Shiromani & Ors Vs. Hem Kumar
& Ors  INSC 91 (4 April 1968)
04/04/1968 RAMASWAMI, V.
CITATION: 1968 AIR 1299 1968 SCR (3) 639
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1981 SC 178 (106)
Indian Registration Act (16 of 1908),s. 17
(1) (b)-Partition of Property in specific shares-Deed not registered-
Pleadings-Plea of acquiescence-Not raised in
pleadings- Cannot be allowed to be set up subsequently.
Hindu Law--Agharia caste-Custom of Jethansi
allowing larger share of family property to eldest son--Outmoded custom loses
Indian Evidence Act (1 of 1872), s. 91-Bar on
D died in 1940 leaving certain agricultural
land as well as house property. He had two children by his first wife the elder
of whom was respondent no.. 1. By his second wife, appellant no. 2, he had a
son, appellant no'. 1. The family belonged to the Agharia caste and was
governed by the Benares School of Hindu Law. In 1956 Appellants 1 and 2 filed a
suit in the Court of the Civil Judge Raigarh (now in Madhya Pradesh) claiming
that they were entitled to 1/4 th share each in D's estate and that there
should be a partition by metes and bounds of joint family property.
According to their pleadings Ex.D-4 dated
December 27, 1943 by which appellant no. 2 accepted a lesser share of the
properties than was due to her and her son was executed as a result of coercion
by respondent no. 1. The latter along with other respondents contested the
suit, relying on Ex.D-
4. The trial court, the first appellate
court, as well as the High Court decided against the appellants who by special
leave came to this Court. The questions that fell for consideration were : (i)
whether Ex.D-4 was admissible in evidence without having been registered; (ii)
whether Appellant No. 2 was precluded from demanding her share because her
signing of Ex. D-4 showed acquiescence on her part; (iii) whether a higher
share for respondent no. 1 was justified because of the custom of Jethansi in
the Agharia caste according to which the eldest son was entitled to a larger
-share than others; (iv) whether it was open to the respondents to give oral
evidence of actual partition subse- quent to the execution of Ex.D-4.
HELD: (i) The recitals in Ex.D-4 showed that
there was allotment of specific properties to individual co-parceners and the
document therefore fell within the mischief of s. 17(1) (b) of the Registration
Act. It followed that Ex.D-4 was not admissible in evidence to prove the title
of any of the coparceners to any particular property or to prove that any
particular property had ceased to be joint -property.
The document was only admissible to prove an
intention on the part of the co-parceners to become divided in status.
[643 F-H] Nanni Bai v. Gita Bai,  S.C.R.
479, relied on.
(ii) There was no pleading on behalf of the
respondents and no issue framed to the effect that by signing Ex.D-4 appellant
no. 2 had acquiesced in the division of properties among her sons without
claiming the share to which she was entitled under the Mitakshara Law of the
Benares 640 School. The respondents therefore could not be allowed to set up
the plea of acquiescence by appellant no. 2 [L644 E] (iii) The doctrine of
"Jethansi" or "Jeshtbhagam" is now obsolete and
unenforceable. The principle of Hindu Law is equality of division and the
exceptions to that rule, have almost, if not altogether disappeared. As between
brothers or other relations absolute equality is now the invariable rule in all
the States, unless, perhaps, where some special family Custom to the contrary
is made out. The respondents had failed to prove that such a custom was
prevalent in the caste of Agharias to which the parties belonged. [644 F-G; 645
F-G; 646 A-F] M. Y. A. A. Nachiappa Chettiar v. M. Y. A. A. Muthu Karuppan
Chettiar, A.I.R. 1946 Mad. 398 and Hur- Purshad v. Sheo Dyal, 3 I.A. 259 at p.
285, referred to.
(iv) The evidence showed that document Ex.D-4
was intended by the parties to be the sole evidence of partition and since it
had been held that Ex.D.4 was not admissible in evidence on account of
non-registration to establish when the property was so partitioned, it was
manifest that no oral evidence was admissible to prove any subsequent partition
having regard to the provisions of s. 91 of the Evidence Act. [L 646 G-647 A]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeals
Nos. 749 and 750 of 1965.
Appeals by special leave from the judgment
and decree dated November 8, 1963 of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in second
appeals Nos. 569 and 568 of 1960 respectively.
S. V. Gupte and G. L. Sanghi, for the
appellants (in both the appeals).
Sarjoo Prasad and D. N. Mukherjee, for the
respondents (in both the appeals).
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Civil Appeal No. 749 of 1965:
Ramaswami, J. This appeal is brought, by
special leave, from the judgment of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Jabalpur
dated November 8, 1963 in Second Appeal No. 569 of 1960.
Respondents nos. 1 and 3, Hemkumar and
Dinomani and appellant no. 1 Shiromani are the sons of late Dharam Singh
Agharia. Appellant no. 2 Mst. Subhagwati is the second wife of Dharam Singh and
the mother of appellant no. 1. Mst.
Jampalhin, the mother of respondents 1 and 3
died before Dharam 641 Singh married appellant no. 2. The relationship of the parties
will appear from the following pedigree Dharam Singh :
First wife: Mst. Jampalhin Second wife: Mst.
Subhagwati (Plff. No. 2) :
(Plff. No. 1)
---------------------------------------------------------------- : :
Hem Kumar Dinmani (Dfdt. No. 1) (Dfdt. No. 3)
Etwar Singh Chandra Bhusan Singh (Dfdt. No.
2) (Dfdt. No. 4) It is not disputed that the parties are governed by the
Benares, School of Hindu Law. It appears that Dharam Singh was murdered in 1940
and his son Hemkumar was involved as an accused but he, was acquitted in that
Subhagwati, appellant no. 2 appeared as a
prosecution witness in the murder case and deposed against Hemkumar. At the
tingle of his death, Dharam Singh had left 102.28 acres of ryoti land in
village Tilgi and 16.56 acres of ryoti land at village Supaka and also some
Appellants 1 and 2 instituted C.S. no. 43-A
of 1956 in the court of the Civil Judge, First Class, Raigrah claiming that
they were entitled to 1/4 th share each of Dharam Singh's estate and there
should be partition by metes and bounds of the joint family proper-ties. They
challenged the validity of Ex. D-4 dated December 27, 1943. It was alleged that
Mst. Subhagwati was compelled by Hemkumar under threat of violence to execute
the deed, Ex. D-4. It was said that the deed Ex. D-4 was prejudicial to
Shiromani who was a minor at that time because he was given less than the share
to which he was entitled and his mother Mst. Subhagwati was also not given her
due share of 'joint family properties.
The appellants accordingly prayed that there
should be a fresh partition by metes and bounds of the joint family pro-
perties and they should be given 1/4 th share each therein.
The suit was resisted by the respondents on
the ground that the parties were bound by the deed of partition, Ex. D-4 and
there was no ground for reopening the partition which had already taken place.
The trial judge found that the partition deed. Ex. D-4 dated December 27, 1943
was not executed by Mst. Subhagwati under undue influence and that document was
acted upon. If was further held by the trial judge that though the partition
642 deed did not reserve any share to Mst. Subhagwati, the appellants were not
entitled to reopen the partition because Mst. Subhagwati was not entitled to a
share and Hemkumar was entitled to an increased share on account of the custom
of "Jethansi". The appellants took the matter in appeal to the
District Judge of Raigarh but the appeal was dismissed.
The appellants preferred a Second Appeal to
the High Court of Madhya Pradesh which dismissed the Second Appeal. The High
Court took the view that the deed, Ex. D-4 was neither an award nor was it a
document effecting partition of immovable properties of the value of more than
Rs. 100. It was held that Ex. D-4 was admissible in evidence in order to show
that there was separation of status between the coparceners. The High Court
also rejected the plea of the appellants that the partition should be reopened
because it did not give a share to Mst. Subhagwati. According to the Benares
School of Hindu Law, Mst. Subhagwati was entitled to a share in the joint
family properties equal to that of a son but the High Court found that there was
a clear acquiescence on the part of Mst. Subhagwati when she executed the deed,
Ex. D-4 and it must be taken that -she relinquished her share in favour of the
On the question of "Jethansi"
,claimed by Hemkumar, the High Court found that the evidence ,established the
custom of "Jethansi" whereby the elder son was, given a greater share
in the property of his father. On the basis ,of these findings the High Court
dismissed the Second Appeal.
The first question to be considered in this appeal
is whether the deed, Ex. D-4 dated December 27, 1943 is admissible in
:evidence. On behalf of the appellants Mr.
Gupte put forward the argument that the
document is inadmissible in evidence as it effected the partition of the
properties of the value of more than Rs. 100 and it was not registered. It was
argued that there was allotment of specific properties to individual
coparceners in this document and its registration was therefore compulsory
under s. 17 (1 ) (b) of the Registration Act. In our opinion, the argument put
forward on behalf of the appellants is well- founded and must be accepted as
correct. It was contended on behalf of the respondents that the document was
not necessary to be registered because there was only severance of joint status
of the members of the coparcenary and there was no partition of the properties
by metes and bounds. It is not possible to accept this argument -as correct.
The relevant portion of Ex. D-4 is to the following effect :
"For the partition of our joint land in
Mauza Tilgi and Supa and house and utensils etc. and Dhan, movable and
immovable property, amongst us three brothers, the Panchas have been appointed.
The partition and distribution effected by the under-mentioned 643 Panchas will
be acceptable to us and also the undermentioned conditions will also have to be
accepted by us.
1. Out of lease land in Mauza Tilgi and Mauza
Supa totalling 123 acres, Hem Kumar's share including Jethosi will be 51 acres
that is 51 shares and Dinmani's 39 acres that is 39 shares and minor
Shiromani's whose guardian is Smt. Subhagwati 33 acres that is 33 shares.
The three of them will be in possession of
the same. Out of 123 acres of land, the land near Munga Tikra Gara Para will be
given to Dinmani and minor Shiromani through guardian Smt.
Subhagwati for building a house instead of
the old house. For building of the house in Munga Tikra the three brothers will
give Rs. 60.
Out of the 'Mitti Khatu' and Gobar khatu,
there is in the house, after deducting Hemkumar's tenth share will be divided
into three equal shares amongst the three brothers and they will take it so.
They will also divide the buried Khatu into their shares.
5 . That out of the old house the house on
the side of the village the length of which is 30 haath and the stone used in
it and the house on the side of 'Patav' the length of which is 30 haath, is
given to Hem Kumar in his share and as Jethosi and the Bamboo, wood etc. used
in the other house is given to the two brothers Dinmani and Shiromani. Besides
the house and Kotha there is old and new wood and 3 new doors. All this is
given to Dinmani and Shiromani." With regard to ryoti lands, para I
definitely states that Hemkumar is allotted 51 acres, Dinmani 39 and Shiromani
33 acres. With regard to the joint family house there is partition between the
three brothers by metes and bounds and specific shares are given to each. In
view of the recitals in Ex. D-4 we are of opinion that there is allotment of
specific properties to individual coparceners and the document therefore falls
within the mischief of s. 17 (1) (b) of the Registration Act. It follows that
Ex. D-4 is not admissible in evidence to prove the title of any of the
coparceners to any particular property or to prove that any particular property
has ceased to be joint property. Of course, the document is admissible to prove
an intention on the part of the coparceners to become divided in status; in
other words, to prove that the parties ceased to be joint from the date of the
instrument dated December 27, 1943 (See the decision of this Court in Nanni Bai
v. Gita Bail).
(1)  S. C. R. 479.
644 We proceed to consider the next question
arising in this a peal, namely, whether Mst. Subhagwati was entitled to a
share, p in the joint family properties equal to that of a son and whether the
alleged partition effected by Ex. D-4 was invalid because no such share was
allotted to her. It is not disputed on behalf of the respondents that according
to the Mitakshara Law of the Benares School a wife is entitled, on partition
between her sons, to a share equal to that of a son. But the contention put
forward on behalf of the respondents is that by signing the document, Ex. D-4
Mst. Subhagwati acquiesced in the division of the properties between her sons
without claiming any share for herself and it must consequently be taken that
Subhagwati relinquished her share. It was
pointed out that Ex. D-4 was executed on December 27, 1943 and for a period of
1 1 years Mst. Subhagwati did not take any action to impeach that document. We
are unable to accept the argument put forward on behalf of the respondents as
correct. There is no issue in the trial court regarding the alleged
acquiescence of Mst. Subhagwati, nor was it pleaded on behalf of the
respondents that there was an agreement by which Mst. Subhagwati gave up her
share in favour of the other coparceners. On the contrary, it is alleged in
para 9 of the Written Statement that Subhagwati was not entitled to any.share
and therefore the partition alleged to be effected by Ex. D-4 was not
prejudicial to the interests of plaintiff no. 1. To, put it differently, there
is no pleading on the part of respondents of acquiescence by Mst.
Subhagwati and there is no issue on the
question of acquiescence. We are accordingly unable to accept the argument of
the respondents that there was acquiescence on the part of Mst. Subhagwati or
that she relinquished her share in favour of the other coparceners and the
finding of the High Court on this point is erroneous.
We pass on to consider the next question
arising in this appeal, namely, whether Hemkumar was entitled to a greater
share of joint family properties for the reason that he was the eldest brother
on the principle of "Jethansi". But the doctrine of
"Jethansi" or "Jeshtbhagam" is now obsolete and
unenforceable. The principle of Hindu Law is equality of division and the
exceptions to that rule have almost, if not altogether, disappeared. One of the
exceptions was in favour of the eldest son, who was originally entitled to a
special share on partition, either a tenth or a twentieth in excess of the
others, or some special chattel, or an extra portion of the flocks (Apastamba,
11, 6, 14, 10-13; Baudh., 11, 2, 2-5; Gaut., XXVIII, 11, 12; Vas., XVII, 42-45;
Manu, TX. 112, 114, 156). But unequal partition of ancestral or joint property
was from early times condemned. The Smritichandrika, the Vyavahara Mayukha and'
the Viramitrodaya declare that unequal partition is forbidden in the Kali age
(Smritichandrika, TIT, 16; V. May., IV, iv, 11;
Viramit., 645 III, 16 (Setlur's ed., 319).
The Commentary of Mitakshara on Yajnavalkya. 11. 117 is briefly as follows :
"Unequal division though found in 'the
sastras (e.g. Manu IX. 105, 112, 116, 117, Yaj. II.
114) should not be practised because it has come
to be condemned (or has become hateful to) by the people, since there is the
prohibition (in Yaj. 1. 156) that an action, though prescribed in the sastras,
should not be performed when it has come to be condemned by the people, since
such an action does not lead to the attainment of Heaven. For example, though
Yaj. 1. 109 prescribes the offering of a big ox or a coat to a learned brahmana
guest, it is not now practised because E people have come to hate it:; or just
as, although there is a Vedic text laying down the sacrificing of a cow 6 one
should sacrifice a barren cow called anubandhya for Mitra and Varuna', still it
is not done because people condemn it. And it has been said 'just as the
practice of niyoga or the killing of the anubandhya cow is not now in vogue, so
also division after giving a F special share (to the eldest son) does not now
As between brothers or other relations,
absolute equality is now the invariable rule in all the States, unless,
perhaps, where some special family custom to the contrary is made out (For
example, see the decision of the Madras High Court in M.Y.A.A. Nachi appa
Chettiar v. M.Y.A.A. Muthu Karuppan Chettiar(1).
On behalf of the respondents, however,
reliance was placed upon the special custom of "Jethansi" said to be
prevalent in the caste of Agharias to which the parties belong.
Reference was made to the evidence of D.W. 4,
Baratram, D.W. 5, Sitaram, D.W. 6, Yalobra and D.W. 7, Khewlal to show that
there was such a custom in the caste whereby the eldest son was given a greater
share in the property of the father.
Mr. Sarjoo Prasad took us through the
evidence of these witnesses but 'we are not (1) A. I. R. 946 Mad. 398.
646 satisfied on their evidence that the
custom pleaded for has been established. It is well-established that a custom
must be Proved to be ancient, certain and reasonable if it is to be recognised
and acted upon by Courts of law; and being in derogation of the general rules
of law the custom must be construed strictly (See Hur Purshad v. Sheo Dyal)
(1). In the, present case, the evidence adduced on behalf of the respondents to
prove the alleged custom is unsatisfactory and conflicting. D.W. 4, Baratram
stated that the custom of "Jethansi" was prevalent in Agharias
community but he admitted when cross-examined, that he was not present at any
partition. He further said that there was "no fixed custom about Jethansi
and the eldest brother could be given more or less". D.W: 5, Sitaram said
that "I got 16 acres of Jethansi land in a partition between my own
brother." The total area of land was 100 acres. He admitted that there was
no written document about the custom. D.W. 6, Yalobra said that his brother
Sita Ram got Jethansi land of 16 acres out of a total area of 100 acres. When
cross-examined, he said that no more than Dashanshi was given "and the
people who divided did not tell any account of it". The evidence of
Khewlal, D.S. 7 is that there was partition among his brothers and the eldest
brother Din Dayal was given 5-6 acres of land as Jethansi. The total area of
the land to be divided was 100 acres. No documentary evidence of partition has
been adduced on behalf of the respondents and the oral evidence is vague and
uncertain. We are accordingly of the opinion that 'the custom of Jethansi alleged
on behalf of the respondents has not been established by proper evidence and
the finding of the High Court is vitiated because it is not supported by proper
evidence. We accordingly reject the argument of the respondents that Hemkumar
was entitled to a larger share of the joint family properties on the basis of
the alleged custom of Jethansi in his caste.
On behalf of the respondents reference was
made to the evidence of D.W. 1 Dinamani and D.W. 2 Dindayal that there was an
actual partition of joint family properties not on December 27, 1943 when Ex.
D-4 was executed but about two months later and specific allotments were made
to each of the coparceners. There is, however, no pleading in the Written
Statement on behalf of the respondents that apart from the document, Ex. D-4
there was a partition of the joint family properties. We are satisfied in this
case, upon examination of the evidence, that the intention of the parties was
that document Ex. D-4 should be the sole evidence of partition and since we
have held that Ex. D-4 is not admissible in evidence on account of
non-registration to establish when the property was so partitioned, it is
manifest that no oral evidence is admissible to prove any subsequent partition -
(1) 3 T. A. 259, at p. 285.
647 having regard to the provisions of s. 91
of the Evidence Act. It is clear therefore that the appellants are entitled to
a preliminary decree for partition of joint family properties.
For the reasons expressed we hold that this
appeal should be allowed and the suit brought by the two appellants should be
decreed'. The appellants, Subhagwati and Shiromani are each entitled to 1/4 th
share in the joint family properties and there should be a preliminary decree
drawn up for the partition of 1/4 th share of the joint family properties for
each of the appellants, Mst. Subhagwati and Shiromani. The question as to what
are the joint family properties which are to be the subject-matter of partition
would be determined by the trial court in proceedings for the final decree. We
accordingly allow this appeal with costs.
Civil Appeal No. 750 of 1965 For the reasons
given by us in Civil Appeal No. 749 of 1965 we set aside the judgment of the
High Court in Second Appeal No. 568 of 1960 and C.S. No. 36-A of 1956 filed by
Dinmani is dismissed. We accordingly allow this appeal with costs.
There will be one hearing fee for both this
appeal and Civil Appeal No. 749 of 1965.