In a recent judgement passed by the High Court of Delhi in the case Vickram Bahl & Anr. Vs. Siddhartha Bahl, it has been held that the rights in favor of the ultimate beneficiary under the mutual Will accrue on the demise of either of the executants and during the lifetime of the other executant of the mutual Will.
"the principle of, a mutual Will coming into effect and binding also the testator who may still be alive, on the death of one of the two testators, is well enshrined in the Indian Law", observed Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw while decreeing a suit.
In the present case, one Late Wing Commander N.N.Bahl and Mrs. Sundri Bahl(Defendant No.2) executed a joint Will dated 31.03.2006. Mr.N.N. Bahl predeceased Mrs. Bahl. As per the clauses of the Will, after the demise of one spouse, the entre suit property is to "rest" with the other spouse & no one else shall have the right or interest in the share of the deceased share and after the demise of both of them, their eldest son, grand-daughter(daughter of eldest son) and younger son will be absolute owners of their respective shares as detailed therein.
Their eldest son along with his daughter filed suit thereby inter alia seeking the relief of permanent injunction against his mother and brother from dis-possessing them from their respective share of the Suit property as per the said Will. The Suit was at the stage of framing of issues.
Broadly the issues before the Court were (I) whether the undisputed document dated 31st March, 2006, qualifies as a mutual Will and if so, the effect thereof; and, (II) the effect of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act on such bequeathal.
In a very detailed judgement, while decreeing the suit in favour of the Plaintiffs, Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw held that on the reading of the clauses of the Will it is evident that the said Will contains the agreement between Testators as to how the Suit Property is to be devised and bequeathed and there being no ambiguity or uncertainty of the agreement between the Testators, the question of permitting any oral evidence also, does not arise, in view of Sections 91 & 92 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
It was further held that once such an agreement is found and the Will is found to be with respect to joint property and the Will of Testators is contained in the same document, the same qualifies as a mutual Will.
Mrs. Sundri N. Bahl having accepted the said Will and after taking advantage thereunder cannot deal with the property, contravening her agreement with her deceased husband and is bound by the same.
Expounding the law further, it was held that "the rights in favour of the ultimate beneficiary under the mutual Will are crystalized on the demise of either of the executants and during the lifetime of the other executant of the mutual Will", and the beneficiary does not have to wait till the death of both the executants, to enforce his rights.
With regard to the second issue, the Court held that for applicability of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, possession of the property by Hindu female on the date of commencement of the Act is sine qua non.
It was also held that it is incumbent for the Hindu female to plead that the subject property was bequeathed to her in lieu of a pre-existing right and since in the present case Mrs. Sundi Bahl has not pleaded so, she cannot claim absolute right to the suit property under Section 14(1).
Plaintiffs were represented by Mr. Ravi Gupta, Sr. Adv., Mr. Jeevesh Nagrath, Mr. Sachin Jain and Ms. Diya Kapur. While Defendants were represented by Mr. Anil Sharma and Mr. Sanjay Agnihotri.
(The author of this report is an Advocate at the Delhi HC)
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