Mst. Ramrati Kuer Vs. Dwarika Prasad
Singh & Ors  INSC 142 (24 August 1966)
24/08/1966 WANCHOO, K.N.
CITATION: 1967 AIR 1134 1967 SCR (1) 153
F 1988 SC1074 (8,9)
Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872), ss.
32, 158Deponent's admission against his interest-Conscious knowledge,if
necessary-Later statement to contradict, relevancy.
The appellant's mother executed a gift deed
in favour of the appellant claiming that she inherited the property in 1920 on
the death of her husband, who had inherited it from her father-in-law. The
respondents claiming title to the property filed a suit challenging the gift
deed on the ground that the father-in-law of the donor (mother) had survived
the husband and therefore she could not have inherited the property under the
Hindu Law as then prevailing. For this purpose the respondents relied upon a
statement, that the father-in-law had survived the husband, made by the donor
in a mortgage suit in 1925, to establish her case. When this statement was made
there was no dispute in the faimly. On the questions whether, (i) this
statement in the mortgage suit was admissible in evidence and (ii) the
statement made by the donor in the gift deed was admissible to contradict the
statement she made in the mortgage suit,
HELD : (i) This statement in the mortgage
suit, which was against proprietary interest of the mother would be admisible
in evidence under s. 32(3) of the Evidence Act, as she was dead. It could not
be an admission. so far the appellant was concerned, butit would certainly be a
piece of evidence to be taken into consideration, The admissibility of
statements under s.32 (3) of the Evidence Act does not arise unless the party
knows the statementto be against his interest. But the question whether the
statement was made consciously with the knowledge that it was against the
interest of the person making it would be a question of fact in each case and
would depend in most cases on the circumstances in which the statement was
made. [158 F-G; 159 A-B] Srimati Savitri Debi v.Raman Bijoy, L.R. (1949) LXXVI
255,Tucker v. Oldburry UrbanDistrict Council,
L.R. [19121 2 K.B. 317 and Ward v. H. S. Pitt  2 K.B. 130, relied on.
The statement in question was made by the
mother consciously and not at the instance of any one and she must, in the
circumstances of the case, be presumed to know that the statement was against
her proprietary interest, for thereby she became the widow of the predeceased
son of her father-in-law. [159 G] (ii) Assuming that the statements in the gift
dead would be admissible under s. 158 of the Evidence Act the statement made in
the mortgage suit in 1925 carries greater weight as it was made at a time when
there was no dispute in the family. [160 E-F]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 981 of 1964.
M 14 Sup. C1166-11 154 Appeal from the
judgment and decree dated December 22, 1961 of the Patna High Court in Appeal
from Original Decree No. 223 of 1957.
Bishan Narain and U. P. Singh, for the
Sarjoo Prasad, B. K. Saran, A. B. S. Sinha,
S. K. Mehta and K. L. Mehta for respondent No. 2.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Wanchoo, J. This is an appeal on a certificate granted by the Patna High Court.
A suit was brought by the plaintiffsrespondents for a declaration, and in the
alternative for possession, in respect of certain properties. It was prayed
that a deed of gift executed on July 31, 1953 by Mst.
Phuljhari Kuer in favour of the appellant Ramrati
Kuer was not binding on the plaintiffsrespondents. Mst. Phuljhari Kuer was
originally a defendant but died during the pendency of the suit. The case of
the respondents was that the common ancestor of the parties Ramcharan Singh had
three sons, namely, Ramruch, Uttim Narain and Basekhi Singh.
After the death of Ramcharan Singh, his three
sons separated in status though the properties were not divided by metes and
bounds. Uttim Narain died sometime before 1900 leaving a widow Mst. Zira Kuer
but no children, and Mst. Zira Kuer in her turn died in 1943. Ramruch had a son
According to the respondents, Basudeo Narain
died during the life-time of his father sometime about the revisional
settlement which took place between 1917-1920. As Basudeo Narain was the only
son of Ramruch the latter was greatly grieved on his premature death and he
left his home about a month after Basudeo Narain's death and thereafter
disappeared from the village. Basudeo Narain had married twice. One of his
widows was Mst. Phuljhari Kuer who executed the gift deed of 1953 which was
challenged in the suit. The other was Mst. Sakala who died in 1950. Mst.
Phuljhari had no children while Mst. Sakala
had a daughter Ramrati Kuer who is the appellant before us. Thus at the time of
his death, Basudeo Narain left two widows and a daughter. The case of the
respondents further was that as Basudeo Narain had pre-deceased his father,
Basekhi Singh inherited the properties of the share of Ramruch and that the two
widows and the daughter of Basudeo Narain had no right to the properties except
that they were entitled to maintenance. Further on the death of Mst. Zira Kuer,
Uttim Narain's share of the properties also came to Basekhi Singh.
On July 31, 1953 however Mst. Phuljhari Kuer was
prevailed upon by the appellant's husband to execute a gift deed in favour of
Ramrati Kuer, though she had no right whatsoever to the properties.
Consequently the suit out of which the present appeal has arisen was filed on
October 5, 1953.
Thus the main case of the plaintiffs155
respondents was that Basudeo Narain died in the life-time of his father and his
widows and daughter had no right to any property in which he might have had a
share along with his father Ramrach with whom he was joint and that on the
death of Ramruch the entire share of Ramruch was inherited by Basekhi Singh. It
may be mentioned that Basekhi Singh died in 1948 and the suit was filed by his
The appellant contested the suit. The case of
the appellant was that there had been no separation during the life-time of
Uttim Narain and that after the death of Uttim Narain there was a joint family
consisting of Ramruch and Basekhi Singh. It was sometime before the revisional
settlement that Ramruch and Basekhi Singh separated and each had half share,
though many of the properties still remained joint.
It was further contended by the appellant
that Ramruch died before his son. Therefore Basudeo Narain succeeded to and
came into possession of half of the properties of Ramruch's share and on
Basudeo Narain's death, his two widows came into possession of the same After
the death of Mst.
Sakala, Mst. Phuljhari remained in sole
possession of Basudeo Narain's properties. She executed the deed of gift of
1953 in favour of the appellant, since then the appellant had been in
possession. Further it was stated that the appellant being the only daughter of
Basudeo Narain was his legal heir and was entitled as of right to the entire
share of Basudeo Narain after the death of Mst. Phuljhari Kuer.
It will thus be seen that the main question
in dispute in this case was whether Basudeo Narain died before or after the
death of his father Ramruch. It is not in dispute that if Basudeo Narain died
before Ramruch, the plaintiffsrespondents suit must succeed; on the other hand,
if Basudeo Narain died after the death of his father Ramruch the suit must fail
because Basudeo Narain would succeed to Ramruch and his two widows and daughter
would in their turn succeed to him.
On a review of the entire evidence and the
conduct of the parties for about 30 years after the revisional settlement, the
trial court came to the conclusion that Basudeo Narain had died after his
father. In that view the trial court dismissed the suit. There was an appeal to
the High Court by the plaintiffs-respondents and the High Court allowed the
appeal. The High Court reconsidered the entire evidence produced by the parties
and was of opinion that the oral evidence produced was far from satisfactory
and held that if oral evidence was equally balanced or equally worthless the
side which got support from unimpeachable or reliable documentary evidence
should succeed. The High Court then considered the documentary evidence and
held that most of the documentary evidence was inconclusive one way or the
other as to the 156 order in which Basudeo Narain and Ramruch died. But in the
opinion of the High Court there was a statement made by Mst.
Phuljhari as far back as 1925 in a mortgage
suit brought by her and in that suit she categorically said that Ramruch left
his home a month after the death of Basudeo Narain and bad not been heard of
since. The High Court strongly relied on this statement made by Mst. Phuljhari
Kuer in 1925 and held on its basis that Basudeo Narain had predeceased his father.
In this view the High Court allowed the appeal and declared the gift deed made
by Mst. Phuljhari Kuer invalid.
It also held that the appellant could not
succeed to the properties which belonged to Ramruch as the last-male holder and
therefore finally decreed the suit of the plaintiffsrespondents. As the
judgment was one of reversal, the High Court granted a certificate to the
appellant to appeal to this Court; and that is how the matter has corn-before
No reliance has been placed on behalf of the
parties oil the oral evidence, and tile estimate of the High Court that the
oral evidence on both sides is far from satisfactory is not disputed before us.
Learned counsel for the appellant however relies on certain circumstances
appearing from the evidence to show that Basudeo Narain must have died after
his father. It may be mentioned that there is no evidence as to the actual date
or year of death of Basudeo Narain or Ramruch. But it is urged that certain
circumstances show that Basudeo Narain must have died after his father Ramruch.
We shall consider these circumstances one by
[After considering the circumstances his
Lordship proceeded:] It will thus be seen that none of the circumstances relied
on behalf of the appellant is conclusive to show that Basudeo Narain must have
died after his father; at the same time it may be conceded that if all these
circumstances stood by themselves without any counter-balancing documentary
evidence on the other side the balance might have tilted in favour of the
appellant's case. But as against all this there is a statement of Mst.
Phuljhari Kuer made in 1925 which categorically shows that Basudeo Narain died
during the life-time of his father and it was thereafter that his father left
his village as he was very grieved on the premature death of his son and
thereafter he disappeared from the village. If this statement is admissible in
evidence and if it can be relied upon, it completely demolishes any inference
in favour of the appellant which might otherwise have been drawn from the
circumstances to which we have referred above. It is therefore necessary to
turn to the circumstances in which this statement was made in 1925 and to
consider its admissibility as well as the value to be attached to it.
It appears that a suit was brought by Mst.
Phuljhari Kuer and Mst. Sakala Kuer widows of Basudeo Narain against Mukhlal
157 Singh and others in 1924. The suit was based on a mortgage bond in favour
of Basudeo Narain and the case of the widows was that money had been advanced
out of the personal fund of their husband and that was how they were claiming a
decree on the basis of the mortgage. The defence was that Basudeo Narain had no
personal fund of his own and that money was advanced out of joint family fund
and therefore Ramruch and other members of the joint family should have filed
the suit or should have been made parties and as that had not been done the
suit was not maintainable. Two of the issues in the case were : (i) whether the
suit as framed was maintainable, and (ii) whether the plaintiffs in that suit
had any cause of action. In that suit Mst. Phuljhari Kuer made a statement and
she stated that her husband was :In the service of one Nandan Babu and the
money which was advanced was out of his earnings as such servant and that the
joint family had no concern with that money. While making a statement in that
suit Mst. Phuljhari Kuer stated as follows :"My husband died nine years
ago. Ramruch Singh father of Basudeo Narain Singh went away from this place one
month after the latter's death and he has not been heard of since then and is
traceless." It has been urged on behalf of the appellant that it was
unnecessary for Mst. Phuljhari Kuer to make such a statement in that suit after
she had already stated that the money had come out of the earnings of Basudeo
Narain, who was in the service of Nandan Babu, and that this statement was made
at the instance of Basekhi Singh in order to establish his right to the
property of Ramruch's branch. It is true that Mst. Phuljhari Kuer had stated
that money came out of the earnings of her husband and was his personal
property; even so we cannot say that this statement was entirely uncalled for
She had to meet the case that the money did not come from the joint family fund
and that it was unnecessary therefore to implead other members of the family.
It seems to us that to explain why other members of the family and particularly
Ramruch was not joined in the suit she stated about the death of her husband
and about the disappearance of Ramruch soon after her husband's death.
The appellant tried to prove that this
statement was made ,.at the instance of Basekhi Singh. In that connection one
witness, namely, Jagdamba Sahai (D.W. 11) was examined and he tried to make out
that Mst. Phuljhari Kuer was tutored by her counsel in that case at the
instance of Basekhi Singh to make this statement so that Basekhi Singh's
interest in the properties of Ramruch might not be defeated. We have read the
statement of Jagdamba Sahai and are in agreement with the High Court that it is
impossible to believe that statement. It is enough to say that though Jagdamba
Sahai pretended to be the clerk of the counsel he had to 158 admit that he had
no card to work as clerk in 1924 and 1925.
He bad also to admit that he was sitting
outside in the verandah while the talks which he says he heard took place in a
room five or six yards away. He also admitted that the counsel and Mst.
Phuljhari were not talking loudly and that he heard something and not
everything. His evidence is clearly false and we cannot believe that the
statement in question was made at the instance of Basekhi Singh. Further if it
were true that Basekhi Singh was keen to get this statement in order that his
right to the properties left by Ramruch might not be jeopardised, it is strange
that be took no steps for about 23 years that he lived after this statement was
made to get his name mutated in revenue papers. As we have already indicated
there was no trouble in this family so long as Basekhi Singh was alive and in
the circumstances we are not prepared to believe that this statement was made
at the instance of Basekhi Singh who at any rate took no advantage of it during
It is however urged that this statement is
not admissible and in any case no value should be attached to it, firstly
because it is not proved that Mst. Phuljhari Kuer knew that she was making a
statement against her interest, and secondly, because this statement is
contradicted by her in her statement in the gift deed of 1953. Under s. 32 (3)
of the Indian Evidence Act, No. 1 of 1872, a statement of a person who is dead
is admissible when the statement is against the pecuniary or proprietary
interest of the person making it, or when if true, it would expose him or would
have exposed him to a criminal prosecution or to a suit for damages. Now there
is no doubt that this statement of Mst. Phuljhari Kuer is against her
Therefore it would be admissible in evidence
under s. 32 (3) as she is dead. Of course, it would not be an admission so far
as the appellant is concerned; but it would certainly be a piece of evidence to
be taken into consideration. But it is said that before the statement can be
admissible it must be shown that the person making it knew that it was against
his pecuniary or proprietary interest. In this connection reliance has been
placed on Srimati Savitri Debi v. Raman Bijoy(l) where it has been held that
"the principle upon which hearsay evidence is admitted under s. 32 (3) is
that a man is not likely to make a statement against his own interest unless
true, but this sanction does not arise unless the party knows the statement to
be against his interest." This statement of law is based on two earlier
English decisions in Tucker v. Oldburry Urban District Council(2) and Ward v.
H.S. Pitt.(3) Accepting this to be the correct statement (1) L.R.(1949) LXXVI
I.A. 255. (2) L.R. (1912) 2 K.B. 317.
(3)  2 K.B. 130.
159 of law with respect to admissibility of
statements under s. 32 (3) of the Indian Evidence Act, we may add that the
question whether the statement was made consciously with the knowledge that it
was against the interest of the person making it would be a question of fact in
each case and would depend in most cases on the circumstances in which the
statement was made, except when the statement is categorical in terms as for
example, "I owe so much to such and such person." There can hardly be
any direct evidence to show that the person making the statement in fact knew
that the statement was against his interest and so in most cases knowledge
would have to be inferred from the surrounding circumstances.
We have therefore to see whether Mst.
Phuljhari Kuer can be said to have known when she made the statement in 1925
that it was against her proprietary interest. There was no dispute in the
family at the time when the statement was made. The law at the time was
perfectly clear that a predeceased son's wife had no interest in the property
left by her father-in-law, except of course the right to maintenance. There is
no reason to suppose that Mst.
Phuljhari did not know that by making such a
statement she would become the widow of a predeceased son of her fatherinlaw
and if that was so there is no reason to suppose that she would not know the
well-established Hindu law that a predeceased son's widow has no interest in
her father-inlaw's property except for maintenance. In the circumstances once
it is held that the statement was not made at the instance of Basekhi Singh it
must follow in the absence of proof that Mst. Phuljhari Kuer did not know the
effect of what she had stated that she-had made the statement consciously
knowing what she was stating and also knowing that the effect of her statement
that her husband predeceased her father-in-law, would be against her
proprietary interest. We are therefore of opinion that the statement in question
was made by Mst. Phuljhari Kuer consciously and not at the instance of Basekbi
Singh and she must in the circumstances of the case be presumed to know that
that statement was against her proprietary interest, for thereby she became the
widow of the predeceased son of her father-in-law.
Then we come to the gift deed executed by
Mst. Phuljhari Kuer in favour of the appellant in 1953. It is urged that the
statements made by her in this gift deed would be admissible in view of S. 158
of the Indian Evidence Act.
Section 158 lays down that "whenever any
statement, relevant under section 32 or 33, is proved, all matters may be
proved either in order to contradict or to corroborate it, or in order to
impeach or confirm the credit of the person by whom it was made, which might
have been proved if that person had been called as a witness and had denied
upon 160 cross-examination the truth of the matter suggested." It is urged
that the statements made in the gift deed would be relevent to contradict the
statements she made in 1925. We shall assume for present purposes that the
statements in the gift deed would be admissible in view of s. 158. But two
questions arise in that connection. The first is what is the statement made in
the gift deed of 1953 and whether it contradicts the earlier statement and the
second is the value to be attached to the statement in the gift deed. It is
remarkable that in the gift deed it is not stated in so many words that her
husband had died after her father-inlaw; all that is stated is that her husband
died in a state of separation from his pattidars leaving behind Herself and her
co-widow Mst Sakala and after his death she and the cowidow entered into
possession and occupation of the property left by him. Thus there is no
categorical statement by her in the gift deed that her husband died after her
father-inlaw. What is urged is that her statement that after her husband's
death she came into possession of all the property left by her husband implies
that her husband must have died after her father-in-law. Thus there is no
direct contradiction of the statement made in 1925 in the gift deed of 1953.
Secondly as to the value to be attached to
what is stated in the gift deed it must be remembered that the statement in
1925 was made when there was no trouble whatsoever in the family and therefore
that statement is entitled to great weight. On the other hand the statement
made in the gift deed was apparently made at the time when troubles had begun
and in any case a person making a gift of property would say how she had title
to the property and such a statement would in the circumstances have little
value. We are therefore in agreement with the High Court that the statement
made in 1925 by Mst. Phuljhari Kuer carries great weight as it was made at a
time when there was no trouble. We have no doubt that Mst. Phuljhari was
conscious of what she was stating in 1925 and that it was done at her own
instance and not at the instance of Basekhi and that she must have known that
by that statement she became the widow of a predeceased son and would therefore
not be entitled to the property of her father-in-law. In the circumstances we
hold in agreement with the High Court that that statement is admissible and it
completely overweighs the circumstances on which the appellant relies. In this
view of the matter we hold that Basudeo Narain died after the death of his
father Ramruch and it was one month or so after his death that Ramruch left the
village as he was greatly grieved on the premature death of his son and
afterwards disappeared. As Ramruch has not been heard of for more than seven
years after he disappeared from the village, he must be presumed to be dead and
the plaintiffs-respondents would in the circumstances be entitled to the
property of which he was the last maleholder. The appeal therefore must fail
except with respect to one item of property to which we shall refer just now.
161 [His lordship then held that in so far as
this item of property was concerned the appellant was entitled to half share.]
The appeal is hereby dismissed with costs subject to the modification indicated
Y.P. Appeal dismissed with modification.