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Article 14 Does Not Apply To To Dispositions Under A Will: Supreme Court In Swarnalatha & Ors Vs Kalavathy & Ors

Vrinda ,
  04 April 2022       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble Supreme Court of India
Brief :
Mannar Reddiar and Adhilakshmiammal had a daughter named Kalavathy and two boys named V.M. Chandrasekaran and V.M. Sivakumar. Adhilakshmiammal, the mother, died on August 14, 1995. She left a Will dated January 30, 1995, bequeathing the properties she purchased and the properties she received from her maternal uncle to her two sons. Kalavathy, the daughter, was denied a portion on the grounds that she had already been adequately provided for.
Citation :
Civil Appeal No.1565 of 2022

CAUSE TITLE:
Swarnalatha & Ors. vs. Kalavathy & Ors.

DATE OF JUDGEMENT:
30th March, 2022

JUDGE(S):
Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramaniam

PARTIES:
Swarnalatha & Ors (Petitioner)
Kalavathy & Ors (Respondent)

SUBJECT

The present case discusses a dispute between daughter and daughter-in-law and whether Article 14 which stands for equality for all applies to a will.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

  • Article 14 of the Constitution - The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

BRIEF FACTS

  • Mannar Reddiar and Adhilakshmiammal had a daughter named Kalavathy and two boys named V.M. Chandrasekaran and V.M. Sivakumar. Adhilakshmiammal, the mother, died on August 14, 1995. She left a Will dated January 30, 1995, bequeathing the properties she purchased and the properties she received from her maternal uncle to her two sons. Kalavathy, the daughter, was denied a portion on the grounds that she had already been adequately provided for.
  • Mannar Reddiar, the father, died on August 8, 2000. He left a Will dated December 10, 1998, bequeathing his property to his two sons and grandchildren. Even though the daughter Kalavathy was not given any property under this Will, the Will explained why.
  • V.M. Chandrasekaran, the eldest son, died in October 1999, leaving behind his wife Swarnalatha and two sons, C. Karthikeyan and C. Rishikesan, who are the appellants in this case.
  • Following that, the testators' daughter Kalavathy and surviving son V.M. Sivakumar (of the testators) filed a partition claim. After learning of Mannar Reddiar and Adhilakshmiammal's Wills, the appellants, who are the wife and sons of the eldest son V.M. Chandrasekaran, filed a petition in probate under Sections 270, 276 and 289 of the Act for the grant of probate of Mannar Reddiar and Adhilakshmiammal's Wills. The petition was fiercely opposed by the testators' daughter and other sons.
  • Following that, the testators' daughter Kalavathy and surviving son V.M. Sivakumar filed a partition suit. The appellants herein, who are the wife and sons of the eldest son V.M. Chandrasekaran, filed a petition in probate under Sections 270, 276 and 289 of the Act for the grant of probate of the Wills of Mannar Reddiar and Adhilakshmiammal after learning of the situation. The petition was fiercely opposed by the testators' daughter and other sons.

QUESTIONS RAISED

  • When some of the legatees contest the Will of Father/Mother (Father-in-law/Mother-in-law of daughter-in-law), what can be the reasons for suspicion about the execution of the Will?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT

  • The appellants' contention before the Probate Court was that the parents made their last will and testament in a sound and disposing state of mind and that those wills were made in the legal manner. The appellants used attestants to the will to substantiate their point.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

  • The respondents challenged the probate proceedings on the grounds that their parents never made a will, that the elder son, VM Chandrasekaran, committed fraud by taking the mother's signatures on blank papers and fabricating a will, and that the testators had no right to dispose of the properties through a will in any case.

ANALYSIS BY THE COURT

  • The fact that one of the natural heirs was left out of the bequest cannot be used as evidence that there are questionable circumstances. - Cases in which suspicion is aroused are essentially those in which the testator's signature is disputed or the testator's mental capacity is questioned. - In determining the genuineness of Will's execution, the Court has no jurisdiction to determine whether the testator's distribution was fair and equitable to all of his children. Article 14 does not apply to dispositions made under a Will.
  • In Kavita Kanwar vs. Mrs. Pamela Mehta and Ors, all previous decisions of the Court list out circumstances, which in the context of the lack of sound and disposing of state of mind of the testator, became suspicious circumstances. In the matter of appreciating the genuineness of execution of a Will, there remained no place for the Court to see whether the distribution made by the testator was fair and equitable to all of his children. The Court made it clear that Article 14 does not apply to dispositions under a Will.

CONCLUSION

The appellant's appeal against a Madras High Court ruling that set aside probate awarded by the District Court to the appellant in respect of two last Wills and Testaments was allowed. Each of the circumstances (as reported by the High Court) does not raise suspicion, separately or cumulatively.This decision will aid in remembering the points that should be considered when creating a will.

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