Marriage without Sex – Anathema – Court holds Impotency/Refusal to have Intercourse – Mental Cruelty

Comment : In this case the SC highlighted again that merely by adoption the adoptive parents are not deprived of right to deal with their properties as such, however if there is an agreement to the contrary such rights may be restricted, and since by such agreement right/title/interest is created/declared and extinguished it is required to be compulosrily registered (Dina Ji v. Daddi – 1990) 

Supreme Court of India
Chiranjilal Srilal Goenka … vs Jasjit Singh & Others on 1 December, 2000
Author: Shah
Bench: M.J.Rao, M.B.Shah

CASE NO.:

Appeal (civil) 723 1973

PETITIONER:

CHIRANJILAL SRILAL GOENKA (DEAD), BY LRS.

Vs.

RESPONDENT:

JASJIT SINGH & OTHERS

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/12/2000

BENCH:

M.J.Rao, M.B.Shah

JUDGMENT:

L…..I………T…….T…….T…….T…….T…….T..J J U D G M E N T

Shah, J.

Aforesaid appeal is filed against the judgment and order passed by the High Court of Delhi in Civil Writ Petition No.734 of 1971 filed by the deceased Chiranjilal Srilal Goenka of Bombay challenging the order No.19 of 1971 dated 8th February, 1971 passed by the Gold Control Administrator, New Delhi. Deceased appellant challenged confiscation of gold by the custom authorities under Gold Control orders by filing writ petition which was dismissed by the High Court. Against that order, the aforesaid appeal is filed. Pending appeal, appellant (Chiranjilal Srilal Goenka) died on 24th November, 1985. A dispute aroseas to who is the legal heir of the deceased. Firstly, one of the daughters, Sushila Bai N. Rungta claimed under a Will dated 29th Oct., 1982 and secondly, Radheshyam Goenka claimed as adopted son and thirdly, Smt. Raj Kumai R. Goenka wife of adopted son claimed independently. Keeping the question of right, title and interest in the property open, for continuing the proceedings, all the three were ordered to be brought on record by order dated 7.10.1991. It was also ordered that appeal be listed to consider the possibility of appointing an arbitrator by common consent or by orders of the Court for bringing about a settlement. Thereafter, to settle the dispute as to who would be the legal heirs to the estate of Chiranjilal Srilal Goenka, this Court passed an order on 1.11.1991 appointing Mr. Justice V.S. Deshpande, retired Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, as arbitrator which is reproduced hereunder

By consent of parties Justice V.S. Deshpande, retired Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court is appointed as arbitrator to settle the dispute as to who would be the legal heirs to the estate of late Chiranjilal Srilal Goenka. The question as to statutory action under the Gold Control Act is left open and is made explicitly clear that it is not a part of the reference. Arbitrator will fix his terms of fees and should function in such a way that the award is made available within four months from now. Parties will be entitled to place the claims before the Arbitrator in regard to trust and other institutions but the same may not be finally dealt with by the arbitrator. Arbitration expenses shall be shared equally by the parties corresponding to the share of interest in the property.

For deciding the dispute, on 10th April, 1992 the Arbitrator framed issues as under

(1) Does claimant No.1 prove execution of the Will dated 29th (28th) October, 1982, and prove the same to be the last and genuine Will of late Shri C.S. Goenka?

(2) If not, does she prove the execution of the Will dated 4.7.1978 and prove the same to be the last and genuine Will of late Shri C.S. Goenka?

(3) Does claimant No.2 prove that the late Shri C.S. Goenka duly adopted him on 26.1.1961?

(4) Is the copy of the document dated 26.1.1961 filed by claimant No.2 admissible in evidence?

(5) Is the said document genuine and brought into existence in the way claimed by claimant no.2?

(6) If yes, then does the said document constitute an agreement between Mangalchand and late Shri C.S. Goenka?

(7) If yes, can the said agreement be said to be the one contemplated by Section-13 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act?

(8) If yes, then would the said agreement dated 26.1.1961 prevent the late C.S. Goenka from disposing of and dealing with the estate, according to his wishes by a Will?

(9) In view of finding on issues above, who are the legal heirs to the estate of the late Shri C.S. Goneka?

For issue nos.1 and 2, it was pointed out that probate suit is pending in the Bombay High Court, wherein the learned Judge has expressed doubt whether arbitrator has jurisdiction to decide probate suit. Hence, IA No.3 of 1992 was filed before this Court to seek clarification. By judgment and order dated 18th March, 1993 this Court held that arbitrator can not proceed with probate suit and decide issue nos.1 and 2 framed by him and the High Court was requested to proceed with the probate suit No.65 of 1985. Till the decision in the probate suit, the arbitrator was requested not to decide issue nos.1 and 2. The Court observed that it would be open to the arbitrator to proceed with other issues and would conclude his findings on issue nos.1 and 2 on the basis of result in the probate proceedings and make the award according to law.

Thereafter, in the probate suit on 27.10.1999 parties filed Minutes of order stating as under:-

(1) The Caveators/Defendants concede to the execution and genuineness of the Will dated 29th October, 1982 of the deceased Chiranjilal Shrilal Goenka of which probate is sought by the petitioner. Petition allowed accordingly as prayed.

(2) The parties agree that this order/decree will be without prejudice to the rights, claims and contentions of the parties in the arbitration proceedings pending before Justice V.S. Deshpande, Retd. Chief Justice of Bombay High Court.

(3) No Order as to costs.

On the same date, the Court passed order in terms of minutes of order.

Subsequently, after recording the evidence, Arbitrator passed an Award on 16th June, 2000. He arrived at the conclusion that Will in favour of Sushila Bai N. Rungta executed by Chiranjilal was in-operative and Radheshyam was the sole heir as adopted son. It was also held that Sitabai Mangal Chand Kedia and Raj Kumari wife of Radheshyam do not claim to be such heirs.

On the basis of that Award, on behalf of Radheshyam IA No.9 of 2000 is filed for making the award rule of the court and to pass a decree in terms of the award. That award is challenged by Sushilabai N. Rungta by filing objection under Section 33 read with Section 30 of the Arbitration Act, 1940. As against this, Radheshyam has submitted that there is no error of law or facts apparent on the face of record and the Arbitrator has given well reasoned award which does not call for any interference.

At the time of hearing, Mr. Vinod Bobde, learned senior counsel for objector submitted that he was not challenging the finding given by the learned Arbitrator that Radheshyam was adopted son of Chiranjilal. However, he submitted that finding of the arbitrator that there was an agreement between Chiranjilal Goenka and parents of Radheshyam that Radheshyam was given on adoption to Chiranjilal on the conditions mentioned in the so-called photocopy of letter dated 26.1.1961 is, on the face of it, illegal and arbitrary. He further submitted that assuming that the said letter can be considered to be an agreement, it requires registration as it limits the right of absolute owner Chiranjilal to bequeath the property by Will. He further submitted that after codification of Hindu Adoptions & Maintenance Act, 1956 (hereinafter referred to as the Act), Sections 12 and 13 govern the rights of the adopted son and the adoptive parents.

As against this, Mr. Sanghi, learned senior counsel submitted that it cannot be said that the award made by the arbitrator is in any way on the face of it, illegal or arbitrary and that when the reasoned award is passed by the learned arbitrator, even if other view is possible on the interpretation of law, it would not be open to this Court to disturb the finding given by the Arbitrator. For dealing with contentions of the learned counsel, we would first refer to relevant parts of Sections 12 and 13 of the Act, which read as under:-

12. Effects of adoption. An adopted child shall be deemed to be the child of his or her adoptive father or mother for all purposes with effect from the date of the adoption and from such date all the ties of the child in the family of his or her birth shall be deemed to be severed and replaced by those created by the adoption in the adoptive family:

Provided that

(a) .. (b) .. (c) the adopted child shall not divest any person of any estate which vested in him or her before the adoption.

13. Right of adoptive parents to dispose of their properties:

Subject to any agreement to the contrary, an adoption does not deprive the adoptive father or mother of the power to dispose of his or her property by transfer inter vivos or by will.

Reading Section 12 proviso (c) and Section 13 together it is apparent that adoption would not divest any person of any estate which is vested in him or her before the adoption. It also does not deprive the adoptive father or mother the power to dispose of his or her property by transfer, inter vivos or by Will. However, this power to dispose of the property would be subject to any agreement between the parties.

Legislature has codified and crystalised the situation prevailing prior to the enactment of the Act that there was no implied contract on the part of the adoptive father or mother in consideration of the gift of his son by a natural father or mother that he or she would not dispose of property by transfer or by Will. However, in case of specific agreement to the contrary between the parties, the power to dispose of the property would be subject to the said agreement.

Keeping these in background, we would consider the facts of the present case. It is the case of both the parties that Mr. Chiranjilal Goenka had two daughters namely Sitabai, born on 29.10.1938 and another Sushilabai born on 3.9.1950. Sitabai was married to Mangal Chand Kedia of Kanpur and gave birth to Radheshyam on 8.9.1954 and to another son Govind on 3.8.1956. On 26.1.1961 Chiranjilal adopted Radheshyam. It is the contention of the learned counsel for Radheshyam that on the said date prior to adoption, a writing recording the terms of earlier arrived oral agreement was dictated by Chiranjilal in the form of an offer letter from the natural parents, which was recorded by relative Mr. Hanuman Prasad Poddar. Photocopy of the said letter is produced on record, which is in Hindi and its translation is to the following effect: -

Salutations from Mangalchand Kedia to the respected Shri Chiranjilal Goenka. I am giving you in adoption with much pleasure my son Chi. Radheshyam. From now he is alone your son. And he alone will inherit your entire moveable and immovable property. During your life time you shall be entitled to your entire moveable and immovable property. In case if you die, your wife Smt. Bhagwandevi shall have absolute right. Similarly, if she dies earlier you will have absolute right. After the death of both of you, Chiranjeev Radheshyam alone shall have full right on total moveable and immovable property. I am writing this letter with pleasure. 26.1.1961.Magh Shukla 10 Samvat 2017 Thursday.

Questions which would require consideration in these proceedings would be (1) Whether the writing dated 26.1.1961 can be considered to be an agreement between Chiranjilal and the parents of Rahdeshyam? (2) Whether it is an agreement as contemplated by Section 13 of the Act limiting the rights of adoptive parents to dispose of the property by will? And if so, (3) Whether it requires registration?

It has been contended by the learned senior counsel Mr. Bobde that the aforesaid letter cannot be considered to be any agreement between Chiranjilal and Mangal Chand Kedia, father of Radheshyam. He further submitted that there is nothing on record to prove that the aforesaid unilateral offer of Kedia was accepted by Chiranjilal. He further pointed out that this letter nowhere provides that rights of Chiranjilal to dispose of his property by transfer or by Will is any way restricted. It is his contention that even this letter specifically provides that during the life time of Chiranjilal, he would be absolute owner of the property meaning thereby that he would have right to transfer the property or bequeath the same.

As against this, learned senior counsel Mr. Sanghi submitted that the aforesaid writing specifically provides that Shri Radheshyam shall be the sole heir to the properties of Chiranjilal after his death and death of his wife. The said writing was signed by Mangal Chand Kedia, his wife Sita Bai and witnessed by Hanuman Prasad Poddar and eight other eminent people of the community. After this letter, Chiranjilal took Radheshyam on adoption and therefore, it should be held that terms of the said letter were accepted by Chiranjilal. On the basis of these facts, if finding is given by the arbitrator, it cannot be said that award is, on the face of it, illegal. It is submitted that only after marriage of Sushilabai with Rungta of Jaipur, disputes arose in 1975 between Chiranjilal and Radheshyam. May be that, more than 38 proceedings were initiated between Chiranjilal and Radheshyam and in proceedings Chiranjilal resiled from his agreement and the factum of adoption in subsequent affidavit filed by him, but that would not nullify the agreement or the adoption. It is, therefore, submitted that because of adoption agreement Radhey Shyam would be the sole and exclusive heir of the assets of late Chiranjilal after his death. Therefore, the Will dated 29th October, 1982 executed by him would be inoperative and of no effect. The learned counsel further submitted that parties can enter into a binding oral agreement unless there is any extra requirement by statute to record the same in writing. Section 13 of the Act does not require the agreement to be in writing. For this purpose, he relied upon the decision in Tarsem Singh v. Sukhminder Singh [1998 (3) SCC 471]. In any case, after taking advantage by adopting Radheshyam, Chiranjilal is bound by the said letter. For this purpose, he has relied upon Mohaomed Musa & Others v. Aghore Kumar Ganguli (AIR 1914 PC 27), Venkayaamm v. Apparao (AIR 1916 PC 9) and Re Basham (1987 (1) All ER 405). He also submitted that the said letter does not require any registration. He finally submitted that the award passed by the arbitrator can not be said to be illegal which would call for any interference. Hence, it should be made rule of the Court. In our view, the photocopy of the letter, presuming that such letter was written by Mangal Das Kedia to Chiranjilal at the time of giving Radheyshyam in adoption, there can be no doubt that it does not reflect any agreement between the parties. At the most it was only a unilateral offer giving child in adoption on certain expectations. The letter appears to be signed by number of persons and if really Chiranjilal had accepted it, then he would have placed his signatures on the said letter. There is nothing on record that he accepted the same as it was. Secondly, the letter at the most indicates that from that day, RadhesShyam would be the adopted son of Chiranjilal and would inherit his property. However, it was made clear in that very letter that during the life time of Chiranjilal and his wife, they were the absolute owners of their properties. There is nothing to indicate in the said letter that it was a covenant or a contract restricting the powers of Chiranjilal or his wife to dispose of the property either by transfer or by Will. Nowhere, it is stated that during his life time, Chiranjilal will not be entitled to dispose of his property either by transfer or by Will. Hence, there is no positive or negative agreement limiting the rights of Chiranjilal to dispose of the property by executing the Will. Presuming that the aforesaid letter is an agreement, at the most it can be stated that from the said date Radheshyam would be son of Chiranjilal and would be entitled to inherit his properties. This also would not mean that there is any agreement that adoptive father has no right to dispose of his property.

However, learned Senior counsel Mr. Sanghi submitted that in the letter, it is mentioned that after the death of Chiranjilal and his wife, Radheshyam alone would have full right on the moveable and immovable property belonging to them. He, therefore, submitted that the aforesaid offer implies that right of Chiranjilal was restricted and he could not execute the Will. In our view, this submission has no force. The aforesaid term of the letter only indicates that Radheshyam alone would be the heir and would have full right on the moveable and immovable property as heir. That is to say, it would mean if any property is left by deceased Chiranjilal which is not transferred or bequeathed, then Radheshyam would be the heir and entitled to receive the same. This would not mean that there was any restraint on the part of Chiranjilal to execute the will. In support of his contention, learned counsel Mr. Sanghi referred to the following passage from Theobald on Wills (At Page 93), [Fourteenth Editionby J.B. Clark):

Contract to leave residue. But a covenant to leave the covenantee all the property or a share of the property of the covenantor does not create a debt.

The effect of such a covenant is to leave the covenantor free to dispose of his property in his lifetime by gift or otherwise as he thinks fit, so long as he does not dispose of it in fraud of the covenant. The covenantee is entitled to have the covenant specifically enforced, and he will take subject to payment of the funeral and testamentary expenses and debts of the covenantor.

Evasion of contract not permitted. If the covenant is limited to the personal property of the covenantor and he buys real estate, the real estate is, in the hands of the heir or a devisee, charged with the purchase-money. And though the covenantor can dispose of the property in his lifetime, he cannot defeat the covenant by a disposition by will, nor by any disposition which has the same effect as a testamentary disposition, for instance, a voluntary settlement whereby he settles property on himself for life with remainders over.

The aforesaid paragraphs in no way support his contention. On the contrary it specifically mentions the effect of such covenant stating that it leaves the covenantor free to dispose of his property in his lifetime by gift or otherwise as he thinks fit so long as he does not dispose of it in fraud of the covenant. Hence, Chiranjilal was entitled to dispose of the said property either by transfer or by will. Further, in the present case, there is no question of fraud on the part of Chiranjilal. Admittedly, the relations between Chiranjilal and Radheshyam were so much strained that more than 38 litigations were pending between them in various courts. Further, the aforesaid paragraph is to be read in context of previous paragraph which provides for a contract to leave residue. In the present case, there is no such contract to leave residue in favour of Radheshyam. In this view of the matter, it cannot be said that by the said letter, there is any agreement limiting the rights of adoptive parents to dispose of their property by executing a will.

The next question would be whether the said letter, if considered as an agreement, restraining or limiting the rights of adoptive father to bequeath the property requires registration? In support of this contention, learned counsel Mr. Bobde referred to the decision of this Court in Dinaji v. Daddi (1990 (1) SCC 1). In that case Hindu widow adopted a son on April 28, 1963 by executing the deed of adoption. The document was not registered and the trial court admitted the same in evidence in proof of adoption. Subsequently, by registered sale deed dated April 28, 1966, she transferred immovable property including agricultural land and houses in favour of the appellant Dinaji. On the basis of the sale deed, suit for injunction and possession was filed against the adopted son. After considering the provisions of Section 12 (c), this Court held that after the Hindu Succession Act came into force, widow became absolute owner of the property of her husband and, therefore, merely by adopting a child, she could not be deprived of any of her rights in the property. The Court further held the adoption would come into play and the adopted child could get the rights for which he is entitled after her death as is clear from the Scheme of S. 12 proviso (c). Thereafter, the Court considered section 13 of the Act and observed that this section enacts that when the parties intend to limit the operation of proviso (c) to S. 12, it is open to them by an agreement and it appears that what she included in the present deed of adoption was an agreement to the contrary as contemplated in S. 13 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act. However, the Court held that in view of Section 17(1)(b) of the Registration Act, the said part of the deed which refers to the creation of immediate right in the adopted son and the divesting of the right of the adoptive mother in the property will squarely fall within the ambit of Section 17(1)(b) and, therefore, under Section 49 of the Registration Act.

As against this, learned senior counsel for the respondent Mr. Sanghi submitted that the aforesaid letter is not to be construed as a deed, but is to be taken as an offer letter and by conduct of adopting Radheshyam as son, Chiranjilal could not dispose of the property by will. In our view, this argument is totally devoid of any substance because if reliance is required to be placed on the letter for holding that it restrains Chiranjlal to dispose of the property by will, then it is required to be read as a document which limits the rights of Chiranjilal to deal with his property including the immoveable property. Therefore, it would require registration. In any case, the aforesaid question is not required to be considered in detail because we have already arrived at the conclusion that there is no agreement between the parties before adoption indicating any contrary intention as contended.

Finally, we would deal with the contention of learned counsel Mr. Sanghi that when two views are possible and the arbitrator has taken a plausible view, the award cannot be interfered with. For deciding this contention, we would refer to some parts of the award which would reveal that the award is, on the face of it, illegal and erroneous and contrary to what has been discussed above. The arbitrator has misinterpreted the letter as an adoption agreement between Mangalchand Kedia and late Chiranjilal and thereafter relied upon the part of the said agreement as two terms of the agreement and has held that as per the said terms, Chiranjilal has committed him to have only life interest in the said property for himself and his wife. After their death, Radheshyam would be the successor of their entire property. He, therefore, held that there is an implied prohibition against them to transfer any part of their property. Obviously, either of them is incompetent to transfer any part of the property inter vivos or under any will. In this view of the matter, I hold that the adoption agreement covered by the finding on issue No. 6 is an agreement to the contrary as contemplated under Section 13 of the Act. In this view of the matter, we hold that the award dated 16th June, 2000 passed by the arbitrator holding that the will executed by Chiranjilal is inoperative and requires to be set aside and we so do. It is held that on the basis of the probated Will Sushilabai N. Rungta is legal heir of the deceased Chiranjilal. Ordered accordingly. There shall be no order as to costs.

Supreme Court on S.14(1) of Hindu Succession Act

Supreme Court of India
Smt.Palchuri Hanumaya inma vs Tadikamalla Kotlingam (D) By … on 9 October, 2001
Author: S Hegde
Bench: N S Hegde, S Variava

CASE NO.:

Appeal (civil) 967 of 1987

PETITIONER:

SMT.PALCHURI HANUMAYAMMA

Vs.

RESPONDENT:

TADIKAMALLA KOTLINGAM (D) BY L.RS. & ORS.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/10/2001

BENCH:

N. Santosh Hegde & S.N. Variava

JUDGMENT:

SANTOSH HEGDE, J.

This appeal has had a chequered career. Still it may not be necessary for us to trace the entire history of this litigation. Suffice it to say that the appellant herein filed the present original suit for partition of the suit schedule properties as a pauper in O.P. No.91/78 on the file of the Principal Subordinate Judge, Narasaraopet. Her application to sue in forma pauperis having been dismissed, she paid the court fee and the suit came to be re-registered as O.S. No.221/79.

The claim of the appellant in the suit was that the suit schedule property belonged to her grandfather by name V.Subbaiah. He and his wife Ramamma had only 3 daughters. He bequeathed the suit property by a registered Will dated 19.3.1929 followed by a codicil dated 9.4.1929. According to the appellant, in the said Will he made provisions for maintenance of said Ramamma and after so providing he divided the property in favour of the 3 daughters which included the appellants mother. Further the appellant states as per this Will, the said Ramamma was to manage the property allotted to her daughters during her life-time and after her life- time the properties identified as individual shares of the 3 daughters were to be inherited by the said daughters. It is stated that when the appellant was an infant, she lost her mother sometime in the year 1944 and thereafter her grandmother Ramamma brought her up till she was married. It is the further case of the appellant that though Ramamma had only a right to manage the suit property during her life-time, she in collusion with the other two daughters of hers entered into a Settlement dated 14.3.1952 and followed by a Partition Deed dated 24.9.1955 whereby she, in accordance with the terms of the Will, transferred the property in favour of the 2 daughters, keeping the share belonging to the appellants mother with herself with an intention of transferring the same in favour of the appellant later. But, as things would have it, at the instigation of the third daughter of Ramamma, the grandmother transferred appellants mothers share by way of a gift deed dated 11.1.1966 thereby depriving the appellant of all her rights in her mothers share of the property. It is also stated that Ramamma died on 9.10.1977.

The contesting defendants opposed the suit on the ground that by the Will and the Codicil referred to hereinabove, V. Subbaiah had put his wife Ramamma in possession of his entire property in lieu of her maintenance and the said Ramamma was all along in enjoyment of all the properties so gifted to her. Though it is true that by the said Will the testator had conferred only a life interest in the said property on Ramamma, in view of certain prevailing circumstances, the said Ramamma decided to execute settlement and partition deeds (reference to which has already been made), and by virtue of the said deeds, she partitioned certain properties between her two surviving daughters in equal shares and she had kept one-third share for herself. It is further contended that by virtue of the provisions of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1955 (for short the Act), the right of Ramamma over the share retained by her became her absolute property and being the absolute owner of the said share she was entitled to deal with it in any manner she liked and it is in this view of the matter that Ramamma decided to gift the property retained by her to the third daughter, her husband and two sons. It was further contended that the appellant having lost her mother during the life-time of Ramamma, was not entitled to a share in the property of Subbaiah as also the appellant had no right to maintenance from the estate of V. Subbaiah since it was the obligation of her father to maintain her.

The said suit came to be tried by the Principal Subordinate Judge, Narasaraopet, along with another connected suit being O.S. No.233/81 and by a judgment dated 31.12.1984 the said suit of the appellant came to be dismissed holding that by the Will the testator had bequeathed the suit properties in lieu of maintenance to Ramamma with a life-interest in the same and which right of maintenance got enlarged into an absolute estate under Section 14(1) of the Act. In view of the same, in the year 1956 she having become the absolute owner, she was entitled to gift the suit properties, therefore, the appellant could not claim any right over the said property. An appeal against the said judgment and decree of the trial court having failed before a learned Single Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Andhra Pradesh in A.S. No.711/85, the appellant preferred LPA No.57/86 before a Division Bench of the said High Court which agreed with the judgments of the courts below and dismissed the appeal. While so dismissing the appeal, however, the High Court granted a certificate of fitness to appeal to this Court solely on the ground that another connected matter filed by the very same appellant was pending in a civil appeal before this Court, hence, this appeal came to be entertained by this Court. It is relevant to mention here that the connected C.A. No.2055/1981 came to be dismissed as withdrawn as having been settled out of court, reserving liberty to the appellant to pursue this appeal without being affected by the dismissal of the said civil appeal.

We have heard the learned counsel for the parties as also have perused the written submission filed by them. On behalf of the appellant, it is strenuously contended by Mr. K.R. Nagaraja, learned counsel, that by the Will of Subbaiah, his wife Ramamma was separately provided with sufficient means for her maintenance and in regard to other properties in the said Will, the testator had intended that the same should be divided equally between the three daughters of his, with a rider that during the life-time of Ramamma she should administer that estate for and on behalf of the three daughters. Therefore, he contended that the property including the suit properties allotted to the daughters in the Will was not property contemplated under Section 14(1) of the Act but was property left with the appellant to administer the same during her life-time. He contended that the judgments relied by the courts below are not applicable to the facts of this case, hence, the suit of the appellant ought to have been decreed since she was entitled to inherit the share allotted to her mother. Elaborating the said stand, he contended that by the settlement deed Ramamma had retained one-third of the property which was originally earmarked in the Will to be allotted to the appellants mother, therefore, Ramamma could not have gifted the said property to anybody else since the appellant was legitimately entitled to that share after the death of Ramamma as per the terms of the Will. He also contended that in view of the findings given in certain earlier proceedings to the effect that the property allotted by Subbaiah under the Will was not property allotted to Ramamma in lieu of maintenance and this finding having attained finality, same would operate as res judicata in the present proceedings. Therefore, the courts below could not have given a finding contrary to the one given in the earlier suits.

Per contra, Mr. G. Prabhakar, learned counsel

representing the contesting respondents, argued that it is clear from the recitals in the Will that the property in question was given to Ramamma for her maintenance and though an arrangement was made to allot particular shares in the said property in favour of particular daughters the same was intended to be after the life-time of Ramamma and during the life-time of Ramamma she was to enjoy the properties in lieu of her maintenance. He contended that the testator did not intend to appoint Ramamma either as a trustee of her daughters shares or as an administrator of the estate of the daughters. In support of this contention, he pointed out that all the daughters of testator were living jointly at the time when the Will was executed and the first daughter was married though other two daughters were only minors and if, as a matter of fact, Ramamma was only a care-taker of the property then the testator would have certainly given one-third share earmarked for the first daughter who was major and a married, without allowing Ramamma to enjoy the said share during her life-time. He further contended that it is evidenced from the record that Ramamma in accordance with the terms of the Will enjoyed the entire property as having given to her for maintenance and from the conduct of the parties at all relevant time it is indicated that Ramamma was entitled to possess the said property as given to her for maintenance. He pointedly referred to the various recitals in the Will of the Codicil to support his contention that Ramamma was allotted the suit property for enjoyment during her life-time. He also contended that after coming into force of the Act she became the full owner of whatever property left with her, hence, she was free to deal with such property held by her in any manner she desired which she did by gifting the same in favour of her third daughter, her husband and children. He opposed the argument of Mr. Nagaraja in regard to the application of the principle of res judicata by pointing out that no issues have been framed in regard to this contention of Mr. Nagaraja by the courts below nor was any required material like the judgment and pleadings on which the principle of res judicata was based, ever produced, therefore, the said contention of res judicata is not available to the appellant.

We have heard the parties in extenso and, in our opinion, the entire issue involved in this case depends upon the nature of bequeath made by the testator, to be gathered from the recitals of the Will dated 19.3.1929 as also the Codicil referred to hereinabove. A perusal of the Will shows that the testator had desired that after his death, Ramamma should take possession of all his movable and immovable properties and she should be the guardian of her minor daughters till they attain majority. It is relevant to note at this stage that the testator has not desired that the share in his property should be conveyed or transferred to his daughters on their attaining majority. On the contrary, the recital proceeds to say that Ramamma shall enjoy all the movables and immovable properties till her death without making alienations, and after her death his eldest daughter shall take two shares in Item No.1 of the schedule to the Will; her husband would take one share therein and second item in the schedule should be taken by the second daughter (appellants mother) and, similarly, the third daughter was also provided for. The Will also provided for the family expenses to be incurred in the marriages of the daughters and the amounts to be paid to them at the time of their marriage. The recitals in the said Will also show at more than one place that the testator had desired that Ramamma should enjoy the property during her life-time and it is only after her death that he had desired that the property be divided and handed over to the three daughters in the manner stated therein. Thus, it is clear from the recitals that though the testator has not used the words in lieu of maintenance, he has certainly intended that the properties settled under the Will were left for the enjoyment of Ramamma during her life-time towards her maintenance. The fact that Ramamma was made a guardian of the minors would not in any manner deviate from the fact that the property under the Will was given to Ramamma for her enjoyment in lieu of her maintenance. The wording My wife, Ramamma shall enjoy all my moveable and immoveable properties till her death clearly shows that no arrangement was made by the testator for vesting of the properties in his daughters. It is only after the death of said Ramamma that he had desired that the property should be divided equally amongst his three daughters but then, as things would have it, before the property could be said to have vested in the mother of the appellant, two circumstances intervened. Firstly, in the year 1944 itself, the appellants mother died, and secondly by virtue of enactment of Section 14(1) of the Act in the year 1956, the estate of Ramamma got enlarged making her as the absolute owner of the property. The fact that Ramamma settled the properties almost in similar terms as those stated in the Will by the Settlement Deed of 1952 also, will not in any manner affect the operation of Section 14(1) of the Act and that part of the share retained by Ramamma which having continued to be in her possession as the property given to her in lieu of maintenance enlarged into her absolute estate on the coming into force of the 1956 Act.

Mr. Nagaraja next contended that from the conduct of Ramamma it is clear that she herself understood the intention of her husband to be that he wanted his properties to be divided amongst his 3 daughters and she was only to manage the said property for and on behalf of the said daughters till her life time. In support of this contention, he relied on certain circumstances which, according to him, show the intention of the testator as well as how Ramamma herself understood the Will. Firstly, he submitted that the Will in question had demarcated specific shares to be allotted to the three daughters after the death of Ramamma. It is pursuant to this desire of the testator that Ramamma entered into a settlement in the year 1952 and thereafter a Partition Deed in the year 1955 according to which Ramamma allotted the very same properties to two of her daughters as was earmarked for them in the Will while retaining the share earmarked for appellants mother with herself. He also relied upon an averment made by Ramamma in her written statement filed in an earlier proceeding marked in the present suit as Ex. A-6 wherein she had stated : This defendant retained with her at the request of the plaintiff all the items as per the Will and the partitioned joint properties as per the deed dated 24.9.1955 to which the plaintiff is entitled to 1/3rd share after the death of this defendant as per the above document. From the above circumstances, it is contended that even Ramamma understood the Will to mean that she was only to manage the property for and on behalf of her daughters. Therefore, since the appellants mothers share was specifically earmarked by the testator, on the death of Ramamma the same would have reverted to the appellants mother if she were to be alive and since she is not alive, the appellant being the sole heir she is entitled to the said share.

We are unable to accept this argument of Mr. Nagaraja. If the intention of the testator was to divide the property amongst his three daughters then nothing prevented him from doing so at the time the Will become operative. He need not have postponed that date till after the death of Ramamma. It is to be noted that the first daughter of the testator was major at the time the Will was executed and was married. If really the testator intended to give shares to the beneficiaries, he would have done so without creating a life-interest for Ramamma to enjoy the entire property. The very fact that the Will specifically stated that Ramamma is entitled to enjoy the entire property during her life-time, in itself, is sufficient to hold that the property in question was given to Ramamma in lieu of maintenance during her life-time. It is only after the death of Ramamma that right, if any, would devolve on the daughters under the Will.

The next circumstance relied upon by Mr. Nagaraja also does not support his case i.e. the manner in which Ramamma dealt with the property during her life-time. It is to be noted that till the year 1956, Ramamma had no absolute right over the property in question because the same was given to her in lieu of maintenance during her life-time only. In that situation, if Ramamma had entered into a settlement and a partition with two of her daughters this act would not lead to the conclusion that Ramamma was acting in accordance with the intention of the testator. It is possible knowing that she had no absolute right over the property and to buy peace in the family, she might have decided to divide the property and give the shares to two of her daughters and retain with her one share with an intention of subsequently transferring the same to the appellant. But then on coming into force of the 1956 Act, having realised that she had become the absolute owner of the property at least to the extent of the share retained by her, she decided to act in a manner she wanted and in this process she gifted the property to her third daughter, her husband and their children. By the time in law, there was no prohibition on her to gift the said property, therefore, even this circumstance does not help the stand taken by Mr. Nagaraja on behalf of the appellant.

The third circumstance relied upon by Mr. Nagaraja was an admission supposed to have been made by Ramamma in written statement Ex. A-6 filed in an earlier suit to which we have made reference hereinabove. It is true that if we read this part of the written statement in isolation, it gives an impression that Ramamma had retained one share in the Settlement and Partition Deed with herself as a share belonging to her deceased daughter but then on coming into force of the 1956 Act, as stated above, she having become an absolute owner of this share, had decided to exert her absolute right against the claim of the appellant which is evident from the latter part of her statement in Ex. A-6 which reads thus : It is true late Subbaiah, husband of this defendant executed his will on 19.3.1929. Even under this Will the late Subbaiah created a widows estate in favour of this defendant. After his death this defendant took possession of the willed properties and she acquired rights under 1956 Act. A reading of this part of the written statement clearly shows that Ramamma was aware of her legal right over the property in question and was also contending that the property in question was bequeathed to her by her late husband by creating a widows estate in her favour. From this it is clear that none of the above circumstances relied upon on behalf of the appellant supports her case.

Mr. Nagaraja has also relied on Section 19 of the Transfer of Property Act and Section 119 of the Indian Succession Act. According to him, under Section 19 of the T.P. Act, the interest in the suit property created in favour of the appellants mother is a vested interest and merely because the time of handing over of possession is postponed till the death of the widow or the right to manage and enjoy the fruits of the property are conferred on the widow till her death, the right which is a vested interest in the property in favour of the mother of the appellant, does not cease to be a vested interest. This would have been so if, as a matter of fact, under the Will, a right had vested in the appellants mother. While discussing the other contentions advanced on behalf of the appellant, we have come to the conclusion that under the Will no right had vested in any of the daughters and the property in question was given to Ramamma in lieu of her maintenance during her life-time and it is only after the death of Ramamma that the surviving right, if any, would have vested in the daughters. But befroe the death of Ramamma in view of the intervening factor, namely, enactment of Section 14 of the 1956 Act, deprived the daughters of their legal right to claim a share in the property because by virtue of the said enactment, Ramammas right got enlarged into an absolute estate and she became an absolute owner of the property, therefore, reliance on Section 19 of the T.P. Act is misplaced.

Similarly, Section 119 of the Succession Act provides where in a bequest a legatee is not entitled to immediate possession of the thing bequeathed, a right to receive it at the proper time shall unless a contrary intention appears by Will, become vested in the legatee on the testators death. By this, Mr. Nagaraja wanted us to come to the conclusion that on the death of the testator the right in the property bequeathed vested in the three daughters. We are unable to accept this argument for the very same reason based on which we have turned down his contention based on Section 19 of the T.P. Act.

We will now consider one other argument of Mr. Nagaraja i.e. based on Section 11 of the Hindu Minority & Guardianship Act, 1956 which puts an embargo on the de facto guardian dealing with a minors property. Here again we must point out that first of all the property in question cannot be considered as a property belonging to the minor because by the time appellants mother died, the property had not vested in the appellants mother. Since she pre-deceased Ramamma and by the 1956 Act, Ramamma became the absolute owner, the question of appellants mother getting any vested right which would become a minors property does not arise. That apart, we have serious doubts whether Ramamma could be treated as a de facto guardian of the appellant because when the appellants mother died, her natural father was alive and there was no material on record to show that he had abdicated his legal responsibility as a natural guardian of the minor. Therefore, the above contention of Mr. Nagaraja must also fail.

The last argument which was originally sought to be raised in this appeal, namely, the applicability of the principle of res judicata was not rightly pressed into service by Mr. Nagaraja for want of necessary material on record in support of that contention, hence, the same is liable to be rejected.

For the reasons stated above, we are in agreement with the conclusion arrived at by the courts below and we find no reason to differ from the same. Therefore, this appeal has to fail. Accordingly, the same is dismissed. No costs.

.J.

(N.Santosh Hegde)

..J.

October 9, 2001. (S.N.Variava)