Decided on August 22,1955


Referred Judgements :-



- (1.)The 3rd defendant is the appellant in this Second Appeal. The question raised in this Second Appeal relates to the construction of the will, Exhibit A-1, dated 24th May, 1941, executed by Sangavarapu Lakshmi Nara'simham. Lakshmi Narasimham died in or about July, 1941. The 1st defendant is his widow. The plaintiff and the 2nd defendant are his daughters. He had yet another daughter who was alleged to be a simpleton and in whose favour there was legacy given by the testator under his will. The question turns upon the nature of interest which the widow of the testator took under the will. The testator gave specific properties in favour of each of his three daughters. The plaintiff and the 2nd defendant were given the lands with all rights including the right of disposition by way of gift transfer or sale. The testator gave the properties to the 1st defendant, which he had not disposed of specifically in favour of his daughters and directed that the widow " shall after my lifetime enjoy the income that may be got therefrom and after the death of my wife, such of my second and third daughters as may live in my house shall enjoy the property with absolute rights of gift and sale." The 1st defendant alienated item 2 of plaint B schedule in favour of the 3rd defendant, appellant herein. The plaintiff claimed that this alienation was not binding upon her interest in the property after the death of the 1st defendant. In other words, the plaintiff asserted that the 1st defendant had only a life-estate in the properties bequeathed to her under Exhibit A-1. The trial Court found that the 1st defendant took a widow's interest in the properties bequeathed to her under Exhibit A-1 and not merely a life-interest. It further found that the alienation of item 2 of schedule B made by the widow in favour of the 3rd defendant was not supported by legal necessity. Treating the plaintiff as reversioner under the Hindu Law, the trial Court granted a decree declaring that the alienation made by the limited owner, the 1st defendant, would not be binding on the reversioner. On appeal, the learned Subordinate Judge held that the widow took only a life-interest in the property under the terms of Exhibit A-1 and declared that the alienation under Exhibits B-1 and B-2 would not be valid or binding beyond the lifetime of the widow.
(2.)In this Second Appeal, it was argued by the learned advocate for the appellant that on a true construction of Exhibit A-1, the interest taken by the 1st defendant, the widow of the testator, was a Hindu widow's estate rather than a life-estate. He pointed out that the properties bequeathed under the will to the widow were so insignificant in value that it could not have been the intention of the testator to deprive her of the powers of alienation in case there was a justifying necessity for the sale. He also referred to the presumption laid down in certain earlier decisions of the Judicial Committee like Shunuool v. Shewukran, (1874) L.R. 2 LA, 7, 14, 15 (P.C.). According to the later decisions of the Judicial Committee and of Madras High Court, which are binding upon me, there is no presumption that a gift or bequest by a husband in favour of his wife is only of a limited estate. It all depends upon the terms of the gift or will. The primary duty of a Court is to ascertain from the language employed by the testator what were his testamentary intentions and give effect to them. It is only where the terms of the will are of uncertain import that resort may be had to the presumed intentions of a Hindu testator, the circumstances of the family of the testator the claims of various relations upon his bounty and similar matters. In the present case, the testator was quite alive to the fact that he was conferring an absolute estate on his daughters and he had been careful enough to use words appropriate to confer an absolute estate in them. In describing the gift in favour of the wife, he stated that she shall be entitled to enjoy only the income from the lands and that after the death of the wife, the daughters should enjoy the property with absolute rights. I assume that the gift of the income of a property to be enjoyed for lifetime of the donee, carried with it a life-interest in the property itself. Even so the wife of the testator would only have a life-estate in the property. If the testator had merely gifted the lands in favour of his wife and provided that on the death of the wife the daughters would be entitled to succeed to the property, there would be room for the application of the presumption that the testator had intended to confer upon the wife that estate which she would have taken under the ordinary Hindu Law of inheritance. Here, however, the testator specifically bequeaths only the income of the property to be enjoyed by his wife during her lifetime and in my opinion the testator conferred only a life-estate on the widow. When the language of the will is clear, it is not permissible for me to give a different meaning to the dispositive clause by resorting to the presumed intentions of Hindu testators.
(3.)The learned advocate for the Appellant relied upon a decision of the Allahabad High Court in Ram v. Kashi, A.I.R, 1944 All, 5 at 9, where the learned Judge observed as follows :-
"There seems to be in fact, as has been said in the latest edition of Mayne (Hindu Law) only two alternative constructions in the case of property gifted or devised by a husband to his wife, namely, the property in the hands of the wife is either her Stridhan in every sense or she has nothing more than a Hindu widow's estate in respect of it."


Click here to view full judgement.
Copyright © Regent Computronics Pvt.Ltd.