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Owner Can Bequeath Properties Even To Strangers By Will: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
19 April 2022 7:53 AM GMT
Owner Can Bequeath Properties Even To Strangers By Will: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reiterated that an absolute owner of a property is entitled to bequeath his properties by Will in favour of strangers.In this case, Saroja Ammal filed a suit for a declaration of title and for permanent injunction in respect of certain properties. Her claim was based upon the last Will and Testament by one Munisamy Chettiar, whom she claimed to be her...

The Supreme Court reiterated that an absolute owner of a property is entitled to bequeath his properties by Will in favour of strangers.

In this case, Saroja Ammal filed a suit for a declaration of title and for permanent injunction in respect of certain properties. Her claim was based upon the last Will and Testament by one  Munisamy Chettiar, whom she claimed to be her husband. The Trial court decreed the suit and the First Appellate Court dismissed the appeal filed by defendants. The Madras High Court, allowed the Second appeal, and dismissed the suit.

The High court held that (i) long and continuous cohabitation of a man and a woman; (ii) their treatment as such for a number of years by the society; and (iii) the fact that they are living under the same roof, may ordinarily lead to a presumption that they are living as husband and wife, but the benefit of such presumption will not be available if either of the spouses had been married to another person. Since on facts, since the plaintiff was married to one Marimuthu Gounder and had also borne two children for him, the High Court answered the first question of law against her. It was also held that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the execution of the Will and that the Will cannot be taken to have been proved in accordance with law.

In appeal, the Apex Court bench noted that the High Court itself has stated that irrespective of whether the plaintiff was the wife of Munisamy Chettiar or not, she will be entitled to the relief of declaration and injunction, if she was able to prove that the Will was executed by the testator in a sound and disposing state of mind. On the second aspect (suspicious circumstances), the bench noted as follows:

"Insofar as the Will is concerned, the fact (i) that all the sons had been provided their respective shares under a registered partition deed of the year 1978; (ii) that the testator in fact had given a police complaint against his own sons; (iii) that none of the children of the testator except defendant Nos.2 and 6 went 10 into the witness box to support the stand taken in written statement; (iv) that the Will was a registered Will of the year 1992, after the execution of which the testator lived for four years; (v) that Exhibit B­21 hospital record merely shows that the testator had high fever and diabetic foot, two months before the execution of the Will; and (vi) that the appellant examined at least one of the attestors of the Will, were sufficient for the trial Court and the first appellate Court to come to the conclusion that the Will was true and valid and that there were no suspicious circumstances. "

The bench observed that the High Court re­appreciated the very same evidence to come to a different conclusion in a second appeal under Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

The defendants relied on the judgment in Indra Sarma vs. V.K. V. Sarma (2013) 15 SCC 755 . The court noted that the said judgment arose out of a question whether a live ­in relationship would amount to a domestic relationship within the meaning of the said expression under Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. 

"This decision will not take the first respondent anywhere, since the absolute owner of a property is entitled even to bequeath his properties in favour of strangers", the court said while allowing the appeal.


Case details

Saroja Ammal vs M Deenadayalan | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 379 | CA 2828 OF 2022 | 8 April 2022

Coram: Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian

Counsel: Sr. Adv Jayanth Muth Raj for appellant, Sr. Adv Harshvir Pratap Sharma for respondent


Headnotes

Will - The absolute owner of a property is entitled even to bequeath his properties in favour of strangers. (Para 20)

Summary : Appeal against Madras HC judgment which allowed second appeal and dismissed the suit filed by plaintiff who sought a declaration of title and for permanent injunction in respect of certain properties based upon the last Will and Testament by one Munisamy Chettiar, whom she claimed to be her husband - Allowed - The trial Court and the first appellate Court had come to the conclusion that the Will was true and valid and that there were no suspicious circumstances - High Court re­appreciated the very same evidence to come to a different conclusion in a second appeal - Truth and validity of the Will did not depend upon whether the plaintiff was a legally wedded wife or mistress of the testator or whether she was in an unacceptable relationship with the plaintiff.

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