Saturday, 6 April 2019

Whether Hindu woman who is in illegal possession of property without title can obtain absolute ownership as per S 14(1) of Hindu succession Act?

 It is true that the appellant was in possession of
Eran Gowda's properties but that fact alone is not
sufficient to attract the operation of Section 14. The

property possessed by a female Hindu, as
contemplated in the section, is clearly property to
which she has acquired some kind of title whether
before or after the commencement of the Act. It may be
noticed that the Explanation to Section 14(1) sets out
the various modes of acquisition of the property by a
female Hindu and indicates that the section applies
only to property to which the female Hindu has
acquired some kind of title, however restricted the
nature of her interest may be. The words “as full owner
thereof and not as a limited owner” as given in the last
portion of subsection
(1) of Section 14 clearly suggest
that the legislature intended that the limited ownership
of a Hindu female should be changed into full
ownership. In other words, Section 14(1) of the Act
contemplates that a Hindu female who, in the absence
of this provision, would have been limited owner of the
property, will now become full owner of the same by
virtue of this section. The object of the section is to
extinguish the estate called limited estate or “widow's
estate” in Hindu law and to make a Hindu woman, who
under the old law would have been only a limited
owner, a full owner of the property with all powers of
disposition and to make the estate heritable by her
own heirs and not revertible to the heirs of the last
male holder. The Explanation to subsection
(1) of
Section 14 defines the word “property” as including
“both movable and immovable property acquired by a
female Hindu by inheritance or devise …”. Subsection
(2) of Section 14 also refers to acquisition of property.
It is true that the Explanation has not given any
exhaustive connotation of the word “property” but the
word “acquired” used in the Explanation and also in
subsection
(2) of Section 14 clearly indicates that the
object of the section is to make a Hindu female a full
owner of the property which she has already acquired
or which she acquires after the enforcement of the Act.
It does not in any way confer a title on the female
Hindu where she did not in fact possess any vestige of
title. It follows, therefore, that the section cannot be
interpreted so as to validate the illegal possession of
female Hindu and it does not confer any title on a mere
trespasser. In other words, the provision of Section
14(1) of the Act cannot be attracted in the case of a

Hindu female who is in possession of the property of
the last male holder on the date of the commencement
of the Act when she is only a trespasser without any
right to property.
(emphasis supplied)

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO(s). 226 OF 2010

AJIT KAUR @ SURJIT KAUR  Vs DARSHAN SINGH

Rastogi, J.
Dated:April 04, 2019

1. This is the defendant’s appeal by special leave against the
judgment of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh
dated 28th July, 2004 and arises in the following circumstances.
2. Original plaintiffs, Darshan Singh son of Bhana, and Amriti
and Udhi alias Iqbal Kaur, daughters of Bhana filed a suit for
possession of the subject land in dispute. It was claimed by the
plaintiffs that Bhana, son of Moti was the original owner of the

subject properties in dispute. The plaintiffs along with one Gurdev
Kaur were the children of aforesaid Bhana from his first wife Bhago
and after the death of his wife(Bhago), Bhana was remarried to Smt.
Banti but because of strained relations of Bhana and Smt. Banti,
they started living separately. There was even a litigation between
them. Bhana and Smt. Banti had a daughter, namely, Ajit
Kaur(appellant) from the aforesaid wedlock. To settle the dispute
between them, Bhana parted the suit land to Smt. Banti by way of
gift for her maintenance way back in the year 1950. In furtherance
thereof, mutation was also entered in favour of Smt. Banti bearing
no. 3813 sanctioned on 25th February, 1950. The aforesaid gift
came to be challenged by the original plaintiff Darshan Singh in a
Civil Suit No. 103/1953 for declaration under the customary law. It
was claimed by him that the aforesaid gift by late Bhana in favour
of Smt. Banti qua the ancestral property would not affect the
reversionary rights of Darshan Singh(original plaintiff). The
aforesaid civil suit filed at the instance of Darshan Singh was
decreed by the learned trial Court vide judgment dated 30th June,
1954 and it was held that the aforesaid gift by late Bhana in favour

of Smt. Banti would not affect the reversionary rights of Darshan
Singh and would operate only during the life time of Bhana. The
Civil Appeal No. 101/1954 preferred by Banti against the aforesaid
judgment and decree was dismissed by learned District Judge vide
judgment dated 29th November, 1954 and the Regular Second
Appeal No. 193/1955 filed at her instance(Smt. Banti) came to be
dismissed by the High Court on 3rd November, 1959. It was claimed
that Smt. Banti was to continue to have the rights in the property
only during the life time of Bhana and was not an absolute owner.
Since Bhana died on 27th March, 1973 and prior to his death, he
had executed a registered will dated 5th January, 1973 whereby he
bequeathed his estate in favour of plaintiffs Darshan Singh and
others by excluding Smt. Banti and Smt. Ajit Kaur, original
(defendant no. 1) and (defendant no. 25) appellant herein and other
daughter Gurdev Kaur. In reference to the aforesaid will dated 5th
January, 1973, Civil Suit No. 15/1975 was filed by the plaintiff for
possession. The appellant contested the suit and it was claimed by
her that Banti was the absolute owner of the suit property. She
even denied the earlier litigation between the parties whereby

reversionary rights of Darshan Singh came to be upheld. The will
as claimed by the plaintiffs dated 5th January, 1973 was also
contested.
3. On the other hand, the appellant in separate litigation between
the parties reached upto the Regular Second Appeal no. 933/1984
and the validity of the will dated 5th January, 1973 came to be
upheld by the High Court vide judgment dated 28th July, 2004 and
the Special Leave Petition(Civil) no. 24724/2004 preferred at the
instance of the appellant came to be dismissed as not pressed.
According to the will dated 5th January, 1973, the original plaintiffs
became entitled to claim the property of Bhana(deceased) including
the land in dispute to the exclusion of the present appellant. It was
stated in the will dated 5th January, 1973 that Smt. Banti was
residing separately for almost 20 years and questioned her
character having illegitimate relations with Maal Singh, son of Nihal
Singh, r/o Bada Pind and despite that, the testator has taken care
of her maintenance. The will dated 5th January, 1973 came to be
executed in supersession of the earlier will dated 11th April, 1956
and for the aforesaid reason, it was stated by the testator that the

entire property after his death be devolved to his daughter Smt.
Amriti, Udi alias Iqbal Kaur and son Darshan Singh in three equal
shares.
4. The trial Court in the instant proceedings held that the suit
land had been allotted in lieu of the original land during the
consolidation proceedings. Both the wills set up by the plaintiffs
dated 5th January, 1973 and the defendants dated 21st February,
1973 were held to be executed by Bhana. Learned trial Court
further recorded a finding that Banti had become absolute owner of
the suit property after the commencement of the Hindu Succession
Act, 1956 (hereinafter being referred to as “Act 1956) and, therefore,
the plaintiffs could not take any benefit of the earlier decree and
accordingly dismissed the suit filed by the plaintiffs.
5. On reappraisal of the evidence on record, the appellate Court
reversed the findings of the trial Court with regard to Banti having
become absolute owner of the suit property on the basis of an oral
gift executed by Bhana in the year 1950 and the gift came to be set
aside and held that Smt. Banti could not be held to be the absolute
owner of the suit property even after the commencement of the Act,

1956 inasmuch as her title to the suit property was to operate only
during the life time of Bhana who died on 27th March, 1973. The
judgment of the Court of appeal came to be challenged at the
instance of the appellant(defendant) and second appeal before the
High Court also came to be dismissed under the impugned
judgment dated 28th July, 2004 which is the subject matter of
challenge in the instant appeal.
6. Mr. J.M. Khanna, learned counsel for the appellant submits
that once this fact is admitted by the parties that Smt. Banti was
the widow of Bhana whose property is in dispute and as such
formed coparcenary and was entitled to 1/3rd share after the
enforcement of the Act, 1956 and the learned appellate Court has
erred in relying upon a will dated 5th January, 1973 without taking
note of a subsequent will executed by the testator dated 21st
February, 1973 and the finding which has been recorded by the
first appellate Court in reference to a later will dated 21st February,
1973 is perverse and no adverse inference could be drawn and it
needs to be reviewed by this Court.

7. Learned counsel further submits that the progeny of Bhana
was consisting of one son and three daughters from the first wife
since deceased and another daughter alongwith widow from the
second marriage. If plainly the succession stood opened after the
enforcement of Act, 1956 then even one son and three daughters
from first wife would get 2/3rd of the property and widow and one
daughter i.e. from second marriage would get 1/3rd property. So far
as the finding in reference to the will dated 5th January, 1973 is
concerned, it was never proved or produced before the trial Court
and could not be agitated at a belated stage.
8. Learned counsel submits that the first appellate Court as well
as the High Court in second appeal has misconstrued the law
applicable to the coparcenary property and right of the female to
succeed would be defeated by execution of a Sham sale deed and
the same had to be questioned during the life time of the deceased
Bhana and the limitation is only three years. Since the right to
succeed to deceased Bhana arose only after his demise in the year
1973 and the suit for possession could be filed within 12 years of

the same especially when the appellant was in possession of a part
of the land left by the deceased.
9. Learned counsel submits that the validity of the will dated 5th
January, 1973 executed by Bhana could not be effecting the right of
the successor after the enforcement of the Hindu Succession Act, as
Bhana had gifted the property to the appellant and the will could
not operate qua that property even if it is assumed to be valid.
The property gifted or otherwise given to the separated wife i.e.
Banti before the enforcement of the Act, 1956 for maintenance of
the separated wife now widow would hold the absolute right over
the property after the Act, 1956 has come into force.
10. Learned counsel further submits that no will could be
executed by Bhana regarding the aforesaid ancestral property to his
progeny since the subject property was in possession of Banti, in
view of maintenance and irrespective of the nature of
document/statement made by Bhana, the property would become
absolute property of Banti on enforcement of Act, 1956 on 17th
June, 1956. The reversionary rights of the respondents’/plaintiffs’
declaration suit do not become effective when the succession

opened after the enforcement of the Hindu Succession Act and the
decree is only to be effective if the reversionary rights existed when
the succession opened on the death of Bhana the Karta and coparcener.
The property does not revert to the coparcenary
or
Hindu joint family or to Bhana as Karta and after the enforcement
of Act, 1956, the succession is to be governed by the provisions of
Hindu Succession Act and if the reversionary who have got the
decree and he is not the successor in accordance with the Hindu
Succession Act or Hindu Law, he cannot get the benefit under the
reversionary declaratory decree. Whatever the customs earlier
existing, if any, stands abrogated in view of the mandate of Section
4 and Section 30 of the Act, 1956 which is applicable to all and no
customary law overrides the Hindu Succession Law.
11. Per contra, Ms. S. Janani, learned counsel for the
respondents, while supporting the findings recorded by the first
appellate Court and confirmed by the High Court in appeal submits
that the subject land in dispute was mutated in the name of Smt.
Banti on the basis of the oral gift and the suit which was filed by
the respondents for mutation would not bind their reversionary

rights on the suit land and that has been held by all the courts that
the alleged oral gift has not been proved and being the concurrent
finding of fact, needs no further indulgence. Learned counsel
further submits that if the respondents cannot rely upon the said
decree to seek possession of the land yet the findings in the suit
proceedings would bind the parties. It was never the case of the
appellant that the suit land was given to her mother Banti in lieu of
the maintenance. On the contrary, it was pleaded that such land
was given to her in lieu of service rendered and the subject land
which was given to her mother Banti in lieu of maintenance has
been specifically mentioned in the will dated 5th January, 1973 of
late Bhana. In the aforesaid will, late Bhana(testator) also
mentioned that Smt. Banti was living in adultery and separate from
him for more than 20 years and merely being in possession of the
suit land will not make her an absolute owner of the property on
coming in effect of the Act, 1956 and bare reading of Section 14(1)
makes it clear that in order to avail the benefit of the mandate of
law, the women must come in possession of the land under one of
the devise mentioned therein.

12. Learned counsel further submits that in the earlier
proceedings, the appellant had conceded that the will dated 5th
January, 1973 was validly executed and in RSA No. 933/1984, the
validity of the will dated 5th January, 1973 has been upheld and the
present appellant preferred appeal by special leave against the said
judgment which came to be dismissed as withdrawn by this Court
vide order dated 7th April, 2006 and the finding was recorded that
will dated 21st February, 1973 has not been legally executed and
proved. In the given circumstances, the appellant has no legitimate
right to claim possession by way of succession under the Act, 1956
and no error was committed in restoration of reversionary rights of
the respondents under the impugned judgment.
13. The concurrent finding of fact has been recorded by the High
Court in the regular second appeal in separate proceedings initiated
in reference to will dated 5th January, 1973 in RSA No. 933/1984
decided on 28th July, 2004 held to be validly executed and based
on the recital of the will, it was held that the plaintiffs became
entitled to succeed to the entire property of Bhana (deceased)
including the land in dispute to the exclusion of

defendant(appellant herein). It may be relevant to note that the
finding of fact recorded under the impugned judgment in reference
to a later will dated 21st February, 1973 on which much emphasis
was laid by the present appellant, it was observed that the
propounder of the will was legally required not only to prove the due
execution of the will but also to dispel all suspicious circumstances
which may have existed in its due execution of the aforesaid will
and it was observed that the later will dated 21st February, 1973
claimed by the present appellant cannot be taken to be duly proved
and being a finding of fact duly supported by the material on
record, we find no perversity or manifest error in the finding to be
reviewed by this Court in the instant appeal.
14. It is a settled position of law that the mutation of a property in
the revenue records are fiscal proceedings and does not create or
extinguish title nor has it any presumptive value on title. It only
enables the person in whose favour mutation has been ordered, to
pay the land revenue. At the same time, the effect of a declaratory
decree to restore the property alienated to the estate of the alienor
and until and unless the alienees are able to convince the court

that they have no subsisting interest in the property, the heirs of
the alienees would be entitled to the benefits of the property as per
the law of succession. The effect of the operation of the aforesaid
declaratory decree would be to restore the land in dispute to the
aforesaid estate of Bhana(deceased) and the succession would be
deemed to have opened on 27th March, 1973 when Bhana died. On
his death, the estate left behind him including the land in dispute
would devolve upon his heirs as per their entitlement and after the
registered will dated 5th January, 1973 has been upheld by the High
Court in RSA No. 933/1984 decided on 28th July, 2004 and
attained finality, its consequence was to follow accordingly.
15. The submission of learned counsel for the appellant that the
appellant being in possession of the subject property in question at
the time when Act, 1956 came into force and by virtue of Section
14(1) of the Act became an absolute owner of the subject property
and the decree being a nullity is inexecutable and it is a
jurisdictional error against the policy of legislature, is without
substance for the reason that Section 14(1) of the Act, 1956 clearly
envisage that the possession of the widow, however, must be under

some vestige of a claim, right or title or under any of the devise
which has been purported under the law. Indisputedly, in the
instant case, the appellant was not holding any valid possession
over the subject property and as already observed, opening of fiscal
proceedings would not confer a right of acquisition by either of the
devise which has been referred to under the explanation to Section
14(1) of the Act, 1956. Section 14 of the Act, 1956 is as under:“
14. Property of a female Hindu to be her absolute
property (
1) Any property possessed by a female
Hindu, whether acquired before or after the
commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full
owner thereof and not as a limited owner.
Explanation.— In this subsection,
‘property’ includes
both movable and immovable property acquired by a
female Hindu by inheritance or devise, or at a
partition, or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of
maintenance, or by gift from any person, whether a
relative or not, before, at or after her marriage, or by
her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by
prescription, or in any other manner whatsoever, and
also any such property held by her as stridhana
immediately before the commencement of this Act.
(2) Nothing contained in subsection(
1) shall apply to
any property acquired by way of gift or under a will or
any other instrument or under a decree or order of a
civil court or under an award where the terms of the
gift, will or other instrument or the decree, order or
award prescribe a restricted estate in such property.”

16. The effect of Section 14, after the Act, 1956 came to be
examined by a three Judge Bench of this Court in Eramma Vs.
Veerupana and Others AIR 1996 SC 1879 as under:“
6. It was next contended by the appellant that she
was admittedly in possession of half the properties of
her husband Eran Gowda after he died in 1341F
and
by virtue of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act she
became the full owner of the properties and
Respondents 1 and 2 cannot, therefore, proceed with
the execution case. We are unable to accept this
argument as correct. At the time of Eran Gowda's
death the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act, 1937
(Act 18 of 1937) had not come into force. It is admitted
by Mr. Sinha that the Act was extended to Hyderabad
State with effect from February 7, 1953. It is manifest
that at the time of promulgation of Hindu Succession
Act, 1956 the appellant had no manner of title to
properties of Eran Gowda. Section 14(1) of the Hindu
Succession Act states:
“14. (1) Any property possessed by a female Hindu,
whether acquired before or after the commencement of
this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and
not as a limited owner.
Explanation.— In this subsection,
‘property’ includes
both movable and immovable property acquired by a
female Hindu by inheritance or devise, or at a
partition, or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of
maintenance, or by gift from any person, whether a
relative or not, before, at or after her marriage, or by
her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by
prescription, or in any other manner whatsoever, and
also any such property held by her as stridhana
immediately before the commencement of this Act.”
7. It is true that the appellant was in possession of
Eran Gowda's properties but that fact alone is not
sufficient to attract the operation of Section 14. The

property possessed by a female Hindu, as
contemplated in the section, is clearly property to
which she has acquired some kind of title whether
before or after the commencement of the Act. It may be
noticed that the Explanation to Section 14(1) sets out
the various modes of acquisition of the property by a
female Hindu and indicates that the section applies
only to property to which the female Hindu has
acquired some kind of title, however restricted the
nature of her interest may be. The words “as full owner
thereof and not as a limited owner” as given in the last
portion of subsection
(1) of Section 14 clearly suggest
that the legislature intended that the limited ownership
of a Hindu female should be changed into full
ownership. In other words, Section 14(1) of the Act
contemplates that a Hindu female who, in the absence
of this provision, would have been limited owner of the
property, will now become full owner of the same by
virtue of this section. The object of the section is to
extinguish the estate called limited estate or “widow's
estate” in Hindu law and to make a Hindu woman, who
under the old law would have been only a limited
owner, a full owner of the property with all powers of
disposition and to make the estate heritable by her
own heirs and not revertible to the heirs of the last
male holder. The Explanation to subsection
(1) of
Section 14 defines the word “property” as including
“both movable and immovable property acquired by a
female Hindu by inheritance or devise …”. Subsection
(2) of Section 14 also refers to acquisition of property.
It is true that the Explanation has not given any
exhaustive connotation of the word “property” but the
word “acquired” used in the Explanation and also in
subsection
(2) of Section 14 clearly indicates that the
object of the section is to make a Hindu female a full
owner of the property which she has already acquired
or which she acquires after the enforcement of the Act.
It does not in any way confer a title on the female
Hindu where she did not in fact possess any vestige of
title. It follows, therefore, that the section cannot be
interpreted so as to validate the illegal possession of
female Hindu and it does not confer any title on a mere
trespasser. In other words, the provision of Section
14(1) of the Act cannot be attracted in the case of a

Hindu female who is in possession of the property of
the last male holder on the date of the commencement
of the Act when she is only a trespasser without any
right to property.
(emphasis supplied)
17. It was further considered by a threeJudge
Bench of this Court
in V. Tulasamma and Others Vs. Sesha Reddy(Dead) by LRs
1977(3) SCC 99 and interpretation of Section 14(1) and (2) of the
Act, 1956 has been summarized as under:62.
We would now like to summarise the legal
conclusions which we have reached after an exhaustive
considerations of the authorities mentioned above on
the question of law involved in this appeal as to the
interpretation of Sections 14(1) and (2) of the Act of
1956. These conclusions may be stated thus:
“(1) The Hindu female's right to maintenance is not an
empty formality or an illusory claim being conceded as
a matter of grace and generosity, but is a tangible right
against property which flows from the spiritual
relationship between the husband and the wife and is
recognised and enjoined by pure Shastric Hindu law
and has been strongly stressed even by the earlier
Hindu jurists starting from Yajnavalkya to Manu. Such
a right may not be a right to property but it is a right
against property and the husband has a personal
obligation to maintain his wife and if he or the family
has property, the female has the legal right to be
maintained therefrom. If a charge is created for the
maintenance of a female, the said right becomes a
legally enforceable one. At any rate, even without a
charge the claim for maintenance is doubtless a preexisting
right so that any transfer declaring or
recognising such a right does not confer any new title

but merely endorses or confirms the preexisting
rights.
(2) Section 14(1) and the Explanation thereto have
been couched in the widest possible terms and must
be liberally construed in favour of the females so as to
advance the object of the 1956 Act and promote the
socioeconomic
ends sought to be achieved by this long
needed legislation.
(3) Subsection
(2) of Section 14 is in the nature of a
proviso and has a field of its own without interfering
with the operation of Section 14(1) materially. The
proviso should not be construed in a manner so as to
destroy the effect of the main provision or the
protection granted by Section 14(1) or in a way so as to
become totally inconsistent with the main provision.
(4) Subsection
(2) of Section 14 applies to
instruments, decrees, awards, gifts, etc. which create
independent and new titles in favour of the females for
the first time and has no application where the
instrument concerned merely seeks to confirm,
endorse, declare or recognise preexisting
rights. In
such cases a restricted estate in favour of a female is
legally permissible and Section 14(1) will not operate in
this sphere. Where, however, an instrument merely
declares or recognises a preexisting
right, such as a
claim to maintenance or partition or share to which the
female is entitled, the subsection
has absolutely no
application and the female's limited interest would
automatically be enlarged into an absolute one by force
of Section 14(1) and the restrictions placed, if any,
under the document would have to be ignored. Thus
where a property is allotted or transferred to a female
in lieu of maintenance or a share at partition, the
instrument is taken out of the ambit of subsection
(2)
and would be governed by Section 14(1) despite any
restrictions placed on the powers of the transferee.
(5) The use of express terms like ‘property acquired by
a female Hindu at a partition’, ‘or in lieu of
maintenance’, ‘or arrears of maintenance’, etc. in the
Explanation to Section 14(1) clearly makes subsection
18
(2) inapplicable to these categories which have been
expressly excepted from the operation of subsection
(2).
(6) The words ‘possessed by’ used by the Legislature in
Section 14(1) are of the widest possible amplitude and
include the state of owning a property even though the
owner is not in actual or physical possession of the
same. Thus, where a widow gets a share in the
property under a preliminary decree before or at the
time when the 1956 Act had been passed but had not
been given actual possession under a final decree, the
property would be deemed to be possessed by her and
by force of Section 14(1) she would get absolute
interest in the property. It is equally well settled that
the possession of the widow, however, must be under
some vestige of a claim, right or title, because the
section does not contemplate the possession of any
rank trespasser without any right or title.
(7) That the words ‘restricted estate’ used in Section
14(2) are wider than limited interest as indicated in
Section 14(1) and they include not only limited
interest, but also any other kind of limitation that may
be placed on the transferee.”
(emphasis supplied)
18. In Eramma Vs. Veerupana and Others (supra), the widow
was in possession of the half of the property of her late husband
and claimed her absolute ownership by virtue of Section 14 of the
Act, 1956 which was negated by this Court for the reason that the
widow was not holding possession over the subject property in
question under any of the devise indicated in the explanation to
Section 14(1) of the Act, 1956.

19. Wherein V. Tulasamma and Others Vs. Sesha Reddy(Dead)
by LRs, it was an admitted case before the Court that the suit
property came in possession of the widow under a compromise in
execution of decree of the Court, restricting her right of alienation in
recognition of right to maintenance, having preexisting
right over
the subject property in question on the date the Act, 1956 came
into force(i.e. 17th June, 1956). In that reference, the claim was
considered by this Court and held that the preexisting
right of the
widow on the date of the commencement of the Act, 1956 will get
her the absolute rights over the subject property.
20. In the instant case, the appellant although was holding
possession but not under any of the devise referred to under
explanation to Section 14(1) of the Act, 1956 and mere possession
would not confer preexisting
right of possession over the subject
property to claim full ownership rights after the Act, 1956 came into
force by operation of law and this what was considered and negated
by the High Court in the impugned judgment.

21. Consequently, the appeal fails and is accordingly dismissed.
No costs.
22. Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed of.
…………………………….J.
(A.M. KHANWILKAR)
…………………………….J.
(AJAY RASTOGI)
NEW DELHI
April 04, 2019

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