A widow loses her right over the property on contracting second marriage: Supreme Court

Case title: Kizhakke Vattakandiyil Madhavan (Dead) Vs Thiyyurkunnath Meethal Janaki and Ors.

Case no.: Civil Appeal No. 8616 OF 2017

Decision on: April 9th, 2024

Quoram: Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia

Facts of the case

The issue in the present case pertains to the partition of suit property. The suit was instituted by one Chandu claiming 8/20 share in the suit property. The appellants in the instant case were the defendants in the said suit and are successors in interest of one Sankaran. Sankaran and Chandu were uterine brothers and sons of one Chiruthey, a woman who was married twice. Sankaran was born out of her first wedlock with Madhavan. But, after the death of Madhavan she contracted second marriage with Neelakandan and Chandu was born out of her second wedlock. The parties belong to Malayakamala Sect and were governed the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The plaintiff (respondents in appeal) claims his share to the suit property from his mother, described in the plaint as owner of the property. During the course of proceedings both the uterine brothers died and their respective successors in interest represented their claims before the Court.

The Trial Court sustained the claim for partition and decreed in favour of the plaintiff. However, the First Appellate Court set aside the decree and dismissed the suit. The Court disbelieved that the deed was in discharge of liability under the mortgage deed and ruled that Chiruthey had no authority to lease out the subject-property. It held that she would not derive title to her deceased husband’s property when she got married again to Neelakandan according to Section 2 of the Hindu Widow’s Remarriage Act. The High Court in the judgment primarily relied on the deeds executed in July 1910 to sustain the claim of Chandu represented by his successors-in-interest. Hence, the appellants contesting the same have approached the Apex Court.

Issue – Whether Chiruthey had any title over the subject-property which the plaintiff claimed through the series of transactions?

Court’s Analysis and Judgement

The Court examined the historical background of the property and succession rights of the parties involved. It delved into the validity of mortgage deed and subsequent lease agreements executed in 1910. The Court noted that on remarriage of Chiruthey, her title or interest over the suit property stood lapsed in terms of Section 2 of the 1856 Act. Subsequently, her right to deal with property stood extinguished so far as the deed of 1910 is concerned. However, considering the fact that it was executed by two other persons the Court accepted the validity of the lease deed.

The Court highlighted that if a document seeking to convey immovable property ex-facie reveals that the conveyer does not have the title over the same, specific declaration that the document is invalid would not be necessary. It pointed out that Chiruthey could not convey any property over which she did not have any right or title. It emphasized that no claim was made before any forum for invalidating the deed of July 1910 but in absence of proper title over the subject property, that lease deed even if she was its sole lessor would not have had been legally valid or enforceable. Further, the Court observed that what she got back by way of the document was limited right as that of a lessee and not as a successor of her first husband.

The Court, furthermore, on the question of plaintiff’s claim of his share over the suit property through Chiruthey, it ruled that she had lost her right over the subject property on contracting second marriage and that her status over the said property, post-1910 if at all was that of lessee. It relied on the legal principles in the case of Velamuri Venkata Sivaprasad (Dead) by lrs. v. Kothuri Venkateswarlu (dead) by lrs. and Ors. Hence, the Court stated that there was no indication in any of the deeds that the said lease could travel beyond the stipulated term of twelve years. It thus held that the ownership of the suit property could not be said to have devolved in any manner to the original plaintiff Chandu. Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal, set aside the decision of the High Court, and affirmed the decision of the First Appellate Court.

“PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.”

Judgement Reviewed by – Keerthi K

Click here to view the Judgement