition' does not mean simply division of property into specific shares; it covers, as pointed out by Lord Westbury in 11 MIA 75,2 both 'division of title and division of property.' "

In the same judgment reference is made to ' another observation of Lord Westbnry.

"It is necessary to bear in mind the twofold application of the word 'division.' There may be a division of right, and there may be a division of property."

Mr. Ameer Ali points out that severance of status which is a matter of individual volition should not be confused "with the allotment of shares" which may be effected by different methods. The learned counsel's argument would involve this confusion, The fact that actual division by metes and bounds has not taken place cannot in any way affect the quantum of share to which the plaintiff and defendant 2 have already become entitled; in so far as their rights are concerned partition has already taken place and their shares cannot be diminished by the subsequent birth of defendant 5.

[20] There remain no further questions for determination in these appeals before the Board. In the result, their Lordships will humbly advise His Majesty that the High Court's decree should be upheld with the variation as regards the claim of defendant 2, with respect to arrears of maintenance due to him. Their Lordships make no order as regards costs before the Board.

Order accordingly.


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