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Thota Sesharathamma & Anr Vs. Thota Manikyamma & Ors [1991] INSC 209 (23 August 1991)

Kasliwal, N.M. (J) Kasliwal, N.M. (J) Ramaswamy, K.

CITATION: 1991 SCR (3) 717 1991 SCC (4) 312 JT 1991 (3) 506 1991 SCALE (2)434

ACT:

Hindu Succession Act, 1956---Section 14(1), (2)--Appli- cation and object of--Whether life estate of a widow under a will becomes absolute estate.

Hindu Succession Act, 1956--Section 14(1), (2)--Con- struction-Whether retrospective--Acquisition of property by female Hindu-Methods--Widow's estate--Legatee's entitlement---Whether restrictive convenant stands as impediment to section 14(1).

Will--Widow's estate--Restrictions--Right to mainte- nance--Preexisting right over the property--'Res ad rem'--Obliteration of testamentary succession with restric- tive conditions w.e.f. 17.6.1956 by Hindu Succession Act, 1956--Effect of. C.A. 630 of 1981

HEAD NOTE:

Plaintiff's case was that as the defendant and her husband had no issue they brought up the plaintiff as their foster son from the age of eight years and thereafter the plaintiff continued to live with them and was brought up treating him as their own son.

Defendant's husband 'died on 14.1.1932 and before his death he executed a will bequeathing the suit properties in favour of his wife, for her life with a vested remainder in favour of the plaintiff.

Both the parties lived together with perfect' under- standing 'but after some time there was misunderstanding and the defendant assumed hostile attitude towards the plaintiff and began to claim the suit property as her absolute proper- ty.

The plaintiff claimed absolute right in the suit proper- ties after the lifetime of the defendant and challenged the right of the defendant to execute any will in respect of the suit properties.

The defendant took the plea that her husband died issueless and 718 intestate and did not exeCute any will at any time. Neither she nor her husband brought up the plaintiff as their foster son nor did they educate him. The defendant had brought up her nephew from his childhood and performed his marriage. On account of love and affection for him and his children, the defendant executed a registered will on 26.10.69 bequeathing all her properties in his favour.

The Trial Court held the will dated 14.1.1932 proved and decreed the plaintiff's suit.

The First Appellate Court upheld the Judgment and decree of the Trial Court.

The defendant preferred a second appeal in the High Court. During the pendency of the Second Appeal in the High Court the plaintiff died and his legal representatives were brought on record. The High Court allowed the second appeal.

The legal representatives of the plaintiff came to this Court by grant of Special Leave. S.L.P. (C) No. 438/1979.

Married life between '0' and his wife, 'M' was not happy and cordial. 'o' executed a registered will dated 21.3.1921 bequeathing all his properties including the suit properties in favour of his mother and sister for their lifetime and thereafter in favour of 'R' and 'D'--two sons of his sister and their issues. In the said will reference was made re- garding the conduct of'M' in deserting him and in any event if she changed her mind and agreed to live under the protec- tion of the legatees she was allowed to enjoy the income from item I of the suit properties and that she should construct a house in item referred to in the will and to live there during her lifetime and after her death the said Item I and the house site with the house shall go to his sister's sons.

'0' died in 1922 and thereafter the legatees under the will entered into possession of all the properties. 'M' put obstruction to the legatees in getting possession.

'M' filed a suit in 1923 praying for a declaration that the will made by her husband was not valid and as such be cancelled and for possession and mesne profits and in the alternative she claimed for maintenance both past and fu- ture.

719 In the said suit the parties entered into a compromise and a compromise decree was passed on 5.3.1924.

Uuder the terms of the said compromise the execution of the will was accepted and the same was made subject to the terms of the compromise decree. Under the compromise decree it was agreed that 'M' would enjoy items 1 & 2 of the properties mentioned in the will and also 50 cents of land during her lifetime. She would also have an enjoyment of the house site during her lifetime without any right of aliena- tion.

'D' died unmarried in 1930 but during his lifetime he sold his interest in the properties in favour of 'R', his brother, who died in 1962. On his death the petitioners being his sons and daughters claimed to have become. enti- tled for all their father's properties including the rights in the suit property. 'M' during her life time executed a settlement deed in favour of the respondents giving absolute rights in the suit properties.

The petitioners filed a suit against M and the respond- ents for declaration that the settlement deed executed by 'M' will not enure beyond the lifetime of 'M'. 'M' took,the plea that the limited interest given to her under the com- promise decree had become enlarged into absolute right by virtue of Section 14(1) of the Act.

The Trial Court decreed the suit and it was affirmed in first appeal.

'M' having died, the respondents preferred a second appeal in the High Court. The High Court allowed the second appeal against which. the petitioners filed the S.L.P.

S.L.P. (C) No. 2113 of 1980 'R'did not have any issue from 'A' and 'S', his wives.

He being attached with the petitioner, executed a will on 2.7.1945 bequeathing his properties in favour of his second wife 'S' for her lifetime and thereafter, absolutely in favour of the petitioner. A provision was also made for the payment of Rs.68 and a direction to make available 18 kalams of paddy in favour of 'A' for her lifetime. In order to ensure the payment of the maintenance and delivery of paddy a charge was also created over the properties to go ulti- mately in favour of the petitioner.

As the petitioner was a minor at that time the second wife was 720 appointed as his guardian. 'R' died on 8.7.45 and subse- quently his first wife 'A' was awarded 50 kalams of paddy and a sum of Rs.250 in cash per annum by way of maintenance.

On appeal the High Court modified the decree of the Trial Court and enhanced the maintenance to Rs.480 per annum and directed the petitioner, the legatee under the will to give one building for the residence of 'A'. Thereafter in 1951 'A' sought the recovery of possession of one of the buildings. The Executing Court allotted to her the eastern house backyard and the shops, against which the second wife preferred an appeal to the High Court.

A compromise was entered into between the parties in the High Court. According to the terms of compromise 'A' was permitted to occupy the eastern house together with the two shops but the backyard portion was not given. Later on 'S' was removed from the guardianship of the petitioner, and natural father was appointed as his guardian.

The respondents were brother's grandsons of 'A' who died on 2.2.1966, had settled the suit properties in favour of one 'C' claiming title to the same in pursuance to a compro- mise in A.A.O. 567 of 1950. 'R' another respondent initially took on lease the properties from 'C' and later on purchased the eastern half of the building and backyard portion.

The petitioner, challenging the transactions on the grounds that 'A' was given a right of residence only in the building and the same lasted till her lifetime and such right could never be enlarged into an absolute right; that the settlement deed made by her in favour of 'C' and the sale made by 'C' in favour of 'R', a respondent were invalid and no title could be conveyed by 'A' in their favour, filed a suit for recovery of possession of the suit properties with mesne profits.

The Trial' Court held that 'A' was not the absolute owner of the suit properties as contemplated under Section 14(2) of the Act and decreed the suit in favour of the plaintiff.

Single Judge of the High Court dismissed the appeal. On a Letters Patent Appeal the Division Bench of the High Court allowed the appeal and dismissed the suit.

The plaintiff-petitioner has filed the S.L.P. under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.

721 Whether, the life estate given to a widow under the will of her Hindu husband beome san absolute estate under the provi- sions of the Succession Act was the controversy raised in these cases.

The contention raised was that if a female Hindu acquires any property under a will which gives her a restricted estate in such pro- perty then provisions of sub-section (2) will override, the provisions of sub-section (1) of Section 14 of the Act which makes a female Hindu as full owner.

Dismissing the appeal and the S.L.Ps. this Court,

HELD: PER N.M. KASLIWAL, J. on his behalf and on behalf of K. RAMASWAMY, J.

1. Sec. 14(2) of the Act is in the nature of a proviso or an exception to Sec. 14 and comes into operation only if acqui- sition in any of themethods indicated therein is made for the first time without there being any pre-existing right in the female Hindu to the property. If the case falls under the provisions of Sec. 14(1) of the Act then the female Hindu shall he held to he full owner of the property and sub-section (2) of Section 14 will only apply where the property is acquired without there being any pre-existing right of the female Hindu in such property. [730D-E]

2. Sub-section (2) of Sec. 14 will he construed more in the nature of a proviso or an exception to sub-s. (1) of Sec. 14 of the Act. This view lends support to the object of the section which was to remove the disability on women imposed by law and to achieve a social purpose by bringing about change in the social and economic position of women in Hindu society. [730E-F] Mst. Karmi v. Arnru and Ors., [1972] 4 SCC 86; Badri Pershad v.Smt. Kanso Devi, [1970] 2 SCR 95; V. Tulsamma & Ors. v. Sesha Reddy (dead) by L.Rs., [1977] 3 SCR 261; Bai Vajia (dead) by L.Rs. v. Thakorbhai Chelabhai & Ors., [1979] 3 SCR 291;' Jagannath Pillai v. Kunjithapadam Pillai & Ors., [1987] 2. SCC 572; Gopal Singh & Ant. v. Dill Ram (dead) by L.Rs. & Ors., [1988] 1 SCC 47; Gulwant Kaur and Others v. Mohinder Singh and Others, [1987] 3 SCC 674 and Jaswant Kaur v. Major Harpal Singh, [1989] 3 SCC 572, referred to.

PER K. RAMASWAMY. J.

1. The Act revolutionised the status of a Hindu female; used 722 s.14(1) as a tool to undo past injustice to elevate her to equal status with dignity of person on par with man; extin- guished pre-existing limitation of woman's estate, or wid- ow's estate known to Shastric law removed all the fetters to blossom the same into full ownersip. The discrimination suffered by Hindu female under Shastric law was exterminated by legislative fiat. The social change thus envisaged must be endeavoured to be given full vigour,thrust and efficacy. [739F-G]

2. Section 14(1) enlarges the restricted estate into full ownersip when the Hindu female has pre-existing right to maintenance etc. Subsec. (2) operates When the grant was made for the first time under the document with no pre- existing right. Sub sec. (2) therefore, must be read as an exception or a proviso to sub-sec. (1). Both the sub-sec- tions read with the explanation to be pragmaticably consid- ered as a constituent integral scheme. [739G-740A]

3. S. 14 is not retroactive in its operation. Devolution of the property under the will would take effect after the demise of the testator and the legatee would be bound by the terms of gift over etc. The stranger legatee cannot take shelter under subsequent change of law to enlarge the opera- tion of restrictive covenant to claim absolute ownership in the property bequeathed to her. But socio-economic amellora- tion under the Act engulfs an instrument under the sweep of s. 14(1) thereof, it extinguishes the pre-existing limited estate or restrictive condition and confer absolute and full ownership of the property possessed by a Hindu female as on the date when the Act had come into force, namely, June 17, 1956. The courts are not giving retrospective operation to s. 14(1) or to the instrument. The courts only would be applying the law to the facts found as on the date when the question arose to find whether legatee has pre-existing vistage of title under law; and the nature of possession of the property held by her and whether the legatee would get the benefit of s. 14(1) of the Act. There need be no express recital even in the will of the enjoyment of the property devised under the will in lieu. or maintenance ass limited owner for her life. Even if 'so mentioned, it would be a reflection or restatment of the law existing as in 1932 when the will was executed. [740G-741C]

4. A legatee under a testamentary disposition is bound by the restrictive covenants contained therein. But distinc- tion should be maintained between an ordinary legatee and a legatee/Hindu female coupled with vistage of pre-existing title to the property but with a limited estate known to Shastric law. [740F-G] 723

5. As per existing law as in 1932 the widow as a legatee was entitled to widow's estate and she remained in posses- sion of the date of the Act came into force and was in enjoyment of the income derived therefrom for her life. No one had a right to interdict it. The restrictive covenant, therefore, does not stand an impediment to s. 14(1) to have full play to extinguish the same and enlarge the limited estate of widow into an absolute ownership. [741D-E]

6. The restrictions contained in the will, though fails both under sub-sec. (2) as well as sub-sec. (1) of s. 14, the right to maintenance being a pre-existing right over property "res ad rem" s. 14(1) would apply' The testamentary succession with a restrictive conditon in the will was obliterated. She became absolute owner on or after June 17, 1956. [ 741E-F] Sir Main Henry: Earlier History of Institutions, at P.

339; E.S. Shivaswamy lyer: Revolution of Hindu Women, [1935] Edn. P. 64; Manu Smriti, Chapter III verses 55-57, Chapter IX verses 18, 149, 45, 416, 299, Chapter XI verse 67; Mahat- ma Gandhiji'S (article) Young India, dated October 17. 1929; Ravindra Nath Tagore, (his speech in 1913 reprinted in) To the women, P. 18. The Position of Woman in Hindu civilisa- tion, 1955 Edn. By Altaken, referred to.

State of Madras v. Srimati Charnpakam Doraira/an, [1951] SCR 525; C.B. Muthatmma v. Union of India & Ors., [1980] 1 SCR 668; Air India v. Nergesh Meerza & Ors., [1982] 1 SCR 438; Pratap Singh v. Union of India, |19851 Suppl. 2 SCR 773; Seth Badri Prasad v. Smt. Kanso Devi, [1969] 2 SCR 586; V. Tulasamma v. Sesha Reddy (dead) by L.Rs., [1977] 3 SCR 261; Bai Vajia (dead) by L.Rs. v. Thakorbhai Chelabhai & Ors., [1979] 3 SCR 291; Jagannathan Pillai v. Kunithapadam Pillai & Ors., [1987] 2 SCR 1070; Gulwant Kaur & Anr. v. Mohinder Singh & Anr., [1987] 3 SCR 576; Maharaja Pillai Lakshmi Ammal v. Maharaja Pillal Thillanayakom Pillai & Anr., [1988] 1 SCR 730; Jaswant Kaur v. Major Harpal Singh, [1989] 3 SCC 572; Munshi Singh v. Smt. Sohan Bai (dead) by L.Rs.,'[1989] 2 SCR 1012; Pearey Lal v. Rameshwar Das, [1963] Suppl. 2 SCR 834; Karmi v. Amru, AIR 1971 SC 745 and Kalawatibai v. Soiryabai & Ors., [1991] 3 SCC 410, referred to.

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal No. 630 of 1981. , From the Judgment and Decree dated 24.8. 1979 of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Second Appeal No. 358 of 1977.

WITH S-L-.P-Nos. 438/79 & 2113/80.

724 T.S. Krishnamurty lyer, G. Narasimhalu, G.S. Narayana, K. Ram Kumar, Mrs. Anjani, Mrs. J. Ramachandran, T.T. Kunhi- kannan, S. Srinivasan and A.T.M. Sampath for the appearing parties.

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by KASLIWAL, J. In the above appeal and Special Leave Petitions question has been raised about the ambit and scope of Sec. 14(1) and 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act'). Before adverting to the legal question, it would be proper to narrate in short the facts of each case.

Civil Appeal No. 630 of 1981 Thota Madhav Rao, the plaintiff filed a suit against Thota Manikyamma on the allegation that the plaintiffs father Yellamanda and the defendant's husband Late Venkata Subbayya were brothers. As the defendant and her husband had no issue they brought up the plaintiff as their foster son from the age of eight years and thereafter the plaintiff continued to live with them and was brought up treating him as their own son. Venkata Subbayya died on 14.1.1932 and before his death he executed a will bequeathing the suit properties in favour of his wife Smt. Thota Manikyamma for her life with a vested remainder in favour of the plaintiff.

Both the parties lived together with perfect understanding but after some time there was misunderstanding and the defendant assumed hostile attitude towards the plaintiff and began to claim the suit property as her absolute property..

The defendant also executed a registered will on 26.10.69 bequeathing the suit properties in favour of one Ramisetti Koteswar Rao. The plaintiff in these circumstances claimed absolute right in the suit properties after the lifetime of the defendant and challenged the right of the defendant to execute any will in respect of the suit properties. The defendant took the plea that her husband died issueless and intestate and did not execute any will at any time. Neither she nor her husband brought up the plaintiff as their foster son nor did they educate him. The defendant had brought up Ramisetti Koteswar Rao, who is her nephew, from his child- hood and performed his marriage. On account of love and affection for him and his children, the defendant executed a registered will on 26.10.69 bequeathing all her properties in his favour.. The Trial Court held the will dated 14.1.1932 proved and decreed the plaintiffs suit. The First Appellate Court upheld the Judgment and decree of the Trial Court. The defendant preferred a second' appeal in the High Court. During the pendency of the Second Appeal in the 725 High Court the plaintiff died and his legal representatives were brought on record. The High Court by Judgment dated 24.8.1979 allowed the second appeal and dismissed the suit with costs throughout. The legal representatives of the plaintiff have come to this Court by grant of special leave.

The question involved is whether the life interest in the property acquired by Thota Manikyamma under the will execut- ed by her husband and continued to be in her possession became her absolute property under Sec. 14(1) of the Act.

Special Leave Petition (C) No. 438 of 1979 One Meenammal is the wife of Ovi Reddiar. Married life between Ovi Reddiar and his wife. was not happy and cordial.

Ovi Reddiar executed a registered will exhibit A-4 dated 21.3.1921 bequeathing all his properties including the suit properties in favour of .his mother and sister for their lifetime and thereafter in favour of Ramalinga Reddiar and Dhanush Koti Reddiar, the two sons of his sister and their issues. In the said will reference was made regarding the' conduct of Meenammal in deserting him and in any event if she changed her mind and agreed to live under the protection of the legatees she was allowed to enjoy the income from item I of the suit properties and that she should construct a house in item referred to in the will and to live there during her lifetime and after her death the said Item and the house site .with the house shall go to the above men- tioned Ramalinga Reddiar and Dhanush Koti Reddiar.

Ovi Reddiar died in 1922 and thereafter the legatees under the will entered into possession of all the proper- ties. Smt. Meenammal put obstruction to the legatees in getting possession.

There was some criminal litigation between Smt. Meenam- mal and the legatees under Sec. 145 Cr.P.C. which resulted in favour of the legatees (exhibit A-1). Smt. Meenammal then filed a suit in 1923 praying for a declaration that the will made by her husband was not valid and as such be cancelled and for possession and mesne profits and in the alternative she claimed for maintenance both past and future. In the said suit the parties entered into a compromise and a com- promise decree was passed on 5.3.1924, vide (exhibit A-1).

Under the terms of said compromise the execution of the will was accepted and the same was made subject to the terms of the compromise decree. Under the compromise .decree it was agreed that Smt. Meenammal would enjoy items 1 & 2 of the properties mentioned in the will and also 50 cents of land during her lifetime. She would also have an enjoyment of the 726 house site during her lifetime without any right of aliena- tion.' Dhanush Koti died unmarried in 1930 but during his lifetime he sold his interest in. the properties in favour of Ramalinga Reddiar. Ramalinga Reddiar died in 1962. On his death the petitioners before this Court being the sons and daughters of Ramalinga Reddiar Claimed to have become enti- tled for all the properties of Ramalinga Reddiar including the rights in the suit property. smt. Meenammal during her lifetime executed a settlement deed in favour of the re- spendents before this Court giving absolute rights in the suit properties. The petitioners before this Court filed a suit against Smt. Meenammal and the respondents for declara- tion that the settlement deed (exhibit A-10) executed by Smt. Meenammal will not enure beyond the lifetime of Smt. Meenammal. Smt. Meenammal contested the suit and took the plea that the limited interest given to her under the com- promise decree had become enlarged into absolute right by virtue of Section 14(1) of the Act. The Trial Court decreed the suit and it was. affirmed in first appeal. Smt. Meenam- mal having died., the respondents in this Court preferred a second appeal in the High Court of Judicature at Madras. The High Court allowed the Second Appeal and dismissed the suit filed by the petitioners.

The petitioners in these circum- stances have filed the S .L.P. under Article 136 of the Constitution of India, S.L.P. (C) No. 2113 of 1980 The suit properties as well as some other properties originally belonged to one Ramalinga Udayar. He had two wives, namely, Alamolu and Saraswati. the first wife Alamolu was living away from her husband. Ramalinga did not have any issue from both the wives. Ramalinga being attached with one Siva Subramania the petitioner before us executed a will on 2.7. 1945 ,bequeathing his properties in favour of his second wife Saraswati for her lifetime and thereafter, absolutely in favour of Siva Subramania. A provision was also made for the payment of Rs.68 and a direction to make available 18 kalams of paddy in favour of Alamolu for her lifetime. In order to ensure the payment of the maintenance and delivery of paddy a charge was also created over the properties to go ultimately in favour of Siva Subramania Udayar. As Siva Subramania Udayar was a minor at that time the second wife Smt. Saraswati was appointed as his guard- ian. Ramalinga died on 8.7.45 and subsequently his first wife Alamolu was awarded 50 kalams of paddy and a sum Of Rs.250 in cash perannum'by way of maintenance. On appeal the High Court modified the decree of the Trial Court and en- hanced the maintenance to Rs.480 per annum 727 and directed Siva Subramania the legatee under the will to give one building for the residence of Alamolu. Thereafter in 195 1 Alamolu sought the recovery of possession of one of the buildings and the Executing Court alltted to her the eastern house backyard and the shops. The second wife saras- wati preferred an appeal to the High Court against the above order of the executing court. A compromise was entered into between the parties in the High Court. According to the terms of compromise Alamolu was permitted to occupy the eastern house together with the two shops but the backyard portion was not given. Alamoler however remained in posses- sion of that portion as well, where some coconut trees were standing. Lateron Saraswati was removed from the guardian- ship of Siva Subramania Udayar, and natural father was appointed as his guardian. Alamolu died on 2.2.1966. The respondents before us are brother's grandsons of Alamolu.

Alamolu settled the suit properties in favour of one Chan- drashekhar Udayar claiming title to the same in pursuance to a compromise in A.A.O. 567 of 1950. Ramayya Mudaliar another respondent before us initially took on lease the properties from Chandrashekhar and lateron purchased the eastern half of the building and backyard portion. Siva Subramania Udayar challenged these transactions on the grounds that Alamolu was given a right of residence only in the building and the same lasted till her lifetime and such right could never be enlarged into an absolute right. The settlement deed made by her in favour of Chandrashekhar Udayar and the sale made by Chandrashekhar in favour of Ramaiah were invalid and no title could be conveyed by Alamolu in their favour. Siva Subramania Udayar as such filed a suit for recovery of possession of the suit properties with mesne profits. The Trial Court held that Alamolu was not the absolute owner of the suit properties as contemplated under Section 14(2) of the Act. The suit as such was decreed in favour of the plaintiff Siva Subramania Udayar. Learned Single Judge of the High Court dismissed the appeal. On a Letters Patent Appeal the Division Bench of the High Court allowed the appeal and dismissed the suit. The plaintiff Siva Subramania Udayar has filed the S.L.P. under Article 136 of the Consti- tution of India.

The controversy raised in these cases is almost settled by a number of decisions of this Court. However, Learned counsel for the appellant in the appeal as well as Learned counsel for the petitioners in the Special Leave Petitions have raised an argument, placing reliance on Mst. Karrni v. Amru and Ors., [1972] 4 SCC 86 that the life estate given to a widow under the will of her husband cannot become an absolute estate under the provisions of the Hindu succession Act, as 728 such we consider it proper to deal with this case in the light of other cases decided by this Court. Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 reads as under:

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 sub-section, "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 what- soever, and also any such property held by her as stridhana immediately before the commence- ment of this Act.

(2) Nothing contained in sub-section (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 or 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".

The contention raised is that if a female Hindu acquires any property under a will which gives her a restricted estate in such property then provisions of sub-section (2) will over- ride, the provisions of subsection (1) of Section 14 of the Act which makes a female Hindu as full owner.

In Badri Prashad v. Smt. Kanso Devi, [1970] 2 SCR 95 a Bench of three Judges considered the question in detail. In the above case a Hindu having self acquired properties, died in 1947 leaving five sons and a widow. On a dispute between the parties an Arbitrator was appointed in 1950. The Arbitrator gave an award and a decree was passed in terms of award.

Under the award the widow was given widow's estate. It was held that the widow inherited the property under Section 3 (1) of the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act, 1937 and was in possession of it within the meaning of the word possession in Scetion 14(1) of the Act and when by an award her share was separetaed by metes and bounds, she also acquired the property within 729 the meaning of that section. It was held that she had become full owner of the property in her possession under Section 14(i) on the coming into force of the Hindu Succession Act, even though previously she was a limited owner.

It was clearly held in the above case that Section 14(2) of the Act is in the nature of a proviso or an excep- tion to Section 14(1) and comes into operation only if acquisitiOn in any of the methods indicated therein is made for the first time without there being any pre-existing right in the female Hindu to the property. The Bench con- sisted of Hon. J.C. Shah, V. Ramaswamy and A.N. Grover, JJ.

The case of Mst. Karmi v. Amru and Others, (supra) on which reliance has now been placed by Learned Counsel for the appellant and petitioners was also decided by a Bench of three Judges Hon. J.C. Shah, K.S. Hegde and A.N. Grover, JJ.

It may be noted that two Hon'ble Judges, namely, J.C. Shah and A.N. Grover were common to both the cases. In Mst. Karmi v. Arnru and Others, one Jaimal died in 1938 leaving his wife Nihali. His son Ditta pre-deceased him. Appellant in the above case was the daughter of Ditta and the respondents were collaterals of Jaimal. Jaimal first executed a will dated 18.12.1935 and by a subsequent will dated 13.11.1937 revoked the first will. By the second will a life estate was given to Nihali and thereafter the property was made to devolve on Bhagtu and Armu collaterals. On the death of Jaimal in 1938, properties were mutuated in the name of Nihali Nihali died in 1960/61. The appellant Mst. Karmi claimed right on the basis of a will dated 25.4.1958 execut- ed by Nihali in her favour. It was held that the life estate given to a widow under the will of her husband cannot become an absolute estate under the provisions of the Hindu Succes- sion Act. Thereafter, the appellant cannot claim the to the properties on the basis of the will executed by the widow Nihali in her favour. It is a short Judgment without advert- ing to any provisions of Sections 14(1) or 14(2) of the Act.

The Judgment neither makes any mention of any argument raised in this regard nor there is any mention of the earli- er decision in Badri Pershad v. Smt. Kanso Devi, (supra).

The decision in Mst. Karmi & Anr. cannot be considered as an authority on the ambit and scope of Sections 14(1) and (2) of the Act.

The controversy regarding sub-Section (1) and (2) of Section 14 of the Act again came up for consideration in V. Tulsamrna & Ors. v. V. Sesha Reddy (dead) by Lrs., [1977] 3 SCR 261. This case was also, decided by a Bench of three Judges. In this case the controversy now raised before us was considered in detail. All the earlier cases were 730 considered including Badri Prasad v. Smt. Kanso Devi, (supra) and the ratio of this case was followed and approved in V. Tulsamma's case. Hon'ble Bhagwati, J. who wrote the leading judgment dealt with the question in detail and after applying the mind to the controversy decided the same in a well considered manner. V. Tulsamma's case again was dis- cussed in extenso and followed in Bai Vajia (dead) by L. Rs. v. Thakorbhai Chelabhai & On., [1979] 3 SCR 291, by a Bench of three Judges. The same view has been consistently adopted in long series of cases of this Court and to mention a few of them are Jagannathan Pillai v. Kunjithapadam Pillai & Ors., [ 1987] 2 SCC 572; Gopal Singh & Anr. v. Dill Ram (dead) by L.Rs. & Ors., [1988] 1 SCC 47; Gulwant Kaur and Others v. Mohinder Singh and Others, [ 1987] 3 SCC 674 and Jaswant Kaur v. Major Harpal Singh, [ 1989] 3 SCC 572.

A mention of all the above cases shows that this Court in a long series 'of cases has taken a consistent view that Sec. 14(2) of the Act is in the nature of a proviso or an exception to Sec. 14 and comes into operation only if acqui- sition in any of the methods indicated therein is made for the first time without there being any pre-existing right in the female Hindu to the property. If the case falls under the provisions of Sec. 14(1)of the ACt then the female Hindu shall be held to be full owner of the property and sub- section (2) of Section 14 will only apply where the property is acquired without there being and pre-exisitingisting right of the female Hindu in such property. Thus we a firm and reiterate that sub-section (2) of Sec. 14 will be con- strued more in the nature of a proviso or an exception to sub-s. (1) of Sec. 1 of the Act. This view lends support to the object of the section which was to remove the disability on women imposed by law and to achive a social purpose by bringing about change in the social and economic position of women in Hindu society.

In the result we find no force in all the above cases and are dismissed with cost.

K. RAMASWAMY, J. 'I have had the advantage to read the draft judgment of my learned brother. I fully agree with the resoning and conclusions. The repeated attempts to reopen the ratio in Tulasamma's case, in particular, from its proponent i.e. Sri Krishna Murthy lyar made me to tread the route through which I reached the same result thus:

Sir Main Henry in his "Earlier History of Institutions" at p. 339 stated that, "the degree in which personal immuni- ty and proprietory 731 capacity of women are recognised in a particular state or community is a test of the degree of the advance of its civilisation. It is, therefore, clear that the esteem in which woman is held, the status occupied by her in society and the treatment meted out to her are regarded as index to the degree of civilisation and culture attained in a coun- try. Manu in his Smriti, Chapter III Verses 55 to 57 stated that where women are honoured and adorned there Gods are pleased, but where women are not honoured no sacred fire yields rewards. What is the status held by women in the Hindu society is a matter of history reflected from Vedic culture, Smrities, the Shastric law, the statutory privision and ultimately converged and recognised in the supreme law of the land, i.e. egalitarian socialist Indian Constitution.

E .S. Shivaswamy lyer in his "Revolution of Hindu Women, " 1935 ,Edn. p. 64 stated that the ideals of the society as to womanhood includes not merely the relations of husband and wife or mother and children or the other intimate rela- tionship of family life, but also the notions we find about her capacity, her character, her claim to equality, inde- pendence and freedom for developing, her rights to personal ownership and control of property, to the choice of her vocation and other rights as well as duties as member of the society. Status and rights of Hindu woman fluctuated and swung like a pendulum with ups and downs from period to period starting from 4000 B.C. uptodate. However esteem for women remained constantly high in the society.

In Vedic society woman enjoyed equal status economical- ly, socially and culturally with men, vide p. 335,339 and 409 of The Position of Woman in Hindu Civilization, 1955 Edn. by Altakar. He stated that initiation to education upanayanam was performed in Vedic period to the girls as well as boys. Women studied the Vedas, even composed Vedic rhymes. They participated in public life freely. Vishvavara, Apala, Lopamudra and Shashayasi are only few examples in the initial Vedic period. Thereafter Ghosha, Maitrai and Gargi occupied price of place for equality in intellectual excel- lence and equal status with men. Selfishness and male chau- vanism made woman to gradually degrade and were given no voice even in the settlement of their marriages or so on.

She was denied participation in public affairs. Though Yajnavalkya was a proponent to her economic status but ultimately Manu Smriti took firm hold and in Chapter IX Verse 18, Manu stated that woman had no right to study the Vedas. Thereby, denied the right to education, fundamental human right to acquire knowledge and cultural and intellec- tual excellence. In Chapter IX Verse 149, he stated that woman must not seek. separation from father, husband or 732 son and bondaged her for ever. In Chapter IX Verse 45, the husband was declared to be one with the wife that the wife can seek no divorce but allowed immunity to a male to dis- card an unwanted wife. All through the ages till Hindu Marriage Act was made a male was allowed polyandry. In Chapter IX Verse 4 16, he stated that a wife, a son and a slave are declared to have no property and if they happened to acquire it would belong to male under whom she is in protection. Thus she was denuded or her right to property or incentive to decent and independent living and made her a dependent only to rare children and bear the burdens. When she becomes a widow, she was declared to have only mainte- nance and if in possession of her husband's property or coparcenery, to be a widow's estate with reversionery right to the heirs of last male holder. Fidality was a condition precedent to receive maintenance. In Chapter IX Verse 299, he prescribed corporeal punishment to a wife who commits faults, should be beaten with a rope or a split bamboo. If she was murdered it was declared to be an Upapattaka that is a minor offence vide Chapter XI Verse 67. I did not adhere to literal translation but attempted to portray their sweep and deep incursion on social order. Thus laid firm founda- tion to deny a Hindu female of equality of status. opportu- nity and dignity of person with no independent right to property and made her a subservient, socially, educationally and culturally. Widows were murdered by inhuman Sati and now by bride burnings.

Gautam Budha gave her equality of status and opportuni- ty. Efforts of social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Rai, Kandukuri Veeresalingam and a host of other enlightened made the British Rulers gradually to make statute law, given her right to separate residence and maintenance and a right over property of her husband or joint family for maintenance and a charge by a decree of court. Mahatma Gandhiji, the father of the nation, in Young India on October 17, 1929 had writ- ten thus: "I am uncompromising in the matters of women's rights. In my opinion she should live under no legal disa- bility, no suffering by men, we should treat the daughters and sons on the footing of perfect equality". Shri Ravindra Nath Tagore, the Noble laureate in his speech in 1913 re- printed in "To the Women" at page 18 stated "that women is the champion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity. She has a right to participate in any minutest activity of men and she has equal right of freedom and liberty with him".

The Constitution of India accords socio-economic and political justice, equality of status and of opportunity assuring the dignity of person with stated freedoms. Article 14 guarantees equality. In other 733 words frowns upon discrimination on any ground. Article 15(1) abolishes discrimination and removed disability, liability or restriction on grounds of sex and ensures equality of status. Arti- cle 29(2) gives equal right to education. In the earliest decision this Court upheld it in State of Madras v. Srimathi Champakam Dorairajan, [1951] SCR 525. Article 16(1) accords equality of opportunity in public service for an appointment or employment to an office or post under the State and prohibits gender discrimination. Marriage as a disability for appointment to Indian foreign service was declared unconstitutional in C.S. Muthammav. Union of India & Ors., [1980] 1 SCR 668. Pregnancy as a disqualification to contin- ue in public employment was held to be an affront to equali- ty of status, dignity of person and equal opportunity vio- lating Articles 14 and 16(1) in Air India v. Nergesh Meerza & Ors., [1982] 1 SCR 438. It abhors or is loathe to civili- ty. These are few classic illustrations. Article 15(3) treats women as a class, mitigates the rigour of absolute equality enshrined in Art. 14 and its species Art. 15(1) & 16(1) and enjoins the State to make any special provision to remedy past injustice and to advance their status, soeio- econmic and political. Article 21 assures protection of life which includes right to livelihood. Article 38(1) obligates the State to promote the welfare of the people by securing social order in which socio-economic and political justice shall inform all the institutions of the national life.

Subarticle (2) thereof further enjoins the State to minimise the inequalities in income and to eliminate inequalities ,in status by providing facilities and opportunities to all individuals. Women should have adequate means of livelihood on par with men, Art. 39(a); should have equal pay for equal work, Art. 39(d); health and strength of working women are not abused. Economic necessity is not a sanctuary to abuse her person or she should not be forced to an unsuited avoca- tion, Art. 39(e); State shall provide just and human condi- tions of work and maternity relief [Art. 42]. Article 46 mandates the State to promote with special care the economic and educational conditions of the weaker sections of the people. It also enjoins to protect them from social injus- tice and all forms of exploitation.

To enliven and alongate this constitutional goal to render socioeconomic justice, to relieve Hindu female from degradation, disabilities, disadvantages and restrictions under which Hindu females have been languishing over cen- turies and to integrate them in national and international life, Bharat Ratna Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, the first Law Minister and rounding father of the Constitution drafted Hindu Code Bill. The Hindu, Marriage Act, Adoption and Maintenance Act; Minority and Guardianship Act and Succes- sion Act 1956, for short 734 'the Act' became a part of this package. They ensue equal status and socio-economic justice to Hindu female. In a socialist democracy governed by rule of law, law as a social engineering should bring about transformation in-the social structure. Whenever a socio-economic legislation or the rule or instruments touching the implementation of welfare meas- ures arise for consideration, this historical evidence furnishes as the foundation and all other relevant material would be kept at the back of the court's mind.

Section 14(1) of the Act declares that any property, movable or immovable, possessed by a female Hindu shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner irrespective of the time when the acquisition was made, i.e., whether it was before or after the Act. Undoubtedly as contended by Sri Krishna Murty Iyer, a Hindu male has free- dom of testamentary disposition of his property or by con- tract and s. 14(1) stand an impediment in his way. Freedom of contract would yield place to public policy envisaged above. Its effect must be tested on the envil of socio- economic justice, equality of status and to oversee whether it would subserve the constitutional animation or frus- trates. Art. 15(3) relieves from the rigour of Art. 15(1) and charges the State to make special provision to accord to-women socioeconomic equality. The court would, therefore, endeavour to find whether terms of the disposition or clauses in the instruments, will etc.. enumerated in s. 14 would permeate the aforestated constitutional conscience to relieve the Hindu female from the Shastric bondage of limit- ed estate. Both sub-sections (1) and (2) of s. 14 attract the conferment of restricted estate had by a Hindu female under an instrument, i.e. gift, will, decree or order of a Civil Court or an award. Section 14 and the impugned docu- ment must be read harmoniously as an integral scheme. The disability attached to Hindu female by Shastric Law was removed by statutory provisons in Hindu Succession Act.

Section 14(1) thereof was thought to be a tool to remove disabilities or restrictions imposed by Customary or Shas- tric Law on Hindu women. s. 14(1) declares in unequivocal terms that the property whether movable or immovable held by a Hindu female acquired either before or after the Act shall be her absolute property, abolishing the limited estate known to Shastric law. Hindu women as a class are declared as class I heirs entitling to intestate succession to a 0Hindu Male. This Court in Pratap Singh v. Union of India, [1985] Suppl. 2 SCR 773 held that s. 14 of the Act does not discriminate on grounds of sex and is intra vires of Art. 15(3). The preferential treatment accorded, thereby, was held to be not .violative of Arts. 14 and 15(1). Sub-section (2) of s. 14 of the Act attempts to denude the object of sub-section (1) and 735 emasculates its efficacy. It should, therefore, be' read as an exception or a proviso to sub-section (1) of s. 14. The interpretation of the' proviso or an exception should not be to allow. to 'eat away the vital veins of full ownership accorded by sub-section (1) of s. 14 when this Court upheld the validity of s. 14(1) on the envil of Art; 15(3)what should be the message thus intended to convey? It would mean that the court would endeavour to give full effect tO legis- lative and constitutional vision of socio-economic equality to female 'citizen by granting full ownership of property to a Hindu female. As a fact Art. 15(3) as a fore runner to common code does animate 'to 'make law to accord socio- economic equality to every female citizen of India, irre- spective of religion, race cast or region.

In Seth Badri Preasad v. Smt. Kanso Devi, [.1969] 2 SCC :586 in an injunction suit against the respondent, the appellant ,contended that the respondent was given limited estate in a decree passed in an award and that, therefore, s. 14(2) applies. Negating that contention, this court held that sub-sec. (2) of s. 14 is more in the nature of a provi- so or an exception to sub-sec. (1). It can come into opera- tion only if the acquisition is in any of the methods indi- cated in sUb sec. (2).without there being any pre-existing right in the female Hindu who is in possession of the property. I Section 14(1) removes the disability of the woman. 'It was accordingly held that though she came into possession by virtue of decree passed in an award as limited estate, she acquired the absolute ownership under sub-sec.

(1) of s. 14. Section 14 was subject of critical consideration in V. Tulasamma v.V. Sesha Reddy (dead) by L.Rs., [1977] 3 SCR 261 and its ratio has become a Tulsidalam to Hindu. women as locus classicus giving forward thrust. to constitutional goal according full ownership in the property, movable or immovable,. held by: her as full owner thereof; redeemed her from the shackles of women estate known to Shastric law.

Fazal Ali, J. undertook extensive survey into sources of Hindu Law and found'that Hindu widow's right to maintenance is a personal obligation of the husband and he has a duty to-maintain her even if he has no property. Her right to maintenance would become an-eqUitable charge on her hus- band's property though no charge was created by a decree of civil court as "jus ad rem", i.e. right over property though not right to property "jus in rem" and any person who suc- ceeds to the property carries with it a legal obligation to maintain the wife from her husband's estate. Only .bona fide purchaser for value without notice alone was relieved of this Obligation; The right to maintenance is a pre-existing right preceding Hindu Women's Right to Property and 736 Separate Residence Act, 1946. Section 14(1) recognises her preexisting right. Any property acquired by Hindu female by inheritence or device or at a partition or. in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance or by gift from any person Whether 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 suCh property held by her as stridhana immediately before the commencement of this Act, movable or immovable property shall be held by her as full owner thereto and not as a limited owner. Subsection (2) thereto shall be construed as an exception or a proviso which cannot be read to ,emascu- late the purpose enunciated under sub-section (1). There- fore, the property held by her or property given to her at a partition, or under a compromise decree, gift, or in lieu of maintenance .and held by her,on the date when the ACt.came into force, namely, June 17, 1956 shall be her absolute property as full owner. Bhagwati J. (as he then was) speak- ing for himself and Gupta, J. while pointing out the faulty drafting of s. 14, held that s. 14(1) seeks to do away with the traditional limitation of her power of disposition which were regarded under the Hindu law as inherent all her es- tate. The words "possessed of" means as the state of owning or having in one's hand or power which need not be actual or physical possession or personal occupation of the property by the Hindu female. It may be actual or constructive or in any form recognised by law. Sub-section (1) of s. 14cannot be interpreted in a manner which would deprive the Hindu woman of the protection sought to be given to her by sub- section (1). The social purpose of the law-would be frus- trated and reformist zeal underlying the statutory provison would be chilled. It was not the intention of the legisla- ture in enacting sub-section (2) which must be construed as an exception or a proviso to sub-section (1). No provision should be construed in isolation and be read in the context so as to . make a consistent enactment of the whole statute.

Sub-section (2) must be read in the context of sub-section (1) of s. 14 and if so read sub-section (2) must be confined to cases where the Hindu female acquires the property for the first time as a grant without any preexisting right to the property under a will or by way of gift. or in-any other instruments or a decree or order of the civil court or an award, the terms of-which prescribe a restricted estate in the property. Subsection (2) must be read as an exception or proviso to sub-section (1) so as to leave aS large a scope for operation as possible to sub-section (1) of s. 14. It was, therefore, held that the property given to Tulasmma in a compromise decree in lieu of her maintenance with re- stricted estate known as widow's estate in Hindu law was enlarged and she became an absolute owner under the Act. She had the right to 737 alienate the property in favour of the others.

An attempt to reopen the ratio was thwarted by this Court in Bai Vajia (dead) by L.Rs, v. Thakorbhai Chelabhai &.Ors., [1979] 3 SCR 291 while reaffirming the ratio of Tulasamma's case as correct law, this Court further held that limited ownership is sine quo non for the applicability of sub-section (1) of s. 14 of the Act. When a widow holds a property for her enjoyment, as long as she lives, no body is entitled to deprive her or to deal with the property in any manner, to her detriment. The property is for the time being beneficially Vested in her and she has the occupation, control and usufruct of it to the exclusion of all others.

SUch relationship to property falls squarely within the meaning of expression of "limited owner" as under S. 14(1) of the Act. In that context approved the dictum of Bhagwati, J. that s. 14(1) aimed to achieve a social purpose. to bring about change "in the social and economic position of women 'in Hindu Society", It was a step to accord equality of sex, elevating women from subservient position in the economic field to higher pedestal with full ownership untrammelled by artificial limitation of Women's estate created by male dominence to subjugate her. ' .

In Jagannathan Pillai v. Kunithapadam Pillai & Ors., [1987] 2 SCR 1070 this Court held that if, the question arises as to what was the .nature of the widow's interest in the property and a challenge was made during her life time or after her death, all that has to be shown by the con- cerned Hindu female was that she had acquired the property and that She was possessed of the property at the point of time when her title was called into question. The 'question then was whether she became full owner? In that case the widow as a limited owner sold the property but later on re- purchased the self same property and was in possession at the date when the question of holding the property and"' the nature of the right held by her had arisen. It was held that she was in possession as limited owner and after the Act she became full owner, and not limited owner of the property. It was further held that' the legislative intent is abundantly 'loud and clear. To erase the injustice .and remove the legal shackles by abolishing the concept of limited estate, or the women's or widow's estate once and for all. To obvi- ate hair-splitting, the legislature 'has made it abundantly clear that whatever be the property possessed by a Hindu female, it will 'be, Of her absolute ownership and not of limited ownership, notwithstanding the position obtaining under the traditional Hindu law.

In Gulwant Kaur & Anr. v. Mohinder Singh & Anr., [1987] 3 738 SCR 576 construing a letter written by the husband giving the property for wife's maintenance, this court laid that s. 14 is aimed at removing restrictions or limitations on the right of a female Hindu to enjoy, as a full owner, property possessed by her so long as her possession is traceable to a lawful origin, that is to say, if she has a vestige of a title. It makes no difference whether the property was acquired' by inheritance or'devise, etc. The right to main- tenance is not a grant made for the first time without any pre-existing right. Even if the instruments are silent as to the nature of the interest given to the widow in the proper- ty and did not, in so many terms, prescribe that she has a limited interest'in the property, she would have no more than a limited interest in the property under the Hindu law as it stood'prior to the' enactment of the Act. Hence a provision in the instrument prescribing that she would have only a limited interest in the property, would be merely recording the true legal position and would not attract the applicability of sub-sec. (2), but would be governed by sub-sec. (1) of s. 14. The conclusion was, therefore, held inescapable that where the property is allotted to a widow under an instrument, decree, etc.for her maintenance, sub- sec. (2) of s. 14 had no application.

In Maharaja Pillai Lakshmi Ammal v. Maharaja Pillai Thilanayakom Pillai & Anr., [19881 1 SCR 780 under a parti- tion deed, limited . estate in lieu of maintenance was created and this court held that the deed or any other ar- rangement by which the husband gives property to his wife for maintenance need not specifically say thatit was given in lieu of maintenance. The right to maintenance is a per- sonal obligation of the husband. If the wife is put in possession of the property with the right to take the income for her maintenance, it must be presumed that the property was given to her in lieu of maintenance attracting s. 14(I) and the' limited ownership ripened into full ownership.

Accordingly it was 'held that s. 14(1) attracted to the facts in that case.

In Jaswant Kaur v. MajOr Harpal Singh, [1989] 3 SCC 572 under a will executed by the husband the widow was given a life estate which was held to be enlarged into an absolute estate attracting s. 14(1),but not s. 14(2) as Hindu female acquired property under the instrument. Her-title was trace- able to her antecedent over her widow's estate by gift deed of 1954 to the appellant, one of her daughters. The widow died in 1968.The appellant filed a suit for injunction, based on gift deed, against the respondent, another Sister claiming exclusive right, title and interest in the property and also pleaded adverse possession. The respondent filed a cross suit for partition into two shares and claimed half share pleading that their mother was not in possession of 739 property on the date when the Act came into force. The appellant. acquired only limited ownership of their mother and on her death as a reversioner of her father she was entitled to partition. The High Court ultimately upheld the respondent's contention and held' that the widow did not acquire absolute estate under s. 14(1). Being a limited owner, what was conveyed by her to the appellant was only a limited estate and the appellant would not get the benefit of full ownership as she herself was not the limited owner under-sec. 14(1). On demise of the .mother as reversioner, the respondent was entitled to file the. suit for partition.

The appellant did not acquire title by adverse possession as she was a co-owner and there .was no right. Therefore, sub- sec. (2) of s. 14 would not attract.

Munshi Singh v. Smt. Sohan Bai (dead)by L.Rs., [1989] 2 SCR. 1012 was a case where limited owner gifted away the property, and was parted with possession and the plea of repurchase was negatived by all the courts. So this court held that s. 14( 1)' does not apply. In Pearey Lal v. Ra- meshwar Das, [1963] Suppl. 2 SCR 834 in construing a will vis-a-vis ss. 75, 82, 86 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 this Court held that the limited estate is not enlarged into an absolute 'estate. In Karme v. Amru, AIR 1971 SC 745 the attention of this Court to s. 14(1) was not drawn nor had an occasion to angulate in this perspective. Therefore, the ratio therein is of little assistance to the appellant.

In Kalawatibai v. Soiryabai & Ors., [1991] 3 SCC 410 the mother of the parties, a Hindu widow gifted adverse posses- sion as against the other co-owner unless it was so asserted and acquiesced by the respondent. Therefore, the decree for partition was upheld and the suit for injunction was dis- missed. The ratio therein does not assist the appellant.

Thus I hold that' the Act revolutionised the status of a 'Hindu female; used s. 14(1) as a tool to undo past injus- tice to elevate her to equal status with dignity of person on par with man; extinguished pre-existing limitation of woman's estate, or widow's estate known to Shastric law removed all the fetters to blossom the same into full Owner- ship. The discrimination sufferred by Hindu female under Shastric law was: exterminated by legislative fiat. The social change thus envisaged must be endeavoured to be given full vigour, thrust and efficacy. Section 14(1) enlarges the restricted estate into full ownership when the Hindu female has pre-existing right to maintenance etc. Sub-sec. (2) operates when the grant was made for.the first time Under the document with no pre-existing right. Sub-sec- (2), therefore, must be ., 740 read as an exception or a proviso to sub-sec. (1). Both the sub-sections read with the explanation to be pragmaticably considered as a constituent integral scheme. The Court would sit in the armed chair of the testator, or its maker and summon to its aid the attending circumstances to execute the instrument; the relationship of the parties and to see whether the Hindu female acquired the property with vestige of pre-existing right and the will,-gift deed, order, decree or an award of the civil court or in any of the forms' known to law was executed in recognition thereof or entitled under the existing law. If the finding is positive her limited estate, though created with restrictive covenants in instru- ment or an omission to expressly so mentioned in full par- ticulars thereof in the instrument in that regard are of little consequence. Her limited estate gets blossomed into full ownership under-sec. 14(1) with a right to bequeath, gift over, alienation or to deal in any manner. recognised by law. If on the other hand the Hindu female acquires for the first time the tittle therein as a grant with restric- tive estate under the instrument with no pre-existing title or right, sub-section (2) of s. '14 gets attracted and the restrictive. covenants. contained in the instrument would bind her. She remains-to be a limited owner in terms there- of. The subsequent alienee or transferee acquires no higher right thereunder than the legatee etc. The reversioner to the last male holder is not bound by such transfer and is entitled to succeed the estate, on her demise, in terms of the instrument. It is too late in the 'day to take retro- grade step to reopen Tulasamma's ratio.

In Civil Appeal No. 630 of 1981 of Thota Madhav Rao, Sri Narsimhalu, his learned counsel contended that Thota Mani- kyamma, the respondent, having come into posses'sion and in enjoyment of the lands bequeathed under a will with a vested reminder in the appellant, her rights are circumscribed. by the restrictions contained in the 'will and s. 14(1) does not apply. He also contended that by application of s. 14(1) to the instruments executed anterior to the Act amounts to giving retrospective operation of s. 14(1). We find no substance in either contention. It is settled law that a legatee under a testamentary disposition is bound by the restrictive convenants contained therein. But distinction should be maintained between an ordinary legatee and a legatee/Hindu female coupled with vistage of pre-existing title to the property but with a limited estate known to Shastric law as reflected in the impugned deed etc. Undoubt- edly s. 14 is not retroactive in its operation. Devolution of the property under the will would take effect after the demise of the testator and the legatee would be bound by the terms of gift over etc. The .stranger legatee cannot take shelter under subsequent change of law to enlarge the opera- tion of restrictive covenant to claim absolute ownership in the property bequeathed to her.

741 But socio-economic amelioration under the Act engulfs an instrument under the sweep of s. 14(1) thereof, it extin- guishes the pre-existing limited estate or restrictive condition and confer absolute and full ownership of the property possessed by a Hindu female as on the date when the Act had come into force, namely, June 17, 1956. The courts are 'not giving retrospective operation to s. 14(1) or to the instrument. The courts only would be applying the law to the facts round as on the date when the question arose to find whether legatee has pre-existing vistage of title under law; and the nature of possession of the property held by her and 'whether the legatee would get the benefit of s. 14(1) of the Act. There need be no express recital even in the will of the enjoyment of the property devised under the will in lieu of maintenance as a limited owner for her life.

Even if so mentioned, it would be a reflection or restate- ment of the law existing as in 1932 when the will was exe- cuted. The respondent, admittedly, being a widow of the testator who. under Shastric law, was obligated to provide maintenance to his wife, and it being personal obligation, the property bequeathed was in lieu of maintenance for her life. She was in enjoyment of the property and the benefi- cial interest therein stood vested in her. As per existing law as in 1932 the widow as a legatee was entitled to wid- ow's estate and she remained in possession on the date of the Act came into force and was in enjoyment of the income derived therefrom for her life. No one had a right to inter- dict it. The restrictive covenant, therefore, does not stand an impediment to s. 14(1) to have full play to extinguish the same and enlarge the limited estate of widow into an absolute ownership. The restrictions contained in the will, though falls both under sub-sec. (2) as well as sub-sec. (1), of s. 14, the right to maintenance being a pre-existing right over property "red ad rem" s. 14(1) would apply. The testamentary succession with a restrictive conditions in the will was obliterated. She became an absolute owner on or after June 17, 1956. Accordingly I have no hesitation to hold that, though the will created a restrictive covenant, s. 14(2) does not apply. Section 14(1) enlarged the widow's limited estate held by Manikyamma into an absolute ownership as full owner with a right to disposition by testamentary instrument or otherwise.

As regards the claim in S.L.P. No. 2113 of 1980 is concerned, admittedly the decree was granted with restrictive covenant to remain in possession of a portion of the house and enjoyment for life and by operation of the ratio in Tulasiamrna's case the restrictive covenant has enlarged into absolute estate. The appeal and special leave petitions are accordingly dismissed with costs.

V.P.R. Appeal and Petitions dismissed.

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