09 May 1956
Supreme Court


Case number: Appeal (civil) 213 of 1953






DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/05/1956


CITATION:  1956 AIR  747            1956 SCR  591

ACT:        Will-Construction-Substitutional   bequest,         Validity        of Indian Succession Act (XXXIX of 1925), ss. 67, 129, 130.

HEADNOTE:        A  Parsi  testator by a holograph will provided,  "I  hereby        give,  devise  and  bequeath to my  so  called  mother  Mrs.        Shirinbai,    ..........    her   heirs,    executors    and        administrators,  for  her  and their own  use  and  benefit,        absolutely and for ever all my estate and effects, both real        and personal, whatsoever and wheresoever and of what  nature        and  quality soever, and I hereby appoint her the said  Mrs.        Shirinbai Maneckshaw Bejonji Mistry, sole executrix of  this        my  Will.................  The  will  was  attested  by  two        witnesses  one  of whom was the husband of  Mrs.  Shirinbai.        Mrs. Shirinbai as the sole executrix obtained probate of the        said  will from the High -Court and took possession  of  the        estate.  A suit was brought by the heirs of the testator  in        the  Court  of the Civil Judge for a  declaration  that  the        bequest  in  favour  of Mrs. Shirinbai was void  in  law  by        operation of s. 67 of the Indian Succession Act and that the        estate  of  the testator had,  therefore,  become  divisible        amongst  his heirs as on intestacy.  The trial-  Judge  hold        that the bequest in favour of Mrs. Shirinbai was void  under        s.  67  of the Indian Succession Act and there wag  no  gift        over  but  that  the plaintiffs were not the  heirs  of  the        testator  and,  consequently, they could  not  maintain  the        suit.   On appeal by the plaintiffs, the High  Court  agreed        with the first two findings of the trial Judge, but reversed        his   decision  and  decreed  the  suit  holding  that   the        plaintiffs were the heirs of the testator.  It was contended        on  behalf of Mrs. Shirinbai and her two daughters  in  this        appeal  that on a true construction of the will there was  a        substitutional bequest in favour of the heirs, executors and        administrators of Mrs. Shirin-        592        bai and that even if the bequest to her failed by  operation        of s. 67 of the Act, the other bequest must take effect.        Held,  that on a proper construction of the will as a  whole        and  the words "for her and their own use and benefit"  used        by  the  testator  and having regard to the  facts  and  the



      circumstances  in  which he executed it, there could  be  no        doubt  that  the intention of the testator was to  create  a        substitutional bequest.  Although his primary intention  was        to benefit Mrs. Shirinbai, the language he used unmistakably        showed  that be intended to prevent his estate from  passing        on to his step relations as on intestacy, should the bequest        in   favour  of  Mrs.  Shirinbai  fail  by  reason  of   her        predeceasing him.        In  re  Mcelligott, (L.R. [1944]  Chancery  216),  dissented        from.        That   as  the  will  did  not  in  terms  state  that   the        substitutional bequest was to take effect only in the  event        of Mrs. Shirinbai predeceasing the testator, and so did  not        come  under  the  illustration  to  s.  130  of  the  Indian        Succession  Act, that section had no application and s.  129        of the Act would apply.        That  the  result  was that the  substitutional  bequest  in        favour  of the two daughters, who were presumptive heirs  of        Mrs.  Shirinbai  when the testator died, would  take  effect        although   it  must  fail  so  far  as  her  executors   and        administrators were concerned.

JUDGMENT:        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTIO1N: Civil Appeal No. 213 of 1953.        On  appeal from the judgment and decree dated the 30th  July        1951  -of  Allahabad High Court in First Appeal No.  258  of        1943  arising out of the judgment and the decree  dated  the        8th  March 1943 of the Court ,of Additional Civil  Judge  at        Allahabad in Original Suit No. 27 of 1940.        S.   K.  Dar, B. S. Shastri, R. C. Ghatak and C. P. Lal  for        the appellants.        S.   P. Sinha and R. Patnaik for respondents Nos. 1, 9  to13        and 15.        I.   N. Shroff for respondent No. 16.        1956.  May 9. The Judgment of the Court was delivered by        DAS C. J.-This is an appeal from the judgment and decree  of        the  High Court of Judicature at Allahabad dated  -the  30th        July  1951  reversing  the  judgment  and  decree  of   the.        Additional Civil Judge of        593        Allahabad dated the 8th March 1943 passed in Suit No. 27  of        1940.  The relevant facts are as follows:        One  Cawashaw  Dadabhoy  Motishaw,  a  Parsi,   (hereinafter        referred  to as the testator) died at Allahabad on the  10th        November   1937   leaving  him  surviving   a   step-brother        (Plaintiff  No.  1)  now  - represented  by  his  widow  and        children,  being Respondents Nos. 1 to a  step-sister’s  son        (originally  Defendant  No. 4,  subsequently  transposed  as        Plaintiff  No. 2) now represented by Respondents Nos.  9  to        12, a stepbrother’s son (Defendant No. 2) now represented by        Respondents Nos. 13 and 14, a step-sister (Defendant No.  3)        now   Respondent  No.  15  and  a   step-sister’s   daughter        (Defendant No. 5) now Respondent No. 16.  He is said to have        left  considerable properties which he acquired in  or  near        Allahabad.  Prior to his death the testator had on the  11th        March  1922  executed  a holograph  will  in  the  following        terms:-        "This  is  the  last  Will and  testament  of  Mr.  Cawashaw        Dadabhoy Motishaw, residing 20, Canning Road, Allahabad.        I  hereby give, devise and bequeath to my so  called  mother        named  Mrs.  Shirinbai Maneckshaw Bejonji  Mistri,  wife  of        Maneckshaw  Bejonji  Mistri alias Photographer  residing  20        Canning   Road,   Allahabad,  her   heirs,   executors   and



      administrators,  for  her  and their own  use  and  benefit,        absolutely and for ever all my estate and effects, both real        and personal, whatsoever and wheresoever and of what  nature        and  quality soever, and I hereby appoint her the said  Mrs.        Shirinbai Maneckshaw Bejonji Mistry, sole executrix of  this        my Will.  Mrs. Shirinbai, the wife of Mr. Maneckshaw Bejonji        Mistry, residing 20, Canning Road., Allahabad, is my adopted        mother by my own will and accord and for which no one in the        world  has  the right to dispute about he,  calling  my  own        mother.  This will has been made and written by myself  with        all  my  full mind with good heart and  disposition  and  in        sound state of my body and mind.  In witness thereof I  have        hereunto  set  my hand this 11th day of March  one  thousand        nine hundred and twenty two (1922)".        77        594        There  were two attesting witnesses to the will, namely,  B.        Hirji and M. B. Mistry who was the husband of Mrs. Shirinbai        (Defendant  No. 1).  Shirinbai applied for and on  the  18th        August 1939 obtained probate of the said will from the  High        Court of Judicature at Allahabad and took possession of  the        estate.        On   the  13th  April  1940  the   testator’s   step-brother        (Plaintiff No. 1) filed a suit, being 0. S. No. 27 of  1940,        in  the  Court  of  the Civil  Judge  of  Allahabad  against        Shirnbai  praying  for  a declaration that  the  bequest  in        favour of Shirinbai -was void in law, and that there was  an        intestacy  in  respect of the whole estate of  the  testator        which  became divisible amongst the heirs of  the  testator,        for  an  enquiry as to who were the heirs  of  the  testator        according  to  the personal law applicable  to  Parsis,  for        administration  of the estate by and under the direction  of        the  Court  and for necessary accounts and  enquiries.   The        contention of the plaintiff was that the bequest to  Shirin-        bai was void under section 67 of the Indian Succession  Act.        Certain  other persons who also claimed to be the  heirs  of        the testator were impleaded as pro forma defendants Nos.  2,        3  and  4. Defendant No. 4 was later on  transposed  to  the        category  of  plaintiffs  as  plaintiff  No.  2.  Shirinbai,        defendant No’ 1, filed a written statement denying that  the        plaintiffs or the pro forma defendants were the legal  heirs        of  the testator and pleaded inter alia that the  provisions        of  section 67 of the Indian Succession Act were not  appli-        cable to the facts and circumstances of the case and that in        any  case  her  heirs were under the will  made  the  direct        objects  of  a  distinct and independent  bequest  and  that        consequently  there was no intestacy and the plaintiffs  had        no locus standi to maintain the suit.  Subsequently the  two        daughters  of  Shirinibai were, on  their  own  application,        ordered on the 23rd September 1940 to be added as defendants        Nos. 5 and 6.  A  separate  written statement was  filed  on        behalf of those  added defendants on the same lines as  that        of   their  mother.   The  pro  forma  defendants  naturally        supported the plaintiffs and the suit was contested only  by        Shirinbai and her two daughters.        595        The  following  issues,  amongst  others,  were  raised  and        settled, namely,        I) Is the bequest made in favour of Mrs. Mistry void in law?        II)  Is the defendant No. 1 the universal legatee under  the        will or are the other defendants, viz.  Mrs. Patel and  Mrs.        Chinimini also legatees under the Will?        III) Are the plaintiffs Nos. 1 and 2 or defendants L.  J. D.        Motishaw, Mrs. A. K. Capoor, and Mrs. H.     S.  N.   Talati        heirs  of  the  deceased Mr. C. D.  Motishaw  and  are  they



      entitled to succeed to the property left by the deceased?        IV)  Is  the  claim  barred by  section  27  of  the  Indian        Succession Act?"        The  Additional Civil Judge of Allahabad who tried the  suit        recorded the folio -wing findings:-        "I)  That  the  bequest in favour of  defendant  No.  I  was        without  any limitation and conferred an absolute estate  on        her and there was no gift over to her heirs.        II)  That the - husband of defendant No. 1, namely Mr. M. B.        Mistry having attested the will, the bequest made to her was        void  in view of the provisions of section 67 of the  Indian        Succession Act.        111) That under the law of succession applicable to  Parsis,        namely  section  56 of the Indian Succession Act  read  with        Schedule  II, Part 2, the plaintiffs were not the  heirs  of        the deceased and were not entitled to maintain the suit".        As  upon  the aforesaid findings the  plaintiffs  failed  to        establish their title as heirs of the testator the suit  was        held  to  be  not maintainable at  their  instance  and  was        accordingly dismissed with costs.        The plaintiffs appealed from the judgment and decree of  the        Additional  Civil Judge to the High Court of  Judicature  at        Allababad.  by its judgment and decree dated the  30th  July        1951  the  High Court agreed with findings 1 and  2  of  the        trial  court but held that the plaintiffs and the pro  forma        defendants  were the heirs of the testator under the law  of        succession  applicable to Parsis as laid down in section  56        of        596        the  Indian Succession Act read with Part 2 of  Schedule  11        thereto.   The  result was that the High Court  allowed  the        appeal  and decreed the suit but directed the costs  of  the        parties  in both Courts to be paid out of the estate of  the        testator.   On the 13th February 1953 on the application  of        Shirinbai and her two daughters (Defendants Nos. 1, 5 and 6)        the High Court granted a certificate under section I 10,  C.        P.  C. and article 133 of the Constitution.  Hence the  pre-        sent appeal which has come up before us for hearing.        Shri  S. K. Dar appearing in support of the appeal  has  not        questioned  the propriety of the High Court’s decision  that        the  bequest in favour of Shirinbai is void in law  or  that        the plaintiffs and the pro forma defendants supporting  them        are  the  heirs of the testator under the law  of  intestate        succession applicable to Parsis but he has rested his  whole        argument  on one point, namely, that even if the bequest  to        Shirinbai is void under section 67 of the Indian  Succession        Act,  the  entire  will  does  not  fail  and  no  intestacy        intervenes because on a true construction of the will  there        is  a  substitutional  bequest  in  favour  of  the   heirs,        executors  and  administrators of Shirinbai.  He  draws  our        attention to the terms on which the be-, quest is made.   He        frankly  concedes that if the first sentence of the  bequest        stopped   with   the  words  "her   heirs,   executors   and        administrators" and those words had not been followed by the        words "for her and their own use and benefit, absolutely and        forever"  then it might have been said that the  words  "her        heirs,   executors   and  administrators"  were   words   of        limitation  conferring an absolute estate on her; but  those        words  are  followed immediately by the words "for  her  and        their  own  use and benefit, absolutely and  forever"  which        completely  alter the position.  Says learned  counsel  that        the  relevant words used in the will for making the  bequest        under consideration should be read distributively, viz.   "I        hereby  give,  devise and bequeath to my  so  called  mother        named      Mrs.      Shirinbai      Maneckshaw       Bejonji



      Mistri....................  for  her  own  use  and  benefit        absolutely  and  forever  and to her  heirs,  executors  and        administrators for        597        their own use and benefit absolutely and forever".  So  read        it  becomes immediately apparent that the words "her  heirs,        executors  and administrators" can have no reference to  the        estate given to Shirinbai and cannot be regarded as words of        limitation  of Shirinbai’s estate but are clearly  words  of        purchase indicating that they are the direct objects of  the        testator’s  bounty and that an estate is given to  them  for        their  own  use and benefit, absolutely  and  forever.   The        testator  having given the estate to Shirinbai for  her  own        use and benefit absolutely and forever, it was not necessary        for  him  to  use  the  words  "her  heirs,  executors   and        administrators" as words of limitation in order to confer an        absolute estate on her.  The testator, it is said, knew that        there  was a possibility of Shirinbai dying before  his  own        death  and the bequest in her favour lapsing  and  evidently        did  not intend that his estate should pass as on  intestacy        to his step-brothers and step-sisters.  Indeed he made  this        will  to prevent that possibility and to effectively  secure        that  object  he  made a double bequest, one  in  favour  of        Shirinbai for herown use and benefit absolutely and  forever        and  the other, to her heirs, executors  and  administrators        for  their own use and benefit absolutely and forever.   The        two  bequests were evidently successive and the  bequest  to        the  heirs, executors and administrators was to take  effect        on  the  failure  of  the bequest  to  Shirinbai.   The  two        bequests,   it   is  said,  were  mutually   exclusive   and        independent  of  each  other  and even  if  the  bequest  to        Shirinbai  failed under section 67 of the Indian  Succession        Act  by reason of her husband M. B. Mistry  having  attested        the  will,  the other bequest to ’her heirs,  executors  and        administrators for their own use and benefit absolutely  and        forever’  must take effect under section 129 of  the  Indian        Succession   Act.   Learned  counsel  for  the   respondents        strenuously  oppose  this construction of  the  bequest  and        maintain that there was only one bequest to Shirinbai of  an        absolute   estate   and   there  was   no   alternative   or        substitutional   bequest   to  her  heirs,   executors   and        administrators  as  independent objects  of  the  testator’s        bounty.  In any event        598        they  contend  that the case should rather  be  governed  by        section  130  than by section 129 of the  Indian  Succession        Act.        The  applicability of either section 129 or section  130  of        the Indian Succession Act will depend upon whether there  is        in the will a substitutional bequest which is to take effect        on  the  failure  of  a  prior  bequest.   If  there  is  no        substitutional ’bequest then neither of the two sections can        come  into  play.  Our task is, therefore, to  construe  the        will  and  ascertain whether there is a  single  bequest  in        favour of Shirinbai as contended by the respondents or there        is  also  a  substitutional bequest to take  effect  on  the        failure of the bequest to Shirinbai as contended by  learned        counsel for the appellants.        In construing the will we have to bear in mind the rules  of        construction  embodied in the Indian Succession Act,  namely        that  the will should be read as a whole and all  its  parts        are  to be construed with reference to each  other  (section        82),  that  if  a  clause is  susceptible  of  two  meanings        according  to one of which it has some effect and  according        to the other of which it can have none, the former is to  be



      preferred (section 84) and finally that no part of the  will        is to be rejected as destitute of meaning if it is  possible        to put a reasonable construction -upon it (section 85).   In        construing a will we are not fettered by the technical rules        of English law founded on the difference between realty  and        personalty.  Our duty is to ascertain the true intention  of        the testator from the language used by him, regard being had        to all the surrounding circumstances.        The  will  is  a holograph will  written,  by  the  testator        himself  He was a person who bad settled down  in  Allahabad        where  he  was  carrying on business and  had  acquired  his        properties.   There  is no evidence that he  maintained  any        connection with his step-brothers and stepsisters.  As  will        appear from the will itself, the testator regarded Shirinbai        as his mother.  It also appears from the will that Shirinbai        with   her  husband  was  residing  at  20,  Canning   Road,        Allahabad,  where  the testator himself was  also  residing.        The bequest                       599        to  her wag immediately followed ’by the words  "her  heirs,        executors  and  administrators".  According to  Jarman,  8th        edition,  volume  2  page 1304, an  intention  to  create  a        substitutional  gift can be inferred when the gift is  to  a        person  "or"  his issue, children, etc. or  sometimes  to  a        person "and" his issue, children, etc.  In this case neither        of the two conjunctions appears in the will before the words        "her  heirs, executors and administrators".  But  this  does        not conclude the matter, for the words following, viz.  "for        her and their own use and benefit" are clearly indicative of        an  intention  to  create  a  substitutional  bequest.   The        primary  intention of the testator was evidently to  benefit        Shirinbai  but it is quite likely, in view of  the  language        used  by  him, that he had in view the  possibility  of  her        predeceasing  him  and the bequest to her  lapsing  and  the        estate  passing to his step relations as on intestacy.   The        language  used  by  the  testator  unmistakably  evinces  an        intention  on  his part to prevent that contingency  and  he        accordingly  made a provision for her heirs,  executors  and        administrators  as independent objects of  a  substitutional        bequest.   If  it  is to be assumed that  the  testator  was        familiar with the niceties of English law that in a  bequest        to a person the addition of the words "her heirs,  executors        and  administrators"  would  only be regarded  as  words  of        limitation  conferring  an absolute estate on  that  person,        then  it  is not intelligible why he should  again  use  the        words "absolutely and forever".  Further,, if the  intention        of  the testator was to use the words "her heirs,  executors        and  administrators" as words of limitation, then it is  not        understandable  why he should have used the words’ "for  her        and their own use and benefit".  The provision for the  "own        use  and  benefit"  of "her  heirs,  executors  and  admini-        strators"  is only compatible with an intention of making  a        bequest   in   favour   of   her   heirs,   executors    and        administrators.   If there was to be no direct gift  to  her        heirs,  executors and administrators, then the  question  of        "their own use and benefit" was wholly out of place.  If the        intention  of  the  testator was only to  give  an  absolute        estate to Shirinbai and that        600        her  heirs, executors and administrators were only to  claim        through her and not independently of her, then the death  of        Shirinbai  during the life-time of the testator  would  have        defeated   his   object,  namely,   to   benefit   Shirinbai        absolutely.  -If, therefore, we are. to give effect  to  the        words  "for her and their own use and benefit", as  we  must



      according  to  the  rule of  construction  embodied  in  the        Succession Act to which reference has been made., there  can        be  no getting away from the fact, apparent on the  language        of  the will, that the testator intended to provide for  the        contingency of the bequest to Shirinbai failing by reason of        her  death  in  the life-time of the testator  by  making  a        substitutional bequest in favour of her heirs, executors and        administrators.   In  In re, Mcelligott(1) a  testator,  who        died in 1941, directed by his will that his residuary estate        which consisted only of personal estate be given to his wife        "and her heirs for her and their use and benefit  absolutely        and  forever".  It was held by a single Judge  that  neither        the  rule  in Shelley’s case nor section 131 of the  Law  of        Property  Act)  1925,  which abolished that  rule,  had  any        application  to the bequest and that the widow was  entitled        to  an  absolute  interest in the residuary  estate  of  the        testator.  We are, of course, not concerned either with  the        rule in Shelley’s case or with the provisions of the English        Law  of Property Act, 1925, but the decision may be said  to        be  against  the  contention  of  learned  counsel  for  the        appellant,  for at the end of his judgment Vaisey,  J.  said        that  the  super-added  words "for her  and  their  use  and        benefit absolutely and forever" did not in his view make any        difference  or throw any light on the matter.  There  is  no        reason  given why no effect should be given to  those  words        and  no  reference  is  made to any  decided  case  and  the        observation  of  the learned Judge is no more  than  a  bald        statement of his view unsupported by any reason or  judicial        decision.   It  runs  counter to the  rule  of  construction        embodied in section 85 of the Indian Succession Act.  In our        view  these  words,  on the facts of this  case,  cannot  be        ignored and they        (1)  L.R. [1944] Chancery 216.        601        clearly indicate the intention of the testator as  mentioned        above.        It is also argued that if the intention of the testator  was        to   make  a  direct  gift  to  the  heirs,  executors   and        administrators, then difficulties may arise.  Suppose, it is        said, that Shirinbai died leaving heirs and at the same time        after  having  made a will of her  own  appointing  somebody        other  than  an  heir  as her executor.   Who  will  be  the        recipient  of  the gift-the heirs or the executor?   On  the        happening  of  the contingency  thus  contemplated,  serious        questions of construction may arise as to whether the  heirs        and  the executor are to take successively or jointly.   But        that  difficulty can have no bearing on the construction  to        be  put upon the language used by the testator.  On  a  fair        and plain reading of the will as a whole and in view of  the        language  used towards the end of the will about no  one  in        the  world  having the right to dispute  about  his  calling        Shirinbai  as  his own mother, we are of  opinion  that  the        testator intended to make a bequest first to Shirinbai,  for        her  own  use  and benefit absolutely  and  forever  and  on        failure  of  that bequest, to make a bequest to  her  heirs,        executors  and administrators for their own use and  benefit        absolutely and forever.        There  being thus a substitutional bequest in favour of  the        heirs,  executors  and administrators  the  question  arises        whether section 129 or section 130 of the Indian  Succession        Act will apply.  It may well be that the testator had in his        contemplation the possibility of Shirinbai predeceasing  him        and  he  was,  therefore,  making  a  substitutional   gift,        Nevertheless,  the  bequest ex facie and in terms  does  not        show an intention that the second bequest was to take effect



      only  in  the  event  of the  first  bequest  failing  in  a        particular manner, namely, the death of Shirinbai before the        death  of the testator, as the will in the  illustration  to        section 130 did and consequently section 130 cannot apply to        this  bequest.  In the circumstances section 129 comes  into        play and although the bequest to Shirinbai became void under        section 67 of the Indian Succession Act and did not        78        602        fail in the manner which was perhaps in the,contemplation of        the testator the substitutional bequest must take effect.        It is pointed out that Shirinbai being alive at the time  of        testator’s  death,  there  can be no  person  answering  the        description  of her heirs, executors and administrators  and        therefore the substitutional gift cannot take effect.   This        argument  is  unanswerable in so far as  the  executors  and        administrators  are  concerned but in many  cases  the  word        "heirs"  has been used in a lax way to comprise persons  who        may be said to be heirs presumptive at a particular point of        time which in this case. was the death of the testator.   In        cases  of  a direct gift to the heir where the  ancestor  is        living, since no one can be the heir of a living person, the        technical  meaning  may be displaced and the person  who  is        heir  presumptive at the relevant time may be so  designated        (see  Halsbury, Vol. 34, Art. 358, page 309).  There  is  no        dispute that at the death of the testator Shirinbai bad  two        daughters.   The fact that the bequest to the executors  and        administrators  cannot take effect is no ground for  holding        that  the request to the heirs of Shirinbai must  also  fall        with it.        In  our view there was a substitutional bequest an  although        the request to Shirinbai failed by reason of the  provisions        of ’section 6.7 of the Indian Succession Act, those who were        her  Presumptive heirs at the date of the  testator’s  death        are entitled to take under this will and consequently  there        was no intestacy and the plaintiffs had no right whatever to        maintain  the suit.. We accordingly allow this  appeal,  set        aside the decrees of the lower Courts and dismiss the  suit.        In the peculiar circumstances of this case however we  order        that  the  costs of all the parties here as well as  in  the        Courts below will come out of the estate. 603.