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Written by: Shivangi Arora (Intern)

Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)

Supreme Court on 10th December 2021 was hearing the appeal under the case title Murthy vs. C Saradambal (LL 2021 SC 726). The bench comprises of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice B.V. Nagarathana.

Facts in Brief

The background of the case is about testator E. Srinivasa Pillai who died on 19th January 1978 leaving behind the Will dated 4th January 1978. The testamentary document is said to have been executed in the presence of the two attestators. The testator E.S. Pillai had three children, two daughters Savitri Ammal and Padmavathi and a son named S. Damodaran. S. Damodaran died on 3rd June 1989. He died intestate leaving behind his widow C. Saradambal and their two daughters. The testator E. Srinivasa Pillai bequeathed the house in which he and his family were residing to his son S. Damodaran excluding his two daughters. The two daughters of the testator moved an application for the partition. The widow of S. Damodaran i.e. C. Saradambal is the plaintiff in the case. She filed the petition seeking Letters of Administration. Letters of Administration are official documents that grant an individual permission to access and manage an Estate after someone dies. This individual is called the Administer of Estate who holds the responsibility to distribute the property to the relatives and is liable to pay off all the debts.

The issue rose before the trial court was regarding the genuineness of the will. The court was to decide on the matter whether the testator was in the sound state of mind while making the will or not. The Trial Court gave the judgement against the plaintiffs by dismissing the suit for the Letters of Administration. The petition was filed in Madras High Court against the judgement of the Trial Court. The Madras High Court allowed the appeal and further reversed the judgement of the Trial Court.

Supreme Court’s Observation

For the given case, the Apex Court referred to various precedents and made various observations.

  1. Referring to the case of H. Venkatachala Iyenger vs. B.N. Thimmajamma AIR 1959 SC 443 the bench observed that the propounder of the will holds the responsibility to examine all the attesting witnesses and the onus is on the propounder to give clarity on all the sceptical aspects of the will. Section 63 of The Indian Succession Act 1925 and Section 68 of The Indian Evidence Act 1872 are relevant regarding the proof of validity of the will.

  1. Pertaining to the case of Jaswant Kaur v. Amrit Kaur and others [1977 1 SCC 369] the Apex Court observed that where the testamentary document is under scepticism the court here decide the matter through its conscience. The propounder of the will must present evidence to satisfy the conscience of the court so as to proof that the will was duly executed by the testator and the will is genuine in its nature.

  1. The bench further added that since the will is the registered one it does not hold the fact that it will no more be required to fulfil the statutory requirements to prove the authenticity of the will. Taking into account all the necessary aspects, the bench held that the plaintiffs were unable to prove the cogency of the Will in conformity with the law. The shrouded doubt regarding the mental state of the testator during the execution of the will still sustains.

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