Sep 2, 2020 16:35 UTC
Sep 2, 2020 at 16:35 UTC
Case Study: Puttarangamma and 2 others v. M. S. Ranganna and 3 others
Citation: AIR 1968 SC 1018
Date of Judgement: 8th February, 1968
Bench: V. Ramaswami (J), J. C. Shah (J)
The Petitioners and defendants were living in a joint family. Petitioner, Savoy Ranganna was the Karta and managed all the affairs. He was admitted to Sharda nursing home on 4th January, 1951. On 8th January, 1951 he issued a notice for the partition of joint family property. He had four daughters only. After the notices were registered at the post office, certain well-wishers of the family intervened and wanted to bring about a settlement. On their advice and request, the plaintiff notified the post office that he intended to withdraw the registered notices. But as no agreement could be subsequently reached between the parties, the plaintiff instituted the present suit on 13th January, 1951 for partition of his share of the joint family properties.
Trial Court’s decision:
The trial court held that Savoy Ranganna had properly affixed his thumb impression on plaint and vakalatnama, and the presentation of the plaint was valid. He was in a sound state of mind and 8th January notice was clear and unequivocal declaration of his intention to become divided in status and sufficient communication of the notice is provided to the defendants.
High Court’s decision:
The High Court reversed the decree of the trial court and held that suit could not said to have been instituted by Savoy Ranganna as the pieces of evidence do not sufficiently provide that he executed the plaint. Moreover, there is no disruption to joint family status due to notice of 8th January by the plaintiff as no communication was made to the defendants and the notice had been withdrawn later.
- Whether Savoy Ranganna died as a divided member of the Joint Family?
- Whether the plaint filed on 13th January was validly executed by Savoy Ranganna?
Court held that Ranganna died as a divided member of the joint family. The notice of 8th January was sufficient to change the status of the joint family. The notice was well communicated as the respondent tries to snatch the notice from the doctor and also tries to convince the plaintiff to revoke the notice.
Moreover, the plaint on 13th January was filed by the plaintiff only as he was in a sound state and able to understand the contents of the plaint.
Key Law Points:
1. Does an agreement between all the coparceners for the disruption of the joint status is required?
A member of a joint Hindu family can by a definite, unequivocal and unilateral declaration of his intention to separate himself from the family, enjoy his share in severalty. It is not necessary that there should be an agreement between all the coparceners for the disruption of the joint status. It is immaterial in such a case whether the other coparceners give their assent to the separation or not.
In Vijnaneswara, it is also stated that,
“And thus, though the mother is having her menstrual courses (has not lost the capacity to bear children) and the father has attachment and does not desire a partition, yet by the will (or desire) of the son a partition of the grandfather’s wealth does take place.“
A particular state or condition of the mind is the decisive factor in producing a severance in status and the declaration is merely manifestation that might vary according to circumstances. In Suraj Narain v. Iqbal Narain, the court held that a definite and unambiguous indication by one member of intention to separate himself and to enjoy his share in severalty may amount to separation. But to have that effect the intention must be unequivocal and clearly expressed.
In Girja Bai v. Sadashiv Dhundiraj, the court observed that once the decision has been unequivocally expressed and clearly intimated to his co-sharers, his right to have his share allocated separately from has a title is unimpeachable; neither the co-sharers can question it nor can the Court examine his conscience to find out whether his reasons for the separation were well-founded or sufficient; the Court has simply to give effect to his right to have his share allocated separately from the others.
2. Whether is it necessary to communicate the intention to severe the joint status to other coparceners?
In Addagada Raghavamma v. Addagada Chenchamma, it was held that a member of a joint Hindu family seeking to separate himself from others will have to make known his intention to other members of his family from whom he seeks to separate. In Mitakshara law, severance of status is affected by an unequivocal declaration on the part of one of the joint holders of his intention to hold the share separately. It is, however, necessary that the member of the joint Hindu family seeking to separate himself must make known his intention to other members of the family from whom he seeks to separate. The process of communication may, however, vary in the circumstances of each particular case. It is not necessary that there should be a formal despatch to or receipt by other members of the family of the communication announcing the intention to divide on the part of one member of the joint family.
3. Whether revocation of declaration would re-unite the joint family status?
When once a communication of the intention is made which has resulted in the severance of the joint family status, it was not thereafter open to Savoy Ranganna to nullify its effect so as to restore the family to its original joint status. If the intention of Savoy Ranganna had stood alone without giving rise to any legal effect, it could, of course, be withdrawn by Savoy Ranganna, but having communicated the intention, the divided status of the Hindu joint family had already come into existence and the legal consequences had taken effect. It was not, therefore, possible for Savoy Ranganna to get back to the old position by mere revocation of the intention. It is, of course, possible for the members of the family by a subsequent agreement to reunite, but the mere withdrawal of the unilateral declaration of the intention to separate which already had resulted in the division in status cannot amount to an agreement to reunite.
 I.L.R. 35 All. 80. (P.C.).
 1916 Indlaw PC 39.
 1963 Indlaw SC 337.