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The Supreme Court holds that for a woman to claim rights under section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, the possession of property is necessary.

M Sivadasan (Dead) through LRs v. A.Soudamini (Dead) through LRs and others


The Supreme Court holds that for a woman to claim rights under section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, the possession of property is necessary.




M. SIVADASAN (DEAD) THROUGH LRs. & ORS                                                                                                                             …APPELLANTS


A. SOUDAMINI (DEAD) THROUGH LRs. & ORS.                                                                                                                          …RESPONDENTS


1. The appellants had filed a suit for partition and  mesne profit   way   back   in   the   year   1988,   before   the   Court   of Principal Munsif, Kozhikode­I, Kerala, claiming ancestral rights over the property comprising of Items 1 & 2 in Plaint Schedule   A;   property   admeasuring   33   ½   cents   and   42 cents respectively.   The Trial Court dismissed the suit of the   plaintiffs/appellants   vide   its   Order   and   Judgment dated 03.02.1993 on the ground that the land along with the house sought to be partitioned is an agricultural land on which the plaintiffs/appellants, cannot claim any right. This finding of the Trial Court was upheld by the First Appellate Court, and finally by the High Court of Kerela by the   impugned   Judgment   dated   29.01.2009   in   second appeal.  In short, the present appellants have lost from all the Courts below.

2. The   contesting   parties   before   this   Court   belong   to “Thiyyas”  community   of   Kozhikode,   Kerala   who   were governed by Hindu Mitakshara law. The admitted position is that amongst “Thiyyas” of Kozhikode, ancestral property devolves only on the male children; daughters, have a right of   maintenance   till   the   time   of   their   marriage.   We   are speaking   here   of   the   rights,   including   possession   as   it existed   prior   to   the   Hindu   Succession   Act,   1956.   The plaintiff/appellant had filed a civil suit before the court of Munsif for partition of the property which has a total area of 75 ½ cents.  Built on the land is the ancestral residential house of the parties.  The suit of partition was dismissed by the trial court holding that Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act, 1937 was not applicable to agricultural land, till its amendment in the year 1946 and the succession to the said property had opened in the year 1942 itself which precedes the date of amendment.

3. The property originally belonged to Sami Vaidyar. On his death in the year 1942, it devolved on his male successor son Sukumaran.  Rights on the property are being claimed presently by the progenies or daughters of Sami Vaidyar through their mother Choyichi, who was the widow of Sami Vaidyar.  The claim of the plaintiff was that Choyichi (who died in the year 1962) had a right, though a limited right under the Hindu Mitakshara law as well as by virtue of Hindu   Women’s   Right   to   Property   Act,   1937   which blossomed into full­fledged right under Section 14 subsection   (1)   of   Hindu   Succession   Act,   1956   which   is reproduced below

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

4. This   argument   of   the   plaintiff   was   rejected   by   the   Trial Court and the same was upheld by the First Appellate Court as well as by the Second Appellate Court on the reasoning that after the death of Sami Vaidyar, his son Sukumaran succeeded in the property in year 1942 itself.   Thereafter, Sukumaran and later the children succeeding Sukumaran had   the   right   over   the   property   which   undisputedly remained in their possession.   Section 14 sub­Section (1) had no application in this case.  The essential ingredient of Section 14 sub­Section (1) is possession over the property. Admittedly   the   plaintiff   was   never   in   possession   of   the property.  The possession was always that of the defendant and   therefore   Section   14   sub­Section   (1)   would   not   be applicable.   In  Ram   Vishal   (dead)   by   lrs.   and   Ors.  v. Jagan Nath & Another. reported in (2004) 9 SCC 302 the position of possession being a pre­requisite to sustain a claim under sub­section (1) of Section 14 of the 1956 Act was confirmed in Para 16 which is quoted below:

‘16. In our view, the authority in Raghubar Singh case [(1998) 6   SCC   314]   can   be   of   no assistance   to   the   respondent. As has been held by this Court, a   pre­existing   right   is   a   sine qua non for conferment of a full ownership under Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act. The Hindu female must not only be possessed of the property but she   must   have   acquired   the property.   Such   acquisition must   be   either   by   way   of inheritance   or   devise,   or   at   a partition   or   “in   lieu   of maintenance   or   arrears   of maintenance” or by gift or by her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by prescription…’ [Emphasis Supplied]

5. As  per   the  law   as  it   existed  at   their  relevant  time  the property which was an agricultural property would devolve upon   the   male   child   and   daughters   would   get   only   a limited right to maintenance till, they were married and the widow would be entitled to maintenance from the income from the property till her death or remarriage.  As per the family Settlement Deed dated 12.03.1938 which was relied upon   by   both   the   parties,   the   property   in   dispute   was specifically   allotted   to   Sami   Vaidyar   and   his   only   son Sukumaran.   Therefore, the widow of Sami Vaidyar i.e., Choyichi will not have any right over the property.   The findings of all the courts below were that Choyichi was never   in   possession   of   the   property   and   therefore   she would not get the right, as claimed by her under Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.

6. We   have   heard   at   length Mr. P.N. Raveendran and Mr. Sudhivasudevan,   learned   senior   counsel   appearing   on behalf of the appellants and Mr. V. Chitambaresh, learned senior counsel, for the respondents/defendants.  The effort of the learned senior counsel for the appellants here was to persuade us to reappreciate the entire case on facts, on which   three   Courts   have   given   the   same   findings.   The learned Counsel would argue that the determination of the land in question as an agricultural land has been wrongly done by all the three Courts.   The argument which has been put forward by the learned senior counsel before us is on the reasoning that merely because the land has a few coconut trees, that will not make it an agricultural land, as in Kerela, coconut trees are found everywhere even in the urban residential properties and their presence itself will not make the land an agricultural land. 

7. The land in question undoubtedly has coconut trees on it, most of them are very old but fruit bearing, and moreover in revenue records, the land is described as “theaattam” i.e., “garden”.  This would mean that the land in question may   be   put   for   agricultural   use.     Theoretically,   it   is possible that a land which is recorded as “theaattam” may not be actually put for agricultural use.  All the same, in the present case, the overwhelming evidence which has been duly appreciated by the three Courts below clearly prove that the land was indeed an agricultural land.  We therefore find no reason to take a different view at this stage.

8. We must state here that this case is here before us in a Special   Leave   Petition   filed   under   Article   136   of   the Constitution of India.  It is true that leave has been granted in   this   case.     Nevertheless,   the   settled   legal   position remains   that   even   after   leave   is   granted   and   appeal   is admitted, the appellants must show that exceptional and special circumstances exist to reverse the findings, or grave injustice will be done if the decision under challenge is not interfered with. We do not find any special circumstances here  which  may  warrant  our  interference.    [See  Pritam Singh v. State, AIR (1950) SC 169: (1950) SCR 453, Hem Raj  v.  State   of   Ajmer  AIR (1954) SC 462: (1954) SCR 1133, Bengal Chemical & Pharmaceutical Works Ltd. v. Employees, AIR (1959) SC 633: 1959 Supp (2) SCR 136: (1959)   1   LLJ   413,  Municipal   Board,  Pratabgarh   and Anr. v. Mahendra Singh Chawla and Ors. (1982) 3 SCC 331: (1983) SCC (L&S) 19, Taherakhatoon (dead) by LRs v. Salambin Mohammad (1999) 2 SCC 635]

9. There   is   another   aspect   of   the   matter.   Admittedly   the defendants   have   all   along   been   in   possession   of   the property. The finding of adverse possession in favour of the defendants by the Trial Court, was never challenged by the plaintiffs/appellants before the First Appellate Court.   We refer here the observations of the High Court which are as under: 

“10…It is pertinent to note that the   findings   of   the   trial   court that   the   rights,   if   any,   of   the plaintiffs   have   been   lost   by adverse   possession   and   ouster does   not   appear   to   have   been assailed   before   the   lower appellate   court.     The   lower appellate   court   also   did   not interfere with the said finding…”

Consequently, even if we keep nature of the land aside for a while, the present appeal is liable to be dismissed on this ground alone. 

10. The concurrent findings on facts by the Trial Court and the First   Appellate   Court   have   been   reaffirmed   in   second appeal   by   the   High   Court,   yet   by   and   large   the   entire submissions of the appellants is nothing but a persuasion before this Court for reappraisal of the case on facts.

11. In view of the above discussion, the judgment of the Trial Court   and   First   Appellate   Court,   affirmed   by   the   High Court in second appeal on 29.01.2009 is upheld and the present   appeal   is  hereby  dismissed.  The   order  granting status quo by this Court dated 06.01.2010 stands vacated.  No order as to costs. 


           [C.T. RAVIKUMAR]



AUGUST 28, 2023.



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