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Clauses In A Will Cannot Be Read In A Way That Would Allow Breach Of The Restriction On Property Alienation If The Testator Intended To Impose It: Honourable Supreme Court In The Case Of K. Naina Mohamed Vs. A.M. Vasudevan Chettiar

Anusha Sharma ,
  06 October 2022       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble Supreme Court
Brief :

Citation :
2010 (6) Mh.L.J. 339

Case Title:
K. Naina Mohamed v. A.M. Vasudevan Chettiar

Date of Order:
7th of July,2010

Judge:
G.S. Singhvi, Asok Kumar Ganguly

Parties:
Appellant: K. Naina Mohamed
Respondents: A.M. Vasudevan Chettiar

FACTS OF THE CASE

  • The issue involves a property owned by a Mrs. Ramakkal Ammal. She had established a life interest in 1951 in favour of her two sisters. With the condition that their male successors would receive sole ownership of the assets upon their passing. Her two sisters Savitri and Rukumani received portions A and B, which were divided into two equal halves.The will includes a clause that indicated her sisters might enjoy the gifts they received while they were alive; but, if both of her sisters passed away, the contested assets would go to their male successors.
  • In 1981, Mrs. Rukumani and her son sold their portion of the property to the individual Mr. AM Vasudevan Chettiar, to whom Respondents objected on the grounds that clause 11 of the stated that both the male heirs might sell their holdings to only each other and that to only at market price.
  • In the trial court, Rukumani argued that clause 11 of the will was invalid and that if it had been valid, he or she would have been free to sell the property to anybody they chose, which would have violated the principle of perpetuity. After the trial court stage, Mrs. Rukumani and her son passed away, and Mr. AM Vasudevan filed an appeal in the court of sessions contesting the civil courts ruling. They also said that selling the land had already became necessary and had, as a consequence, resulted in the alienation of the property.
  • The Sessions court gave the decision in Vasudevansfavor, which was overturned by the honorable High Court and thus this appeal has been filed before the honorable Supreme Court of India.

QUESTIONS RAISED

  1. Whether the second appellate court is correct in holding that the restriction, namely the pre-emption clause in the Will is valid?
  2. Whether the second appeal filed by respondent Nos.1 and 2 stood abated due to their alleged failure to bring on record the legal representatives of Rukmani Ammal and her son A.B.M?
  3. Whether the restriction enshrined in clause 11 of the Will executed by Rukumani Ammal can be declared as void on the ground that it violates the rule against perpetuity?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT

  • The High Court committed serious error by granting relief to respondent without insisting on the impleadment of the legal representatives of Rukmani Ammal and her son, A.B.M. Ramanathan Chettiar. Rukmani Ammal and her son passed away while the second appeal was pending before the High Court, and as a result, the same stood automatically abated because the deceased's legal representatives were not brought on record.
  • The restriction on property alienation in clause 11 only applied to the corresponding branches; the male heirs of one branch were not required to sell the property to the male heirs of the other branch.
  • The trial Court and the High Court committed critical error by relying on the provision in clause 11 of the Will against alienation of the property, which is ex facie in violation of the rule against perpetuity, in order to invalidate the sale deed signed by Rukmani Ammal and her son A.B.M. Ramanathan Chettiar.
  • As a result of the settlement reached between the parties in OS No.473 of 1981, Rukmani Ammal and her son acquired total ownership of the "B" property, and their rights are not subject to the restrictions or limitations set forth in the Will.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

  • The appellant is not allowed to ask for a ruling that the second appeal filed by respondents Nos. 1 and 2 as it was dismissed since the legal representatives of Rukmani Ammal and her son, who passed away during the pendency of the appeal, did not intervene.
  • Rules contained in Order XXII of the Code of Civil Procedure are required to be interpreted liberally so as to avoid abatement of the pending matters.
  • Due to the fact that Rukmani Ammal only received a life interest under the terms of the will she and her son, A.B.M. Ramanathan Chettiar, executed, and that her son, who became the absolute owner, neither challenged the judgement rendered by the trial court nor opposed the second appeal, the second appeal did not end as a result of their deaths.
  • The appellant, who had purchased the suit property will be deemed to be legal representative of the deceased because he represented their estate.
  • The restriction contained in clause 11 of the Will was not absolute inasmuch as it was open to the male heirs of Savithiri Ammal and Rukmani Ammal to transfer the property within the family
  • The object of the restriction on alienation of the properties to strangers was to protect the interest of the family and there was no violation of the rule against perpetuity.

ANALYSIS BY THE COURT

  • After hearing the arguments put out and the sources mentioned, the Supreme Court issued the following rulings that address all of the factual and legal concerns addressed.
  • The Honorable Court determined that clause 11 of Smt. Ramakkal Ammal's will violates the prohibition against perpetuity. When that clause is read in conjunction with clauses 4 and 10 of the will, it is clear that the testator's two sisters, Savithiri Ammal and Rukmani Ammal, were to jointly enjoy house properties during their lifetimes without placing any restrictions on them, and after their deaths, their male heirs were to receive the exclusive rights to properties "A" and "B."
  • Two sisters' male heirs were permitted to alienate their separate interests to other shareholders according to fair market value. Thus, it may be claimed that Smt. Ramakkal Ammal indirectly granted the male heirs of her sisters the opportunity to acquire their portion before the female heirs.
  • The male heir of either sister might use this as a pre-emption right in the event that the male heir of the other sister sold the land. There can be no question that the word "other sharers" used in clause 11 refers to male heirs of another sister if the context in which it was used in the Will is taken into consideration. Clause 11 solely prohibited the transfer of property to strangers.
  • The court determined that, upon their passing, the male heirs of Savithri Ammal were to receive the property designated as "A" in equal shares, and the male heirs of Rukmani Ammal were to receive the property designated as "B," subject to the requirement set forth in clause 11 that, in the event of alienation, the male heirs of either sister had to sell the property to other sharers at the then-current market value and not to strangers. Clauses 10 and 11 cannot be read in a way that would allow breach of the restriction on property alienation since the testator intended to impose it.

CONCLUSION

The court dismissed the appellants' appeal on the grounds that the trial court and high court made accurate findings and decisions and that clause 11 of the will was legally valid.

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