Bai Vs. Raghubir Prasad  INSC 49 (24 February 1999)
Syed Shah Mohammed Quadri V.N.KHARE, J.
Dubey, father of the appellant herein, was the owner in possession of House No.
27 situate in Mohalla purani Kotwali, in the town of Jhansi. During his life time Nanho Dubey
executed a Will on 16.12.1935 in respect of his properties, including House No.
27, which was duly registered. It was the last Will of Nannhu Dubey whereunder Raghubir
Prasad - the respondent herein, was to be the owner of the House No. 27 only
after the death of testators wife Smt. Bhagwati Bai. Smt. Bhagwati Bai, widow
of Nanho Dubey was given only life interest in the said house in lieu of her
maintenance. Nanho Dubey died in May, 1943. After the death of the testetor,
his widow Smt. Bhawwati Bai entered into the possession of the house for her
28.3.62, Smt. Bhagwati Bai executed a Gift Deed in respect of House No. 27 in favour
of her daughter who is the appellant before us. It is at this stage, the
plaintiff-respondent filed a suit for declaration that the Gift Deed dated
28.3.62 executed by Smt. Bhagwati Bai in favour of her daughter is illegal and
void. The trial court dismissed the suit on the ground that Smt. Bhagwati Bai
having possessed the house in lieu of her pre-existing right she became the
absolute owner under sub- section(1) of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act
(hereinafter referred to as the Act) and the Gift Deed executed by her was
valid. The First Appellate Court allowed the appeal and decreed the suit on the
premise that the present case is to govern by sub-section(2) of Section 14 of
the Act as the source of right was conferred for the first time on Smt. Bhagwati
Bai by virtue of the Will. The judgment of the First Appellate Court was
affirmed by the High Court in the second appeal.
counsel appearing for the appellant urged that once Smt. Bhagwati Bai- widow of
Nanho Dubey had been given the right of possession in lieu of her maintenance,
it was in recognition of her pre- existing right. The said limited right was
transformed into an absolute right by virtue of sub-section(1) of Section 14 of
the Act and as such she was legally competent to gift the property in favour of
her daughter. On the other hand, the contention on behalf of respondent is that
since the widow of Nanhu Dubey got the right by virtue of a Will for the first
time, her rights would be governed by sub-section(2) of Section 14 of the Act
and in that case, she was not legally competent to execute the Gift Deed in favour
of the appellant.
to old Shastric Hindu law, marriage between two Hindus is not a contract but a
sacrament. The marriage is regarded as a holy union of wife and husband and by
such union the wife becomes part and parcel of the husband.
the Shastric Hindu law, after marriage it is a pious obligation on the part of
the Hindu husband to maintain his wife during his life time and after his death
the widow is to be maintained out of the property of the husband if the husband
has left any property. This was on account of spiritual relationship between a
Hindu husband and wife.
principle was statutorily recognized by the enactments known as Hindu Womens
Rights to Property Act, 1937 and Hindu Married Womens Rights to Separate Residence
and Maintenance Act, 1946. Under these two Acts, the right to maintenance of a
Hindu widow was preserved as a pre-existing right. After independence it was
felt necessary to assure the equality of right in property to a Hindu female
and to remove the artificial disparity in right to property where a male was
entitled to obtain full ownership in the property and a Hindu female would only
be contained by limited ownership because of the restrictions imposed on her by
the Hindu law. With this object in mind, Parliament enacted The Hindu
Succession Act, 1956. After the Act came into force, the question arose whether
the right of maintenance given to a widow would crystalised into a full-fledged
right by virtue of Section 14 (1) of the Act. After a number of decisions by
this Court, the said question is no longer res integra.
Court in V.Tulasamma vs. Sesha Reddi (1997) 3 SCC 99 at 125 has held as under :-
Thus the following propositions emerge from a detailed discussion of this case
the widows claim to maintenance is undoubtedly a tangible right though not an
absolute right to property so as to become a fresh source of title. The claim
for maintenance can, however, be made a charge on the joint family properties,
and even if the properties are sold with the notice of the said charge, the
sold properties will be burdened with the claim for maintenance;
that by virtue of the Hindu Womens Rights to Property Act, 1937, the claim of
the widow to maintenance has been crystallized into a full-fledged right and
any property allotted to her in lieu of maintenance becomes property to which
she has a limited interest which by virtue of the provisions of Act of 1956 is
enlarged into an absolute title ;
Section 14(2) applies only to cases where grant is not in lieu of maintenance
or in recognition of pre-existing rights but confers a fresh right or title for
the first time and while conferring the said title certain restrictions are
placed by the grant or transfer. Where, however, the grant is merely in
recognition or in implementation of a pre-existing right to claim maintenance,
the case falls beyond the purview of Section 14(2) and comes squarely within
the explanation to Section 14(1).
aforesaid case was followed in Ram Kali vs. Choudhri Ajit Shankar (1997) 9 SCC
613. This Court held in Ram Kalis case as under :-
The only argument raised before us by the learned counsel for the respondents
was that on the facts of this case Section 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act
applies and not Section 14(1). According to the learned counsel for the
respondents the Hindu women have no pre-existing right for maintenance and
assuming she had so, that must be pursuant to Hindu Womens Right to Property
Act, 1937 and not earlier. This argument is not available in view of the clear
pronouncement to the contrary in Tulasamma case.
Court in Raghubar Singh vs. Gulab Singh (1998) 6 SCC 314, held as under :-
is by force of Section 14(1) of the Act, that the widows limited interest gets
automatically enlarged into an absolute right notwithstanding any restriction
placed under the document or the instrument. So far as sub-section (2) of
Section 14 is concerned, it applied to instruments, decrees, awards, gifts,
etc., which create an independent or a new title in favour of the female for
the first time. It has no application to cases where the instrument/document
either declares or recognizes or confirms her share in the property or her
pre-existing right to maintenance out of that property. As held in Tulasamma
case sub-section (2) of Section 14 is in the nature of a proviso and has a
field of its own, without interfering with the operation of Section 14(1) of
the aforesaid pronouncement of law by this Court, it is clear that sub-section
(1) of Section 14 applies to the cases where the conferment of right to a Hindu
widow was in lieu of maintenance or in recognition of her pre-existing right as
provided under the Shastric law and Hindu Womens Rights to Property Act.
Sub-sections(2) of Section 14 of the Act would apply only to such cases where
grant conferred a fresh right or title for the first time and while conferring
the said right certain restrictions were placed by the grant or transfer.
present case, the widow was conferred the limited right in lieu of maintenance
in recognition of her pre-existing right. The limited interest conferred upon
her by virtue of the Will being in lieu of maintenance and in recognition of
her pre-existing right, the said right transformed into an absolute right by
virtue of Section 14 (1) of the Act. The said right was not conferred on her
for the first time. Thus sub-section (2) of Section 14 of the Act has no
application to the present case. Under such circumstances, the widow became the
absolute owner of House No. 27 and was fully competent to execute the Gift Deed
in favour of her daughter. The Gift Deed executed by the widow was thus valid.
the foregoing reasons, the view taken the First Appellate as well as the Second
Appellate Court deserve to be set aside. We accordingly set aside the judgment
of the First Appellate Court as well as the Second Appellate Court and the suit
filed by the plaintiff- respondent shall stand dismissed. The appeal is
allowed. There shall be no order as to costs.