S. Shanmugam Pillai & Ors Vs. K.
Shanmugam Pillai & Ors  INSC 142 (4 May 1972)
CITATION: 1972 AIR 2069 1973 SCR (1) 570
CITATOR INFO :
R 1976 SC 807 (18,42) R 1976 SC1715 (12) R
1980 SC 312 (5) RF 1992 SC1110 (33)
Hindu Law-Widow's estate-Family
arrangement-Alienation by widow-When reversioners precluded from challenging
alienation-Charitable Trust-Tests for determining whether dedication complete
The last male-holder endowed some of his
properties for a charity the management of which was hereditary. His widows
alienated the properties inherited by them including the properties endowed.
The appellants, as reversioners, filed a suit for setting aside the alienations
and claiming the endowed properties as 'huqdars. The High Court dismissed the
HELD, dismissing the appeal, that the
appellants were precluded from questioning the alienations of the properties.
(i) Equitable principles such as estoppel,
election and family settlement are not mere technical rules of evidence.
They have an important purpose to serve in
the administration of justice and their scope should not be narrowed down.
An alienation by a Hindu widow is voidable
and not void. A reversioner to the estate of a deceased separated Hindu, who
has expressly assented to an alienation of property forming part of the estate,
made by the widow in possession, cannot on succeeding to the estate after the
widow's death repudiate his action and sue for possession of the property alienated
by the widow. If the presumptive reversioner is a minor at the time he has
taken a benefit under the transaction, the principle of estoppel will be
controlled by another rule governing the law of minors. A minor cannot be
compelled to take the benefit of a transaction which will have the effect of
depriving him of his legal rights when the succession opens. But a minor can,
after attaining majority, ratify the transaction entered into on his behalf by
his guardian. If he so ratifies the transaction entered into by his guardian
and accepts the benefit there under, there cannot be any. difference in the
application of the principle of election. If the original transaction
conferring the benefit was in favour of the minor his enjoyment of the benefit
after attaining the majority may in itself be a sufficient act of ratification.
[578 D-G] Krishna Beharilal v. Gulab Chand,  1 S.C.C. 837, T.
V. R. Subbu Chetty's Family Charities v. M.
Raghava Mudaliar and Ors.,  3 S.C.R. 624, Fateh Singh v. Thakur Rukmini
Pamanit Maharan, I.L.R. XIV All. 339 Jagarlpudi Seetharamayya v. Sarva
Chandralya  2 M.L. J. 162, Makineni Virayya v. Madamanchi Sapayya, 
1 M.L.J. 276, and Ramgouda Annagouda v. Bhausaheb, 54 I.A. 396, referred to.
Further, if a person having full knowledge of
his right as a possible reversioner enters into a transaction which settles his
claim as well as the claim of the opponents at the relevant time he cannot be
permitted to go back on that agreement when reversion actually falls open.
Although conflict of legal claims in present or in future is generally a
condition for the validity of family arrangements it is not necessarily so.
Even bona We disputes, present or possible, which may not involve legal claims
would be sufficient.
Members of a Joint Hindu family may, to
maintain peace 571 or to bring about harmony in the family, enter into such a
family arrangement. If such an agreement is entered into bona fide and the
terms thereto are fair in the circumstances of a particular case, the courts
would more, re-adily give assent to such an agreement than to avoid it.
[580 D, 581A] Sahu Madho Das v. Pandit Mukand
Ram,  2 S.C.R. 22, Maturi Pullaiah v. MaturI Narasimhan, A.I.R. 1966 S.C.
1836 and Krishna Beharilal v. Gulab Chand,  1 S.C.C. 837, referred to.
(ii) A dedication of a property to religious
or charitable purposes may be either complete or partial. If the dedication is
complete a trust in favour of a charity is created. If the dedication is
partial, a trust in favour of a charity is not created but a charge in favour
of charity is attached to, and follows the property which retains its original
private and secular character. Whether or not a dedication is complete would
naturally be a question of fact to be determined in each case on the terms of
the relevant document if the dedication in question was made under a document.
If the income of the property is substantially intended to be used for the
purpose of a charity and only an insignificant and minor portion of the income
is expected or required to be used and a substantial or the manager, it may be
possible to take the view that dedication is complete.
If on the other hand, for the maintenance of
charity a minor portion of the income is expected or required to be used and a
substantial surplus is left in the hands of the manager or worshipper for his
own private purposes, it would be difficult to accept the theory of complete
In the present case the appellants failed to
establish that the dedication was complete. The dedication being only partial
the properties retained the character of private properties and therefore the
widows had a beneficial interest in those properties.. [582 D-H] Menakuru
Dasaratharmal Reddi v. V. Duddukuru Subha Rao, A.I.R. 1957 S.C. 797. referred
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 693 of 1967.
Appeal from the judgment and decree dated
November 10, 1966 of the Madras High Court in Appeals Nos. 245 and 530 of 1961.
M. C.Chagla and B. R. Agrawala, for the
S. T. Desai, K. R. Nagaraja, D. P.Mohanthy
and S. Gopalakishnan, for the respondents Nos. 1, 3 and 4.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Hegde, J.-This is a plaintiffs' appeal by certificate. The plaintiffs sued for
possession of the properties described in Sch. I and IV of the plaint as
reversioners of one V.
Rm. Shanmugam Pillai who admittedly was the
last male holder of those properties as well as several other properties. They
also claimed past and future mesne profits in respect of those properties.
Properties detailed in Sch.
1 were said to have been endowed for a
charity by name Annadhana Chatram Charity. The plaintiffs claimed possession of
those properties as "Huqdars". They claimed possession of Sch. IV
properties as reversioners. The trial court 572 decreed the plaintiffs' claim
in part. It gave a decree in favour of the plaintiffs in respect of plaint Sch.
1 properties but dismissed their claim regarding Plaint-Sch.
IV properties. Both the parties appealed
Against the judgment and decree of the trial court. The High Court allowed the
appeal of the defendants and dismissed that of the plaintiffs. In the result
the entire suit was dismissed.
In order to examine the various contentions
advanced at the hearing, it' is necessary to state in brief various events that
took place prior to the institution of the suit. One Ramalingam Pillai was the
owner of a substantial part of the suit properties. He had a brother by name
Ramalingam Pillai's wife pre-deceased him. He
had no children. Ramalingani Pillai and Kuppan Pillai had married sisters.
Ramalingam Pillai in 1898 but Kuppan Pillai had pre-deceased him. He had died
in 1894, leaving behind him his two daughters Palani Achi Ammal and Pichai
Kuppan Pillai's wife had also predeceased
Ramalingam Pillai had brought up his
brother's daughters Palani Achi Ammal and Pichai Amnial as his foster
Before his death, Ramalingam Pillai had got
married Palani Achi Ammal to V. Rm. Shanmugham Pillai, his maternal uncle's son
by his first wife. The said Shanmugam Pillai was associated with Ramalingam
Pillai in his business. Du September 29, 1898 Ramalingam Pillai executed a
settlement deed (Ex. A-2) settling his properties principally on Palani Achi
Ammal, Pichai Ammal and Shanmugam Pillai Under that dead, he gave some
properties to his deceased wife's sister's son, Subramania Pillai. Subramania
Pillai was the son of Chitravadavammal, sister of the wives of Ramalingam
Pillai and Kuppan Pillai. Under Ex. A-2 Plaint-Sch. I properties except item
No. 4. were set apart for charities which Ramalingam Pillai was carrying on.
Under that document Shanmugam Pillai was declared "Huqdars" of the
afore mentioned Annadhana charity. The Huqdarship was to be hereditary in the
family of Shammugam Pillai. Ramalingam died very soon after executing Ex. A-2.
After the-death of Ramalingam Pillai, Shanmugam Pillai took as his second wife
Pichai Ammal, the sister of his first wife Palani Achi Ammal. While managing
the Annadhana Charities, Shanmugam Pillai acquired ' item No. 4 of Sch. T. and
treated that property as that of the Charity. Shanmugam Pillai had no issues.
He had executed a will on December 19, 1926. It was a registered will. That
will be revoked on December 29, 1926. He died on December 31, 1926. After his
death, his widows put forward another will said to have been executed by him on
December 30, 1926 under which substantial bequests were made to Shanmugam
Pillai known as Vendor Shanmugam Pillai, the step brother of V. Rm. Shamnugam
Pillai as well as to his step sisters Irulammai and her husband Subramania
5 73 On September 29, 1898, the widows of V.
Rm. Shanmugam Pillai and Vendor Shanmugar Pillai, his sister Irulammai and her
husband Subramania Pillai entered into a registered agreement styled as
"agreement of peaceful settlement".
This document is marked as Ex. B-2. To that
document Vendor Shanmugam Pillai's sons, the present plaintiffs 1 and 2 were
also parties. At that time, they were minors. They were represented by their
father Vendor Shanmugam Pillai.
Ex. A-2 primarily affirms the alleged will
said to have been executed by V. Rm. Shanmugam Pillai on December 30, 1926. As
per the agreement entered into under Ex. B-2, Vendor Shanmugam Pillai obtained
possession of various items or properties left behind by V. Rm. Shanmugam
Pillai. In his turn he admitted that the widows of V. Rm. Shanmugam Pillai were
the absolute owners of. the properties said to have 'been bequeathed to them
under the alleged will dated December 30, 1926.. Ex. B-2 purports to be a'
family arrangement. In that deed Vendor Shanmugam Pillai acknowledged the right
of the widows to manage the charities and pass on that right to others.
Shortly after the execution of Ex. B-2, the
senior widow Palani Achi Ammal filed a suit for partition of the properties
mentioned in Ex. B-2. That suit was decreed.
Thereafter on July 20, 1931, the senior widow
settled the properties that she got as her share under the partition decree Ex.
B-3 on Kanthimathimatha Pillai, his wife Pichai Ammal and their minor daughters
as per the registered settlement deed Ex. B-3. This Pichai Ammal is the
daughter of Subramania Pillai son of the original settlor's wife's sister
Chitravadamal. The two widows Palani Achi Ammal and Pichai Ammal had brought up
Pichai Ammal daughter of Subramania Pillai as their foster daughter and had got
her married to the aforesaid Kanthimathinatha Pillai. The settlement proceeds
on the basis that Palani Achi Ammal is absolutely entitled to the properties
settled. Thereafter the junior widow Pichal Ammal settled the properties that
she got under the partition decree in favour of Palani Pillai, the 4th
defendant in the suit, as per the registered settlement deed Ex. B-4 dated
December 20, 1937. Palani Pillai is the son of Kanthimathinatha Pillai. He is
referred to in the settlement deed as the second son of the foster daughter of
the widows, Pichal Ammal.
After the execution of Ex. B-2, Sankaralingam
Pillai, brother of Vendor Shanmugam Pillai who was not a party to Ex. B-2 filed
a suit for declaration that the alleged will dated December 30. 1926 is a
forged document. The suit was decreed. The trial court held the will put
forward to be a forgery. Palani Achi Ammal and Pichai Ammal were defendants in
that suit. The defendants appealed against the decision of the trial court.
When 574 the matter was pending in appeal in the High Court Sankaralingam
Pillai died. Thereafter the third plaintiff who was his adopted son was brought
on record as the legal representative of Sankaralingam Pillai. He was
represented by his guardian Meenakshi Ammal. That appeal was dismissed.
The High Court came to the conclusion that on
the evidence on record, it was not satisfied about the genuineness of the will.
The present third plaintiff became major in 1938.
Even after obtaining a decree in his favour
in the will suit, the third plaintiff entered into an agreement with the two
widows on October 27, 1938 (Ex. B-5). Under this deed he took substantial
properties and acknowledged the absolute right of the widows as regards the
other properties detailed therein. It may be noted that by the time Ex. B 5
be executed alienations in favour of
Defendants 1 to 4 had already taken place. Under Ex. B-5, the third plaintiff
also acknowledged the right of those defendants who were also parties to that
deed, to the properties settled on them. Further under that document the third
plaintiff acknowledged the right of the two widows and defendants 1 to 4 to
manage the properties set apart for charities.
We have earlier mentioned that at the time
Ex. B-2 was executed, plaintiffs 1 to 2 were minors. As seen earlier, the
father of the plaintiffs had secured for himself and for is sons several items
of properties under that agreement.
The first plain tiff became major on January
10, 1931 Thereafter he, on his own behalf and as the guardian of his minor
brother joined his aunt, Irulammal in partitioning the properties jointly
obtained by them under Ex. B-2. Ex. B10 dated October 11, 1931 is a settlement
deed executed by the first plaintiff for himself-and as the guardian of his
brother, the second plaintiff settling some of the properties obtained under
Ex. B-2 on their sister. The second plaintiff after becoming a major joined
with the first plaintiff in conveying an item of property secured under Ex. B-2
in favour of one Subbiah Konar (Ex. B-11).
Plaintiffs 1 and 2 effected various
alienations under Ex.B-12, B-15 and B-16 to B-42 of the properties obtained by
them under Ex. B-2. All these transactions proceeded on the basis that the
arrangement entered into under B-2 as was valid one. Those transactions show
that plaintiffs 1 and 2 ratified the arrangement made under Ex. B-2. The third
plaintiff in his turn alienated several items of the property obtained by him
under Ex. B-5. On October 16, 1939, he sold some portions of that property
under Ex. B-34 for Rs. 4,000/-. Again under Ex. B-36, he sold some other items
on July 13, 1953 for a sum of Rs. 25,000/-. He also effected certain exchanges
under Ex. B-34 and B-35., All these transactions proceeded on the basis that
the arrangement made under Ex. B-5 was a valid 575 one. Having set out the
course of events, we shall now examine whether it is open to the plaintiffs to
challenge the alienations effected in favour of D-1 to D-4.
We shall first take up the question whether
the alienation of the Plaint-Sch. IV properties by Palani Achi Ammal and Pichai
Ammal is open to challenge. There is now no dispute that these two widows had
only widows' estate in the properties left by their husband. The impugned
alienations were not effected to meet any necessity of the estate of the
deceased last male holder. Hence prima facie, the impugned alienations, are not
binding on the reversioners. But it is now well settled that an alienation by a
Hindu widow is only void-able and not void. The reversioners may or may not
choose to avoid the same,-see Ramgouda Annagouda and ors. v.Bhausaheb and ors.
(1) and T. V. R. Subbu Chetty's Family Charities v. M. Raghava Mudaliar and
Both the trial court as well as the appellate
court have come to the conclusion that the plaintiffs are not entitled to avoid
the alienations in question either on the ground of estoppel or election.
So far as the third plaintiff is concerned,
he is clearly estopped from challenging those alienations made. As seen earlier
even after the High Court came to the conclusion that the will put forward by
the widows is not proved to be genuine, he entered into an agreement with those
widows under which he obtained some properties as absolute owner.
In his turn he acknowledged the right of the
widows to the remaining properties including those that had been alienated in
favour of defendants 1 to 4. As seen earlier by the time Ex. B-5. came to be
executed on October 27, 1938, the alienations in favour of defendants 1 to had
D-1 to D-4 were parties to Ex.-B-5. It is
clear from Ex. B5 that the, third plaintiff was aware of those alienations.
In Ex. B-5, he accepted the validity of those
In other words with full knowledge of facts
the third plaintiff represented to the widows as well as to defendants 1 to
4-that he accepts the validity of the alienations in favour of defendants 1 to
4. By doing so he secured immediate advantage of getting possession of fairly
extensive properties which he would not have otherwise got till the death of
the two widows. Hence he is clearly estopoed from contesting the validity of
the alienations in favour of defendants 1 to 4.
The claim of the third plaintiff may be
examined from another angle. It is seen from the record that within about a
month of the decision of the High Court in the litigation relating to the will,
the guardian of the third plaintiff entered into a compromise (1) 54 I.A. 396.
(2)  3 S.C.R. 624.
576 with the two widows possibly with a view
to avoid further litigation. Evidently in pursuance, of that agreement Ex.B-5
came to be executed after the third plaintiff became a major. Hence Ex. B-5 can
be considered as a family settlement. That is not all. As seen earlier after he
became a major, on the strength of Ex. B-5, he alienated several items of
property obtained by him under that document. We shall presently examine the
relevant decisions but at present it is sufficient to say that the third plaintiff
is precluded from challenging the validity of the alienation made in favour of
defendants 1 to 4.
Let us now examine whether plaintiffs 1 and 2
can challenge the alienations made in favour of defendants 1 to 4. The trial
court has come to the conclusion that they are estopped from challenging the
validity of the alienations in favour of defendants 1 to 4 in respect of the
properties mentioned in Plaint-Sch. IV. The High Court has affirmed that.
decision on the ground that after they became majors they had elected to stand
by Ex. B-2. Hence they cannot challenge the alienations in question. We have
earlier seen that very soon after the death of V. Rm. Shanmugam Pillai, the
father of the plaintiffs, Vendor Shanmugam Pillai on his own behalf and as the
guardian of plaintiffs 1 and 2 entered into an agreement with the widows of V.
Rm. Shanmumugam Pillai (Ex. B-2). Under that agreement he secured immediate
possession of considerable properties for himself and his minor sons,
plaintiffs 1 and 2. Under Ex. B-2, Vendor Shanmugam Pillai by implication,
admitted the genuineness of the alleged will of V. Rm. Shanmugam, Pillai which
was ultimately found to be not genuine by the High Court as seen earlier. But
for the agreement under Ex. B-2 Vendor Shanmugam Pillai would not have got any
portion of the properties left by V. Rm. Shanmugam Pillai during the life time
of the widows of V. Rm. Shanmugam Pillai. It was said that at the time when Ex.
B-2 was entered into V.Rm.Shanmugam Pillai might not have been aware of the
fact that the will put forward by the widows was not a genuine one. Our
attention was invited to the finding of the trial court that Ex. B-2, was a
part of a scheme on the part of the widows of V. Rm. Shanmugam Pillai and
Vendor Shanmugam Pillai to defeat the claims of Sankarlingam Pillai, the father
of the third plaintiff. It is true that the plaintiffs who were minors on the
date of Ex. B-2 would not have been bound by the agreement contained therein if
they had not chosen to stand by it. It was oven to them on attaining majority
either to stand by the agreement or renounce the same. By the time they
attained majority, the will case had been decided by the High Court. It is
reasonable to assume that they were aware of the fact that the High Court had
come to the conclusion that the will put forward was not genuine. Therefore 577
it was open to them to denounce the agreement under Ex. B2,But they did not
choose to do so. On the other hand they not only continued to enjoy the
properties that they and their father got under Ex. B-2 but also went on
allienating various items of those properties, see Ex. B-9, B-10, B-11, B-12,
B-15 and B-16 to B-42. From these transactions, it is clear that plaintiffs 1
and 2 ratified the agreement entered into under Ex. B-2. It is also reasonable
to hold that after becoming majors instead of renouncing the benefit obtained
under Ex. B-2, they elected to stand by that agreement and retained the benefit
obtained under that document.
Ex. B-2 and B-5 read together may also be
considered as constituting a family arrangement. The plaintiffs and the widows
of V. Rm. Shanmugam Pillai are near relations.
There were several disputes between the
parties. The parties must have thought it wise that instead of spending their
money and energy in courts, to settle their disputes amicably. The father of
plaintiffs 1 and 2 and later on the plaintiffs were only presumptive
reversioners, so also was the third plaintiff. None of them had any vested
right in the suit properties till the death of the widows. Hence first the
father of plaintiffs 1 and 2 and later on the plaintiffs must have thought that
a bird in hand is worth more than two in the bush. If in the interest of the
family properties or family peace the close relations had settled their
disputes amicably, this court will be reluctant to disturb the same. The courts
generally lean in favour of family arrangements.
Equitable principles such as estoppel,
election, family settlement etc. are not mere technical rules of evidence.
They have an important purpose to serve in
the administration of _justice. The ultimate aim of the law is to secure
justice. In recent times in order to render justice between the parties, courts
have been liberally relying on those principles. We would hesitate to narrow
down their scope.
Now let, us proceed to consider the decided
cases read to us at the hearing of the appeal.
In Fateh Singh v. Thakur Rukmini Ramanji
Maharaj(1), a Full Bench, of the Allahabad High Court held that a reversioner
to the estate of a deceased separated Hindu, who has expressly assented to an
alienation of property forming part of the estate, made by the widow in
possession, cannot on succeeding to the estate after the widow's death
repudiate his action and sue for possession of the property alienated by the
widow. The ratio of that decision clearly applies to the claim made by the
third plaintiff in this case.
578 In Jagarlapudi Seetharamayya v. Sarva
Chandrayya and ors.,(1) Andhra Pradesh High Court was Called upon to consider a
claim somewhat similar to that made by plaintiffs 1 and 2. Therein the court
ruled that during the life time of the widow a presumptive reversioner has only
a Spec successionis in the estate of the last mate holder and he cannot,
therefore, purport to convey the Said interest or otherwise deal with it. His
rights in the property would be crystallised only after succession opens.. But
after succession opens or even during the widow's life time he may elect to
stand by the transaction entered into by the widow or otherwise ratify it, in
which case he would be precluded from questioning the transaction. Proceeding
further the court enumerated the three classes of estoppels that may arise for
consideration in dealing with reversioner's challenge to a widow's alienation.
They are : ( 1 ) that which is embodied in s. 1 1 5 of the Evidence Act, (2)
election in the strict sense of the term whereby the person electing takes a
benefit under the transaction and (3) ratification, i.e., agreeing to abide by
the transaction. A presumptive reversioner coming under any one of the
aforesaid categories is precluded from questioning the transaction, when
succession opens and when he becomes the actual reversioner. But if the
presumptive reversioner is a minor at the time he has taken a benefit under the
transaction, the principle of estoppel win be controlled by another rule
governing the law of minors. A minor obviously cannot be compelled to take the
benefit of a transaction which will have the effect of depriving him of his legal
rights when the succession opens. But a minor can certainly after attaining
majority ratify the transaction entered into on his behalf by his guardian. If
he so ratifies the transaction entered into by his guardian and accepts the
benefit there under, there cannot be any difference in the application of the
principle of election. The effect would be the same. It is as if he was a major
at the time the transaction was affected and the benefit was conferred on him.
What he could not do at the time of the transaction must be deemed to have been
done by him by his act of ratification. It may be that on attaining majority he
has the option to disown the transaction and disgorge the benefit or to accept
it and adopt it as his own. Whether after attaining majority the quandum minor
accepted the benefit or disowned it, is a question to be decided on the facts.
of each case.
In the course of the judgment Subba Rao C.J.
(as he then was) dealing with the case of persons who were minors at the time
the transaction was entered into observed "The mere act of succession to
the father may not amount to ratification as the son's enjoyment is consistent
(1)  2, M.L.J. P. 162.
579 with his right of inheritance to the
father. But he can either expressly or by necessary implication ratify the
transaction entered into by the father. But if the original transaction
conferring the benefit was in favour of the minor, different considerations
would arise. His enjoyment of the benefit after attaining majority may in
itself be a sufficient act of ratification." In support of the contention
that the plaintiffs are not estopped which expression includes not only the
estoppel proper but also "election" Mr. M. C. Chagla, learned Counsel
for the appellants relied on the decision of a Division Bench of the Madras
High Court in Makineni Virayya and ors.
v. Madamanchi Bapayya(1). On the facts of
that case, the learned judge came to the conclusion that the plaintiffsreversioners
in that case were not estopped from claiming the suit property on the death of
the widow. But in the course of his judgment, after examining several decisions
Patanjali Sastri J. (,as he then was) speaking for the Court observed
"These decisions will be found on examination to proceed on the principle
that an allienation by a Hindu widow without justifying necessity is not void
but only voidable at the instance of the reversionary heir who may either
affirm or avoid it, but will be precluded from questioning it if he does
something which amounts to an affirmation of the transaction. Such election to
hold the sale good, as it has sometimes been expressed, may, it has been held,
take place even before the death of the widow while the reversionary heir was
only a presumptive reversioner." In our opinion this decision instead of
helping the, plaintiffs definitely supports the contentions of the defendants.
It was urged on behalf of the plaintiffs that
it was not permissible for the father of the plaintiffs 1 and 2 as well as the
third plaintiff to transfer their contingent interest as remote reversioners;
hence we must hold that the transactions entered into under Exs. B-2 to B-5
were wholly void. This contention can best be answered by quoting a passage
from the decision of the Judicial Committee in Ramgouda Annagouda's case ( 2 ).
Therein repelling a similar contention the Judicial Committee observed "It
was argued that Annagouda's contingent interest as a remote reversioner could
not be validly sold by him, as it was a mere spec succession is, and an
agreement to sell such interest would also be void in law. It is not necessary
to consider that question because he did not (1)  1, M.L.J. 276.
(2) 54 I.A. 396.
580 in fact either sell or agree to sell his
reversionary interest. It is settled law that an alienation by a widow in
excess of her powers is not altogether void but only voidable by the
reversioners, who may either singly or as a 'body be precluded from exercising
their right to avoid it either by express ratification or by acts which treat
it as valid or binding." It is true that a widow cannot enlarge her own
estate by entering into a contract. But as observed by this Court. in Krishna
Beharilal V. Gulab Chand(1):
"It is well settled that a Hindu widow
cannot enlarge her estate by entering into a compromise with third parties to
the prejudice of the ultimate reversioner. But the same will not be true if
the, compromise is entered into with persons who ultimately become the
reversioners." As observed by this Court in T. V. R. Subbu Chetty's Family
Charities Case (supra), that if a person having full knowledge of his right as
a possible reversioner enters into a tra nsaction which settles his claim as
well as the claim of the opponents at the relevant time, he cannot be permitted
to go back on that agreement when reversion actually falls open.
The application of the tests laid down in the
above decisions leads to the firm conclusion that, the plaintiffs are precluded
from questioning the alienations of the various items of property covered by
Sch. IV of the plaint.
Now turning to the plea of family
arrangement, as observed by this Court in Sahu Madho Das and ors. v. Pandit
Mukand Ram and another(2), the Courts lean strongly in favour of family
arrangements that bring about harmony in a family and do justicto its various
members and avoid, in anticipation, future disputes which might ruin them all.
As observed in that case the family arrangement can as a matter of law be
inferred from a long course of dealings between the parties.
In Maturi Pullaiah and anr. v. Maturi Harasimhan
this Court held that although conflict of
legal claims in presenti, or in future is generally a condition for the
validity of family arrangements, it is not necessarily so.
Even bona-fide disputes present or possible,
which may not involve legal claims would be sufficient. Members of a joint
Hindu family may, to maintain peace or to bring about harmony in the family,
enter into such i (1)  S.C.C 837. (3)  2, S.C. R. 22, (2) A.I.R.
1966 S.C 1836.
581 family arrangement. If such an agreement
is entered into bona. fide and the terms thereto are fair in the circumstances
of a particular case, the courts would more readily give assent to such an
agreement than to avoid it.
In Krishna Beharilal's case (supra), this
"The dispute between the parties was in
respect of a certain property which was originally owned by their common
ancestor namely Chhedilal. To consider a settlement as a family arrangement, it
is not necessary that the parties to the compromise should all belong to one
family. As observed by this Court in Ram Charan Das v. Girjanandini Devi and
 3, S.C.R. 841, the word
"family" in the context of a family arrangement is not to 'be
understood in a narrow sense of being a group of persons who are recognised in
law as having a right of succession or having a claim to a $hare in the
property in dispute. If the dispute which is settled is one between near
relations then the settlement of such a dispute can be considered as a-family
arrangementsee Ramcharan Das]s case (supra)." Judged by the tests laid
down in these decisions, we can reasonably come to the conclusion that Ex. B-2
and B-5 read together brought about a family settlement.
This leaves us with the dispute relating to
properties set out in Sch. I of the plaint.
So far as the properties set out in Sch. I of
the paint are concerned, the High Court and the trial court have reached
different conclusions. The trial court held that under Ex.
A-2, Ramalingam Pillai had made a complete
dedication of those properties for charities and the management of the
charities had been left to V. Rm. Shanmugam Pillai and after him to his
successors. On the basis of those conclusions that Court held that the
alienation of those properties is invalid and not binding, on the plaintiffs.
The High Court felt unable to come to any
firm conclusion on the evidence on record, as to whether the dedication made
under Ex. A-2 by Ramalingam Pillai was complete or partial.
Further it came to the conclusion that the
plaintiffs are precluded from questioning the management of those properties by
defendants 1 to 4 in view of the various transactions between the parties
referred to earlier.
It may be noted that the parties are agreed
that charities mentioned in Ex. A-2 have to be conducted in accordance with the
directions given in Ex. A-2. The only question is who should conduct them. The
further controversy between the parties is whether the dedication made under
Ex. A-2 is partial or complete.
532 We agree with the High Court that the evidence
on record is not satisfactory enough to reach a firm conclusion as to the
nature of the dedication. Plaintiffs have failed to adduce acceptable evidence
as regards the income of the properties set apart for charities. That being so,
even if we accept the estimate made by the trial court regarding the expenses
to be incurred for conducting those charities, we have no basis to find out the
extent of the surplus that is likely to be left in the hands of the persons who
manage those charities. Under the-se circumstances it is not possible to come
to the conclusion that under Ex. A-2, Ramaligam Pillai had created a trust in
respect of those properties for conducting the charities mentioned in Ex. A-2.
As observed by this Court in Menakuru
Dasaratharami Red-di and anr. v. Duddukuru Subba Rao and ors. (1) that
dedication or a property to religious or charitable purposes may be either
complete or partial. If the dedication is complete a trust in favour of ,a
charity is created. If the dedication is partial, a trust in favour of a
charity is not created but a charge in favour of the charity is attached to,
and follows, the property which retains its original private and secular
character. Whether or not a dedication is complete would naturally be a
question of fact to be determined in each case on the terms of the relevant
document if the dedication in question was made under a document. In such a
case it is always a matter of ascertaining the true intention of the parties,
it is obvious that such an intention must be, gathered on a. fair and
reasonable construction of the document considered as a If the income of the
property is substantially intended to be used for the purpose of a charity and
only an insignificant and minor portion of it is allowed to be used for the
maintenance of the worshipper or the manager, it may be possible to take the
view that dedication is complete.
If, on the other hand, for the maintenance of
charity a minor portion of the income is expected or required to be used and a
substantial surplus is left in the hands, of the manager or worshipper for his
own private purposes, it would be difficult to accept the theory of complete
Ex. A-2, after setting out the various
charities to be conducted concludes by saying that "If, after conducting
the said charities properly, there be any surplus, the same shall be utilised
by the 'said Shanmugam Pillai and his heirs for family expenses. They should
also look after the same carefully and properly." This shows that the
entire income of the properties set apart for charities was not thought to be
necessary for conducting the charities. 'It was for the plaintiffs to establish
that the dedication was complete and cosequently there was a resulting trust.
As they have (1) AIR 1957 S.C. 797.
583 failed to establish the same, for the
purpose of this case, we have to proceed on the basis that the dedication was
only partial and the properties retained the character of private properties.
Therefore the, widows of V. Rm. Shanmugam Pillai had a beneficial interest in
those properties see Kalipada Chakraborti and anr. v. Palani Bala Devi and
ors(1). As seen earlier they had alienated their interest in those properties.
For the reasons already mentioned, the plaintiffs are precluded from
questioning the validity of those alienations. It is not open now to them to
contend that the alienations in question are invalid. It is not necessary for
as to decide in this case whether their successors can challenge those
alienations. Suffice it to say that the plaintiffs are precluded from
challenging those alienations.
In the result this appeal fails and the same
is dismissed with costs.
K.B.N. Appeal dimissed.
(1)  S.C.R. 503.