Advocate Sushila
‘MUTUAL WILL’ BECOMES EFFECTIVE ON THE DEATH OF EITHER OF THE JOINT TESTATORS

‘MUTUAL WILL’ BECOMES EFFECTIVE ON THE DEATH OF EITHER OF THE JOINT TESTATORS

The Hon’ble High Court of #Delhi vide its Judgment dated 25.04.2020 has recently passed a significant ruling in the matter of Vickram Bahl & Anr. Vs. Siddhartha Bahl [CS(OS) 78/2016 & IAs No.2362/2016], holding that the rights in favour of the ultimate beneficiary under the mutual #Will are crystalized on the demise of either of the #executants and during the lifetime of the other #executant of the mutual Will.

The brief facts of the case involve Mrs. Sundri Bahl (‘second Defendant’) and Late Wing Commander N N Bahl who had executed a joint Will dated 31.03.2006. Here, Mr. Wing Commander N N Bahl had predeceased the second Defendant. According to the Will, if one of the executors dies, the entire property shall go to the other executant. Under the Will, their eldest son and younger son will be absolute owners of their respective shares as detailed in the Will.

On the demise of Wing Commander N.N. Bahl the second Defendant became the sole owner of the property and was entitled to deal with the property. Consequently, the second Defendant instituted a suit for recovery of possession of the portions of the property in possession of the eldest son and his daughter. This suit was pending before the Court of Additional District Judge, Delhi.

As a result of the above Suit, the eldest son of the Testators and his daughter (the Plaintiffs) had filed a suit against his Mother seeking the relief of permanent injunction to restrain from dis-possessing them from their share of the Suit property under the Will.

The two issues were put forth before this Court. The first one was whether the Will executed on 31.03.2006 qualifies as a mutual Will and the second with respect to the effect of Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (‘the Act’).

It is imperative to refer to the meaning of a mutual will under law. Accordingly, in the case of Kochu Govindan Katmal v. T.T. Lakshmiamma, [1959 AIR 71] the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India stated the meaning of a joint or mutual will which is as follows:

"A will is mutual when the two testators confer upon each other reciprocal benefits as by either of them constituting the other his legatee that is to say when the executants fill the roles of both testator and legatee towards each other. But where the legatees are distinct from the testators, there can be no position of a mutual will."

Resultantly, in response to the first issue, the Bench comprising of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw read the clauses of the Will and held once an agreement is found and the Will is found to be with respect to joint property and the Will of Testators is contained in the same document, the same qualifies as a mutual Will. The Second Defendant, having accepted the said Will and after taking advantage thereunder cannot deal with the property, contravening her agreement with her deceased husband and is bound by the same.

The Bench while propounding the law in this regard held that “the rights in favour of the ultimate beneficiary under the mutual Will are crystalized on the demise of either of the executants and during the lifetime of the other executant of the mutual Will” which means that the beneficiary does not have to await the death of the two executants for enforcing his rights. Accordingly, the Bench held that mutual Will shall come into effect after the death of either of the joint executants.

With regard to the second issue, the Hon’ble Court held that for applicability of Section 14(1) of the Act, possession of the property by Hindu female on the date of commencement of the Act is sine qua non.

Section 14 in The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 states as follows;

14. Property of a female Hindu to be her absolute property.—

(1) Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner. 

(2) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall apply to any property acquired by way of gift or under a will or any other instrument or under a decree or order of a civil court or under an award where the terms of the gift, will or other instrument or the decree, order or award prescribe a restricted estate in such property.

The Court finally held that “the principle of, a mutual Will coming into effect and binding  also on the testator who may still be alive, on the death of one of the two testators, is well enshrined in the Indian Law.” Resultantly, the Decree was passed, in favour of the Plaintiffs and jointly and severally against the two Defendants.

Source:https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/mutual-will-comes-into-effect-on-the-death-of-either-of-the-joint-testators-delhi-hc-155943?infinitescroll=1


Lakshmi Vishwakarma

Associate

The Indian Lawyer

Edited by

Sushila Ram Varma

Chief Consultant

The Indian Lawyer

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