Thursday, 15 September 2016

When court can issue succession certificate jointly in favour of several persons?

The vital question in the present case, in hand, is centering around the claim of various heirs of the deceased P. R. Gupta. Admittedly, at present all the heirs of the deceased are of the same degree. However, at the time of passing of the order by the learned District Judge, Pabitra Ranjan Gupta, brother of the deceased being alive, Succession Certificate ought to have been issued in his name. Pabitra Ranjan Gupta, having died on 29.8.2002, during the pendency of the instant case, now after his death, all the heirs belong to same degree. When all the heirs of the same degree are involved in a litigation of this nature, it is very difficult to find out "the best title" amongst the heirs of the same degree. This is the peculiarity of the present case. This particular aspect is to be taken up in answering question Nos. 1 and 2 in order to ascertain who has got the "best title" in respects of debts and securities left out by the deceased Praphulla Ranjan Gupta. The substituted Appellants and the objectors all belong to brother's son and daughter belonging to Group IV of Class II of the Schedule appended to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 ('Act 1956', for short). All of them belong to same degree with equal rights. This finding is arrived at in order to determine the "best title" of the claimants in the present case. That being the position, I have no hesitation to hold that the substituted Appellants and the objectors are jointly entitled to get the Succession Certificate and distribution of property should be made among heirs in Class II of the Schedule as contemplated under Section 11 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Therefore, the question Nos. 1 and 2 are answered accordingly in favour of the heirs of the brother of the deceased Praphulla Ranjan Gupta.
18. In the following decisions, various High Courts were of the view that succession certificate can be issued jointly in favour of many Applicants; it is not necessary that succession certificate should be issued only in favour of one person.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF GAUHATI
Intestate Case Nos. 3 of 2000 and in CO 4 of 2001
Decided On: 29.05.2009
Appellants: Sakti Gupta, Legal Heirs of Pabitra Ranjan Gupta and Ors.
Vs.
Respondent: Shantanu Gupta (Dr.), Legal Heirs of Dr. Chitaranjan Gupta and Ors.
Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
Anima Hazarika, J.
Citation:(2010)1 GLT 645



1. The instant appeal being Intestate Case No. 3 of 2000 have been preferred by the legal heirs of Late Pabitra Ranjan Gupta (since deceased) who had initially filed the Succession Certificate case under Section 372 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') being Miscellaneous (S) Case No. 171 of 1995 on the file of the learned District Judge, Karimganj seeking Certificate to realize the debts and securities of his deceased brother Dr. Praphulla Ranjan Gupta, who died intestate whereby and whereunder the learned District Judge, Karimganj granted Certificate on 2.5.2000 jointly in favour of the Petitioner viz. Pabitra Ranjan Gupta along with Dr. Chitta Ranjan Gupta (on his death his legal heirs) and Smti Bidyut Prova Dasgupta, sister of Dr. Praphulla Ranjan Gupta (since deceased) or her attorney, who are the surviving legal heirs at the death of P.R. Gupta to the extent of one-third of the property described in the schedule of the petition and on realization of the total amount of Rs. 7,22,532/- (Rupees seven lakhs, twenty two thousand, five hundred and thirty two only) left by late Dr. Praphulla Ranjan Gupta, an amount of Rs. 99,000/- (Rupees Ninety Nine Thousand only) be paid to opposite party Swapan Gupta by all certificate holders as costs of Shradha Ceremony of the deceased, making it further clear that the succession certificate which would have been issued in favour of Dr. Chitta Ranjan Gupta, but for his death will be jointly issued in the name of opposite party No. 3(a)I, 3(a)II and 3(a)III, who have been substituted after death of Dr. Chitta Ranjan Gupta, during the pendency of the case. The order dated 2.5.2000 is under challenge under Section 384 of the Act.
Simultaneously, a cross objection has been filed by Respondent Nos. 2, 3 and 4, being cross-objection No. 4/07 challenging the legality and validity of the order passed by the learned District Judge claiming one-fourth share of the estate of the deceased, being the legal heirs of late Monoranjan Gupta, the other brother of late Praphulla Ranjan Gupta.
2. Heard Shri C. K. S. Baruah, learned Senior Counsel assisted by Shri N. Rajkhowa, learned Counsel for the Appellants in Intestate Case No. 3 of 2001 (Respondent Nos. 1(a), 1(b), 1(c) and 1(d) in CO 4 of 2001). Also heard Shri N. Dhar, learned Counsel for Respondent Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in Intestate Case No. 3 of 2001 (Appellants in CO 4 of 2001). None appeared on behalf of Respondent Nos. 1(a), 1(b) and 1(c) in Intestate Case No. 3 of 2001 (Respondent Nos. 2(a), 2(b) and 2(c) in CO 4 of 2001).
3. The essential facts of the case leading up to this appeal with reference to the rank of the parties before the learned District Judge and the table of genealogy of the family in order of preference are as follows:
Ramesh Chandra Gupta (since deceased)
Dr. ChittaRanjan Gupta -eldest son (since deceased)PabitraRanjan Gupta - 2nd son (since deceased) (Applied for Succession Certificate)Dr. PraphullaRanjan Gupta-3rd son (Succession Certificate in regard to debts and securities of the deceased sought for)MonoranjanGupta - 4th son (since deceased)SudhangshuGupta-5th son
(unmarried - since deceased)
Bidyut
Prova
Dasgupta-
daughter
(since
deceased)












1. ShriSwapan
Gupta (son)

2. Shri Joy
Gupta (son)

3. ShriSuman
Gupta (son)



l.Dr.
ShantanuGupta (son)
2. Shri
Dhiman
Gupta (son)

3. Smti
Sarmila
Dasgupta
(daughter)


l.SmtiSakti
Dasgupta
(wife)
2. Shri
Subhabrata
Gupta (son)

3. Shri
Debabrata
Gupta (son)



l.SmtiRatnaGupta (wife) (predeceased)






4.Smt lndrai Gupta(daughter)
4. Though there were other legal surviving heirs as the genealogy would disclose, but, the Petitioner, the second son of Late Ramesh Chandra Gupta chose to file the proceeding under Section 372 of the Act making himself and his sister Smt. Bidyut Prdva Dasgupta as the legal heirs of Late Dr. Praphulla Ranjan Gupta, who died on 4.4.95 seeking Succession Certificate to the debts and securities of the deceased brother Dr. Praphulla Ranjan Gupta, since his wife predeceased him and there was no issue to claim the debts and securities of the deceased and he being a direct lineage of the deceased. Accordingly, the learned Court issued summons to Smti Bidyut Prova Dasgupta and the petition proceeded ex-parte. The Petitioner Pabitra Ranjan Gupta was examined ex-parte. But, thereafter, the objection was filed by none but the eldest brother himself viz. Dr. Chitta Ranjan Gupta claiming to be one of the legal surviving brother of the deceased Dr. Praphulla Ranjan Gupta and as such he is entitled to succeed to the properties of the deceased. Alongwith Dr. Chitta Ranjan Gupta, the said objection was filed by the sons of another deceased brother Monoranjan Gupta too. On receipt of the objection, all the legal heirs of the deceased Dr. Praphulla Ranjan Gupta were impleaded as opposite parties in the proceeding.
5. The objection put forward in a nutshell is that after shifting to Karimganj from Calcutta (now Kolkata) the deceased Dr. Praphulla Ranjan Gupta used to live with the Petitioner in their ancestral house and the deceased carried 16 (sixteen) wooden boxes where the moveable properties were kept and he died on 4.4.95 and when the opposite parties viz. Swapan Gupta, Joy Gupta and Suman Gupta were in the cremation ground the Petitioner surreptitiously concealed the moveable properties of the deceased in order to wrongfully gain the securities of the deceased.
6. In the said objection, it is further averred that when the deceased was in Calcutta after his retirement from service, his brother's son Joy Gupta, Respondent No. 3 herein used to live with the deceased in connection with his studies and their mother of ten used to visit the residence of the deceased and kept some amount in the accounts maintained by the deceased for meeting expenses of the education of Joy Gupta and hence claimed, the securities and debts left behind by the deceased also included the money of their mother. It is further averred in the objection that when Dr. Praphulla Ranjan Gupta was in sick bed in the house of the Petitioner, it was Swapan Gupta. Respondent No. 2 herein who took all pain to nurse the deceased and as a result of love and affection, the deceased expressed his desire to perform all religious ceremonies on his death by Shri Swapan Gupta and in the event of expenditure incurred for all religious ceremonies would be paid from the amount kept in wooden boxes. The averments further disclose that the deceased being happy for the service rendered during his illness by Sri Swapan Gupta, had expressed his desire to bequeath one-fourth (1/4) of his moveable and Immovable properties to Swapan Gupta and in expression of such desire the deceased had also endorsed a note in a slip of paper which can be treated as a will of the deceased bequeathing one-fourth (1/4) of his properties to Swapan Gupta. The opposite parties have further averred in their objection that since they raised the disputed question and intricate question of law, it would not be proper to go in a summary proceeding and the parties may be left to go for a civil suit.
7. During the proceeding, the Petitioner has examined four witnesses including himself and exhibited certain documents in support of his case whereas the opposite party has examined two witnesses including Swapan Gupta and his mother Sipra Gupta and exhibited one document.
8. The learned District Judge after hearing the parties and on evaluation of the entire documentary evidence granted Succession Certificate jointly in favour of the Petitioner, Dr. Chitta Ranjan Gupta and Smti Bidyut Prova Dasgupta to the extent of one-third (1/3) each of the properties left out by the deceased and on realization of the total amount of Rs. 7,22,532/- (Rupees seven lakhs twenty two thousand five hundred thirty two only), an amount of Rs. 99,000/- (Rupees ninety nine thousand only) would be paid by all the Certificate holders to Shri Swapan Gupta as cost of Shradha ceremony of the deceased. The other contentions raised by Shri Swapan Gupta was negatived by the learned District Judge. The learned District Judge has further ordered that the Succession Certificate which would have been issued in favour of Dr. Chitta Ranjan Gupta, since died during the pendency of the proceeding would be issued jointly in the name of opposite party Nos. 3(a) (i) Dr. Shantanu Gupta, 3(a)(ii) Shri Dhiman Gupta and 3(a)(iii) Smt. Sharmila Dasgupta, who were substituted in place of Dr. Chitta Ranjan and the Succession Certificate would be issued after realizing requisite Court fee on the amount of Rs. 7,22,532/- (Rupees seven lakhs twenty two thousand five hundred thirty two only) and hence the instant appeal under Section 384 of the Act.
9. Referring the relevant portions of the order passed by the learned District Judge, learned Senior Counsel Shri C.K. Sarma Barua assisted by Shri N. Rajkhowa, Advocate appearing on behalf of the Appellant would urge that the succession certificate cannot be issued jointly and even in a contested proceeding succession certificate is to be issued only to a person having the best title thereto, more so, when the opposite parties did not apply for such a certificate to the debts and securities of the deceased and on this ground alone the order requires modification at the hands of this Court.
10. The learned Senior Counsel would further urge that Late Monoranjan Gupta, father of the opposite parties viz. Swapan, Joy and Suman having predeceased Late Praphulla Ranjan Gupta, the legal heirs of Late Monoranjan Gupta are not entitled to get a share of the properties of the deceased under Hindu Succession Act and the finding arrived at that Shri Swapan Gupta had spent an amount of Rs. 80,000/- (Rupees eighty thousand only) on account of funeral expenses and death rituals, yet the same cannot form a part of debt of the deceased and as such ordering the certificate holders to pay a sum of Rs. 99,000/- (Ninety nine thousand) to Shri Swapan Gupta is perverse and the same is liable to be interfered with in exercise of power under Section 384 of the Act.
11. Shri Sharma Baruah has further urged that the sister of the deceased having died issueless during pendency of the proceeding, the Succession Certificate cannot be issued in favour of a dead person or her attorney as held by the learned District Judge which requires interference in the facts and circumstances of the case.
12. In support of his contentions, Shri Sarma Barua has referred the following decisions viz.,
(i) MANU/UP/0036/1966 : AIR 1966 ALL 107 Smti. Ganga Dei and Ors. v. Smti Munia
(ii) AIR 1986 Kar 167: Employment officer, Mandya v. S. Sevarinathan
(iii) MANU/OR/0037/1990 : AIR 1990 Ori 172: Sachidananda and Anr. v. Bichitrananda and Ors.
In Ganga Dei (supra), the Court held that a perusal of the provisions of the Succession Act shall make it clear that with regard to one debt or specified debts only one Succession Certificate, and not more can be granted. Even though an application is made by more than one person, the certificate has to be granted to one person who is the most suited for the purpose. "A person means an individual person and not a set of persons". If more than one succession certificate could be granted, the provisions would have been differently worded. They would have laid down that certificate shall be granted to the Applicants to the extent of their interest in the estate of the deceased. Section 375 also indicates that the certificate can be granted to only one person. But to safe guard the interest of other persons security can be taken from the person who is granted the succession certificate.
In Employment officer (supra), the Court held that the grantee of a succession certificate only gets the power to set out an action for the recovery of money. Section 377 of the Act says that succession certificate shall be issued in the form prescribed in the Schedule VIII. Schedule VIII only empowers the grantee as representative of the deceased to take action to recover the money.
In Sachidananda (supra), the Court at para 3 held as thus:
On careful consideration of the matter, I find little scope to interfere with the impugned order. As noticed earlier, the application under Section 372 of the Act was filed jointly by the Petitioners and the opp. parties in the present proceeding. It is expressly provided under Sub-section (1) of Section 372 that application for a certificate shall be made by a petition signed and verified by or on behalf of the Applicant in the manner prescribed by the Code of Civil Procedure for the signing and verification of a plaint. Section 373 of the Act prescribes the procedure to be followed on the application filed under Section 372. From the provisions in Sub-sections (2), (3) and (4) of the section it is clear that when the Judge is to decide the right to the certificate to belong to the Applicant, the Judge shall make an order for grant of certificate to him; if the Judge cannot decide the right to the certificate without determining questions of law or fact which seem to be too intricate and difficult for determination in a summary proceeding, he may nevertheless grant a certificate to the Applicant if he appears to be the person having prima facie the best title thereby, and when there are more Applicants than one for a certificate, and it appears to the Judge that more than one of such Applicants are interested in the estate of the deceased, the Judge may in deciding to whom the certificate is to be granted have regard to the extent of interest and the fitness in other respects of the Applicants.... A succession certificate is not a final adjudication of the question as to who is the next heir and as such entitled to the estate of the deceased. The grant of succession certificate merely clothes the holder of the succession with an authority to realise the debts of the deceased and to give valid discharge. He has, however, to dispose of the amount so realised in accordance with the rights of the persons who are entitled to it.
13. Countering the attack, Shri N. Dhar, learned Counsel appearing for the opposite parties, has drawn the attention of the Court to the contents of the application wherein all the legal heirs were not made party Respondents initially, which clearly indicates the malafide intention of the Petitioner and the debts and securities as mentioned in the Schedule of the petition are not only the securities left out by the deceased, but, some amount of money belong to their, inasmuch as, in the SBI Bank account of the deceased, the mother of Shri Swapan Gupta used to pay the money for meeting expenses of education of Sri Joy Gupta. On the other hand, Swapan Gupta had incurred Rs. 80,000/- (Rupees eighty thousand) only for funeral and Shradha ceremonies and they being the lineal descendents of the deceased are entitled to get the share of the properties of the deceased and thus, the objection so put forward cannot be decided in a summary proceeding and the parties be directed to take recourse to the provision of Section 387 of the Act.
14. Referring to the cross-objections filed by the Respondent Nos. 2, 3 and 4, Shri N. Dhar, learned Counsel would urge that the entire facts as disclosed by the evidence on record would show that they are agnate of the deceased Dr. Praphulla Ranjan Gupta and therefore entitled to get the estates of the deceased in terms of Section 11 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and the Schedule appended thereto since they belong to Class II heirs alongwith other Class II heirs of the deceased.
15. Considered the submissions made by the parties. Perused' the relevant records including the evidence and the order passed by the learned District Judge. Admittedly the provisions of Section 372 and the corresponding related provisions of the Act and the procedure prescribed is in the nature of summary proceedings. A conjoint reading of Sections 372, 373, 374, 375(2), 377 and 381 of the Act would make it clear that the District Judge on being satisfied that there is a ground for entertaining the application has entertained the application and proceeded to decide in a summary manner the right to the certificate and declared the right thereto to belong jointly to the parties. Accordingly, certificate has been issued save and except an amount of Rs. 99,000/- (Rupees ninety nine thousand) to be paid to Shri Swapan Gupta for funeral and Shradha ceremonies expenses borne by him from the securities left by the deceased. Section 374 provides for contents of certificate and Section 375 deals with the requisition of security from guarantee of certificate. Section 381 of the Act deals with the effect of the certificate. The provisions of the Act relating to succession certificate and the corresponding provisions make it clear that without determining questions of law or fact which seem to be too intricate and difficult for determination in a summary proceeding, the District Judge may nevertheless has a power to grant a certificate to the Applicant if it appears to be the person having prima facie the best title thereto. Section 381 of the Act and the object thereto is intended to facilitate collection of debts, regulate administration of succession and to protect persons who deal with the alleged representative of the deceased against the contingency which occurs when dispute arise as to whether a claimant is or is not entitled as such personal representative. The underlying object in granting a certificate is firstly to enable the debtors to pay their debts with safety to the representatives of deceased and secondly to facilitate the collection of such debts by removing all doubts as to legal title to demand and receive the same.
16. Now the points for determination in this appeal are --
(i) Whether the learned District Judge committed error in granting succession certificate jointly in violation of the provisions of Section 373 of the Act 1925?
(ii) Whether in absence of Class I heirs, heirs of the deceased Petitioner and objectors are entitled to get the Succession Certificate jointly as has been done in the instant case by the learned Court below?
(iii) Whether the learned Court below exceeded its jurisdiction in granting Rs. 99,000/- to Sri Swapan Gupta to be paid by the holder of the succession certificate after collection of the debts and securities in connection with funeral expenses incurred by him
(iv) Whether the cross objection filed by the Respondent Nos. 2,3 and 4 is required to be answered?
17. The vital question in the present case, in hand, is centering around the claim of various heirs of the deceased P. R. Gupta. Admittedly, at present all the heirs of the deceased are of the same degree. However, at the time of passing of the order by the learned District Judge, Pabitra Ranjan Gupta, brother of the deceased being alive, Succession Certificate ought to have been issued in his name. Pabitra Ranjan Gupta, having died on 29.8.2002, during the pendency of the instant case, now after his death, all the heirs belong to same degree. When all the heirs of the same degree are involved in a litigation of this nature, it is very difficult to find out "the best title" amongst the heirs of the same degree. This is the peculiarity of the present case. This particular aspect is to be taken up in answering question Nos. 1 and 2 in order to ascertain who has got the "best title" in respects of debts and securities left out by the deceased Praphulla Ranjan Gupta. The substituted Appellants and the objectors all belong to brother's son and daughter belonging to Group IV of Class II of the Schedule appended to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 ('Act 1956', for short). All of them belong to same degree with equal rights. This finding is arrived at in order to determine the "best title" of the claimants in the present case. That being the position, I have no hesitation to hold that the substituted Appellants and the objectors are jointly entitled to get the Succession Certificate and distribution of property should be made among heirs in Class II of the Schedule as contemplated under Section 11 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Therefore, the question Nos. 1 and 2 are answered accordingly in favour of the heirs of the brother of the deceased Praphulla Ranjan Gupta.
18. In the following decisions, various High Courts were of the view that succession certificate can be issued jointly in favour of many Applicants; it is not necessary that succession certificate should be issued only in favour of one person.
(i) AIR 1937 Ran 336: Daw Ohn Bwint and Ors. v. Daw Saw May and Anr.
(ii) MANU/PH/0004/1995 : AIR 1995 P&H 14 : Shanti and Ors. v. Pankaj and Ors.
In Daw Saw (supra), the Court relying upon the decisions reported in MANU/UP/0488/1934 : AIR 1935 All 470 held that though the order of granting a certificate to more persons than one might be inconvenient yet there is nothing illegal in it.
In Shanti (supra), the Court held that when assets left by the deceased is easily distributable and the heirs falling in two groups of being entitled to equal share, succession certificate jointly in favour of many claimant can be issued and it is not necessary that it should be issued only in favour of one person.
While coming to the aforesaid conclusion, the Court in Shanti (supra) relied upon the following decisions:
(a) MANU/WB/0073/1941 : AIR 1941 Cal 663,
(b) MANU/RA/0079/1937 : AIR 1937 Rangoon 336,
(c) MANU/BH/0190/1936 : AIR 1936 Patna 430,
(d) MANU/BH/0099/1933 : AIR 1934 Patna 304,
(e) MANU/MH/0077/1929 : AIR 1929 Bombay 456,
(f) 1939 ALLJR page 717.
19. The question No. 3 regarding parting with Rs. 99,000/- (Rupees ninety nine thousand) to Shri Swapan Gupta as directed by the learned trial Court for funeral and Shradha ceremony expenses is rejected since the same cannot form part of debt of the deceased.
20. After going through the entire evidence on record and the pleadings set forth by the parties, this Court is inclined to allow the cross objection filed by Respondent Nos. 2, 3 and 4, in view of the fact that they are entitled to the movable property left out by the deceased being the Class II heirs as provided under Section 11 of the Act 1956. Question No. 4 is answered accordingly.
21. The learned District Judge since issued succession certificate to late Pabitra Ranjan Gupta, who is now represented by his legal heirs i.e. the Appellants herein alongwith Dr. Chitta Ranjan Gupta (on his death his legal heirs) and Bidyut Prova Dasgupta (since deceased) as indicated above, this Court seems it fit to direct the learned District Judge, Karimganj to issue succession certificate jointly to the Appellants and objectors mentioned herein below:
(a) Dr. Shantanu Gupta
(b) Shri Dhiman Gupta
(c) Smt. Sharmila Das Gupta
(d) Shri Subhabrata Gupta
(e) Shri Debabrata Gupta
(f) Smt. Indrani Gupta
(g) Shri Swapan Gupta
(h) Shri Joy Gupta
(i) Shri Suman Gupta
22. In the result, this intestate case is partly allowed. The impugned order dated 2.5.2000 passed by the learned District Judge, Karimganj in Miscellaneous (Succession) Case No. 171 of 1995 is modified to the extent as indicated hereinabove. The parties are left to bear their own costs.
23. Registry is directed to send down the records immediately.
Print Page

No comments:

Post a Comment