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Tuesday, April 17, 2001

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S.C. clarifies rights under Hindu Succession Act

NEW DELHI, APRIL 16. A widow of a benefactor of a ``will with limited rights'' in the property of its testator cannot acquire absolute right in the property under Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The ruling was handed down by a division bench, comprising Mr. Justice A.P. Misra and Mr. Justice U.C. Banerjee, while interpreting a ``will'' vis-a-vis the provisions of Section 14(1) of the Act, which grants absolute right to a Hindu wife in the property of her husband after his death.

The court had the occasion to interpret the will and the provisions of the Act while deciding an appeal raising the following questions: whether the right given to the benefactor under the will dated June 1, 1943, was a limited right; and if the benefactor had a limited right whether his widow could get an absolute right under the Act so as to enable to execute a sale deed in respect of the property acquired under the will.

A suit was filed by the plaintiff-appellant, Muninanjappa, and others for a declaration that under the sale deed executed by the defendant no. 3, Sevamma, widow of Guruswamy, in favour of defendants no. 1 and 2 was not binding on them as she had no right to sell the same.

Hence, defendants no. 1 and 2 could not derive any right, title or interest over the property by virtue of the saledeed.

Poovamma was the original owner of the suit property. The plaintiff lost his father, Jakashaiah, the brother of Poovamma, when he was four years old and was looked after by the latter. Guruswamy, the brother of the plaintiff, born through the second wife, also came under the care of Poovamma.

The case of plaintiff-appellants was that under the registered will dated June 1, 1942, Poovamma bequeathed the suit property in favour of both plaintiffs and Guruswamy.

Under the will none of the legatees, the benefactors under the will, got any right to alienate any part of the suit property. Hence, Guruswamy and his widow, Sevamma, could at best have life interest without any right to alienation.

Thus the property bequeathed, after the death of both Guruswamy and his widow, would revert to Muninajappa. Inspite of this limited right, Sevamma sold the property to defendants no. 1 and 2 (respondents no. 1 and 2 in the apex court) on September 4, 1980, through a registered saledeed. As a consequence of this respondents no. 1 and 2 filed a petition seeking eviction of Muninanjappa. This led to the filing of the present suit by the plaintiff-appellants.

- UNI

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