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Manek Dara Sukhadwalla v/s Shernaz Faroukh Lawyer & Another

    Misc. Petition (L) No.915 of 2012 In Testamentary Suit No.25 of 2012 & 29 of 2012 (Probate Petition No.5 of 2012) With Notice of Motion No.152 Of 2012 (Probate Petition No.341 of 2012)

    Decided On, 25 July 2012

    At, High Court of Judicature at Bombay

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE A.A. SAYED

    For the Petitioner: A.V. Anturkar, Counsel with A.N. Amin, i/b M/s B. Amin & Co., Advocates. For the Respondents: I.M. Chagla, Sr. Counsel, F.E. D'Vitre, Sr. Counsel with Parag A. Kabadi, Ms. A.R. Borkar, Counsel i/b M/s Doijode Associates, Advocates.



Judgment Text

Misc. Petition (L) No.915 of 102 is filed by Manek Dara Sukhadwalla (hereinafter referred to as 'the Petitioner') seeking an order to hold that Shernaz Faroukh Lawyer & Ms. Villy Awasia (hereinafter individually referred to as 'the Respondent No.1' and 'Respondent No.2' respectively and collectively referred to as 'the Respondents') do not have a caveatable interest in the estate of deceased-testator and to discharge/remove the Caveat filed by them. Notice of Motion No.152 of 2012 has been filed by 'the Petitioner' praying that the Testamentary Suit No.29 of 2012 filed by 'the Respondents' be dismissed on the ground of failure of disclosure of cause of action. Both the above proceedings are being disposed of by this common judgment.

2. One Mr. Purvez Burjor Dalal (hereinafter referred to as 'the deceased-testator') died at Mumbai on 7.12.2011 leaving behind certain assets/properties.

3. The Petitioner has filed Probate Petition No.5 of 2012 (now Testamentary Suit No.25 of 2012) which was lodged on 23.12.2011 seeking Probate of the Will dated 8.9.2011 (hereafter referred to as 'the 2nd Will') stated to be left behind by the deceased-testator, which is a registered Will. Under the said 2nd Will dated 8.9.2011, the Petitioner has been named as the sole Executor of the estate left by the deceased-testator. The Petitioner is retired employee of the New India Assurance Company and claims no beneficial interest in the estate of the deceased-testator. According to the Petitioner, the deceased-testator at the time of his death had no near relatives. As per the said 2nd Will propounded by the Petitioner, it is provided that after paying a sum of Rs.10.00 lacs on the religious ceremony to be performed after his death and paying the taxes and a further amount of Rs.10.00 lacs to maid Sushila and Rs.1.00 lac to grandchildren of the maid Shakuntala (since deceased), the entire estate be donated to Charity in the name of Homi, Jamshed, and Purvez Dalal (the deceased-testator) in the ratio 1/3rd each, to be determined by the Petitioner.

4. The Respondents have filed a Caveat in the said Probate Petition No.5 of 2012 filed by the Petitioner to oppose the grant of Probate of the 2nd Will, claiming caveatable interest in the estate of the deceased-testator. The Respondents claim that the deceased-testator had executed a Will dated 22.11.2010 (hereinafter referred to as the '1st Will') bequeathing all his properties in favour of the Respondent No.2 absolutely and further provides that in the event of the Respondent No.2 predeceasing the deceased-testator, the bequest is to her children Shernaz Faroukh Lawyer (Respondent No.1) and Jimmy P. Awasia in equal shares. Under the said 1st Will the Respondent No.2 has been appointed as one of the Executors alongwith Respondent No.1 and the said Jimmy P. Awasia (who has renounced his right at Executor).

5. The Respondents filed Probate Petition No.341 of 2012 (now Testamentary Suit No.29 of 2012) which was lodged on 6.02.2012 seeking Probate of 1st Will (dated 22.10.2010). The Petitioner has filed a Caveat in the said Probate Petition claiming caveatable interest in the estate of the deceased-testator and is opposing the grant of Probate of the 1st Will to the Respondents.

6. Thus, the 1st Will propounded by the Respondents is dated 22.10.2010, whereas the 2nd Will propounded by the Petitioner is subsequent in point of time and is dated 8.9.2011 and is a registered Will.

7. One Shiavax Hoshie Dolikuka has filed Caveats in both the abovementioned Probate Petitions opposing the grant of probate. Similarly, Rustom N. Nanavaty and Farida N. Nanavaty have also filed joint Caveats in both the Probate Petitions to oppose the grant of Probate.

8. The issue for determination in Misc. Petition (L) No.915 of 2012 filed by the Petitioner essentially is whether the Respondents have a caveatable interest in the estate of the deceased. If the answer to this is the affirmative, the order to be passed in the Notice of Motion No.152 of 2012 taken out by the Petitioner would really be consequential.

9. I have heard Mr. Anturkar, learned Counsel on behalf of the Petitioner and Mr. Chagla, learned Senior Counsel on behalf of the Respondents.

10. Mr. Anturkar, learned Counsel on behalf of the Petitioner submitted that since it is an undisputed position that the Respondents are not the hei

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s of the deceased-testator and the 2nd Will (dated 8.09.2011) propounded by the Petitioner is a subsequent Will of the deceased-testator, it would follow that the Respondents would have no caveatable interest in the estate of the deceased-testator. The learned Counsel submitted that the Respondents would have to await the outcome of the Probate proceedings filed by the Petitioner and it is only in the event that the Court concludes that the 2nd Will is not genuine i.e. upon dismissal of Suit No.25 of 2012 that, that conclusion/finding will give rise to a cause of action in favour of the Respondents. It may be stated here that in the Misc. Petition and the Affidavits filed in the Notice of Motion, it is averred by the Petitioner that the 1st Will propounded by the Respondents is forged and fabricated, and that signed blank papers have been used by the Respondents for making the 1st Will. It is further averred that in the 2nd Will itself, it is stated that such signed blank papers were lying with the Respondents and one Burjor Doodhmal and that the said papers should be disregarded and treated as cancelled.11. Mr. Chagla, learned Senior Counsel for the Respondents, on the other hand, submitted that the Respondents have a caveatable interest in the estate of the deceased-testator on the basis of the 1st Will propounded by them and that the Respondent No.2 is a beneficiary under the said Will. It is required to be noted at this juncture that in the pleadings of Respondents, it is averred that the 2nd Will propounded by the Petitioner is not genuine and was made under undue influence and coercion of the Petitioner and one Doodhmal and the deceased-testator was not of a sound and disposing state of mind. The deceased-testator was of advanced age and was staying alone and the Petitioner was a 'stranger' and the Petitioner on his own showing was introduced to the deceased-testator for the first time only a short period prior to his demise.12. Thus, both the learned Counsel, have canvassed elaborate arguments on the issue as to what would constitute 'caveatable interest' entitling the Respondents to oppose the grant of Probate to the Petitioner of the 2nd Will.13. Learned Counsel on behalf of the Petitioner has placed reliance upon judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Krishna Kumar Birla Vs. Rajendra Singh Lodha & Ors. ((2008) 4 SCC 300) in support of his submission that it being an admitted position that the Respondents are not heirs of the deceased-testator and the 2nd Will propounded by the Petitioner being a subsequent Will, the Respondents would not have a caveatable interest in the estate of the deceased-testator. The sole basis on which it is argued that the Respondents would not have caveatable interest, is the observations made by the Apex Court in paragraphs 73, 74 and 86 of the aforesaid judgment, which paragraphs are extracted herein below:"73. Strong reliance has been placed by Mr. Jethmalani on Nobeen Chunder Sil V. Bhobosoonduri Dabee. Therein, Field, J. interpreting Section 242 of the 1925 Act opined that if any person can show that he was entitled to maintain a suit in respect of property over which probate would have effect, he possesses a sufficient interest to enter a caveat and oppose the grant of probate;""74. Such a suit, however, in our opinion must have a direct nexus with the estate of the testator and not to enforce a right in respect of the application of the estate of the testator under another will. Right to maintain a suit must be independent of the wills sought to be probated. No legal right accrues under an unprobated will except in case where taking of probate is not mandatory. In Nobeen Chunder Sil the appellant therein had a direct interest in disputing the will. He had obtained a money decree against the testator. His share was under attachment. In the aforementioned factual backdrop it was held:(ILR p. 470)". What is the meaning of the expression 'persons claiming to have any interest?' It appears to me that the persons claiming to have any interest 'must be persons having such an interest as would entitle them to maintain a suit in respect of the subject-matter of such estate-persons having, for example, such an interest as, according to the practice of the Court of Chancery, would entitle them to file a bill in a court of equity'.""It contains two competing passages. One rendered by White, J. and another by Field, J. White, J. stated: (ILR p. 461)"It is not necessary to consider whether the case cited by the District Judge is good law, for it does not determine the question with which we have to deal. In that case the parties opposing the probate were simple creditors of a person who was the heir of the deceased, supposing the testator had died without a will, and supposing also that he had not adopted a son. In the present case the appellants have a claim the persons who, if the testator left no will, are entitled to create the mortgage, and one of the appellants as the attaching creditor of one of these persons.""Field, J., however, expanded the ambit of "caveatable interest"* * *"86. The propositions of law which in our considered view may be applied in a case of this nature are:i) To sustain a caveat, a caveatable interest must be shown.ii) The test required to be applied is: Does the claim of grant of probate prejudice his right because it defeats some other line of succession in terms whereof the caveator asserted his right?"iii) ..." (emphasis supplied)It needs to be emphasized that the aforesaid observations of the Apex Court are the sole basis on which the learned Counsel on behalf of the Petitioner rests his case.14. The learned Counsel on behalf of the Petitioner pointed out that in the aforesaid judgment, the Apex Court held that the Probate Court has limited jurisdiction. He submitted that the Respondents cannot be allowed to intervene at this stage and that if the probate is granted to the Petitioner, the Respondents can avail of the remedy of filing an Application for revocation of the probate under Section 263 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925.15. Learned Counsel then pointed out the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of G. Gopal Vs. C. Baskar & Ors. ((2008) 10 SCC 489), wherein the Apex Court, in para 5, held as follows:"5. The only question that was agitated before us by Mr. Thiagarajan, learned counsel appearing for the appellant challenging the judgment of the High Court revoking the probate granted in respect of the will executed by the testator, was that the respondents having no caveatable interest in the estate of the deceased, the application for revocation filed by them could not be allowed. We are unable to accept these submissions made by Mr. Thiagarajan, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant only for the simple reason that admittedly the respondents were grandchildren of the testator and they have claimed the estate of the deceased on the basis of a settlement deed executed by the testator himself which admittedly was revoked by the testator. That being the position, we must hold that the respondents had caveatable interest in the estate of the testator and, therefore, they are entitled to be served before the final order is passed. It is well settled that if a person who has even a 'slight interest' in the estate of the testator is entitled to file caveat and contest the grant of probate of the will of the testator." (emphasis supplied).16. My attention is next invited by the learned Counsel to a judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Jagjit Singh & Ors. Vs. Pamela Manmohan Singh ((2010) 5 SCC 157), wherein the Apex Court found that the views on the interpretation of the expression 'caveatable interest' as regards 'sufficient or some interest' and 'slight interest'in the aforesaid two cases viz. Krishna Kumar Birla (supra) and G. Gopal (supra) were conflicting and the Apex Court held that the issue deserves to be decided by a larger Bench and issued appropriate directions in that respect.17. Learned Counsel on behalf of the Petitioner submitted that the issue which has been referred to a larger Bench by the Hon'ble Supreme Court is in respect of 'sufficient interest' and 'slight interest' and the reference to the larger Bench does not affect what has been held by the Apex Court in paras 73, 74 and 86 of Krishna Kumar Birla's case. The learned Counsel submitted that in G. Gopal's case, the Respondents therein were grandchildren of the testator and were therefore related to the testator, which is not the case here. According to the learned Counsel, if the Caveator is not an heir of the deceased-testator, he is required to show that he was entitled to maintain a suit in respect of property over which the Probate would have effect and absent that, the Caveator would have no caveatable interest in the estate of the deceased-testator.18. Per contra, the learned Senior Counsel on behalf of the Respondents submitted that the reading of paragraphs 74, 75 and 86 of the judgment in Krishna Kumar Birla's case in the manner as sought to be read by the learned Counsel for the Petitioner would be a clear misreading of the said judgment. The learned Senior Counsel has pointed out paragraphs 174, 175 and 191 of the said judgment, which read as follows:"174. GPB was held to have caveatable interest on the premise that he was named as an executor. He, therefore, in our opinion, has rightly been held to have a caveatable interest.""175. An application for grant of probate of the 1982 will is also pending. Therein a contention has been raised by the first respondent that the said will was not genuine. If Respondent 1 has a caveatable interest in respect of the 1982 will, we do not see any reason as to why GPB would not have any right in respect of the 1999 will."* * *"191. We have already held that GPB has caveatable interest as executor of MPB (sic PDB) in respect of his (sic her) will of 1982. We, therefore, see no reason as to why RSL would not have a caveatable interest being a beneficiary under the 1999 will in the proceedings for grant of probate of the will of MPB dated 13.7.1982. If the grounds taken in the appeal are to be upheld, the same ex facie would destroy the case of the appellants in the other cases."19. Learned Senior Counsel on behalf of the Respondents submitted that in the present case, the Respondent No.2 was not only an Executrix of the 1st Will but she was also named as the beneficiary and therefore it cannot be said that the Respondents had no caveatable interest. The learned Senior Counsel does not dispute that the issue which has been referred to the larger Bench of the Apex Court in Jagjit Singh's case would not have a bearing in the facts of the present case. Thus, both the learned Counsel are at ad-idem that the issue referred to the larger Bench is not an issue directly involved in the present case.20. I have considered the rival contentions raised on behalf of the Petitioner and the Respondents.21. Since the case of the Petitioner is entirely premised upon the judgment in Krishna Kumar Birla's case, I have examined the said judgment in a considerable degree of detail. Perusal of the said judgment would reveal that the issue involved before the Hon'ble Supreme Court in that case was in respect of Wills of Smt. Priyamvada Devi Birla (PDB) and her husband Madhav Prasad Birla (MPB). Both PDB and MPB had executed mutual Wills dated 10.5.1981 on identical terms. Thereafter, the said Wills were revoked and another set of mutual Wills were executed on 13.7.1982. Four Executors were appointed in each of the 1982 mutual Wills. The Executors nominated in MPB's Will were:1. Smt. Priyamvada Devi Birla (PDB)2. Krishna Kumar Birla (KKB)3. Kashinath Tapuria4. Pradip Kumar Khaitan.The Executors nominated in PDB's Will were:1. Madhav Prasad Birla (MPB)2. Ganga Prasad Birla (GPB)3. Kashinath Tapuria4. Pradip Kumar Khaitan.After the death of MPB on 30.7.1990, PDB executed another Will dated 18.4.1999 (1999 Will) bequeathing her entire estate to Rajendra Singh Lodha (RSL), the Respondent No.1 in the Appeal before the Hon'ble Supreme Court. RSL was also appointed as a sole Executor under the said 1999 Will.22. Before the Calcutta High Court, RSL had filed an Application for grant of Probate of 1999 Will of PDB in which Ganga Prasad Birla (GPB) had entered caveat opposing the grant of Probate. In para 20 of the judgment, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has enlisted various SLPs filed by the parties before it. Item No.4 in the said list, is SLP (Civil) No.10571 of 2007, which was filed by RSL against the refusal of order of discharge of caveat filed by GPB in PLA No.204 of 2004.23. The Apex Court in paragraphs 190, and 191 observed as follows:"190. Whether RSL has a caveatable interest in the proceeding in respect of the probate of the will of MPB dated 13.7.1982 is also in question in this appeal;""191. We have already held that GPB has caveatable interest as executor of MPB (sic PDB) in respect of his (sic her) will of 1982. We, therefore, see no reason as to why RSL would not have a caveatable interest being a beneficiary under the 1999 will in the proceedings for grant of probate of the will of MPB dated 13.7.1982. If the grounds taken in the appeal are to be upheld, the same ex facie would destroy the case of the appellants in the other cases."24. In para 198 of the said judgment, the Hon'ble Supreme Court concluded as under:"198. For the reasons aforementioned, Civil Appeal arising out of SLP (C) No.10176 of 2007 filed by RSL challenging appointment of YB is allowed and all other Civil Appeals are dismissed with costs." (emphasis supplied).25. Thus, from the aforesaid discussion of the case of Krishna Kumar Birla, it would be clear that though GPB was claiming to be an executor of 1982 Will of PDB and he had filed a Caveat in the Petition of RSL seeking Probate of 1999 Will of PDB, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that GPB had a caveatable interest and dismissed the Appeal of RSL. Pertinently, in arriving at this conclusion, the Hon'ble Supreme Court did not go into the aspect at all whether any 'suit' was maintainable by any party in respect of the property over which the probate would have effect.26. Apart from the above, let us consider the context in which the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the observations in paragraphs 74, 75 and 86 of Krishna Kumar Birla's case. I have perused the judgment in the case Nobeen Chunder Sil & Ors. Vs. Bhobosoonduri Dabee ((1881) ILR 6 Cal 1460) (Coram: White and Field, JJ) which has been referred to in paras 73 and 74 of Krishna Kumar Birla's case. In paras 1 to 6 of Nobeen Chunder Sil's case, the facts of that case have been set out, which read as under:"1) This is an appeal against a decree of the District Judge of the 24-Pargannas, granting probate of the will of Nobo Coomar Ganguli, deceased, to Bhobosoonduri Dabee, the respondent, who is his widow and executrix."2) The testator died on the 21st October 1877, and left, besides his widow, two sons, Parbutti Churn Ganguli, an adult, and Hori Churn Ganguli, a minor. The will purports to give the entire property of the testator to his widow for her life, and after her death to his sons. It thus postpones the inheritance of the sons until after their mother's death.3) Nobeen Chunder Sil, the appellant No.1, claims to have obtained in 1878 a money-decree against Parbutti Churn Ganguli for a private debt of his, and, on the 4th of February 1879, which was about a month before the will was propounded, to have attached the share of Parbutti in the Immovable property left by the testator.4) The remaining two appellants, Brojo Mohun Ghose and Obhoy Churn Sen, claim, under a mortgage executed by the two sons of the testator about a month after his death, to be the mortgagees of the Immovable property left by the testator.5) The three appellants filed a caveat against the grant of probate, but the District Judge, on the authority of a decision of this Court-Baijnath Shahai v. Desputty Singh -refused to allow them to take part in the proceedings or oppose the grant.6) The question before us is, whether, supposing the appellants to prove that they have the interests which they claim, they or either of them have such interests in the estate of the deceased as entitle them to file a caveat and oppose the grant?" (emphasis supplied).27. As is clear from the above quoted facts that unlike the present case, Appellants in the Nobeen Chunder Sil's case were not claiming interest in the estate of the deceased by virtue of any Will propounded by them.28. It is now well settled that the judgments of Courts are to be read as a whole and not by picking up certain sentences and observations here and there.29. In State of Orissa Vs. Sudhnashu Sekhar Misra (AIR 1968 SC 64), a Constitution Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court held as follows:"A decision is only an authority for what it actually decides. What is of the essence in a decision is its ratio and not every observation found therein nor what logically follows from the various observations made in it. It is not a profitable task to extract a sentence here and there from a judgment and to build upon it."30. In Commissioner of Income Tax Vs. Sun Engineering Works (P) Ltd., (AIR 1973 SC 43), the Apex Court held as under:"It is neither desirable not permissible to pick out a word or a sentence from the judgment of the Supreme Court, divorced from the context of the question under consideration and treat it to be the complete 'law' declared by the Supreme Court. The judgment must be read as a whole and the observations from the judgment have to be considered in the light of the questions which were before the Court. A decision of the Court takes its colour from the questions involved in the case in which it is rendered and while applying the decision to a later case, the Courts must carefully try to ascertain the true principle laid down by the decision of the Supreme Court and not to pick out words or sentences from the judgment divorced from the context of the questions under consideration by the Court, to support their reasonings."31. In Ashwin Kumar Singh Vs. U.P. Public Service Commission and Others, ((2003) 11 SCC 584), the Apex Court held as follows:"Courts should not place reliance on decisions without discussing as to how the factual situation fits in with the fact situation of the decision on which reliance is placed. Observations of Courts are not to be read as Eculid's theorems nor as provisions of the statute. These observations must be read in the context in which they appear. Judgment of Courts are not to be construed as statues. To interpret words, phrase and provisions of a statute, it may become necessary for judges to embark upon lengthy discussions, but the discussion is meant to explain and not to define. Judges interpret statutes, they do not interpret judgments. They interpret words of statues; their words are not to be interpreted as statutes. In circumstantial flexibility, one additional or different fact may make a world of difference between conclusions in two cases. Disposal of cases by blindly placing reliance on a decision is not proper."32. The submissions of the learned Senior Counsel, in my opinion, clearly proceed on a misreading of the judgment of Krishna Kumar Birla's case and are divorced from the context in which the said observations are made by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in paragraphs 73, 74 and 86. In the circumstances, reliance on paragraphs 74,75 and 86 of Krishna Kumar Birla's case in support of the contention on behalf of the Petitioner that the Respondents have no caveatable interest, really speaking, would be out of order.33. Pertinently, in this very judgment of Krishna Kumar Birla, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held in para 103 as follows:"103. What would be the caveatable interest thus depend upon the fact situation obtaining in each case. No hard and fast rules as such can be laid down. We have merely made attempts to lay down certain broad legal principles"34. Furthermore, Krishna Kumar Birla was a case involving mutual Wills and the opening words in para 86 would be rather significant. They read -"86. The propositions of law which in our considered view may be applied in a case of this nature are: ........." (emphasis supplied)35. In view of the above discussion, even otherwise, the judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Krishna Kumar Birla's case, in my opinion, would be of no assistance to the case of the Petitioner.36. Some judgments have been cited on behalf of the Respondents by the learned Senior Counsel on what constitute caveatable interest.37. In Swatantranandji Vs Lunidaram Jangaldas (AIR 1977 Bombay 397), it was observed by a Single Judge of this Court as under:"The question still remains whether the Defendant has sufficient interest in the estate of the deceased for him to sustain his caveat. A caveat can be entered by any person having or asserting an interest in the estate of a deceased person, and it has been held that he must show that he has that interest by inheritance or otherwise. A title adverse to that of the testator or to his estate or any portion thereof is not sufficient to sustain the interest. I think that the test is generally this: will the grant of probate to the Petitioner displace any right to which the caveator is otherwise entitled? If so, he has an interest; if not, he has none. At best the Defendant can argue, though the point is not taken by him in his affidavits, that he is the executor according to the tenor of the later Will. If he succeeds in proving that the first will is a forgery, he may show that he is the executor according to the tenor of the later will, and as such he would have a right to apply for probate to the estate of the deceased. To that extent it can be argued that an important right belonging to him may be displaced by reason of the grant of probate to the Petitioner. The point is not free from doubt; but I would still hold that the Defendant has an interest in the state which enables him to oppose the grant of probate of the two wills to the Petitioner."38. In George Anthony Harris vs. Millicent Spencer (1932 BLR XXXV 708), a Single Judge of this Court observed as under:"The Defendant contends in the first place that this suit is not maintainable on the ground that the Plaintiff has no interest in the estate of the deceased. He is admittedly not an heir as on an intestacy, and his only interest would be as a legatee under a will which according to the Defendant was destroyed by the deceased with the intention of revoking it. It is laid down in Mortimer on Probate Law and Practice Edn. Of 1911, p.585 (B), that an action for revocation of letters of administration granted on an intestacy may be brought by a person claiming an interest under an alleged will of the deceased for the purpose of having the grant revoked in order that he may obtain probate of the alleged will under which he claims to be interested. The contest in such a case lies between the administrator to whom letters of administration have been granted and the person alleging the existence of the will, and the contest which relate to the validity of the will is decided in one and the same proceedings. If the will propounded is invalid, the Court pronounces against it, and the grant is re-delivered out to the administrator on a copy of the decree being filed. If the will is valid, the grant is revoked, and probate is ordered to issue in solemn form of law to the person entitled thereto."* * *"The Plaintiff applies only for revocation, and what is necessary both in England and in India is that the person applying for revocation must show that he is interested in the alleged will i.e. in the estate of the deceased disposed of by the alleged will. That interest may be very slight. It has even been held that it may be a bare possibility. But there must be some interest which the applicants is prima facie entitled to claim in the estate of the deceased" (this issue however appears to have referred to the Larger Bench by the Hon'ble Supreme Court)39 In Sarala Sundari Dassya Vs. Dinabandhu Roy (BLR XLVII 571), it was held by a Division Bench of this Court as follows:"The question arises whether the creditor of an heir who says that he is being or is likely to be, defeated in his rights against the heir by reason of property which otherwise appeared to be in possession of the heir being withdrawn by a will, is allowed to move to revoke the probate.""Attention has been called to S.283 which provides: "In all cases the District Judge .. may "- then"(c) issue citations calling upon all persons claiming to have any interest in the state of the deceased to come and see the proceedings before the grant of probate ...""It is suggested that it is only those persons who could be cited before the grant of probate who are the persons who could apply to revoke the probate. In their Lordships' view that is putting it on much too narrow a footing. One of the grounds for revoking probate is that the grant was obtained fraudulently by making a false suggestion, which obviously covers the case of putting forward a forged will, just as (c) would cover the case of a person putting forward a forged will even if when he or she propounded it he or she did not know it was forged will. In dealing with the first point, that the grant was obtained fraudulently, it appears to their Lordships to follow as a matter of course that if a person is complaining that he has in fact been defrauded, he is one of the persons who is injured by the fraud alleged, and that that person is entitled to have his redress by applying to revoke the probate and thereby cause the fraud to become inoperative. If he has not such a right as that, it is very difficult to know what right a creditor in those circumstances, or a person injured by the fraud, could have, otherwise the probate would stand and he would be affected by the probate which had been obtained ex hypthesi fraudulently."40. In The Goods of Taramoni Dasi (deceased) (I.L.R. 25 Cal. 552), it was held by a Single Judge of Calcutta High Court as follows:"I have considered the question of costs, and it appears to me the rule is this: The executor of the will of the testator is entitled, in the same way as the next of kin would be, to call upon the executor of a prior will to prove in solemn form and to cross-examine the witnesses in support of the will, supposing there are any suspicious circumstances in connection with the execution of that will.""In the present case I think the executor of the former will has done nothing more than discharge the duty cast on him. Thee were circumstances undoubtedly of suspicion in connection with the execution of the subsequent will. The testatrix very shortly after executing the former will left her place of residence, and, while living under the care and protection of her nephews, executed a will in their favour, which was certainly inconsistent with the terms of the provisions of the previous will. It is quite true the learned Counsel for the executor of the first will did not confine himself to cross-examining the witnesses to the subsequent will, but also called evidence; but this was to allow the executor of the former will to give his version of an interview which took place after the death of the testatrix between him and the nephew of the deceased. Taking all the circumstances together, I prefer the account given by the nephews, but I think this circumstances should not disentitle the executor of the former will to his costs."41. In Rahamtullah Sahib Vs. Rama Rau & anr. (17 Madras 374), it was observed by a Division Bench of the Madras High Court as under:"Two questions arise for determination in this appeal viz. whether, apart from the prior will set up by the Defendant, there is proof of Defendant's interest in the testator's estate, and whether the learned Judge ought to have granted an adjournment to enable Defendant to bring in the alleged prior will. As regards the first question, we agree with the learned Judge, apart from that will, Defendant has no interest. It is true that under the will propounded by Plaintiffs, Defendant is entitled to a legacy of Rs.1,000/-, but this circumstances can give him no right to denounce that will and to call for proof of it in solemn form......"* * *"There is, however, no doubt that if the Defendant proved the prior will, he would have a sufficient interest to contest the will set up by the Plaintiffs. The material question, therefore, is whether the Defendant was justified in not producing, at the date of the final hearing, evidence to prove the prior will on which he relies. He ought to have been prepared to proceed at once with the case if the sixth issue had been decided in his favour. It is quite possible, however, that he expected that the second preliminary issue would be determined first and hoped to frame his procedure with reference to such determination. Moreover, Defendant will be hereafter precluded from proving the will set up by him, as it has been held that when once probate of a will has been granted in solemn form, no one who has been cited or taken part in the proceedings or who was cognizant of those proceedings and stood by, can afterwards seek to have it cancelled."42. In Venidas Nemchand Vs. Bai Champabai (XXXI B.L.R. 1014), a Single Judge of this Court was interalia considering the procedure to be followed where two Wills are set up by two persons in regard to the same estate. It was held as follows:"Now, in a probate suit the only issue before the court is whether the will propounded or in respect of which a grant is asked for is the last will and testament of the deceased. The issue objected to require an adjudication from the Court upon the will which is set up in answer to the Plaintiff's claim. This, in my opinion, as I shall presently point out, can only be done by way of a counter claim. It is obvious, if the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code are to be followed, that a Defendant in a probate suit in this court cannot set up a counter-claim, for the Code does not recognise any counter-claim. That being so, I do not think that the Defendant can be allowed to set up the alleged will of December 23, 1926, by way of a counter-claim. As far as I know the practice in this court has been that where there are two wills in regard to the same estate, the parties interested in opposing the grant of probate have to file their respective caveats in each case so that the Petition be comes a suit in each case and the suits are numbered and both the suits are heard together or are consolidated."43. The aforesaid decisions cited on behalf of the Respondents are referred to above so as to complete the record. They lay down the broad principles in the fact situation of those cases.44. Reverting to the facts of the present case, it is required to be noted that it is an admitted position that both the parties viz- the Petitioner as well as the Respondents were not related to the deceased-testator and are not the heirs of the deceased-testator. Both the parties are propounding two separate Wills and claim that the Will propounded by the other party is not a genuine Will.45. The question one would need to pose in the case in hand is-Would not the status of the 1st Will need to considered in the event 2nd Will propounded by the Petitioner is held to be not genuine for any reason and the grant of probate to him is refused? In my view, merely because the 2nd Will propounded by the Petitioner is a subsequent Will would not by itself mean that the Court will presuppose that the 2nd Will is a genuine Will. Let us assume for the sake of argument that a 3rd Will of a later date is propounded by a 3rd party who is not an heir of the deceased-testator; would that by itself mean that the Petitioner who is propounding the 2nd Will would have no caveatable interest merely because a 3rd Will which is propounded is a subsequent Will? I suppose not! In my view, in the present case it would be hazardous at this stage to assume that the 2nd Will propounded by the Petitioner is a genuine Will and hold that the Respondents who have propounded 1st Will, have no caveatable interest particularly when admittedly both the parties are not the heirs of the deceased-testator. Significantly, both the parties claim that other party is stranger to the Probate proceedings.It is now trite that the Probate/Testamentary Court is only concerned with genuineness of the Will. In my view, in the facts of the present case, the Petitioner's assertion that since the Respondents are not heirs of the deceased-testator they would not have caveatable interest would be self-defeating inasmuch as the Petitioner also admittedly is not an heir of the deceased testator. I also do not find any merit in the submission on behalf of the Petitioner that the Respondents would have the remedy of applying for revocation of granting of Will at a later stage. Merely because the 1st Will propounded by the Petitioner is Will earlier in point of time and is registered Will, would not in my view disqualify the Respondents as Caveators. It is noted that even the Petitioner has filed a caveat in the Probate Petition filed by the Respondents claiming caveatable interest in the 1st Will propounded by the Respondents. If that be so, in the facts of the present case, I see no reason why the Respondents cannot claim caveatable interest in the 2nd Will propounded by the Petitioner.46. True, that the Probate Court is concerned only with the last Will and there would be a presumption about its genuineness if the Will is a registered Will. However that would still remain a presumption and the Will in the facts of the present case, would be required to be proved and suspicious circumstances if any would need to be dispelled.47. A propounder of a Will has to prove (i) whether the Will in question is a legal declaration of the intention of the deceased and (ii) the deceased-testator when he executed the Will was in a sound and disposing state of mind and (iii) the deceased-testator had executed the Will of his own free will. The onus is of two types i.e. (i) to discharge burden as regards the legal and valid execution of the Will and (ii) to remove the suspicious circumstances surrounding execution of the Will so as to satisfy conscious of the Court. In the case in hand, the deceased-testator was about 75 years of age and was residing alone at the time of his death. Admittedly the Petitioner is not related to the deceased-testator and came in contact with the deceased-testator only a few months prior to the death of the deceased-testator and the deceased-testator died within 3 months of his making the 2nd Will.48. Furthermore, I find that besides the above two Wills that are being propounded, there is infact another Will dated 23rd August 2011 of the deceased-testator. This would be evident from the letter dated 8-09-2011 (the same date as the 2nd Will) which is annexed to the Probate Petition No.5 of 2012. A perusal of the said letter would reveal that on the original of the Will of 23rd August 2011 of the deceased-testator, an endorsement has been made by the deceased-testator's family physician Dr. L.S. Ballani at the foot thereof that the deceased-testator is not in a fit condition to sign the Will with proper understanding. Apparently, the Petitioner was present at the time of the execution of the Will of 23rd August 2011; however that Will is not forthcoming and the Petitioner may have some explaining to do in that regard. Suffice it to say that in the facts and circumstances of this case, it would be unsafe at this stage to presuppose that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the execution of the 2nd Will propounded by the Petitioner and that the 2nd Will in favour of the Petitioner is a genuine Will and on that count non-suit the Respondents at this stage. In my view, evidence would be necessary to be adduced by the Petitioner to prove the genuineness of the Will and an opportunity would be required to be given to the Respondents, who are propounding the 1st Will, to contest the grant of probate to the Petitioner. Pertinently, in the Affidavit in Reply filed by the Petitioner in Notice of Motion No.138 of 2012, in para 9, the Petitioner himself has averred that the moment Probate Petition No.5 of 2012 is granted to him, the Probate Petition filed by the Respondents will be dismissed even without trial and that the real question to be considered is whether there is any chance of Probate Petition No.5 of 2012 not being granted. This averment of the Petitioner would suggest that the Petitioner himself is conscious of the fact that unless the 2nd Will propounded by him is held to be genuine, the Probate Petition filed by the Respondents cannot be dismissed.49. The upshot of the above discussion is that the Respondents are held to a caveatable interest in the estate of the deceased-testator and Petition (L) No.915 of 2012 filed by the Petitioner would be required to be dismissed. Having held that the Respondents have a caveatable interest, consequently, the Notice of Motion taken out by the Petitioner seeking dismissal of the Testamentary Suit No.29 of 2012 on the ground of failure of cause of action would, also have to be dismissed. Accordingly, Misc. Petition(L) No.915 of 2012 and the Notice of Motion No.152 of 2012 are dismissed.50. The learned Counsel for the Petitioner seeks stay of this order. In absence of any ad-interim/interim reliefs in the Notice of Motion/ Misc. Petition and in the facts and circumstances of the present case, in my opinion, there can be no question of grant of any stay, when the proceedings are being dismissed.51. Before parting, it needs to be recorded that it has been very fairly stated by the learned Senior Counsel on behalf of the Respondents that the Respondents are willing to let go their claim if the Petitioner agrees that the estate of the deceased-testator can go to Charity by appointing a retired Judge of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India to administer the estate of the deceased-testator. The learned Counsel for the Petitioner, got back to the Court after taking instructions, and also measured up in fairness and agreed before the Court that the estate of the deceased-testator can be donated to Charity in favour of Tata, Godrej and/or Wadia Trust and a retired Judge of the Hon'ble Supreme Court can oversee the proper application thereof. However, the only hitch is that the Petitioner desires to act as an Executor and administer the estate of the deceased-testator, to which the Respondents are not really agreeable. This issue however, I have no doubt in my mind, can be resolved by adopting a via media which would be acceptable to both the parties and would need to be explored at a later stage, after considering the claims made by other parties/heirs. Needless to say that this offer by both the parties is without prejudice to their rights and contentions and would not be used to their prejudice in any manner by 3rd parties.52. It is clarified that the observations in this judgment are for the purposes of the above proceedings and would not come in the way of deciding other proceedings concerning the estate of the deceased-testator.
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