MUNNI DEVI ALIAS NATHI DEVI (DEAD) VS RAJENDRA ALIAS LALLU LAL (DEAD)

MUNNI DEVI ALIAS NATHI DEVI (DEAD) VS RAJENDRA ALIAS LALLU LAL (DEAD)

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
 CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5894 OF 2019
MUNNI DEVI ALIAS
NATHI DEVI (DEAD) …APPELLANT(S)
THR LRS. & ORS.
VERSUS
RAJENDRA ALIAS
LALLU LAL (DEAD) …RESPONDENT(S)
THR LRS. & ORS.
 J U D G M E N T
BELA M. TRIVEDI, J.
1. The present appeal is directed against the judgment and decree dated
20.07.2017 passed by the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan, Bench at
Jaipur in S.B. Civil First Appeal No.120 of 1989, filed by the Appellants
under Section 96 read with Order 41 of CPC, whereby the High Court
while allowing the said First Appeal has set aside the judgment and decree
dated 05.08.1989 passed by the Additional District & Sessions Judge,
Class-1, Jaipur (hereinafter referred to as “the trial court”) in Civil Suit
2
No.56/73, and has dismissed the suit filed by the plaintiff Daulalji, the
predecessor of the present appellants, against the defendant no. 1 Bhonri
Devi, the predecessor of the present respondent Nos.1 to 3 and others.
2. In order to appreciate the controversy involved in the matter, it would be
beneficial to reproduce the genealogical table/pedigree of the families of
the parties.
Gopalji
Ram Ratanji Abhadydutt Ji Bij Ballabji
(Died issueless)
Jagannathji Rampratapji Shrinarainji
 (Died issueless)
Sri Bakshji
@ Gilji Harinarayanji Ganeshnarayanji
(Died issueless Died 1938
on 11.11.53)
 Daulalji Dhannalaji (son)
Exp.10.11.83 Died 1936
Plaintiff
(Claims to be Wife-Bhonri Devi
adopted by Sri Bakshji on (Defendant died on 17.04.1979)
11.06.1916)
3. The original plaintiff Daulalji filed the suit being No.56 of 1973 seeking
possession of the suit property alongwith the mesne profits, against the
original defendant - Smt. Bhonri Devi, widow of Late Shri Dhannalalji and
against the other defendant Nos. 2 to 12, who were the tenants in the suit
property. The suit property is the house property bearing No.1875, Chokdi
Topkhana Desh, Jaipur which was an ancestral property in the hands of
Harinarayanji and his brother Ganeshnarayanji. As per the case of the
3
plaintiff – Daulalji, he was adopted by Sri Bakshji, who was the greatgrandson of their common ancestor Gopalji on 11.06.1916. The husband
of the defendant No.1 Bhonri Devi, i.e., Dhannalalji predeceased his father
Ganeshnarayanji in 1936. Ganeshnarayanji expired in 1938 and his brother
Harinarayanji died issueless on 11.11.1953. As per the further case of the
plaintiff Daulalji, Harinarayanji had executed a Will on 30.07.1949 in his
favour, and upon his death, on 11.11.1953, he had become the owner of the
suit property alongwith other properties of Harinarayanji by virtue of the
said Will. Upon the death of Harinarayanji, the defendant No.1 – Bhonri
Devi started harassing the plaintiff and therefore the plaintiff left the suit
property on 25.12.1953, and since then the defendant No.1 was in
possession of the suit property. The defendant Nos.2 to 12 were the tenants
in the part of suit property. The plaintiff Daulalji claimed that after the
death of Harinarayanji, he being the only male member in the family as
well as the legatee under the Will of Harinarayanji, had become the sole
owner of the suit property and, therefore, was entitled to recover the
possession of the suit property from the defendant No.1 Bhonri Devi, who
had no legal right or interest in the suit property.
4. The suit was resisted by the defendant No.1 Bhonri Devi by filing the
written statement, denying the averments and allegations made in the
plaint. She also denied any Will having been executed by Harinarayanji in
favour of the plaintiff Daulalji and further contended that Harinarayanji,
4
with a view to take her care, after the demise of her husband and father-inlaw, had started residing with her in the suit property, however, the plaintiff
never resided in the suit property. It was further contended that the
defendant Nos.2 to 12 were giving rent to her, she being the wife of
Dhannalalji and daughter-in-law of Ganeshnarayanji, and thus, was in
possession of the suit property as an owner and was maintaining herself
from the income derived from the suit property. It was also contended that
the limited right vested in her favour in the suit property, had enlarged into
full ownership by virtue of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act,
1956, which came into force on 17.06.1956. She, therefore, contended that
the suit at the instance of the plaintiff was not maintainable and was liable
to be dismissed. The defendant Nos.2 to 8 and 10 to 12 had also filed their
respective written statements contending, inter alia, that the defendant
No.1 Bhonri Devi was the owner of the suit property, and they were her
tenants and were paying rent to her only.
5. It may be noted that the original plaintiff Daulalji expired on 10.11.1983
and original defendant No. 1 Bhonri Devi expired on 17.04.1979, pending
the suit. Thereafter, the suit was prosecuted by Munnidevi, daughter of
original plaintiff – Daulalji and the legal representatives i.e. the nephews
and niece of defendant No. 1 Bhonri Devi, who were substituted in her
place pending the suit. The suit was decreed by the trial Court on
05.08.1989, against which the First Appeal being No. 120/1989 was
5
preferred by the legal representatives of the defendant no. 1 Bhonri Devi.
Pending the appeal, Munnidevi, daughter of original plaintiff Daulalji also
expired, and her legal representatives were substituted in her place. The
said First Appeal having been allowed by the High Court vide the
impugned order dated 20th July, 2017, the present appeal has been filed by
the heirs and legal representatives of the said Munnidevi (hereinafter
referred to as “the appellants”) against the respondent nos. 1 to 4
(contesting respondents) and respondent nos. 5 & 6 (Proforma
respondents).
Submissions:
6. The learned Advocate Mr. Puneet Jain appearing for the appellants
assailing the impugned judgement passed by the High Court made
multiple submissions as follows:
(i) The High Court had committed an error in holding that
after the death of Shri Ganeshnarayanji in 1938, a limited
right in the suit property was created in favour of Bhonri
Devi and that the said Bhonri Devi had a right of
maintenance even under the old Shastric Law, which had
fructified into a full right under Section 14(1) of the Hindu
Succession Act, 1956. According to Mr. Jain, the Hindu
Woman Right to Property Act, 1937 had no application to
the facts of the present case, as the suit property was
6
located in the erstwhile State of Jaipur, where the said Act
was not applicable. In the State of Jaipur, the Hindu
Woman Right to Property Act, 1947 which came into force
on 24.09.1947, was applicable, however, Shri Dhannalal
having expired in 1936 and Ganeshnarayanji having
expired in 1938 i.e., before the commencement of the Act
of 1947, no limited right under the Act of 1947 was created
in favour of the said Bhonri Devi. Even under Section 3(2)
of 1937 Act, right in the joint family property was created
only in favour of the widow of the deceased and not in
favour of a daughter-in-law of a pre-deceased son. In this
regard, he has placed reliance on the decision of this Court
in case of Ram Vishal (Dead) & Ors. by Lrs. Vs. Jagan
Nath & Anr1
.
(ii) Mere possession of property or a right to maintenance
under the old Shastric Law did not give any right to the
defendant no. 1 Bhonri Devi under Section 14(1) of the
said Act of 1956. In this regard, Mr. Jain took the Court to
the pleadings of the parties and submitted that there was no
specific plea raised by defendant no. 1 in this regard and it

1
(2004) 9 SCC 302
7
was only by way of alternative contention raised in the
written statement, the defendant no.1 had sought to
ascertain the plea of her having become full owner under
Section 14(1) of the said Act of 1956.
(iii) There was no limited ownership created in favour of the
defendant no.1 Bhonri Devi specifically in the suit
property and that no presumption of limited ownership as
sought to be asserted by her could be raised. The
presumption must necessarily flow from some statutory or
customary law of inheritance or by instrument or a decree
or a device as contemplated in the Explanation II of
Section 14(1) of the Act.
(iv) The possession of suit property was never given to the
defendant no. 1- Bhonri Devi in the nature of right to
possess in lieu of her right of maintenance creating limited
ownership in the suit property. Mere possession without
any vestige of right in property would not attract Section
14(1). The existence of a pre-existing “limited ownership”
is a sine qua non for the application of Section 14(1),
inasmuch as it is only the limited ownership which would
fructify and blossom into a full ownership under the said
8
provision. Where no such “limited ownership” is shown to
have existed, Section 14(1) has no application.
(v) Right to maintenance is not a “Right in a specific property”
but it is a “Right against the properties of the joint family
generally.”
(vi) Mere right to maintenance without acquisition of title also
would not be sufficient to attract Section 14. Placing
reliance on the decision in case of Dindayal & Anr. vs.
Rajaram2
, he submitted that before any property could be
said to be possessed by a Hindu Woman, as provided in
Section 14(1) of the Act of 1956, it has to be established
that the woman had a right to the possession of the property
in question and that she must have been in possession of
such property either actually or constructively.
(vii) A Hindu Female having a right to maintenance would not
ipso facto create any charge on the property. A right to
maintenance may amount to a legal charge if such charge
is created either by an agreement between the parties or by
a decree. In this regard, Mr. Jain has relied upon the
provisions of Section 27 of the Hindu Adoption and

2
(1970) 1 SCC 786
9
Maintenance Act, 1956 and the decision in case of Sadhu
Singh vs. Gurdwara Sahib Narike3
.
(viii)In the alternative, Mr. Jain submitted that the defendant
no.1- Bhonri Devi’s claims based on her right to
maintenance could be raised only qua the share of Shri
Ganeshnarayanji in the suit property which was to the
extent of 1/4th of the suit property, and the remaining 3/4th
share in the property belonged to the legitimate right of
Daulalji and his heirs, as a consequence of the adoption of
Daulalji and the Will dated 30.07.1949 executed by
Harinarayanji in his favour. He also submitted that the
probate in respect of the said Will was granted to the
plaintiff Daulalji and that the claim of rival Will set up by
the defendant no. 1 Bhonri Devi was negated by the
Probate Court.
(ix) Lastly, he submitted that the suit property being an
ancestral property of the appellants, it should have been
kept within their family and the present respondents who
are the nephews and niece of the deceased Bhonri Devi,
could not claim any right in the suit property.

3
(2006) 8 SCC 75
10
7. The learned Senior Advocate Mr. Pallav Shishodia appearing for the
contesting respondents, supporting the findings recorded by the High
Court in the impugned order, made following submissions:
(i) The exclusive possession of widow of HUF property itself
would create a presumption that such property was
earmarked for realization of her pre-existing right of
maintenance, more particularly when the surviving coparcener did not earmark any alternative property for
recognizing her pre-existing right of maintenance. In this
regard, Mr. Shishodia has invited the attention of the Court
to the ratio laid down by this Court in case of Shrimati
Rani Bai vs. Shri Yadunandan Ram & Anr4 and the
judgments of Rajasthan High Court in case of Mst.
Gaumati Vs. Shankar Lal5 and Mool Kanwar Vs. Jeewa
Lal6
.
(ii) The exclusive possession of defendant Bhonri Devi, after
the death of Harinarayanji was never questioned by the
plaintiff Daulalji. The suit property was only about 1/4th of
the total HUF properties held by Harinarayanji and
Ganeshnarayanji, yielding nominal rentals just enough for

4 1969 (1) SCC 604
5 AIR 1974 Raj.147
6 AIR 1982 Raj.267
11
her sustenance, as compared to much bigger house at
Purani Basti, two shops at Chandpole and other properties
taken away by the original plaintiff-Daulalji.
(iii) As regards the interpretation of Section 14(1) of the Act of
1956, he submitted that the pre-existing right of
maintenance in favour of a widow would have remained
only a lofty right throughout her life without any
vindication, and would have remained fettered at the
mercy of surviving co-parceners, if the case of the plaintiff
was accepted that the said Bhonri Devi enjoyed the suit
property only by way of grace and concession of the
plaintiff-Daulalji. Otherwise, the very purpose of Section
14(1) of the Act, which was enacted to confer absolute
ownership on the Hindu widow in settled possession of
HUF property in lieu of her pre-existing right of
maintenance, would be frustrated. Mr. Shishodia drew the
attention of the Court to the various observations made and
findings recorded by this Court in case of V.Tulasamma
and Ors. vs. Sesha Reddy (Dead) by Lrs7
. According to
him, once the pre-existing right was recognized, the

7
(1977) 3 SCC 99
12
consequences of Section 14(1) cannot be denied to a Hindu
widow.
(iv) The expression “possession” contained in Section 14(1) is
required to be given the widest possible meaning to include
actual as well as constructive possession, like attornment
of tenants in the present case. Likewise, the expression
“acquire” is also required to be given a widest possible
meaning to include acquisition by possession, especially
when such possession of widow already satisfied her preexisting right of maintenance. To elaborate his submission,
Mr. Shishodia has placed reliance on the decision of this
Court in case of Bai Vajia (Dead) by Lrs. Vs. Thakorbhai
Chelabhai and Others8
.
(v) Till the death of Harinarayanji in 1953, he held HUF
properties as karta and the last surviving co-parcener in the
direct line. However, all the rights, title and interest of
Harinarayanji and his successor were subject to the preexisting right of maintenance in favour of Bhonri Devi and,
therefore, even Harinarayanji could not have bequeathed
more than whatever right, title or interest he had in the

8
(1979) 3 SCC 300
13
HUF properties, by executing the Will, in view of Section
30 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925. The plaintiff
Daulalji, therefore, had also got the suit property as a
legatee or co-parcener subject to the limited estate of
Bhonri Devi, whose pre-existing right of maintenance
from the suit property, made her absolute owner after
Section 14(1) of the Act of 1956 came into force.
Analysis:
8. Though number of issues were raised by the parties during the course of
trial before the Trial Court and during the course of the appeal before the
High Court, the learned Counsel Mr. Puneet Jain for the appellants has not
disputed before this court that Bhonri Devi had a right of maintenance from
the estate of her husband’s joint family. He also has not disputed that
Bhonri Devi was residing in the suit house since the time Harinarayanji was
alive i.e., prior to 11.11.1953, and that after the death of Harinarayanji,
Bhonri Devi continued to live in the said house and was collecting the rent
from the tenants who were occupying part of the suit premises. However,
Mr. Puneet Jain has seriously disputed Bhonri Devi’s right to maintenance
from the suit property alone. He has disputed her claim of acquiring the suit
property in lieu of her maintenance for being a full owner, as contemplated
in Section 14(1) of the Act. According to him, vestige of interest against
14
the property could not be said to be the same as the vestige in the property.
In absence of creation of any charge or execution of a document
recognising her right of maintenance in the suit property, it could not be
said that she had pre-existing or limited ownership in the suit property.
9. Similarly, learned Senior Advocate Mr. Shishodia for the concerned
respondents has also not pressed into service the contentions raised by
Bhonri Devi in the suit with regard to the plaintiff Daulalji being a stranger
to the joint family of her husband, and with regard to his adoption by Sri
Bakshji. He has also not pressed into service the issue with regard to the
Will executed by Harinarayanji in favour of Daulalji. However, Mr.
Shishodia urged that all rights, title or interest of Harinarayanji were subject
to the pre-existing right of maintenance of Bhonri Devi, and he could not
have bequeathed by way of Will to Daulalji, more than whatever right or
interest he had in the suit property. Admittedly, Bhonri Devi was in
possession of the suit property and was collecting the rent from the tenants
occupying part of suit property. Therefore, according to Mr. Shishodia, her
settled possession of suit property in lieu of her pre-existing right of
maintenance, entitled her to become full owner of the suit property in view
of Section 14(1) of the Act of 1956.
10. The main issue therefore, whether Bhonri Devi, the predecessor of the
present respondents had become an absolute owner on coming into force
15
the Act of 1956, revolves around the interpretation of Section 14 thereof. It
reads as under:
“14. Property of a female Hindu to be her absolute property.
(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 whatsoever, and also any
such property held by her as stridhana immediately before the
commencement 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 of 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.”
11. From the plain reading of Section 14(1) along with the Explanation thereto,
it emerges that in order to become a full owner and not a limited owner, of
a property by virtue of Section 14(1), a female Hindu, before or after the
commencement of Act of 1956, must be in possession of the property, and
it must have been acquired by her 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 whatsoever, or any such property must have been held by her as
stridhana immediately before the commencement of the Act.
16
12. In the instant case, we are concerned with the claim of Bhonri Devi of
having become the full owner in respect of the suit property on the ground
that she was in settled legal possession of the suit property before and after
the commencement of the Act, in lieu of her pre-existing right of
maintenance, and such limited ownership right had fructified into full
ownership by virtue of Section 14(1). The High Court while discussing
about the right of a Hindu widow to the property, has observed that the
Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act, 1937 was in force in the year 1937
when Ganeshnarayanji, father-in-law of Bhonri Devi expired in 1938, and
that even prior to the said Act of 1937, the right of Hindu widow was
recognised as per the old shastric customs prevalent in the area. In our
opinion, the Hindu Women’s Rights to Property Act, 1937 conferred right
on Hindu widow to the property of her husband, who died after the
commencement of the said Act of 1937 and not prior thereto. Bhonri Devi’s
husband Dhannalalji having expired in 1936, the said Act of 1937 would
not be applicable to facts of the case. However, prior to the said Act of
1937, the right to maintenance of Hindu widow was recognised in Shastric
law. This court in case of V.Tulasamma and other vs. Sesha Reddy(Dead)
(supra) has elaborately considered the pre-existing right to maintenance of
a Hindu woman while considering the provisions of Section 14 of the said
Act of 1956. Justice fazal Ali, as he then was, after quoting the authorities
17
on the subject and elucidating the nature and extent of right of a Hindu wife
to maintenance, summarised the position in para 62 as under: -
“62. We would now like to summarise the legal conclusions
which we have reached after an exhaustive consideration of
the authorities mentioned above on the question of law
involved in this appeal as to the interpretation of Sections
14(1) and (2) of the Act of 1956. These conclusions may be
stated thus:
“(1) The Hindu female's right to maintenance is not an empty
formality or an illusory claim being conceded as a matter of
grace and generosity, but is a tangible right against property
which flows from the spiritual relationship between the
husband and the wife and is recognised and enjoined by pure
Shastric Hindu law and has been strongly stressed even by the
earlier Hindu jurists starting from Yajnavalkya to Manu. Such
a right may not be a right to property but it is a right against
property and the husband has a personal obligation to
maintain his wife and if he or the family has property, the
female has the legal right to be maintained therefrom. If a
charge is created for the maintenance of a female, the said
right becomes a legally enforceable one. At any rate, even
without a charge the claim for maintenance is doubtless a preexisting right so that any transfer declaring or recognising
such a right does not confer any new title but merely endorses
or confirms the pre-existing rights.
(2) Section 14(1) and the Explanation thereto have been
couched in the widest possible terms and must be liberally
construed in favour of the females so as to advance the object
of the 1956 Act and promote the socio-economic ends sought
to be achieved by this long-needed legislation.
(3) 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) materially. The proviso should not be
construed in a manner so as to destroy the effect of the main
provision or the protection granted by Section 14(1) or in a
way so as to become totally inconsistent with the main
provision.
(4) Sub-section (2) of Section 14 applies to instruments,
decrees, awards, gifts, etc. which create independent and new
titles in favour of the females for the first time and has no
application where the instrument concerned merely seeks to
confirm, endorse, declare or recognise pre-existing rights. In
18
such cases a restricted estate in favour of a female is legally
permissible and Section 14(1) will not operate in this sphere.
Where, however, an instrument merely declares or recognises
a pre-existing right, such as a claim to maintenance or
partition or share to which the female is entitled, the subsection has absolutely no application and the female's limited
interest would automatically be enlarged into an absolute one
by force of Section 14(1) and the restrictions placed, if any,
under the document would have to be ignored. Thus, where a
property is allotted or transferred to a female in lieu of
maintenance or a share at partition, the instrument is taken
out of the ambit of sub-section (2) and would be governed by
Section 14(1) despite any restrictions placed on the powers of
the transferee.
(5) The use of express terms like ‘property acquired by a
female Hindu at a partition’, ‘or in lieu of maintenance’, ‘or
arrears of maintenance’, etc. in the Explanation to Section
14(1) clearly makes sub-section (2) inapplicable to these
categories which have been expressly excepted from the
operation of sub-section (2).
(6) The words ‘possessed by’ used by the Legislature in
Section 14(1) are of the widest possible amplitude and include
the state of owning a property even though the owner is not in
actual or physical possession of the same. Thus, where a
widow gets a share in the property under a preliminary decree
before or at the time when the 1956 Act had been passed but
had not been given actual possession under a final decree, the
property would be deemed to be possessed by her and by force
of Section 14(1) she would get absolute interest in the
property. It is equally well settled that the possession of the
widow, however, must be under some vestige of a claim, right
or title, because the section does not contemplate the
possession of any rank trespasser without any right or title.
(7) That the words ‘restricted estate’ used in Section 14(2) are
wider than limited interest as indicated in Section 14(1) and
they include not only limited interest, but also any other kind
of limitation that may be placed on the transferee.”
19
13. Following the said observations made in the case of V.Tulasamma
(supra), this court in Raghubar Singh & Ors vs Gulab Singh & Ors9 held
as under:
“22. The judgment in Tulasamma case [(1977) 3 SCC 99] has
held the field till date. (See also with advantage: Ram
Kali v. Choudhri Ajit Shankar [(1997) 9 SCC 613]
and Bhoomireddy Chenna Reddy v. Bhoospalli Pedda
Verrappa [(1997) 10 SCC 673].)
23. Thus, we find that there is enough authority for the
proposition that the right to maintenance of a Hindu female is
a pre-existing right, which existed in the Hindu law long before
the Act of 1937 or the Act of 1946 came into force and is not a
creation of those statutes, which only recognised that position.
In the words of Fazal Ali, J. in Tulasamma case [(1977) 3 SCC
99] : (SCC p. 135, para 62)
“(1) The Hindu female's right to maintenance is not an
empty formality or an illusory claim being conceded as a
matter of grace and generosity, but is a tangible right against
property which flows from the spiritual relationship between
the husband and the wife and is recognised and enjoined by
pure Shastric Hindu law and has been strongly stressed even
by the earlier Hindu jurists starting from Yajnavalkya to
Manu. Such a right may not be a right to property but it is a
right against property and the husband has a personal
obligation to maintain his wife and if he or the family has
property, the female has the legal right to be maintained
therefrom. If a charge is created for the maintenance of a
female, the said right becomes a legally enforceable one. At
any rate, even without a charge the claim for maintenance is
doubtless a pre-existing right so that any transfer declaring or
recognising such a right does not confer any new title but
merely endorses or confirms the pre-existing rights.”
24. Accordingly, we hold that the right to maintenance of a
Hindu female flows from the social and temporal relationship
between the husband and the wife and that right in the case of
a widow is “a pre-existing right”, which existed under
the Shastric Hindu law long before the passing of the 1937 or
the 1946 Acts. Those Acts merely recognised the position as
was existing under the Shastric Hindu law and gave it a
“statutory” backing. Where a Hindu widow is in possession of
the property of her husband, she has a right to be maintained

9
(1998) 6 SCC 314
20
out of it and she is entitled to retain the possession of that
property in lieu of her right to maintenance.
25. Explaining the meaning of the expression “possessed” as
used by the legislature in Section 14(1) of the 1956 Act
in Tulasamma case [(1977) 3 SCC 99] this Court held: (SCC
p. 136, para 62)
“(6) The words ‘possessed by’ used by the legislature in
Section 14(1) are of the widest possible amplitude and include
the state of owning a property even though the owner is not in
actual or physical possession of the same. Thus, where a
widow gets a share in the property under a preliminary decree
before or at the time when the 1956 Act had been passed but
had not been given actual possession under a final decree, the
property would be deemed to be possessed by her and by force
of Section 14(1) she would get absolute interest in the
property. It is equally well settled that the possession of the
widow, however, must be under some vestige of a claim, right
or title, because the section does not contemplate the
possession of any rank trespasser without any right or title.”
26. It is by force of Section 14(1) of the Act, that the widow's
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 applies 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
recognises or confirms her share in the property or her “preexisting right to maintenance” out of that property. As held
in Tulasamma case [(1977) 3 SCC 99] 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 Act.”
14. In view of the above, there remains no shadow of doubt that a Hindu
woman’s right to maintenance was not and is not an empty formality or an
illusory claim being conceded as a matter of grace and generosity. It is a
tangible right against the property, which flows from the spiritual
relationship between the husband and the wife. The said right was
recognised and enjoined by pure Shastric Hindu Law, which existed even
21
before the passing of the 1937 or the 1946 Acts. Those Acts merely gave
statutory backing recognising the position as was existing under the
Shastric Hindu Law. Where a Hindu widow is in possession of the property
of her husband or of the husband’s HUF, she has a right to be maintained
out of the said property. She is entitled to retain the possession of that
property in lieu of her right to maintenance. Section 14(1) and the
Explanation thereto envisages liberal construction in favour of the females,
with the object of advancing and promoting the socio-economic ends
sought to be achieved by the said legislation. As explained in
V.Tulasamma (supra) case, the words “possessed by” used in Section 14(1)
are of the widest possible amplitude and include the state of owning a
property, even though the Hindu woman is not in actual or physical
possession of the same. Of course, it is equally well settled that the
possession of the widow, must be under some vestige of a claim, right or
title, because the section does not contemplate the possession of any rank
trespasser without any right or title.
15. The undisputed facts in the instant case are that Dhannalalji, the husband
of Bhonri Devi expired in 1936, Ganeshnarayanji, the father-in-law of
Bhonri Devi expired in 1938 and Harinarayanji, the brother of
Ganeshnarayanji died on 11.11.1953. Daulalji was adopted by Sri Bakshji
in the year 1916. Harinarayanji, Ganeshnarayanji and Sri Bakshji had
22
common ancestor Gopalji. It is also not disputed that the suit property was
an ancestral property in the hands of Harinarayanji and Ganeshnarayanji. It
is also not disputed that Bhonri Devi was staying in the suit property before
the death of Harinarayanji, and after his death she was in possession and in
charge of the said property, and was maintaining herself by collecting rent
from the tenants who were occupying part of the suit property.
16. Now it appears from the documents on record that the rent notes (Exhibit
A-2 to A-11) executed during the period 1955 to 1965 in respect of the part
of the suit property, were executed in the name of Bhonri Devi. The
concerned defendants in the suit had also filed their written statements,
stating that they were paying rent to Bhonri Devi only. It further appears
from the document (Exhibit A-13) that Daulalji had raised an objection
against Bhonri Devi paying the house tax in respect of the suit property and
that the Municipal Commissioner, Jaipur vide order dated 28.03.1957 had
observed that Bhonri Devi was paying the tax in the past also. An appeal
against the said order was preferred by Daulalji before the Administrator
of Municipal Council, Jaipur however the same was also rejected vide the
order dated 28.01.1959. It was observed therein that “In this case there is a
dispute regarding ownership. Municipal Commissioner who is the
reversing authority in his judgment dated 28.03.1957 held that Bhonri Devi
who was paying tax to the municipality in the past, should pay the tax and
23
for question of title the concerned party should seek remedy in the Civil
Courts.”
17. From the said documents it clearly emerges that Bhonri Devi was paying
the house tax prior to 1956 and was collecting the rent from the tenants
prior to and after 1956. Pertinently from the document Exhibit-54, it
emerges that in 1940 Bhonri Devi, when she was staying with her in-laws,
had no source of maintenance, and therefore she was granted Rs. 2.50 per
month by way of maintenance, by the Punya Department of the
Government. She claiming to be a PARDANASHEEN lady had authorised
Daulalji to collect the said amount of maintenance. The said document
clearly shows that Bhonri Devi was residing in the suit house since 1940.
Be that as it may, it was well established that Bhonri devi was in possession
of the suit house before and after the death of Harinarayanji in 1953 and
had continued to remain in possession thereafter and was collecting rent
from the tenants who were in occupation of part of the suit premises since
1955, till the date of filing of the suit in 1965 by the plaintiff Daulalji.
18. The afore-stated facts and circumstances clearly established that Bhonri
devi had long settled possession of the suit property, which she had
acquired in lieu of her pre-existing right to maintenance, prior to the
commencement of the Act of 1956, which entitled her to become a full
owner of the suit property by virtue of Section 14(1) of the said Act. Her
exclusive possession of suit property after the death of Harinarayanji in
24
1953 i.e., prior to coming into force of the said Act in 1956, was not only
not disputed but was admitted by the plaintiff Daulalji in the plaint itself.
Her pre-existing right to maintenance from the estate of the HUF of her
husband was also well established. The submission of Mr. Jain for the
appellants that mere right to maintenance would not ipso facto create any
charge on the property and that for creating legal charge recognising right
of Hindu women to maintenance required execution of a document, device
or agreement, cannot be countenanced. Her pre-existing right to
maintenance, coupled with her settled legal possession of the property,
would be sufficient to create a presumption that she had a vestige of right
or claim in the property, though no document was executed or specific
charge was created in her favour recognizing her right to maintenance in
the property.
19.It may be noted that in the Will executed by Harinarayanji in favour of
Daulalji, there was no mention of the suit property. What was stated in the
Will was that whatever movable and immovable property, which belonged
to Harinarayanji would be devolved upon Daulalji. It was only in the
Probate proceedings filed by Daulalji in respect of the said Will, he had
shown the suit property in the Schedule. It is true that the objections raised
by Bhonri Devi against granting of Probate in favour of Daulalji were not
accepted by the Probate Court, and the alleged Will executed by
25
Harinarayanji in favour of Bhonri Devi was also not proved by her in the
said proceedings. Nonetheless, in view of her pre-existing right to
maintenance from the estate of the HUF of her husband and in view of her
exclusive settled possession of the suit property prior to and after the
commencement of the Act of 1956, the only conclusion which could be
drawn, would be that Bhonri Devi had acquired the suit property in lieu of
her pre-existing right to maintenance, and that she had held the suit property
as the full owner and not limited owner by virtue of Section 14(1) of the
said Act of 1956.
20. As stated earlier, Hindu woman’s right to maintenance is a tangible right
against the property which flows from the spiritual relationship between
the husband and the wife. Such right was recognized and enjoined under
the Shastric Hindu Law, long before the passing of the 1937 and the 1946
Acts. Where a Hindu widow is found to be in exclusive settled legal
possession of the HUF property, that itself would create a presumption that
such property was earmarked for realization of her pre-existing right of
maintenance, more particularly when the surviving co-parcener did not
earmark any alternative property for recognizing her pre-existing right of
maintenance. The word “possessed by” and “acquired” used in Section
14(1) are of the widest amplitude and include the state of owning a
property. It is by virtue of Section 14(1) of the Act of 1956, that the Hindu
26
widow’s limited interest gets automatically enlarged into an absolute right,
when such property is possessed by her whether acquired before or after
the commencement of 1956 Act in lieu of her right to maintenance.
21. In that view of the matter, we are of the opinion that the High Court had
rightly held that Bhonri Devi had pre-existing right to maintenance in the
suit property that had ripened into full ownership by virtue of Section 14(1)
of the Act of 1956.
22. The present appeal being devoid of merits is dismissed.
………………………. J.
[AJAY RASTOGI]
 …..................................J.
 [BELA M. TRIVEDI]
NEW DELHI;
18.05.2022

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