Read Order: Maghar Singh Since Deceased Through Lrs. v. Gurdev Singh And Ors. 

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, March 29, 2022: While observing that the various clauses of a Will have to be harmoniously construed and the Will has to be carefully perused in its entirety while analyzing the intent of the testator before arriving at a conclusion, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that merely because it is provided in the testamentary disposition (Will) that after the death of the legatee, the property will stand bequeathed in a particular manner, does not imply that the testator conferred a limited estate/ life interest in favour of the legatee. 

The Bench of Justice Anil Kshetarpal also added,“… it would not be appropriate to read something in the Will unless it has been specifically provided and that the normal rule of construction is to read the complete Will in order to understand the intent of the testator.”

In this case, the father of the plaintiff-appellant (Sh. Kishna @ Kishan/ testator) executed a Will, which is undisputed. The dispute was with respect to the manner of bequeathing the property in dispute. The plaintiff’s case was that Smt. Nihal Kaur (wife of Sh. Kishna @ Kishan) inherited only a limited estate/life interest, while the defendants contended that Smt. Nihal Kaur became the absolute owner of the property which was bequeathed in her favour after the death of late Sh. Kishna @ Kishan.

Initially, the plaintiff-appellant filed a suit for grant of decree of declaration to the effect that he is the owner in possession of 4 Bighas, 8 Biswas and 17 Biswasis, being half share of the land measuring 17 Bighas and 15 Biswas as Smt. Nihal Kaur (his mother) had only a limited estate as per the Will of his father. Therefore, the plaintiff argued that the Will that was executed by Smt. Nihal Kaur in 1975, in favour of Smt. Gurdev Kaur (wife of plaintiff’s brother) and sale deed of 1991 in favour of the third and fourth defendants was illegal. 

Before the High Court, the question in the two Regular Second Appeals when in the testamentary disposition neither there was a specific recital regarding conferring a limited estate/life interest in favour of the testator’s wife nor any restriction was imposed on her from alienating the property, then, if it could be held that the testator bequeathed only a limited estate because the Will provided for a specific manner of regulating the succession of the property after her death.

Before the Court, the petitioner’s counsel argued that once it was provided in the Will that after the death of Smt. Nihal Kaur, her share of land would be given to his three sons or their male progeny in equal share, then, Smt. Nihal Kaur received only a limited estate/life interest in the said property. 

On the contrary, respondents submitted that the testamentary disposition of the plaintiff’s father bequeathed the complete ownership in favour of late Smt. Nihal Kaur.

After perusing the Will, the Court opined,that Smt. Nihal Kaur was never prohibited from alienating the property during her lifetime and the testator did not restrict his wife from dealing with the property in any manner during her lifetime. The Court further expounded that the testator tried to regulate the bequest after the death of Smt. Nihal Kaur provided she died intestate. 

“Therefore, it was only a contingent provision which became redundant on the execution of Will with regard to the said property by Smt. Nihal Kaur”, asserted Justice Kshetarpal.  

On the interpretation of the terms of a Will, the Court opined that it would not be appropriate to read something in the Will unless it has been specifically provided and added that the normal rule of construction is to read the complete Will in order to understand the intent of the testator. 

The Bench noted that on a complete reading of the present Will, it became evident to the Court that neither the testator specifically provided that Smt. Nihal Kaur will only have a life or limited estate nor it was provided that she will not have the right to alienate/transfer the property bequeathed in her favour.

In such circumstances, the Court was of the opinion that it was not reasonable to hold that the wife was conferred only a limited estate or life interest merely because it was provided in the testamentary disposition that after the death of the legatee, the property will stand bequeathed in a particular manner. 

Further, the Court remarked that it is well settled that various clauses of the Will have to be harmoniously construed and the Will has to be carefully perused while analyzing the intent of the testator before arriving at a conclusion. 

Referring to the factual aspects,the Bench said “It is evident from the testamentary disposition that late Sh. Kishna @ Kishan has bequeathed 30 Bighas Kham land in favour of his wife, whereas, the remaining entire land was bequeathed in favour of Sh. Ajaib Singh, Sh. Maghar Singh and Sh. Joginder Singh in equal shares while excluding the daughter or any other heir or relative from the bequest. Furthermore, while referring to the residential house, the testator specifically provided that Smt. Nihal Kaur would have only a right of residence in the aforesaid house.”

Thus, Regular Second Appeals were dismissed. 

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