Read Order: K.C.LAXMANA Vs. K.C. CHANDRAPPA GODWA AND ANR. 

Mansimran Kaur 

New Delhi, April 20, 2022: Affirming that a Hindu father or any other managing member of a HUF has power to make a gift of ancestral property only for a ‘pious purpose’, the Supreme Court has held that the settlement deed/gift deed in question was rightly declared as null and void as such deed in the instant case was not for any charitable or religious purpose.

The Division Bench of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari while upholding the impugned order of the Karnataka High Court said, “It is well ­settled that a Hindu father or any other managing member of a HUF has power to make a gift of ancestral property only for a ‘pious purpose’ and what is understood by the term ‘pious purpose’ is a gift for charitable and/or religious purpose.”

The present appeal was filed against the judgment and decree passed by the High Court Karnataka, wherein the High Court dismissed the appeal by order dated October 3, 2008. Brief facts of the case for perusal of the present appeal were that K.C. Chadrappa Godwa instituted a suit against his father K.S. Chinne Gowda and one K.C. Laxmana for partition and separate possession of his one-third share in the suit-schedule property and for a declaration that the gift/settlement deed dated March 22, 1980 executed by the first defendant-K.S. Chinne Gowda in favour of the second defendant-K.C. Laxmana as null and void.

In view of the plaintiff, the scheduled property belongs to the joint family of which he is a part of. It was further contended that the defendant had no right to transfer the schedule property in favor of the second defendant as he was not a coparcener  or a member of their family. 

The same was opposed by the first defendant in his written statement. It was stated that the second defendant was brought up by the first defendant and out of love and affection  he settled the suit property under gift deed in favor of the second defendant.It was further contended that the joint family property was already partitioned between himself, the plaintiff and the other son-Subbraya Gowda on March 23, 1990. The plaintiff, having taken his share without any demur was not entitled to maintain the suit. It was also contended that the suit was barred by limitation. The Trial Court after appreciation of evidence dismissed the suit. 

Feeling aggrieved by the same, the plaintiff filed the first appeal. The Appellate Court, after consideration of the entire materials on record and reassessment of evidence, set aside the judgment of the Trial Court. The plaintiff was granted one- third share in the suit property. This  Judgment of the Appellate Court was assailed by K.C. Laxmana, the second defendant before the  High Court. The High Court after hearing the parties and considering the materials on record, dismissed the appeal by passing the impugned order. 

The Counsel for the appellant contended that the High Court was not not justified in observing that the suit was barred by limitation. In his opinion Article 58 of the Limitation Act, 1963 was applicable to the facts of the present case. Secondly, it was contended that the transfer of property by way of transfer of property by way of settlement was for pious purposes which was permissible in law. Thus, in view of above submissions, it was submitted that the High Court erred in observing that the suit was  not barred by limitation. 

On the contrary, the Counsel for the respondent conceded with judgment of the High Court and submitted that the alienation by way of gift of joint family property made by the first defendant in favour of the second defendant was void. The period of limitation for assailing such an alienation was twelve years from the date the alinee takes possession of the property under Article 109 of the second schedule to the Limitation Act. Therefore, it was submitted that the suit was not barred by time. 

The Court after considering the submissions of both the parties dealt with the  question of law as to whether the suit of the plaintiff was barred by limitation. The Court submitted that the Limitation Act contains both specific and general  provision when it comes to assessing the limitation period for filing a suit. It was further submitted that when an Act possesses both general and specific provision, the latter shall prevail . Therefore, Article 58 of the second schedule to the Limitation Act had no application in the present case, however, Article 109 was applicable, the Court observed.

It was further observed that in  the instant case, deed was executed by the father of the plaintiff in favour of the second defendant on March 2, 1980 and the second defendant took possession of the property on March 22, 1980,when deed was registered.  Thus if the period of twelve years is computed  from March 22 1980 , the limitation for filing of the suit in the present case would have expired on March 21,1992. However, the  suit was filed on October 11, 1191 . Therefore, it was vivid that the suit was filed well within the limitation period.

Next question of law that the Court dealt with was if the transfer of the schedule property made by the first defendant in favor of the second defendant was for a pious purpose. 

The Court took into consideration the fact that the second defendant was not a coparcener or a member of this family. It was also admitted that the schedule property was gifted to him by the settlement/gift deed dated March 22, 1980  by the first defendant who was the Karta of the HUF. The plaintiff was not a signatory to the said document. In fact, the plaintiff had categorically averred in the plaint that he did not consent to the gifting of the schedule property in favour of the second defendant vide the said deed. 

By observing the same, the  Court opined that it is settled proposition of law  that Karta/Manager of a joint family property may alienate joint family property only in three situations, namely, (i) legal necessity (ii) for the benefit of the estate and (iii) with the consent of all the coparceners of the family. In the instant case, the alienation of the joint family property under Ex.P-1 was not with the consent of all the coparceners. It is settled law that where an alienation is not made with the consent of all the coparceners, it is voidable at the instance of the coparceners whose consent has not been obtained, the Court remarked. To strengthen the same, the Court referred to its judgment in Thimmaiah and Ors. Vs. Ningamma and Anr.

 In the instant case, it was admitted by the second defendant that the settlement deed dated March 22, 1980 was , in fact, a gift deed which was executed by the first defendant in favor of the second defendant ‘out of love and affection’ and by virtue of which the second defendant was given a portion of the joint family property.  It is  a well settled proposition that a Hindu father or any other managing member of a HUF has power to make a gift of ancestral property only for a ‘pious purpose’ and what is understood by the term ‘pious purpose’ is a gift for charitable and/or religious purpose. Therefore, a deed of gift in regard to the ancestral property executed ‘out of love and affection’ does not come within the scope of the term ‘pious purpose.  It is irrelevant if such gift or settlement was made by a donor, i.e. the first defendant, in favour of a donee who was raised by the donor without any relationship, i.e. the second defendant. The gift deed in the instant case was  not for any charitable or religious purpose and therefore not made for any ‘pious purpose”, added the Bench.

To support the same, the Court referred to the judgment in Guramma Bhratar Chanbasappa Deshmukh and Ors. vs. Mallappa Chanbasappa and Anr, wherein it was held that the Court  cannot extend the scope of the power on the basis of the wide interpretation given to the words “pious purposes” in Hindu law in a different context. Therefore, it was held that  a gift to a stranger of a joint family property by the manager of the family is void.

In view of the above observations and findings,the Apex Court held that the settlement deed/gift deed dated March 22, 1980 executed by the first defendant in the favour of the second defendant was rightly declared null and void by the First Appellate Court and the High Court. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. 

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