Ramakrishnareddy & Ors. Vs. Gaddam Rami Reddy & ANR.  INSC 740
(14 September 2010)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (C)
Nos.30004-30005 of 2008 VS.
ALTAMAS KABIR, J.
suit properties, along with certain other properties, formed the joint family
properties of one G. Pullareddy and his two sons, G. Pitchireddy and Gaddam
Ramireddy. The said properties were 2 partitioned in 1947 into three equal
shares and were separately enjoyed by the three co-sharers thereafter according
to such partition.
21st December, 1952, G. Pullareddy executed and registered a Deed of Gift
giving a limited right in his share of the properties to his wife, Gaddam
Sheshamma. In terms of the Gift Deed Sheshamma was given a limited right of
enjoyment of the properties during her lifetime, without right of alienation,
and the remainder was vested in G. Ramireddy. It was stipulated that after
Sheshamma's death, the properties would devolve on G. Ramireddy.
Pullareddy died in or about 1957. At about the same time, Sheshamma is said to
have executed a Deed of Relinquishment in respect of 1.89 acres in R.S.
Nos.93/2 and 1/1 and also executed two sale deeds in favour of one Mukkala Chennareddi
and 3 Vintha Ramakotireddy in respect of some of the aforesaid properties. On
17th February, 1972, Sheshamma also executed and registered a Will in favour of
her grandchildren through G. Pitchireddy, bequeathing the properties which were
received by her through the Gift Deed dated 21st December, 1952, to them.
in view of all the aforesaid alienations by Sheshamma, G. Ramireddy filed O.S. No.17
of 1975 against Sheshamma, Mukkala Chennareddi and Vintha Ramakotireddy before
the District Munsif, Tituvur, for a declaration that the sale deeds dated 31st
January, 1967 and 16th July, 1974, executed by his mother, Sheshamma, in favour
of Mukkala Chennareddi and Vintha Ramakotireddy, who were made Defendant Nos.5
and 6 in the suit, did not affect his rights in the properties. He also prayed
for permanent injunction 4 against the said Defendants from interfering with
his possession in the said properties. The suit was contested by Sheshamma and
Mukkala Chennareddi and was ultimately decreed on 31st January, 1979, in favour
of G. Ramireddy, the Respondent No.1 herein, holding that the sale deeds
executed by Sheshamma in favour of the Defendant Nos.5 and 6 were invalid,
inasmuch as, Sheshamma had no right of alienation as she did not get an absolute
right in the properties. No appeal appears to have been preferred against the
15th August, 1991, Sheshamma died and on 9th October, 1991, G. Ramireddy filed
O.S. No.111 of 1991, which is the present suit, in the Court of Subordinate
Judge, Nuzvid, for a direction upon the Defendants to put him in possession of
the suit properties and also for payment of mesne profits.
The Defendant No.2
duly filed his Written Statement 5 and the same was adopted by Defendant
Nos.1, 3 and 4, denying the claim of the Plaintiffs and asserting their
independent right to the properties through their late father, G. Pitchireddy.
It was also the case of the Defendant Nos.1 to 4 that they had perfected their
rights in respect of Item Nos.4 and 5 of the plaint schedule by way of adverse
possession and that Sheshamma had a pre-existing right of maintenance in the
properties of G.
Pullareddy and the
life estate created under the Gift Deed dated 21st December, 1952, blossomed
into an absolute estate under Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
Although, it was admitted that the rights in respect of the properties covered
under Item No.6 of the plaint schedule had become final in O.S. No.17 of 1975,
it was at the same time submitted that the same could not operate as res
judicata in the present suit. The 5th Defendant contested the suit claiming
that he was 6 in possession of 0.07 acres of land forming part of Item No.6 of
the plaint schedule properties and that he had purchased the same through sale
deed dated 16th July, 1974, executed by Sheshamma for use as a passage to reach
his own land and that he had remained in continuous possession even after the
judgment in O.S. No.17 of 1975.
Trial Court by its judgment dated 30th July, 1997, decreed the suit and held
that the properties were gifted to G. Ramireddy and not to Sheshamma, who had
only been given a life estate therein without any link with her maintenance
during or after Pullareddy's lifetime. It was also held that the judgment in
O.S. No.17 of 1975, in which it was held that the limited estate under the Deed
of Gift executed by G. Pitchireddy did not ripe into an absolute estate as far
as Sheshamma 7 was concerned, had become final and any claim through her would
by the said judgment, the Defendant Nos.1, 2 and 4 and the heirs of Defendant
No.3, Gaddam Madhavareddy, who had died in the meantime, preferred an appeal,
being A.S. No.1010 of 1997, before the Andhra Pradesh High Court on the ground
that the properties had been given to Sheshamma for life in lieu of her
maintenance and that the same ripened into an absolute estate under Section
14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. It was also submitted that Section
14(2) of the said Act had no application on account thereof and the Will
executed by Sheshamma was legal and valid. It was further contended that the
judgment and decree in O.S. No.17 of 1975 did not operate as res judicata since
the Defendants had not been made parties to the suit and that only Item No.6 of
the plaint 8 schedule properties was covered by the earlier suit.
Appeal against the sixth Defendant, who was made the third respondent in the
appeal, was dismissed for default on 18th October, 2001, and on the death of
the third Defendant, who was the third Appellant, during the pendency of the
appeal, his legal representatives were brought on record.
the pendency of the appeal, the High Court, by its order dated 23rd October,
2003, stayed the execution of the decree and permitted determination of mesne
profits from 15.08.1991.
Pursuant thereto, on
an application filed by the plaintiff/Respondent No.1, G. Ramireddy, the Trial
Court appointed an Advocate Commissioner and on the basis of his report, the
Trial Court determined the mesne profits, to which the Respondent No.1 was
entitled, to be Rs.2,31,052/- for the period from 9 15.08.1991 to 15.06.1999.
Since the matter was pending before the High Court, no interest was granted on
the said amount. An appeal, being A.S.No.2869 of 2004, was filed by the
Petitioners herein against the aforesaid order dated 23rd October, 2003. Both
the appeals, i.e., A.S.No. 1010/97 and A.S.No.2869/04, were heard together and
were disposed of by a common judgment dated 28th April, 2008. The High Court,
while dismissing both the appeals on the ground of res judicata in view of the
judgment passed earlier in O.S.No.17 of 1975, modified the cultivation expenses
for the first 5 years from 1991.
focus of the submissions made on behalf of the Petitioners was on the question
whether the limited estate given by G. Pullareddy to Sheshamma by the Deed of
Gift dated 21st December, 1952, would be governed by the provisions of Sections
14(1) or 10 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. It was again sought to be
re-emphasized that the life estate created in favour of Sheshamma by the Deed
of Gift dated 21st December, 1952 executed by G. Pullareddy was in lieu of her
maintenance and, accordingly, having regard to the views expressed by this
Court in the case of V. Tulasamma & Ors. vs. V. Shesha Reddy [(1977) 3 SCC
99], the life estate given to Sheshamma blossomed into a right of full
ownership in respect of the plaint schedule properties. Reference was also made
to a subsequent decision of this Court in Thota Sesharathamma & Anr. vs.
Thota Manikyamma (Dead) by Lrs. & Ors. [(1991) 4 SCC 312], where following
the decision in Tulasamma's case, it was inter alia held that Sub- Section (2)
of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, would operate where there was
no pre- existing right and a restricted estate in the property is conferred for
the first time under any 11 instrument.
was also made to the decision of a three-Judge Bench of this Court in C.
Masilamani Mudaliar & Ors. vs. Idol of Sri Swaminathaswami Swaminathaswami
Thirukoil & Ors. [(1996) 8 SCC 525], where the earlier views expressed in
Tulasamma's case (supra) and Thota Sesharathamma's (supra) were re-emphasized
and it was also added that Section 14 should be construed harmoniously
considering the constitutional goal of removing gender-based discrimination and
effectuating economic empowerment of Hindu females vis-`-vis their rights under
the Constitution and the protection of human rights as embodied in the Vienna
Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women
(CEDAW), as ratified by the United Nations on 18.12.1979 and by the Government
of India on 19.06.1993. It was 12 urged that all the transactions entered into
by Sheshamma, including the registered Will in favour of the Petitioners, were
accordingly valid and acted upon.
the question of res judicata, it was urged that having regard to the decision
in O.S.No.17 of 1975 and O.S.No. 367 of 1974, which was never challenged and
attained finality, the High Court erred in holding that the subsequent suit
filed by Respondent No.1, G. Ramireddy, was not barred by the principles of res
judicata. It was submitted by Mr. Jayanth Muth Raj, learned Advocate, that the
Trial Court, as well as the High Court, had erred in law in decreeing the suit
filed by the Respondent No.1 and directing the Petitioners herein to put the
said Respondent in possession of the plaint schedule properties.
behalf of the Respondent No.1 it was submitted by Ms. T. Anamika, learned
Advocate, that the judgment and order of the High Court affirming the judgment
and decree of the Trial Court decreeing the suit in favour of the Respondent
No.1/Plaintiff did not call for any interference on account of the provisions
of Section 14(2) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, which squarely covered the
facts of this case. It was contended that after Pullareddy acquired his 1/3rd
share in the joint properties pursuant to the partition effected in 1947, it
was his intention that his minor son, Ramireddy, the Respondent No.1 herein,
should be the ultimate beneficiary of the Deed of Gift executed by him on
21.12.1952, and that his wife, Sheshamma, should act as caretaker of the
property on behalf of the minor son while enjoying a life estate for herself.
As would be quite apparent from the Deed of Gift executed by Pullareddy, there
14 was no intention on his part that the income from the property was to be in
lieu of maintenance for Sheshamma. On the other hand, it was crystal clear that
Pullareddy intended to create for the first time a right in favour of Sheshamma
to enjoy the properties during her life time and to take care of the same for
the ultimate beneficiary of the Gift, namely, G. Ramireddy.
to the decision of this Court in Sadhu Singh vs. Gurdwara Sahib Narike &
Ors. [(2006) 8 SCC 75], Ms. Anamika submitted that this Court had held that
giving only a life-estate to the wife and stipulating that during her life time
she would not be entitled either to testamentarily dispose of the property or
to mortgage or sell it to anyone and that after her death the property would
devolve on her nephews in equal shares, made it very clear that the testator's
widow had no 15 pre-existing right in the self-acquired property of her
husband. As a result, the life-estate given to the widow under the Will could
not get enlarged into an absolute estate under Section 14(1) of the Hindu
Succession Act, 1956. It was also held that the widow was not entitled to gift
away the property and even if the gift was treated to be valid, the donee
thereunder would be liable to be evicted by the legatees who acquired the title
to the property after the cessation of life-estate of the widow on her death.
It was categorically held that the title acquired by the legatee on the widow's
death would not be affected by mutation made in favour of the widow who died
after such mutation. This Court concluded that the essential ingredients for
determining whether Section 14(1) of the above Act would be attracted are: the
antecedents of the property, the possession of the property as on the date of
commencement of the Act 16 and the existence of a right in the female over it,
however limited it may be.
the question of res judicata, reliance was placed on the decision of a
three-Judge Bench of this Court in Shakuntala Devi vs. Kamla & Ors. [(2005)
5 SCC 390], wherein it was held that a declaratory decree would not operate as
res judicata, unless it was protected by a special enactment.
the elaborate submissions made on behalf of the respective parties, the scope
of the Special Leave Petition is confined to the question as to whether the
life-estate created by Pullareddy in favour of his wife, Sheshamma, by the Deed
of Gift dated 21.12.1952 could be said to be an interest in lieu of maintenance
which subsequently became enlarged into a full-fledged right of ownership under
Section 14(1) of the Hindu 17 Succession Act, 1956, or whether the same
amounted only to a life estate for the purpose of managing the properties and
enjoying the fruits thereof till G. Ramireddy, the second son of Pullareddy,
who was then a minor, attained majority. The law in this regard has been
crystallized in V. Tulasamma's case (supra) and the same has been consistently
followed over the years. The ratio of the said decision in simple terms is that
if a Hindu woman had any existing interest in a property, howsoever small,
prior to the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the same would
blossom into a full-fledged right by virtue of the operation of Section 14(1)
thereof. On the other hand, if such a right was so acquired for the first time
under an instrument, after the Act came into force, the provisions of Section
14(2) of the above Act would be attracted and would not convert such a right
into a full- fledged right of ownership of the property.
the instant case, Pullareddy created a life interest in favour of his wife,
Sheshamma, in respect of the plaint schedule property, but also gifted the
property in question to the Respondent No.1 herein, G. Ramireddy, who was then
The principal object
of the Deed of Gift executed by Pullareddy was that the property should
ultimately go to G. Ramireddy, the Respondent No.1 herein. The question which
we have to consider in this case is whether in view of the intervention of the Hindu
Succession Act in 1956, after the execution of the Deed of Gift, it can be said
that the gift intended in favour of G. Ramireddy stood extinguished by
operation of Section 14(1) of the Act.
consistent view which has been taken by this Court since the decision in V.
Tulasamma's case (supra) is that the provisions of Section 19 14(1) of the Hindu
Succession Act, 1956, would be attracted if any of the conditions contained in
the Explanation stood fulfilled. If, however, a right is created in a Hindu
female for the first time in respect of any property under any instrument or
under a decree or order of a Civil Court or under an award, where a restricted
estate in such property is prescribed, the provisions of sub- section (1) of
Section 14 would have no application by virtue of sub-section (2) thereof.
this stage it would be worthwhile to set out the relevant portion of the Deed of
Gift executed by Pullareddy, marked Exhibit A-11 in the suit and extracted in
the judgment of the Trial Court. The same reads as follows:
"As I have great
affection towards my wife and my minor son Rami Reddy and believed that they
will look after me 20 with all comforts, I hereby make an arrangement that
here after my wife Sheshamma shall enjoy as she likes, the income from the
lands which stand in my name, in Patta No.8 situated at Maddula Parva Village
and in Patta No.354 situated at Muchanapalli village shown in the Schedule
below, without any right to alienate the said land to any one or to give the
said land on long lease and after the death of my wife, my minor son Rami Reddy
shall get possession of my land along with his share of land and enjoy the same
with an absolute right thereon."
provision has been considered by both the Courts below which have concurrently
held that the life-estate created by Pullareddy in favour of Sheshamma was not
in lieu of her maintenance as she was already managing the properties in
question and in no uncertain terms it was the Donee's desire 21 that the said
properties should ultimately go to his son Ramireddy, the Respondent No.1
Once that is
established, apart from other surrounding circumstances, the immediate fallout
is that Sheshamma's rights in the properties came to be governed by sub-section
(2) of Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, and her right does not blossom
into an absolute estate as contemplated under sub-section (1).
the Courts below have correctly decided that Sheshamma did not acquire any
right beyond a life-estate in the suit properties and on her death, the said
properties devolved on the Respondent No.1 in terms of the Deed of gift
executed by Pullareddy on 21.12.1952.
on the question of res judicata, we are in agreement with the views expressed
by the High Court.
Special Leave Petitions, therefore, fail and are dismissed. The parties will
bear their own costs of these proceedings.