SUPREME COURT HOLDS APPELLANTS NOT ENTITLED TO CLAIM SHARE IN THEIR GRANDFATHER’S SELF-ACQUIRED PROPERTY, AS THEIR FATHER HAD RELEASED HIS SHARE BY VIRTUE OF A RELEASE DEED
Recently, a two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice K.M. Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy passed a Judgment dated 25-01-2023 in the matter of Elumalai @ Venkatesan & Anr Vs M. Kamala And Ors. & etc, Civil Appeal Nos. 521-522 of 2023 and held that the Appellants were not entitled to claim their share in the self-acquired property of their grandfather, as their father had released his share in respect of the said property, by virtue of a Release Deed.
i) In the present case, one, Sengalani Chettiar was married to one, Rukmini (First Marriage). From the First Marriage, both had a son, named, Shri Chandran.
ii) Later, Sengalani Chettiar married again Smt. Kuppammal (Second Marriage). From the Second Marriage, both had 5 Daughters and 1 Son, namely, M. Kamala, G. Sasikala, R. Santhi, Devaki, Uma Ravichandran and S. Vinayagamoorthy @ Venkatesan.
iii) Sengalani Chettiar had a self-acquired property (Suit Property), in respect of which Shri. Chandran born from the First Marriage had executed a Release Deed dated 12-11-1975 and thereby released his share in the Suit Property in favor of his father, Sengalani Chettiar and S. Vinayagamoorthy @ Venkatesan, minor Son of Sengalani Chettiar, born from Second Marriage. The premise is that Shri. Chandran had received consideration from his father, Sengalani Chettiar.
iv) Eventually, (a) Shri. Chandran passed away on 09-12-1978, (b) Sengalani Chettiar passed away on 19-01-1988 and (c) Smt. Kuppammal, second wife of Late Sengalani Chettiar passed away on 25-08-2005.
v) Thereafter, 2 out of 6 children born from the Second Marriage, namely, Smt. Uma Ravichandran and Shri S. Vinayagamoorthy @ Venkatesan (Plaintiffs) filed a Suit for Partition in S. No. 8173 of 2006 before the Ld. Additional District Judge, Fast Track Court-IV, Chennai (Trial Court) seeking partition and possession of their 2/5th share in the said Suit Property, against (a) the other Daughters born from Second Marriage, M. Kamala, G. Sasikala and R. Santhi (Defendants 1-3). (b) The two Sons of Shri Chandran, the Appellants herein, namely, Elumalai @ Venkatesan and C. Anand @ Senthil, were subsequently impleaded as Defendants 4-5. (c) Further, M. Babu, Son of Smt. Devaki, the pre-deceased Daughter of Sengalani Chettiar from Second Marriage, was later impleaded as Defendant 6. For the sake of convenience, the details of Parties are listed below:
- Plaintiff 1- Uma Ravichandran- Daughter of Sengalani Chettiar from Second Marriage
- Plaintiff 2- Shri S. Vinayagamoorthy– Son of Sengalani Chettiar from Second Marriage
- Defendant No. 1- Kamala- Daughter of Shri. Sengalani Chettiar from Second Marriage
- Defendant No. 2- Sasikala- Daughter of Shri. Sengalani Chettiar from Second Marriage
- Defendant No. 3- Santhi- Daughter of Shri. Sengalani Chettiar from Second Marriage
- Defendant No. 4- Elumalai @ Venkatesan- Son of Shri. Chandran from First Marriage
- Defendant No. 5- Anand @ Senthil- Son of Shri. Chandran from First Marriage
- Defendant No. 6- Babu- Son of Smt. Devaki, the pre-deceased Daughter of Shri. Sengalani Chettiar from Second Marriage
vi) That the two Sons of Shri Chandran, the Defendants No. 4-5 and Appellants herein, sought to be excluded from the Civil Suit, on the ground that their father, Shri Chandran had, during his lifetime, executed a Release Deed in favor of the Appellants’ grandfather, Sengalani Chettiar and the Plaintiff No. 2, S. Vinayagamoorthy @ Venkatesan, the minor Son of Sengalani Chettiar, born from the Second Marriage.
vii) But the Trial Court held that the Release Deed, though a true document, would not act as a bar for the Appellants- Defendants No. 4-5 to inherit the Suit Property of their grandfather, Sengalani Chettiar.
viii) Hence, the Trial Court declared that all the 8 Parties are entitled to share in the Suit Property: (a) the Plaintiffs 1 and 2 and the Defendants 1-3 and 6, who are the legal heirs of Sengalani Chettiar from the Second Marriage, are entitled to 1/7th share each and (b) the Defendants 4 and 5, who are the legal heirs of Sengalani Chettiar from the First Marriage, are jointly entitled to 1/7th
ix) Thus, as the Plaintiffs 1 and 2 were held entitled to get only 2/7th share in the Suit Property, aggrieved, they filed an Appeal before the High Court of Tamil Nadu at Madras in S.No.718 of 2009.
x) Further, as the Release Deed was held to be void, aggrieved, the Defendants No. 4-5 filed an Appeal before the High Court of Tamil Nadu at Madras in S.Nos. 883 of 2009.
xi) The High Court passed a Common Judgment dated 20-10-2016 in S.No.718 and 883 of 2009 and held that the Defendants 4 and 5 have specifically admitted to the execution of the Release Deed, hence, the Order of the Trial Court to the extent that the Release Deed was held void, was set aside. As a result, the High Court held that (a) the Defendant 4-5 were not entitled to claim any share in the Suit Property and (b) the Plaintiffs 1 – 2 and the Defendants 1-3 and 6, who are the legal heirs of Sengalani Chettiar from the Second Marriage, are entitled to 1/6th share each.
xii) Aggrieved, the Defendants No. 4-5 filed an Appeal before the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Observations
The Apex Court passed Judgment dated 25-01-2023 and made the following observations:
1) That the Release Deed in respect of the self-acquired Suit Property was executed by Shri. Chandran on the ground that he had received consideration from his father, Sengalani Chettiar. Hence, the Defendants 4-5 / Appellants, the Sons of Shri. Chandran, would be estopped from claiming any share in the Suit Property.
2) That in terms of Section 6 (a) of the Transfer of Property Act 1882 (What may be transferred), a person who may become the heir and entitled to succeed under the law upon the death of his relative would not have any right until succession to the estate is opened up.
Property of any kind may be transferred, except as otherwise provided by this Act or by any other law for the time being in force:
(a) The chance of an heir-apparent succeeding to an estate, the chance of a relation obtaining a legacy on the death of a kinsman, or any other mere possibility of a like nature, cannot be transferred.
3) Hence, Shri. Chandran, Son of Shri. Sengalani Chettair, would not have any right to the self-acquired Suit Property during the lifetime of Sengalani Chettair, unlike in the case of joint family property, where the co-parcener acquires a right thereof by his/her mere birth.
4) Thus, the Release Deed may not by itself have the effect of a transfer of the rights of Shri Chandran in favour of either his father or the minor son of his father from the second marriage.
5) But considering the fact that Shri. Chandran had received consideration from his father based on which he released his share in the Suit Property, thus, applying the doctrine of equitable estoppel, Shri Chandran would be estopped from staking a claim if he had survived his father.
6) Further, as per Section 8 (a) of the Hindu Succession Act 1956 (General rules of succession in the case of males), the property of a male Hindu dying intestate shall devolve according to the provisions of this Chapter:― (a) firstly, upon the heirs, being the relatives specified in class I of the Schedule and the son of a predeceased son is a Class I heir. In the present case, when Shri. Sengalani Chettair died intestate, the Appellants- Defendants 4-5, being the sons of the pre-deceased Shri. Chandran, would be Class I heirs. However, applying the doctrine of equitable estoppel, the Release Deed would estop the heirs of Shri Chandran from staking a claim in the Suit Property. Further, the Bench observed as follows:
Having received valuable consideration and allowed his father Shri Sengalani Chettair to proceed on the basis that he was free to deal with the property without the prospect of being haunted by any claim whatsoever as regards the property by Shri Chandran, a clear estoppel sprang into existence following the receipt of consideration by Shri Chandran. Estoppel would shut out in equity any claim otherwise either by Shri Chandran or his children, viz., the appellants.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the Supreme Court held that the Appellants-Defendants 4-5 would not be entitled to claim any share in the Suit Property and thereby, dismissed their Appeals.
The Indian Lawyer
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