Gogula Gurumurthy & Ors Vs.
Kurimeti Ayyappa  INSC 56 (14 March 1974)
MATHEW, KUTTYIL KURIEN
CITATION: 1974 AIR 1702 1974 SCR (3) 595 1975
SCC (4) 458
RF 1984 SC1683 (9)
Hindu Law-Limited estate of a widow-Whether
income from the husband's estate is an accretion to that estate.
V, the father of the appellants had a brother
R who died childless leaving behind him his widow, N. After R's death a series
of litigation started between V & N. V filed a suit in 1913 against R. for
waste committed by her husband's estate and was appointed a receiver in that
suit. In that suit, he got a decree, V as receiver filed 3 suits on the foot of
3 mortgages in favour of R. In execution of the decrees, 3 valuable properties
were purchased. These three properties are the subject matter of the present
V died in 1947 and N in 1951 after executing
a will bequeathing in favour of her brother S all her properties.
S filed the suit out of which this appeal
arises, for pos- session of the properties bequeathed to him under the will and
for mesne profits. The Sub-judge held that the said properties became
accretions to the main estate of R and therefore, the plaintiff was entitled
only to an account of the income from these properties till the death of V. On
appeal, the High Court allowed the appeal in part. Before this Court four
points were raised by the appellants :-(I) The High Court committed an err or
in not hearing the whole appeal but confining the hearing merely to the points
on which the finding was called for from the lower court. (2) a portion of the
properties which was lost to the estate due to N's negligence of not paying the
land revenue, should be debited against her share in them. (3) the cost
incurred by V in the suit and in the execution proceedings should have been
taken into account in allocating the properties between the appellants and the
respondents and (4) that the widow N, bad treated the properties as accretion
to the husband's estate and therefore, the appellants are entitled to the whole
of the property.
Allowing the appeal,
HELD : (1) When a finding is called for on
the basis of certain issues framed by the Appellate Court, the appeal is not
disposed of either in whole or in part. Therefore the parties cannot be barred
from arguing the whole appeal after the findings are received from the Court of
[597 E) Gopi Nath Shukul v. Sal Narain
Shukul, A.I.R. 1923 Allahabad 384, referred to.
(2) A Hindu widow is entitled to the full
beneficial enjoyment of the estate. So long as she is not guilty of willful
waste, she is answerable to no one. In her lifetime, the reversionary right is
a mere possibility or spes succession is. It cannot be predicted who would be
the nearest reversioner at the time of her death. It is, there- , fore,
impossible to contend that for any loss to the estate due to the negligence on
the part of the widow, he should be compensated from out of the widow's
separate properties. He is entitled only to the property left on the date of
the death of the widow. [599 C; FG] (3) The income received by V and the
amounts spent for the suit and the execution proceeding were taken into account
at the time of settlement of accounts and it was open to V to realise the
excess amount from the estate of R. It is not now open to the appellants to
claim that these amounts should be separated from the amount of the decree and
should be added to the amount of principal and interest accrued during the
lifetime of R. [600 A-C] (4) From the evidence, it is clear that the widow did
not show any intention to treat the income from, the husband's estate as an
accretion to that estate. [601D] Akkanna v.Venkayya, I.L.R. 1902 25 Mad. 351,
The appeal was sent back to High Court for
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 1817 of 1967.
From the judgment and Decree dated the 21st
September 1965 of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in A.S. No. 508 of 1959.
K. R. Choudhury and Veena Khanna, for the
M. K. Ramamurthi and J. Ramamurthi, for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
ALAGIRISWAMI, J.-Venkanna, the father of the appellants, had a brother
Ramamurti who died childless in the year 1908 leaving behind him his widow
Narasimham. After Ramamurti's death a series of litigations started between
Venkanna and Narasimham and it is not over yet. Venkanna filed O.S. No.
14 of 1913 against the widow in respect of
acts of waste committed by her of Ramamurti's estate and was appointed a
receiver in that suit. In that suit he got a decree against Narasimham for a
sum of Rs.13,539/- as she failed to furnish security as originally decreed by
the court. Venkanna as receiver filed three suits on the foot of three
mortgages in favour of Ramamurti. One was O. S. No. 34 of 1916. In execution of
that decree item 1 of the 'A' Schedule properties was purchased in court
auction. O.S. No. 443 of 1918 was filed on the, foot of another mortgage in
favour of Ramamurti executed in 1904 and items 2 and 5 of the plaint schedule
properties were purchased in execution of decree in that suit. These three
items of properties are the subject matter of this appeal. It is unnecessary
for the purpose of this appeal to refer to the third suit.
Venkanna died in 1947 and Narasimham in 1951
after executing a will bequeathing in favour of her brother Venkata Sattayya
all her properties. Venkata Sattayya filed the suit, out of which this appeal
arises, for possession of the properties bequeathed to him under the will and
for mesne profits. The Subordinate Judge who tried the suit held that items 1,
2 and 5 become accretions to the main estate of Ramamurti and therefore the
plaintiff was entitled only to an account of the income from those properties
till the death of Venkanna.
The appeal against the Subordinate Judge's
judgment came up for hearing before Justice Satyanarayana Raju and Justice
Venkatesam of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The learned Judges called for a
finding with regard to the interest on the two mortgages in execution of the
decrees in which items 1, 2 and 5 had been purchased, relating to *he period
before Ramamurti's death and the period after Ramamurti's death.
After that finding was received they allowed
the appeal in part and held that the plaintiff would be entitled to a 19/34th
share of item 1, and 12/23rd share of items 2 and 5.
This appeal is filed in pursuance of a
certificate granted by the High Court.
Mr. Ramasesneya Chaudhri appearing on behalf
of the appellants raised four points which we shall deal with seriatim.
1. The learned Judges of the High Court
committed an error in confining the appeal after receipt of the finding from
the Subordinate Judge's court only to the question of the share, which the
appellants ,and the respondent were entitled to, based on the calculation of
the 597 interest due on the mortgages before and after the death of Ramamurti.
His contention was that as the High Court had merely framed issues and referred
them for trial to the court of first instance under Order XLI Rule 25 of the
Code of Civil Procedure and not remanded the whole case under Order XII Rule
23, they should have heard the whole appeal and not confined the hearing merely
to the points on which the finding was called for. We think that he is right in
this contention. Before the High Court the learned advocate for the appellants
had contended that Narasimham owed to the estate of Ramamurti a sum of
Rs.14,639/- and that when the decree was sought to be executed by Venkanna,
Narasimham claimed that the account due to her by way of interest under the
three mortgage bonds should be set off and that the execution could proceed
only for the balance, that the set off claimed by Narasimham was actually
allowed and that therefore she would not be entitled to any share in the
properties purchased in execution of the decrees obtained on the foot of the
mortgage bonds, in lieu of the interest claimed. The learned Judges disallowed
him from raising that question on the ground that it was not raised or argued
at the time when the finding was called for on the issues framed by them, and
that if it had been raised and accepted there would have been no need to call
for a finding or at any rate the finding called for would have been different,
and that the argument of the learned counsel impugned the correctness of the
conclusions reached by the Court on the basis of which the findings were called
We consider that when a finding is called for
on the basis of certain issues framed by the Appellate Court the appeal is not
disposed of either in whole or in part. Therefore, the parties cannot be barred
from arguing the whole appeal after the findings are received from the court of
first instance. We find the same view taken in Gopi Nath Shukul v. Sat Narain
Shukul (AIR 1923 Allahabad 384) where it was held that:
"Where an appellate Court at the first
hearing does not decide the case but merely remits certain specific issues, it
is open to the Court before which the case ultimately comes to disregard the findings
on those issues and equally to form its own opinion on the whole case
irrespective of anything that is said in the remand order." It was also
"An order remanding issues under Rule 25
is not a final order. No appeal lies against it.
The responsibility for the decree ultimately
passed is entirely that of the Court before which the case comes after remand.
It is quite otherwise with an order of remand
passed under order 41, Rule 23, for this is an order which does finally
determine, subject to any right of appeal, the issues which it decides. A
similar view was taken by the Nagpur High Court in Sultan 598 Beg Al. chunilal
(AIR 1918 Nagpur 193). In Abinash Chandra Bidyanidhi Bhattacharjee v. Dasarath
Malo (XXXII (1927-28) Calcutta 'Weekly Notes 1233) it was sail:
An order of remand made under Or. 41, r. 25
decides nothing. The Court, either the same or as differently constituted, has
jurisdiction, while finally hearing the appeal, to go back on the reasons given
or views expressed in the order of remand and must do so when those appear
erroneous. " We are, therefore, of opinion that the High Court should have
gone into this question and decided the matter, for if it turns out that the
interest due on the two mortgages subsequent to the death of Ramamurti had been
set off against the amount due to Venkanna in the decree obtained by him
against Narasimham in O.S. 14 of 1913 there can be no question of Narasimham
being entitled to any share in the properties purchased in court auction in
execution of the decree in the two mortgages and her brother getting those
properties by virtue of the will executed by her in his favour.
In the Trial Court the plaintiff's contention
was that these properties were purchased out of the accumulated interest on the
mortgages and the defendants asserted that they were purchased out of the
principal. That Court dismissed the plaintiff's claim on the ground that there
was no proof of his allegations. It was before the High Court apparently that
the attempt to split the interest due on the mortgages into two portions, one
before Ramamurti's death and the other after, was made and accepted by the High
Court. It was on that basis that the High Court called for findings.
After the findings were received the
appellants raised the question about the set-off. They raised the ,question
before the Trial Court when it was considering the appor- tionment of the
interest but that Court felt it had no power to go into that question in view
of the terms of the High Court's order calling for the finding. And the High
Court refused to allow the appellants to raise that question, which as we have
just held was not correct.
The decree in Venkanna's suit appears to have
directed payment of interest to Narasimham [Para III (c) of the plaint and
judgment of the High Court, page 102 of the paper book]. We find that Venkanna
had submitted accounts to the court in his capacity as receiver till 1940. We
have also evidence in this case that even When Venkanna died a sum of
Rs.4,486/- was due.to him on the foot of the decree he obtained against
Narasimham. It is, therefore, highly unlikely that any amount due to Narasimham
was not given credit to. We find from the finding submitted by the Trial Court
(Page 86 of the paper book) Narasimham claimed that the amounts due to her
should be set off and execution should proceed only for the balance and from
Ex. A-7 it would appear that the claim was allowed. It seems therefore
unlikely, taking the direction in the decree and the order evidenced by Ex. A-7
into account, that the interest due to Narasimham, was not 599 one of the items
set off. We do not want to express any final opinion on the point but are of
opinion that in the circumstances the High Court should consider this aspect of
the matter and dispose of the appeal afresh.
2. Out of about 16 acres comprised in item 1,
5 acres had been lost in revenue sale because of Narasimham's failure to pay
the land revenue on those lands. It was urged before the High Court and it has
been urged again before us that in allotting to the appellants a share of items
1, 2 and 5 these 5 acre-, which were lost to the estate as a result of
Narasimham's negligence should be debited against her share in them. We find
ourselves unable to accept this contention just as the High Court, though they
gave no reason for their conclusion. Neither on principle nor on authority
could the contention on behalf of the appellants be supported. A Hindu widow is
entitled to the full beneficial enjoyment of the estate. So long as she is not
guilty of willful waste, she' is answerable to no one. Her estate is not a
life- estate, because in certain circumstances she can give an absolute and
complete title. Nor is it in any sense an estate held in trust for reversions.
Within the limits imposed upon her, the female holder has the most absolute
power of enjoyment and is accountable to no one. She fully represents the
estate, and, so long as she is alive, no one has any vested interests in the
succession. The limitations upon her estate are the very substance of its
nature and not merely imposed upon her for the benefit of reversioners.
She is in no sense a trustee for those who
may come after her. She is not bound to save the income, nor to invest the
principal. If she makes savings, she can give them away as she likes. During
her lifetime she represents the whole in- heritance and a decision in a suit by
or against the widow as representing the estate is binding on the reversionary
heirs. It is the death of the female owner that opens the inheritance to the
reversioners, and the one most nearly related at the time to the last full
owner becomes entitled to possession. In her lifetime, however, the
reversionary right is a mere possibility or sues successions. It cannot be
predicted who would be the nearest reversioner at the time of her death. It is,
therefore, impossible for a reversioner to contend that for any loss which the
estate might have sustained clue to the negligence on the part of the widow he
should be compensated from out of the widow's separate properties. He is
entitled to get only the property left on the date of the death of the widow.
The widow could have, during her lifetime, for necessity, including her
maintenance alienated the whole estate. The reversioner's right to institute a
suit to prevent waste is a different matter. If it could have been established
that in having allowed some part of the properties to be sold in revenue sale
she was guilty of willful waste if would have been a different matter. It would
still have been necessary for the nevermore to have instituted a suit on that
It is doubtful whether such a suit can be
instituted after her death. In any case the necessary averments are not
available in this suit. We are, therefore, unable to accept this contention
3. Another point urged before the High Court
as well as before us was that the cost incurred by Venkanna in the suit and in
the execution proceedings should have been taken into account in allocating 600
items 1, 2 and 5 between the appellants and the respondent.
The High Court took the view that as the
income received by Venkanna and the amounts spent by him including the amounts
spent for the suit and the execution proceeding were taken into account at the
time of the settlement of the accounts and there was an executable decree in
favour of Venkanna for a sum of Rs. 4,486/- as the amount due on settlement of
account, and it was peon to Venkanna to realise the amount against the estate
of Ramamurti in execution of the decree, it is not now open to the appellants
to claim that these should be separated from the amount of the decree and
should be added on to the amount of principal and interest accrued during the
lifetime of Ramamurti. We agree with this view.
Incidentally it should be noticed that the
conclusion of the High Court on this point would seem to point to the same
conclusion in respect of the first point.
4. Lastly, it was argued that Narasimham, the
widow, had treated this property as accretion to the husband's estate and
therefore the appellants are entitled to the whole of the property. The facts
on the basis of which this contention is urged are:
(a) When Narasimham's life interest in the
estate was sold in E.P. No. 93 of 1927 filed by Venkanna she did not question
the legality of the sale on the ground that her interest in the property was
not a life interest but was a full interest.
(b) In the order in E.A. 624 of 1935 passed
by the Subordinate Judge, Visakhapatnam the widow treated items 1, 2 and 5 as
part of the estate of her husband and she had also asserted therein that she
had a right to enjoy the same as representative of his estate.
(c) Life interest in the A-Schedule
properties was &old in E.P. 28 of 1940 in execution of the decree in O.S.
14 of 1913 and the widow did not object to the sale on the ground that what was
being sought to be sold was a life interest but that she was entitled to full
We do not think anyone or all of these
grounds are sufficient to establish that the widow had treated this property as
accretion to the husband's estate. As observed by the Madras High Court in
Akkanna v. Venkayya (I.L.R. (1902) 25 Mad. 351) "the acquirer of property
presumably intends to retain dominion over it and in the case of a Hindu widow
the presumption is none the less so when the fund with which the property is
acquired is one which, though derived from her husband's property, was at her
absolute disposal. In the case of property inherited from the husband, it is
not by reason of her intention but by reason of the limited nature of a widow's
estate under the Hindu Law, that she has only a limited power of disposition.
But her absolute power of disposition over
the income derived from such limited estate being now fully recognised, it is
only reasonable that, in the absence of an indication of her intention to the
contrary, she must be presumed to retain the same control over the investment
of such income.
The mere fact that properties thus acquired
by her are managed and en- 601 joyed by her without any distinction, along with
properties inherited from her husband, can in no way effect this presumption.
She is the sole and separate owner of the two sets of properties so long as she
enjoys the same, and is absolutely entitled to the income derived from both
sets of properties." The fact that she wanted possession of those
properties or that when in execution of his decree Venkanna bought what he
alleged was her life interest in the properties she did not object to it and
assert that she had full interest does not affect this question. It was to her
advantage to keep quiet. She was not there by estopped from contending that she
had an' absolute interest in the properties. It should, moreover, be remembered
that the question that the items 2 and 5 may have to be divided as between the
reversioners and the widow in proportion to the respective shares of the
husband's estate and the widow in that property was really a later development.
Before the Trial Court both parties proceeded on a different footing altogether
as mentioned earlier. The widow was all along doing everything to prevent her
husband's reversioners getting anything from the estate. She had transferred
quite a good part of it to her brother, which was what enabled the reversioner
to file the suit against her for acts of waste.
She exhibited a very clear intention that
whatever she possessed should go to her brother. There is absolutely no room on
the facts of this case to hold that she exhibited the least intention to treat
the income from the husband's estate as an accretion to that estate.
In the result the appeal is allowed and the
judgment of the High Court set aside. The High Court will dispose of the appeal
afresh. The costs of this appeal will abide and be provided in the fresh decree
to be passed by the High Court.
C.M.P. No. 2016 of 1969 is dismissed.