& Ors Vs. Guramma & Anr  INSC 557 (18 November 1998)
V. Manohar, & G.B. Pattanaik.
The application to bring on record Respondent No.2 also as legal representative
of deceased Respondent No. 1 is allowed.
respondent was the widow of one Ramshetti who died some time in July, 1954. The
2nd respondent is her daughter. Ramshetti and his brother Veerappa, during
their life time constituted a joint family which owned, inter aliea
agricultural land. The present appellant are the widow, sons and daughters of Veerappa.
partition of the joint family property which was ordered in proceedings arising
pursuant to regular Suit No.88/78 for partition and possession, the Ist
respondent as widow of Ramshetti has been given a share in the agricultural
lands belonging to the joint family. The appellants contended that under the
Hindu Women's Right to Property Act as applied in the erstwhile State of
Hyderabad where the lands were situated, the Ist respondent being the widow of deceesed
Ramshetti, was not entitled to a share in the joint family agricultural lands.
Agricultural lands are excluded from the provisions of the Hindu Women's Right
to Property Act, 1937. This contention has been negatived by the High Court.
Hence the present appeal has been filed by the heirs of Veerappa.
date of death of Ramshetti in July, 1954, the lands were situated in the
erstwhile State of Hyderabad, Under the Hyderabad (Application of Central Acts)
Act, 1952 which received assent of the President on 22nd of July, 1953, certain
Central Acts affecting Hindu and Muslim laws were applied to the State of
Hyderabad. One of the laws so applied to the State of Hyderabad was the Hindu
Women's right to Property Act, 1937.
3 of the Hyderabad (Application of Central Acts) Act, 1952, hereinafter
referred to as the Hyderabad Act of 1952, stated that Acts specified therein
shall, with effect from the appointed day, extend to and be in force in the
whole of the State of Hyderabad subject to the modification mentioned in the
Schedule and shall accordingly be in force in the said State with effect from
the said date in the forma respectively specified in Annexures 'A', 'B', 'C',
'D', 'E' and 'F' to the Schedule, in the Schedule to the said Act the
modification to the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act, 1937 is set out. The
only modification is, "For sub-section (2) of Section 1, the following
sub-section shall be substituted, it extends to the whole of the State of
Hyderabad, "Annexure C' to the said Hyderabad Act of 1952 sets out the
text of the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, 1937 as modified by the
aforesaid Schedule and applicable in the State of Hyderabad. the entire text of
the Act remains the same with the modification of sub-section (3) of the said Hindu
Women's Right to Property Act, 1937 when a Hindu governed by any school other
than Dayabhaga School of Hindu Law or a customary law, dies intestate having at
the time of his death an interest in a Hindu Joint Family Property, his widow
shall have in the property the same interest as he himself had, subject to
sub-section (3). Under sub-section (3) Under sub-section (3) the interest
devolving on a Hindu Woman's Estate. There is no definition of property under
the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, 1937. Therefore, the term property
has to be given its ordinary meaning which would include agricultural land
the appellants rely upon a decision of the Federal Court in Re: Hindu Women's
Right to Property Act. 1937 AIR 1941 Federal Court page 72 under which the
validity of the said Original Act which had been enacted by the Central
Legislature was considered by the Federal Court, Examining the question of
legislative competence of the Central Legislature to enact in 1937 the Hindu
Women's Right to Property Act the Federal Court examined the legislative
entries under the Government of India Act, 1935. It held that under Entry 21 of
List II which applied to the Provincial Legislatures, laws with respect to
devolution of agricultural land could be enacted only by the Provincial
Legislature. It also noted that in List III, that is to say, the Concurrent
List, Entry 7 was wills, intestacy and succession save and except agricultural
land'. The Federal Court observe that while the Act purports to deal in quite
general terms with property' or 'separate property' of a Hindu dying intestate
or his interest in joint family property, it does not distinguish between
agricultural land and other property and. therefore, is not limited in terms to
the latter. However, looking to the completence of the Central Legislature to
enact such a law the word 'property' will have to be suitable construed. 'When
legislature with limited and restricted powers makes use of such a word of such
a wide and general import, the presumption must surely be that it is using it
with reference to that kind or property with respect to which it is competent
to legislate and to no other. The Federal Court, therefore, restricted the
application of the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, 1937 by excluding
agricultural lands from its purview.
same constraint do not apply to the said Hyderabad Act of 1952 passed by thee
legislature of the State of Hyderabad, which has received the assent of the
President on 22nd of July, 1953. The relevant Legislative entries under the
Constitution of India are somewhat different. Entry 5 in the Concurrent List,
being List III in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution, is as follows:
and divorce; infants and minors; adoption; wills, intestacy and succession;
joint family and partition; all matters in respect of which parties in judicial
proceedings were immediately before the commencement of this Constitution
subject to their personal law." The is no exclusion of agricultural lands
from Entry 5 which covers wills, intestacy and succession as also joint family
and partition. Although Entry 6 of the Concurrent List refers to transfer of
property other than agricultural land, agriculture as well as land including
transfer and alienation of agricultural land are placed under Entries 14 and 18
of the State List. Therefore, it is quite apparent that the Legislature of the
State of Hyderabad was competent to enact a Legislation which dealt with
intestacy and succession relating to Joint Family Property including
agricultural land. The language of the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act,
1937 as enacted in the State of Hyderabad is as general as the Original Act.
The words 'property' as well as 'interest in Joint Family Property' are wide
enough to cover agricultural lands also. Therefore, on an interpretation of the
Hindu Women's Right to Property Act, 1937 as enacted by the State of Hyderabad,
the Act covers agricultural lands. As the Federal Court has noted in the above
judgment, the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act is a remedial Act seeking to
mitigate hardships of a widow regarding inheritance under the Hindu Law prior
to the enactment of the 1937 Act; and it ought to receive a beneficial
interpretation. The beneficial interpretation in the present context would
clearly cover agricultural lands under the word 'property'. This Act also
received the assent of the President under Article 254(2) and, therefore, it
appellants, however, rely upon a subsequent Act passed by the State of
Hyderabad, namely, Hyderabad Hindu Women's Rights to Property (Extension to Agricultural Land) Act, 1954. Section 2 of the said Act provides that
"term 'property' in the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act as in force
in the State of Hyderabad shall include agricultural land. This Act received
the assent of the President on 15th October, 1954 and was published in the State Gazette dated 22nd of October, 1954. It
was submitted that prior to the enactment of the Hyderabad Hindu Women's Right
to Property (Extension to Agricultural Lands) Act, 1954, the Hindu women's
Right to Property Act as enacted in 1952 would not apply to agricultural land.
The High Court has rightly negatived this contention. A subsequent Act cannot
be used to interpret the provisions of an earlier enactment in this fashion.
The language of the earlier Act is wide enough to cover agricultural land also.
In the entire Hindu Women's Right to Property Act, 1937, there is nothing which
would indicate that the Act does not apply to agricultural land.
word 'property' is a general term which covers all kinds of property, including
agricultural land. A restricted interpretation was given to thee original Hindu
Women's Right to Property Act, 1937 enacted by the then Central Legislature,
entirely because of the legislative entries in the Government of India Act,
1935, which excluded the legislative competence of the Central Legislature over
agricultural lands. Such is not the case in respect of the Hindu Women's Right
to Property act, 1937, as enacted by the State Legislature of the State of
Hyderabad. The ratio of the Federal Court judgment, therefore, would not apply.
is, therefore, no substance in the contention that the subsequent Act of 1954
restricted the application of the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act, 1937
brought into force by the earlier Hyderabad Act of 1952. As is pointed out by
the High Court, the Act of 1954 was enacted by way of abundant caution, to make
sure that the agricultural lands were not considered as excluded from the scope
of the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act as enacted in 1952. The second Act
is, therefore, clarificatory.
High Court has dealt at length with various decisions of this Court and other
Court on thee question of interpretation of the said statute. Since we are in
agreement with the reasoning and conclusion arrived at by the High Court, we
are not again examining the cases referred to by the High Court. We, therefore,
affirm the reasoning and conclusion arrived at by the High Court and dismiss
this appeal. There will, however, be no order as to costs.