Dec 9, 2020 11:51 UTC
Dec 9, 2020 at 11:51 UTC
Case Study: R. Kuppayee & Anr v. Raja Gounder
Citation: AIR 2004 SC 1284
Date of Judgement: 10th December, 2003
Bench: Ashok Bhan (J), R.C. Lahoti (J)
- The appellants are the daughters of the defendant-respondent (hereinafter referred to as the “respondent”). By a registered settlement deed, dated 29th of August, 1985, the respondent gifted 12 cents of land in favour of the appellants along with Mangalore tiled house standing on the gifted land.
- It was also stated in the settlement deed that in future neither the respondent nor any other male or female heirs would have a right over the settled property.
- After nearly 5 years, respondent and his associates asked the appellants to vacate the property and tried to trespass into the property. Because of which the appellants filed suit against the respondent seeking relief of restraining the respondent and his associates from interfering with the appellant’s peaceful possession and enjoyment of the suit property.
- Appellants: The counsel for the appellants put forth the contentions that the settlement was made by the respondent out of natural love and affection for the appellants and the possession of the property was handed over to them on the day the settlement deed was executed. PW-2 known to respondent gives the statement that respondent is not in the habit of drinking liquor.
- Respondent: The respondent argued that he had not executed any settlement deed. That his son-in- law i.e., husband of appellant No.1 had purchased a house site and the respondent was taken to the Registrar’s office to witness the sale deed. That he was used to taking liquor and taking advantage of his addiction to liquor the appellants and their respective husbands fraudulently by misrepresentation instead got the sale deed executed from him. The property in dispute being Joint Hindu Family property consisting of himself and his son could not be gifted under any circumstances.
Lower Court’s Decision:
The learned trial court held that the respondent was taken to the Sub-Registrar’s office to witness a document whereas a deed of settlement was got executed from him. Statement of PW-2 was discarded by the court. The trial court further held that, the respondent had no power to make a gift of a part of the ancestral property in favour of his daughters. The order of the trial court was affirmed by the First Appellate Court as well as by the High Court, aggrieved against which the present appeal has been filed.
The Apex court accepts the appeal, set aside the judgment and the decrees passed by the courts below. The appellants are held to be the absolute owners of the suit property and the respondent is injuncted from interfering with the peaceful possession and enjoyment of the suit property by the appellant perpetually.
Key Issues discussed in the case:
- Whether the judgments of the courts below are vitiated because of the misreading of the evidence of PW-2, the attesting witness to the settlement deed?
The Apex court carefully perused the statements made by PW-2 as well as the respondent and came to the conclusion that trial court misread and misconstrued the testimony of PW-2. PW-2 in his deposition has clearly stated that he was invited by the respondent to be a witness. He also deposed that respondent affixed his signatures on Exhibit A1 after reading the same. The evidence of respondent lacked total credibility especially in the light of his conduct in denying his signature on the settlement deed, vakalatnama as well as on the summons served on him. Plea taken by the respondent that he was taken to the Sub-Registrar’s office to be a witness to a sale deed by his son-in-law cannot be accepted as it has not been proved on record that the respondent’s son-in-law had in fact purchased any house site. Findings recorded by the trial court and upheld by the First Appellate Court and the High Court based on misreading of evidence are liable to be set aside. The findings recorded on misreading of evidence being perverse cannot be sustained in law.
- Whether the gift/settlement made by the father in favour of his married daughters of a reasonable extent of immovable property out of the Joint Hindu Family property is valid?
In Anivillah Sundararamaya v. Cherla Seethamma and others, it was held that a small portion of the ancestral immovable property could be given to the daughter at the time of her marriage or thereafter and such a gift would be a valid gift. In this case 8 acres of ancestral immovable property out of 200 acres of land possessed by the family were given in gift by the father to his daughter after her marriage. The same view was taken in Pugalia Vettorammal and another v. Vettor Goundan. In this case it was held that a father could make gift to a reasonable extent of the ancestral immovable property to his daughter. Gift made of 1/6th of the total holding of the ancestral property was held to be a valid. The same view has later been taken by the Madras High Court in Devalaktuni Sithamahalakshmamma and others v. Pamulpati Kotayya and others and Karuppa Gounder and others v. Palaniammal and others.
The Court considered the question of extended meaning given in numerous decisions for “pious purposes” in Kamla Devi v. Bachulal Gupta in which it was held that that the gift made in favour of the daughter was valid in law and binding on the reversioners. In Guramma Bhratar Chanbasappa Deshmukh and another v. Malappa it was held that, the Hindu law texts conferred a right upon a daughter or a sister, as the case may be, to have a share in the family property at the time of partition. The father or his representative can make a valid gift, by way of reasonable provision for the maintenance of the daughter, regard being had to the financial and other relevant circumstances of the family.
On the authority of the judgments referred to above the Apex Court came to the conclusion that, it can safely be held that a father can make a gift of ancestral immovable property within reasonable limits, keeping in view, the total extent of the property held by the family in favor of his daughter at the time of her marriage or even long after her marriage.
- Whether a gift made in favour of the appellants was within the reasonable limits, keeping in view, the total holding of the family?
The total property held by the family was 3.16 acres. 12 cents would be approximately 1/26th share of the total holding. The share of each daughter would come to 1/52nd or 1/26th share of the total holding of the family which cannot be held to be either unreasonable or excessive under any circumstances. Question as to whether a particular gift is within reasonable limits or not has to be judged according to the status of the family at the time of making a gift, the extent of the immovable property owned by the family and the extent of property gifted. No hard and fast rule prescribing quantitative limits of such a gift can be laid down. The answer to such a question would vary from family to family. This apart, the question of reasonableness or otherwise of the gift made has to be assessed vis-a-vis the total value of the property held by the family. Simply because the gifted property is a house, it cannot be held that the gift made was not within the reasonable limits. Therefore, in the absence of any pleadings or proof on these points, it cannot be held that the gift made in this case was not within the reasonable limits of the property held by the family.
 1911 (21) MLJ 695.
 1912 (22) MLJ 321.
 AIR 1936 (Madras) 825.
 1963 (1) MLJ 86.
 1957 SCR 452.
 1964 (4) SCR 497.