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Judgments of Supreme Court of India and High Courts

Shivakumar vs Sharanabasappa on 24 April, 2020

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6076 OF 2009

SHIVAKUMAR ORS. ……… Appellant(s)

Versus

SHARANABASAPPA ORS. ………Respondent(s)

JUDGEMENT

Dinesh Maheshwari, J.

PRELIMINARY AND BRIEF OUTLINE

1. By way of this appeal, the plaintiff-appellants have challenged the

judgment and decree dated 26.10.2007 passed by the High Court of

Karnataka at Bangalore in Regular First Appeal No. 910 of 2001 whereby,

the High Court reversed the judgment and decree dated 12.09.2001 passed

by the Court of Civil Judge (Senior Division), Koppal in Original Civil Suit No.

56 of 1994.

1.1. The civil suit aforesaid was filed by the plaintiff-appellants for

declaration and injunction, essentially with the submissions that they had
Signature Not Verified
acquired ownership rights in the suit properties (described in Schedules A to
Digitally signed by
DEEPAK SINGH
Date: 2020.04.24
16:20:11 IST
Reason:

D attached to the plaint) on the basis of a Will dated 20.05.1991 executed by

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the owner of the said properties Sri Sangappa son of Pampanna Shettar of

Koppal; and that a trust created by the defendants on 28.05.1994, in the

name “Shri Sangappa Pampanna Gadagshettar Trust, Koppal” in relation to

the suit properties, was illegal, void and not binding on the plaintiffs. The

contesting defendants i.e., defendant Nos. 1 to 5 refuted the claim so made

by the plaintiffs while questioning the genuineness of the alleged Will dated

20.05.1991. The defendant No. 7, one of the erstwhile trustees of the said

trust, however, admitted and endorsed the claim of the plaintiffs.

1.2. After framing necessary issues and after taking the oral and

documentary evidence adduced by the parties, the Trial Court, in its

judgment dated 12.09.2001, decided the principal issue relating to the said

Will dated 20.05.1991 in favour of the plaintiffs and, while also returning its

findings on other necessary issues in favour of the plaintiffs, proceeded to

decree the suit with declaration that the trust created by the defendants on

28.05.1994 was not binding on the plaintiffs, particularly in relation to the suit

properties; and that the plaintiffs were owners of the suit properties as

claimed. The Trial Court also issued injunction against defendant Nos. 1 to 5

that they shall not interfere with the plaintiffs’ peaceful possession and

enjoyment of the suit properties.

1.3. The judgment and decree so passed by the Trial Court were

questioned by the contesting defendants in the High Court by way of the said

first appeal. The High Court, in its impugned judgment dated 26.10.2007

proceeded to allow the appeal while reversing the decision of Trial Court on

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the principal issue relating to the genuineness of the Will in question. The

High Court found several unexplained suspicious circumstances as also

discrepancies in the Will in question and held that the alleged Will dated

20.05.1991 was not a genuine document. Being aggrieved, the plaintiffs

have preferred the instant appeal.

THE LEAD PERSONS, PARTIES, WITNESSES AND DOCUMENTS AS
ALSO THE PROPERTIES INVOLVED

2. It is but apparent that genuineness of the Will dated 20.05.1991,

said to have been executed by Sri Sangappa son of Pampanna Shettar of

Koppal, allegedly bequeathing the suit properties to the plaintiffs, is in

question in this case.

3. For comprehension of the subject-matter and for effective

determination of the questions raised in this appeal, we may take note of the

principal persons involved in the matter with their respective roles as also the

documents and the properties in question as infra:

3.1. The testator of the Will in question:

Late Sri Sangappa son of Pampanna Shettar of Koppal.

He was a businessman and was also the Chairman of Sri

Gavisiddeshwara V.V. Trust, Koppal (which is different than the trust

questioned in the suit). Late Smt. Mahantamma was his wife.

Undisputedly, both the testator and his wife died in a car accident on

20.05.1994. The testator and his wife did not have any surviving

children, as their children had died in infancy and they were issueless

on the date of their death.

3

3.2. The plaintiffs (the appellant Nos. 1 to 3 herein):

The plaintiffs S/Sri Shivakumar, Shashidhar and Karibasewaraj, all

sons of Basetteppa, claim to be the legatees under the Will in

question. They are full-brothers and are grand-nephews of the

testator’s wife. According to the plaintiffs, they were brought up by

the testator and his wife and they were staying with the testator.

3.3. The contesting defendants (Respondent Nos 1 to 4 herein):

The defendant No. 1 Sri Sharanabasappa son of Pampanna is the

younger brother of the testator; the defendant Nos. 2 and 3 Smt.

Basavannemma and Smt. Siddama are the sisters of the testator;

the defendant No. 4 Sri Pampanna son of Basappa and defendant

No. 5 Sri Siddanna son of Fakirappa are the nephews of the

testator.1-2

3.3.1. The defendant Nos. 6 to 8:

The defendant No. 6 Sri Gurushantappa, No. 7 Sri Veerabasappa

and No. 8 Dr. N.S.Gaikwad were joined in the suit for being the

members of the trust created by other defendants, which was

questioned by the plaintiffs. The defendant No. 7 Sri Veerabasappa

was said to be a close associate of the testator in running

Gavisiddeshwar College of which, the testator was the Chairman of

1The defendant No. 2 Smt. Basavannemma expired during the pendency of the suit and the fact was
noted on the cause-title.

2 The defendant No. 4 Sri Pampanna (respondent No. 3 herein) expired during the pendency of this
appeal and his legal representatives were brought on record by the order dated 30.03.2015.

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Governing Body. This defendant was not related to either of the

parties; he, however, filed a separate written statement, admitting

and endorsing the claim of the plaintiffs.3

3.4. The trust in question: Sri Sangappa Pampanna Gadagshettar Trust:

The defendants created this trust on 28.05.1994 (in the name of the

testator) with inclusion of the properties in question, to pursue

philanthropic and charitable purposes. The creation of this trust was

challenged in the suit.

3.5. Special mention: Sri Gavisiddeshwara Swami, Koppal (Swamiji):

According to the plaintiffs, the testator was a philanthropic and a

devotee of Sri Gavisiddeshwara Swami, Koppal 4; and the contested

Will was opened in the presence of Swamiji. However, Swamiji was

not examined as a witness in this case.

3.6. The key witnesses:

PW-1 Sri Basetteppa:

He is father of the plaintiff Nos. 1 to 3. He allegedly used to assist

the testator in his business.

PW-3 Sri Radhakrishnarao and PW-4 Sri Ayyanagowda Hiregowdar:

They are claimed to be the attesting witnesses of the contested Will.

PW-8 Sri Bhusnoormath, Advocate:

3 The defendant No. 6 Gurushantappa expired on 13.10.2001. He was a trustee of the trust in
question and no substitution was made in his place. The name of defendant No. 7 Veerabasappa was
deleted from the array of parties before the High Court on 24.07.2006. The defendant No. 8 has
remained on record as respondent No. 5 in this appeal.
4 Hereinafter also referred to as ‘Swamiji’.

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He was a friend and advocate of the testator. Allegedly, the testator

handed over the contested Will to him in a sealed cover with the

instructions that the same was to be opened after his death, only in

the presence of Swamiji. The contested Will was allegedly opened

after the sudden demise of the testator and his wife in the presence

of Swamiji on 29.05.1994.

3.7. Relevant exhibited documents:

Ex. P.2: Will cancellation deed 26.09.1990 whereby, the testator

cancelled an earlier Will executed by him in the year 1974.

Ex. P.3: Handwritten draft of the Will said to have been prepared by

the testator and kept in the sealed cover with the executed Will.

Ex. P.4: The contested Will dated 20.05.1991.

3.8. Suit properties:

Schedule A: Consisting of the parcels of land in Sy. No. 631 and Sy.

No. 632. These were in the name of the testator’s wife as per the

relevant records.

Schedules B, C D: Consisting of shops and houses; admittedly

they belonged to the testator.5

SUMMARY OF THE PLEADINGS; ISSUES; AND EVIDENCE

4. Having taken note of the persons and the properties involved in the

matter, we may now summarise the pleadings of the parties, the issues

5 The testator owned several other properties too that were not mentioned in the Will, and hence, are
not a part of the suit properties.

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framed by the Trial Court, and the evidence led by the parties for

appreciating the respective findings of the Trial Court and the High Court.

The plaint:

4.1. The plaintiff-appellants filed the suit aforesaid seeking declaration

and injunction with the averments, inter alia, that Schedule A to D properties

were owned and possessed by the testator Sri Sangappa Shettar of Koppal;

that Schedule A properties, being the parcels of land, were standing in the

name of the testator’s wife Mahantamma but were purchased by him. It was

averred that on 20.05.1994, the testator Sangappa Shettar and his wife died

in a car accident on the National Highway between Hubli-Shiggoan. It was

also averred that both of them died issueless as the children born to them

had died in infancy. The plaintiffs further pointed out the relations of the

parties with the testator and alleged that the testator was earlier joint with his

family but, in or around the year 1964, a partition took place and thereafter,

he remained separate until his demise. The plaintiffs asserted that their

mother Mahadevamma was the sister of the wife of testator; that the testator

Sri Sangappa, out of love and affection, brought up the plaintiffs by keeping

them in his house; that the marriage of the plaintiffs’ father (PW-1) was

performed by the testator in the year 1972; and that the deceased testator

also requested the father of the plaintiffs to assist him in the business. The

plaintiffs further averred that the deceased testator executed a Will in the

year 1974 but, being disillusioned by the behaviour of legatees, he cancelled

the same on 26.09.1990. The plaintiffs pointed out that the deceased testator

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was the Chairman of Sri Gavisiddeshwara V.V. Trust, Koppal and ardent

devotee of Sri Gavisiddeshwara Swamiji of Koppal. The plaintiffs also

averred that the deceased testator changed the name of the business from

Gurukrupa Stores to Gurukrupa Traders.

4.1.1. The plaintiffs further averred that on 20.05.1991, the testator Sri

Sangappa Shettar executed a Will bequeathing Schedule A properties in

favour of the plaintiffs jointly; Schedule B property in favour of the plaintiff No.

1; Schedule C property in favour of the plaintiff No. 2; and Schedule D

property in favour of the plaintiff No. 3 whereas his remaining properties

were directed to be kept intact and plaintiffs were directed to apply those

properties for charitable purposes. The plaintiffs asserted that the deed of the

Will in question was executed by the deceased voluntarily and in sound state

of mind; and after due execution, he kept the Will in a sealed cover and

deposited the same with Sri Bhusanoormath, Advocate (PW-8) with

directions to open the same after his death in the presence of Swamiji.

According to the plaintiffs, after the death of the testator Sangappa, PW-8

Bhusanoormath, Advocate intimated about the Will and the same was

opened on 29.05.1994 in the presence of Swamiji.

4.1.2. The plaintiffs maintained that the relationship between the deceased

testator and the defendants was not cordial until his death; however, the

deceased bequeathed a house to defendant no. 3 so that she may reside

therein. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were well aware about the

Will executed by the testator and yet created the trust in question which was,

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in any case, not of any adverse effect on the rights of the plaintiffs who had

become owners of the suit properties by virtue of the Will executed by the

testator. With these averments, the plaintiffs sought declaration against the

trust so created by the defendants as also on their ownership rights over the

properties in question and further for injunction against the defendants.

The written statement by defendant No. 1 as adopted by defendant Nos. 2-6
and 8:

4.2. The contesting defendants refuted the plaint averments and

contended, inter alia, that the suit was not maintainable under the provisions

of Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (‘CPC’); that the trust in

question was not impleaded as party; and that the description of suit

properties was not correct.

4.2.1. While stating that both Sri Sangappa and his wife died in the

vehicular accident that took place at about 3:15 p.m. on 20.05.1994, these

defendants stated that their dead bodies were identified after about 18 hours;

and that the defendant Nos. 1 to 3 performed their last rites. The allegation

regarding partition was denied.

4.2.2. The contesting defendants further denied the assertions that the

plaintiffs were brought up by Sangappa and maintained that the plaintiffs

were living with their father and mother in a rented house. The contesting

defendants alleged that the relations between the deceased and the father of

the plaintiffs were strained; and that father of the plaintiffs was, in fact,

running the business in the name of Sri Karibasavashwar Trading Co.

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opposite to the place of business of the deceased Sangappa that was

running in the name of Gurukrupa Traders.

4.2.3. While questioning the Will propounded by the plaintiffs, the

contesting defendants alleged that the plaintiffs are interested in the

properties of the deceased and had forged the Will with ulterior motives.

These defendants denied that the deceased prepared the Will and kept the

same in the sealed cover and deposited it to the Advocate with instruction to

open the same in the presence of Swamiji. The contesting defendants

recounted various suspicious circumstances concerning the Will in question

while alleging, inter alia, that the Will did not bear the signature of deceased

Sangappa; that there was a mismatch in Hindi Calendar date with that of

English Calendar; that the past events were stated in the Will in such a way

that they would happen in future; that various blanks were left in the

description of the properties and even otherwise, the description was

incorrect; that the amount bequeathed to Rajeshwari and Siddabasemma

was not shown; and that the description of the properties under the Will was

inconsistent, incorrect and incomplete.

4.2.4. The contesting defendants also alleged that after the death of

Sangappa and his wife, they became the Class II heirs of the deceased

Sangappa according to Hindu Succession Act and the trust was created for

implementation of the noble thoughts of the deceased. The contesting

defendants also alleged that the declaration of the trust on 28.05.1994 was

prior to the creation of the deed of disputed Will, which was allegedly opened

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on 29.05.1994. It was also alleged that the defendant No. 7 started acting

against the interest of the trust and he was removed from the trust by way of

a resolution.

The written statement by defendant No. 7- supporting the plaintiffs

4.3. The defendant No. 7 filed a separate written statement, essentially

admitting the claim of the plaintiffs. This defendant stated that he was a close

associate of the deceased in running Gavisiddeshwar College; and that he

was acquainted with the handwriting of the deceased. According to this

defendant, after the demise of Sri Sangappa, the advocate met him and

informed about the trust with religious and charitable objects to be formed

out of the properties not bequeathed. Further, one day he stopped for paying

respect to Swamiji near the house of Principal Mallikarjun Somalapur; and

the advocate informed Swamiji about the Will left by the deceased; and

Swamiji instructed that the Will be given effect to, which may give peace to

the departed soul.

4.3.1. The defendant No. 7 further stated that the advocate handed him

over a xerox copy of the Will and he was convinced about its genuineness

after examining the same and after enquiring from the attesting witnesses;

and he also found that the draft was in the handwriting of the deceased. This

defendant also referred to the proceedings of the meeting of the trust on

10.06.1994, where a suggestion was made that the legatees under the Will

should go and establish their claim in the Court of Law but he asserted that

the Will should be given effect to as, according to him, litigating against the

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plaintiffs was equivalent to asserting a false case that the deceased had not

executed his Will and therefore, he disassociated himself from the trust.

Issues
4.4. On the pleadings of the parties, the Trial Court framed the following

issues for determination of the questions involved in the matter:-

“1.Whether the plaintiffs prove that the deceased Sangappa
bequeathed the suit properties in their favour under the will
deed dt: 20.05.1991?

2. Whether the defendants 1 to 5 prove that the Commission
Agency shop business was kept joint in the partition of 1954,
held during the life time of father of deceased Sangappa?

3. Whether the suit is not maintainable for not impleading Sri
Sangappa Pamapnna Gadadshettar Trust, Koppal, as a party
to the suit?

4. Whether the suit is not properly valued and court fee paid
is not correct?

5. Whether the plaintiffs are entitled for the relief of
declaration that the trust created under the name Sri
Sangappa Pampanna Gandshettar Trust, Koppal, is illegal,
void and not binding on them?

6. Whether the plaintiffs 1 to 3 are entitled for the relief of
declaration that they are the joint owners of suit A schedule
properties?

7. Whether the plaintiff No. 1 is entitled for the relief of
declaration that he is the owner of suit B schedule
properties?

8. Whether the plaintiff No. 2 is entitled for the relief of
declaration that he is the owner of suit C schedule
properties?

9. Whether the plaintiff No. 3 is entitled for the relief of
declaration that she is the owner of suit D schedule
properties?

10.Whether the plaintiffs are entitled for the consequential
relief of perpetual injunction against the defendants?

11.Whether the defendants are entitled for exemplary costs
of Rs. 30,000?

12. What decree or order?”

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Evidence
4.5. In order to prove their case, the plaintiffs examined as many as 8

witnesses, the material among them being their father Sri Basetteppa (PW-

1); the two attesting witnesses of the Will in question Sri Radhakrishnarao

(PW-3) and Sri Ayyanagowda Hiregowdar (PW-4); and the advocate Sri

Bhusnoormath (PW-8), to whom the Will was allegedly handed over in a

sealed cover and who opened the cover in the presence of Swamiji. The

plaintiffs also produced 17 documents including Ex. P.2: the Will cancellation

deed 26.09.1990 whereby, the testator cancelled the earlier Will executed by

him in the year 1974; Ex. P.3: handwritten draft of the Will said to have been

prepared by the testator and kept in the sealed cover with the executed Will;

and Ex. P.4: the contested Will dated 20.05.1991. The defendants examined

2 witnesses and produced 16 documents.

FINDINGS OF THE TRIAL COURT

5. It is but apparent that the pivotal question in this case had been as

to whether the deceased Sangappa bequeathed the suit properties in favour

of the plaintiffs under the Will dated 20.05.1991? The Trial Court took up

issue Nos. 1 and 6 to 10 together and found that Will in question was

executed in accordance with Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 6

and the same was proved as per the requirements of Section 68 of the

Indian Evidence Act, 18727; and the plaintiffs got the rights as claimed

thereunder. The relevant aspects of the findings of the Trial Court could be

summarised as follows:

6 Hereinafter referred to as ‘the Succession Act’.
7 Hereinafter referred to as ‘the Evidence Act’.

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5.1. The Trial Court held that all the circumstances establishing that PW-

8 was handed over the cover containing the Will in question and its draft and

of his opening the same before Swamiji on 29.05.1994 cannot be suspected

as he had no personal gain from the plaintiffs and had no enmity with the

defendants.

5.2. The Trial Court further held that PW-3 and PW-4 have given the

details about the Will but it was not necessary that they would meticulously

know the contents of the Will; that both have unanimously spoken about the

deceased Sangappa having shown them the typed Will, himself having read

out the contents, and having signed before them. The Trial Court yet further

observed that neither the Will was drafted nor it was got typed in the

presence of the attesting witnesses and everything was ready for execution

and therefore, any more details regarding typing of Will of the deceased were

not expected. The Trial Court found that the Will in question was duly

identified by the said witnesses as Ex. P. 4 and the signatures of Sangappa

were also identified as Ex. P. 4 (a), (b) and (c); the signature of PW-3 was at

Ex. P.4 (d) and that of PW-4 at Ex. P. 4 (f). The signatures of other two

witnesses were also identified as Ex. P. 4 (e) and Ex. P. 4 (g). Thus,

according to the Trial Court, the mode of proof as provided under Section 68

of the Evidence Act stood duly complied with.

5.3. The Trial Court also noticed and recounted various features which,

in its opinion, lend credence to the factum of existence of the Will in question.

The Trial Court observed, inter alia, that the draft of the Will was prepared in

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the handwriting of the deceased as Ex. P.3; that PW-1 was a relative of the

deceased who had been helping the deceased in business and was

acquainted with the handwriting and signature of deceased; and thus, the

handwriting and signature were identified as per Section 47 of Evidence Act.

The Trial Court also observed that the draft was in the cover containing the

executed Will and there was no chance to open the sealed cover; and that

even if the Will did not contain all what was written in Ex. P.3, it was not a

ground to raise any suspicion.

5.4. The Trial Court further observed that the fact that the deceased had

taken help of PW-1, a distant relative, in presence of close relative like

defendant No. 1 and his sons, was sufficient to hold that there was no love

lasting between the deceased and the defendant No. 1 and his sons. The

Trial Court observed that indisputably, the earlier Will, executed in the year

1974, was cancelled in the year 1990 but therein too, the defendant No. 1

and his family had not been given anything; and the intention of the

deceased was clear that he was not willing to give anything to the defendant

No. 1 and his family. The Trial Court also referred to the fact that defendant

Nos. 2 3, the sisters of the deceased, did not come before the Court to

speak against the Will in question.

5.5. As regards connectivity of the deceased with the plaintiffs, the Trial

Court referred to the fact that in the admission forms of the plaintiff No. 1

pertaining to the years 1991-92 and 1993-94 for I.U.C. classes in

Gavisidddeshwar College, Koppal, the deceased had signed in place of the

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guardian; and as per the address given in those applications, he was staying

in Warkar Galli C/o Sangappa Gadedshetter. Hence, the allegations of the

defendants that the plaintiffs were staying separately were rejected. The Trial

Court observed that even if father and mother of the plaintiffs were later on

staying separately due to difference of opinion in women-fold, the fact

remained that, prior to the year 1993, the plaintiffs and their parents were

staying with the deceased as seen by the voter lists (Exs. P.12-16) of Koppal

Town pertaining to years 1975 to 1993.

5.6. As regards the state of mind of the deceased, the Trial Court

observed that the deceased was in sound state of mind at the time of

execution of Will; and he died 3 years after making of Will and, on the day of

his demise, had gone to attend the marriage 100 kms away, which showed

that he was capable of managing himself. The Trial Court also observed that

some of the discrepancies indicated by the defendants had essentially arisen

because of self-scribing of the Will and it cannot be said that the deceased

was a feeble person.

Discrepancies/Suspicions Answered by the Trial Court:
5.7. The Trial Court also proceeded to deal with some of the discrepancies

pointed out by the defendants in the Will in question and answered the same

as follows:

5.7.1. The Trial Court observed that the discrepancy in Hindi and English

Calendar dates as found in Ex. P.3 cannot be made a ground to disbelieve

the entire Will, particularly when the date mentioned in the Will i.e.,

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20.05.1991 was falling on Monday and the same had been the statements of

PW-3 and PW-4. This discrepancy, according to the Trial Court was of no

bearing on the substance of the matter.

5.7.2. The Trial Court further observed that absence of property numbers

cannot be a ground to hold that the Will was a forged one; and that the

location of house property either in Warkar Galli or Katarki road was

inconsequential so far as giving effect to the Will, as the deceased wanted to

give the property with the boundaries mentioned therein. Similarly, the

property shown as item number 2 in Schedule D was available with

municipal number and was admittedly belonging to the deceased Sangappa.

Therefore, according to the Trial Court, any discrepancy in particulars was of

no bearing; and the blanks were also not casting any doubt or suspicion on

the Will in question. The Trial Court further observed that certain

inconsistencies or certain improper directions may not be called as

suspicious circumstances; and that though the description of property in para

5 of the Will did not disclose the name of the legatee to whom it was

bequeathed but, that too was not a circumstance to disbelieve the entire Will.

5.7.3. The Trial Court yet further observed that non-registration of Will

cannot raise the presumption of forgery and fabrication. The Trial Court also

observed that the reason for keeping the Will secret was that the legatees

under the earlier Will were not respecting the feelings of the deceased and

hence, the deceased kept everybody guessing about the contents of his last

Will.

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5.7.4. As regards the suspicious circumstance asserted by the defendants

that deceased had not left anything for his wife in the Will executed in the

year 1991, the Trial Court observed that when, apart from the properties

shown in the Will, the deceased was leaving other properties too, definitely

those properties would have gone to his wife and hence, not making the

provision for wife in the Will was not a ground that could be raised as

suspicion. The Trial Court also observed that in para 3 of the Will, 4 acres of

the land of Irkalgada was given to Gopur Basaveshwara Temple, which

clearly showed that the deceased had given properties to charitable

purposes also.

5.7.5. As regards entering of the names of the legatees in the Will by the

deceased by filing an application to municipality on 04.09.1993 during his life

time, the Trial Court observed that such entries were of no legal effect and do

not operate against the Will in question.

5.7.6. As regards the question raised by the defendants that even the past

events were stated in the Will as if to happen in future, the Trial Court

observed that in para 4 of the Will, the deceased had stated that Sangappa

Uttangi had promised to vacate the shop and godown in the year 1990 and

though the wording should have been different when the Will was written in

the month of May 1991, but such a fact was irrelevant because Uttangi was a

tenant and even if he had continued, that would not have affected the rights

of legatees under the Will.

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5.8. In relation to the suspicious features pertaining to the documents in

question i.e., the draft of the Will Ex. P.3 and the deed of Will Ex. P.4, the

Trial Court observed that only the strong suspicious circumstances were

required to be explained by the propounder of the Will; and proceeded to

dismiss the suspicions suggested by the defendants, with the observations

and findings, inter alia, as follows :

5.8.1. The Trial Court observed that the loose sheets were removed from

the exercise note book and used by the deceased to write the draft but, there

was no evidence to show that the entire draft was made on one day; and the

deceased might have written some pages on some day and some pages on

some other day. After noticing that chronological numbers were not available

on such loose sheets, the Trial Court observed that the draft could be used to

read the intention and to interpret the Will Ex. P.4 but, it cannot be used to

nullify the intention of the deceased. In this sequence, the Trial Court also

observed that the persons challenging the Will were not expected to get any

property through succession because, in the event of the demise of

Sangappa alone, the properties would have gone to his wife.

5.8.2. As regards non-examination of the typist, the Trial Court observed

that it was not at all a suspicious circumstance because the Will was a secret

document and nobody, including the propounders, knew as to where the Will

was typed.

5.8.3. Though the very opening recital in the Will in question mentioned

about the likelihood of an accident but in this regard, the Trial Court observed

19
that none except deceased himself could give explanation as to what was

the intuition for him to write in the Will about accident and death in the

accident.

5.8.4. As regards the document itself (Ex. P.4), the Trial Court noticed that

page numbers 1, 2 and 5 of the Will were green coloured, whereas the

colour of page numbers 3 and 4 was not the same but observed that different

coloured sheets might have been used by the typist.

5.8.5. The Trial Court, of course, noted the features that the signature of

the testator on page number 1 of the document in question (Ex. P.4) was

made with an ink pen whereas ballpoint pen was used on the next page but,

observed in this regard that one of the witnesses had spoken that the ink pen

did not write properly so the ballpoint pen was used. The Trial Court further

observed that so far putting the signatures before the witnesses was

concerned, there was no doubt that Ex. P. 4 (a) (b) (c) were the signatures

of the deceased, as proved in the testimonies of the attesting witnesses. The

Trial Court yet further observed that the Will was kept by the deceased in

sealed cover and this was a strong circumstance to show that the execution

of Will by the deceased cannot be suspected.

5.9. In its conclusion, the Trial Court held that from every angle, the Will

in question was natural; and the plaintiffs had discharged their burden of

proving the same and also dispelled the suspicious circumstances stated by

the defendants. The Trial Court, accordingly, held that overall reading of the

Will indicated that the deceased had written the same with an intention of

20
bequeathing the properties to the legatees. Issue Nos. 1 and 6 to 10 were,

therefore, decided in favour of the plaintiffs.

5.10. The Trial Court also returned the findings on other issues in favour

of the plaintiffs and, accordingly, decreed the suit with declaration and

injunction as noticed hereinbefore.

REVERSAL BY THE HIGH COURT

6. In appeal by the contesting respondents against the judgment and

decree so passed by the Trial Court, the High Court took note of the material

on record as also the rival contentions and framed two points for

determination as follows:

“i) Whether the plaintiffs proved that the deceased Sangappa
bequeathed his properties in their favour under the will dated
20.5.1991?

ii) Whether the trial Court was justified in holding the will
dated 20.5.1991 executed by Sangappa as genuine or not?”

6.1. In relation to both the points aforesaid, which essentially revolved

around the question of genuineness of the Will in question, the High Court

took note of the principles exposited by this Court in the cases of Smt. Indu

Bala Bose and Ors. v. Manindra Chandra Bose and Anr.: (1982) 1 SCC

20 and Smt. Jaswant Kaur v. Smt. Amrit Kaur and Ors.: (1977) 1 SCC

369 and thereafter, proceeded to examine the basic contentions of the

defendants that by its very nature, the Will appeared to be a fabricated

document. After taking note of the discrepancies in the document itself and

other unnatural circumstances as also after analysing the evidence of the

star witnesses PW-4 and PW-8, the High Court found that the Trial Court had

21
erred in deciding the relevant issue in favour of the plaintiffs and, while

reversing the findings of the Trial Court, held that the contested Will was not

a genuine one. As the consequence, the judgment and decree passed by

the Trial Court were set aside. Of course, as regards the question of

possession, the High Court left it open for the contesting defendants to take

recourse to appropriate remedies in accordance with law.

6.2. As regards discrepancies in the document in question, about the

difference of the colour of the three sheets used and in the alleged

signatures of the testator, the High Court meticulously examined the

document and recorded its observations and findings as follows:

“24. Keeping the observations of the Hon’ble Supreme
Court in view, the WILL would have to be looked into since it
has been strenuously contended by the learned senior
counsel for the appellant that the very sight of the WILL
would indicate that the same has been fabricated. The
original of the WILL dated 20.5.1991 is marked as Ex.P4
which is available in the records secured from the Court
below. The same is typed in Kannada script on three sheets
which are normally used for typing papers which are
submitted to Court. The colour of the three sheets are not
similar. The first sheet is light green, the second sheet is
very light in colour (almost white) and the third sheet is
darker among the three. At the outset, it is clear that all
the three sheets are not from the same stock and if the
same was got typed from a typist in a normal course as
claimed, the sheets could not have been different from
one another. The alleged signature of the testator is found at
the bottom of each page on the facing side only. Though
there is typed matter on the reverse side at pages 2 and
4 the same does not contain signatures. Even the
signatures found on the facing sheet are not uniformly
affixed. On first page the signature is more than one inch
below the last line of the typed matter and has the
appearance of a prefixed signature. The second sheet (page-

3) contains signature near to the typed matter. The last sheet
(page 5) has the signature which is at a distance of about an

22
inch below the last line of the typed matter. The name of the
alleged testator typed below the signature has all indications
of the same being typed below an existing signature. This is
evident from the fact that the name would not have been
typed so low from the typed matter, particularly when the
place ‘Koppal’ and date typed on the left side of the sheet is
at a lesser distance from the typed matter and are not in
alignment with each other. The space provided for signature
of four witnesses seems very unnatural and even in that
circumstance the name of the alleged testator would not have
been typed so low if it was a natural typing on a blank sheet.
The first page and last page have been signed using
fountain ink pen but the pen used is not similar to one
another. The second sheet is signed by a ballpoint pen.
The pattern of signatures if compared with the earlier
admitted WILL dated 29.6.1990 which was registered but
later revoked, which is marked as Ex.P1 would indicate
uniform pattern immediately below the written matter without
any gap and even a small correction has been attested,
whereas in the propounded WILL, blanks have been left. It
does not require a detective like Sherlock Holmes to
notice these discrepancies which are visible to naked
eye and the very sight of the WILL does not inspire
confidence that it could be genuine.”
(emphasis supplied)

6.3. The unusual feature of the use of different instruments while making

three signatures on the same document came up for its fuller exposition

when the High Court proceeded to examine the explanation sought to be

furnished by PW–4. While rejecting the testimony of this witness PW-4, the

High Court observed and found, inter alia, as under: –

“27. In this background, the discrepancies in the
signatures and the different pens which were used also
assumes importance. In this regard P.W.-4, Sri Ayyanagowda
Hiregowdar who claims to be one of the attesting witness of
the WILL in his cross examination admitted that Ex.P4(a) is
the signature with ink pen, except Ex.P4(c) being the
signature with ball pen and again signature Ex.P4(b) is by ink
pen and he has also stated that the signatures in Ex.P4(a)
and (b) have been made by the very same pen. He has
further stated that both the pens were available with the

23
testator. He has sought to explain the same by stating that
while signing the third page the ink pen was not working, this
explanation is palpably false and cannot be believed for the
reason that the first page has been signed by fountain ink
pen and the third page again has been signed by the fountain
ink pen whereas the second page has been signed by a
ballpoint pen. Hence this would not only indicate the incorrect
statement but would certainly indicate the unnatural
circumstances that a person would be so careless while
signing a document in the nature of a WILL which is fully
known to him that it is a document regarding which he would
not be available to explain the situation. One other reason for
which the said explanation cannot be believed is that if the
fountain ink pen used by the testator was really not
working after affixing the signature on the first page, it
cannot be understood as to how he could have signed
the second sheet with the ballpoint pen and thereafter
once again sign the third sheet with the fountain ink pen
more so, when the ink pen used in the first sheet and the
third sheet are not similar to one another. That apart the
signatures of the so called attesting witnesses to the WILL
would indicate that the same have been made with fountain
ink pen and the said ink of these signatures are much fresher
than the signatures of the alleged testator…..”
(emphasis supplied)

6.4. The High Court also rejected the contentions of the plaintiffs that the

alleged discrepancies could not take away the validity of the Will as it was

produced by PW-8 and the sealed envelope was opened in the presence of

Swamiji. The High Court pointed out that the very assertion, about availability

of the handwritten draft of the proposed Will EX. P.3 in the sealed envelope

along with the alleged executed Will EX. P.4, was that of another unnatural

feature because if the testator had himself completed and executed the Will

in the presence of witnesses, there was no reason to place the incomplete

handwritten draft in the envelope. The High Court proceeded to observe that

such feature gave strong indication that the plaintiffs had been able to place
24
their hands on an incomplete draft and have fabricated the Will using blank

sheets signed by the testator at different times; and only to make it appear

authentic, the story of the envelope containing the draft was weaved. While

rejecting the story about the availability of the sealed envelope with the

advocate PW-8 and its opening before Swamiji, the High Court also pointed

out that the advocate concerned, PW-8, was known to the testator as also to

the father of the plaintiffs PW-1 inasmuch as he had indeed appeared in his

professional capacity on behalf of PW-1. Moreover, and as noticed, in regard

to the assertion of the plaintiffs and the witnesses that the cover containing

the Will was opened before Swamiji, the High Court observed that the said

Swamiji was a very important and material witness in this case but the

plaintiffs never took any steps to get his statement recorded.

6.5. After taking note of the aforesaid inexplicable features, unnatural

circumstances, unreliability of the witnesses of the plaintiffs and the fact that

no steps were taken by the plaintiffs to get recorded the statements of a

material witness, namely the said Swamiji, the High Court also took note of

the approach of the Trial Court and did not approve the same while

observing, inter alia, as under:

“28. The said discrepancies though noticed have been
sought to be explained by the learned Judge of the Court
below in a manner as though to overcome the same wherein
the learned Judge states that the difference in the colour of
the papers cannot be suspected because it could have been
used by the typist. The learned Judge further holds that it
cannot be suspected since the said papers contain the
signatures and the signatures have been identified by the
witnesses. As noticed by us above, the very signatures itself
are doubtful that it has been affixed after the matter was
25
typed and the explanation given by the witnesses are even
more doubtful and as such the learned Judge could not have
lightly brushed aside these aspects.”

6.6. In view of the above, the High Court allowed the appeal and set

aside the judgment and decree of the Trial Court. Hence, the unsuccessful

plaintiffs have preferred this appeal.

RIVAL CONTENTIONS

7. Assailing the judgement of the High Court, learned senior counsel

for the plaintiff–appellants has strenuously argued that the High Court has

seriously erred in setting aside the findings of the Trial Court, which were

based on due appreciation of the consistent evidence of the material

witnesses. The learned counsel has contended that the facts are amply

established on record that on 20.05.1991, the testator executed the Will in

question in accordance with the provisions of Section 63 of the Succession

Act and Section 68 of the Evidence Act with his signatures and with

attestation by more than two witnesses who had seen the testator signing the

Will. According to the learned counsel, the testator was in sound and

disposing state of mind while voluntarily executing the Will, as required by

Section 59 of Indian Succession Act. PW-3 and PW-4 deposed before the

Trial Court that the testator himself showed the typed Will and put his

signatures on the same; and the Will was duly attested by PW-3 and PW-4.

Hence, the requirements of Section 68 of the Evidence Act are fulfilled. The

learned counsel has referred to the decision in the case of H. Venkatachala

Iyengar v. B.N. Thimmajamma and Ors: AIR 1959 SC 443 and has
26
contended that with all the legal requirements being fulfilled and there being

no reason to ignore or disbelieve the Will, the Trial Court had rightly decreed

the suit and the High Court has not been justified in upsetting the considered

decision of the Trial Court.

7.1. The learned senior counsel has contended that the appellants have

dispelled all suspicious circumstances qua the Will in question; that as per

Section 74 of the Succession Act, it is not necessary that technical words be

used in the Will; and what is necessary is only that the intention of the

testator ought to be set out in the Will. According to the learned counsel, Ex.

P3, the handwritten draft, makes the intention of the testator clear that he

wanted to bequeath his properties to the appellants. Further, PW-5 and

defendant No. 7 have clearly identified the signature of the testator. The

learned counsel would urge that with the intention of the testator having been

amply established on record, some blanks in the Will or some other minor

inconsistencies cannot take away the substance thereof, particularly when

the properties could be identified with the help of the boundaries. The

learned counsel has referred to the decisions in Smt. Indu Bala Bose and

Ors. v. Manindra Chandra Bose and Anr.: (1982) 1 SCC 20 and P.P.K.

Gopalan Nambiar v. P.P.K. Balakrishnan Nambiar and Ors: 1995 Supp

(2) SCC 664. The learned counsel has further contended that exclusion of

any legal heir from the Will is not a suspicious circumstance and has referred

to the decision in Uma Devi Nambiar and Ors. v. T.C. Sidhan: (2004) 2

SCC 321.

27
7.2. The learned senior counsel has further strenuously argued that it

had not been the contention of the respondents that the document in

question was drawn on blank signed papers and the observation of the High

Court that the document in question was drawn on blank signed papers does

not find support in the evidence and pleadings on record. In this regard, the

learned counsel has relied upon the decision in Mahesh Kumar (dead) by

LRs v. Vinod Kumar and Ors: (2012) 4 SCC 387.

7.3. In the last and in the alternative, the learned senior counsel has

argued that if at all the High Court found the want of requisite evidence, the

proper course was to exercise the power of remand under the provisions of

Order XLI Rule 23-A CPC. The learned counsel has contended that the High

Court being the first Court of Appeal, ought to have given the opportunity to

the appellants to adduce proper additional evidence, considering the fact that

the findings were being made on suspicious circumstances other than those

raised by the defendants in their pleadings and evidence. The learned

counsel has referred to and relied upon the decision in the case of Mohan

Kumar v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors.: (2017) 4 SCC 92.

8. Per contra, learned counsel for the contesting respondents has duly

supported the judgement of the High Court with reference to the reasonings

and observations therein. The learned counsel has also argued that right

from the beginning, it had been the case of the respondents that the

propounded Will was nothing but a fabricated document and it is incorrect

to say that particular objection had not been taken by the respondents. The

28
learned counsel has referred to the decision in K. Laxmanan v. Thekkayil

Padmini and Ors.: (2009) 1 SCC 354.

POINTS FOR DETERMINATION

9. In view of the submissions made, the following points essentially arise

for determination in this case:

1. As to whether the High Court was right in reversing the decision of
the Trial Court and in holding that the contested Will was not a genuine
document?

2. As to whether the High Court ought to have considered remanding
the case to the Trial Court?

WILL – PROOF AND SATISFACTION OF THE COURT

10. As noticed, the basic point for determination in this case is as to

whether the High Court was justified in taking a view contrary than that of

the Trial Court and in holding that the Will propounded by the plaintiffs is not

the genuine Will of the deceased Sangappa. Determination of this point,

obviously, revolves around the legal principles applicable to the making of a

testamentary document like Will, its proof, and its acceptance by the Court.

10.1. The Will being a rather solemn document that comes into operation

after the death of the testator, special provisions are made in the statutes

for making of a Will and for its proof in a Court of law. Section 59 of the

Succession Act provides that every person of sound mind, not being a

minor, may dispose of his property by Will. A Will or any portion of a Will,

the making of which has been caused by fraud or coercion or by any such

importunity that has taken away the free agency of the testator, is declared

29
to be void under Section 61 of the Succession Act; and further, Section 62

of the Succession Act enables the maker of a Will to make or alter the same

at any time when he is competent to dispose of his property by Will.

Chapter III of Part IV of the Succession Act contains the provisions for

execution of unprivileged Wills (as distinguished from privileged Wills

provided for in Chapter IV). Section 63 of the Succession Act, relevant for

the present purpose, reads as under: –

“63. Execution of unprivileged Wills.-Every testator,
not being a soldier employed in an expedition or engaged in
actual warfare, or an airman so employed or engaged, or a
mariner at sea, shall execute his Will according to the
following rules:-

(a) The testator shall sign or shall affix his mark to the
Will, or it shall be signed by some other person in his
presence and by his direction.

(b) The signature or mark of the testator, or the
signature of the person signing for him, shall be so placed
that it shall appear that it was intended thereby to give effect
to the writing as a Will.

(c)The Will shall be attested by two or more witness, each of
whom has seen the testator sign or affix his mark to the Will
or has seen some other person sign the Will, in the presence
and by the direction of the testator, or has received from the
testator a personal acknowledgment of his signature or mark,
or the signature of such other person; and each of the
witnesses shall sign the Will in the presence of the testator,
but it shall not be necessary that more than one witness be
present at the same time, and no particular form of
attestation shall be necessary.”
10.2. Elaborate provisions have been made in Chapter VI of the

Succession Act, in Sections 74 to 111, for construction of Wills which, in

their sum and substance, make the intention of legislature clear that any

irrelevant misdescription or error is not to operate against the Will; and

30
approach has to be to give effect to a Will once it is found to have been

executed in the sound state of mind by the testator while exercising his own

free will. However, when the Will is surrounded by suspicious

circumstances, the Court would expect that the legitimate suspicion should

be removed before the document in question is accepted as the last Will of

the testator.

10.3. As noticed, as per Section 63 of the Succession Act, inter alia,

requires that the Will ought to be attested by two or more witnesses. Hence,

any document propounded as a Will cannot be used as evidence unless at

least one attesting witness has been examined for the purpose of proving

its execution, if such witness is available and is capable of giving evidence

as per the requirements of Section 68 of the Evidence Act, that reads as

under: –

“68. Proof of execution of document required by law
to be attested.-If a document is required by law to be
attested, it shall not be used as evidence until one attesting
witness at least has been called for the purpose of proving its
execution, if there be an attesting witness alive, and subject
to the process of the Court and capable of giving evidence:
Provided that it shall not be necessary to call an attesting
witness in proof of the execution of any document, not being
a Will, which has been registered in accordance with the
provisions of the Indian Registration Act, 1908 (16 of 1908),
unless its execution by the person by whom it purports to
have been executed is specifically denied.”
10.4. Learned Counsel for the appellant has referred to the decision in the

case of H. Venkatachala Iyenger (supra). It is noticed that in paragraphs 18

to 22 of the said decision, this Court has synthesised and condensed

31
almost the entire panorama relating with execution and proof of a Will and

the guiding principles for a Court while examining the document which is

propounded as a Will. These passages in the said 3-Judge Bench decision

of this Court could be usefully reproduced as under: –

“18. What is the true legal position in the matter of proof of
wills? It is well-known that the proof of wills presents a
recurring topic for decision in courts and there are a large
number of judicial pronouncements on the subject. The party
propounding a will or otherwise making a claim under a will is
no doubt seeking to prove a document and, in deciding how it
is to be proved, we must inevitably refer to the statutory
provisions which govern the proof of documents. Sections 67
and 68 of the Evidence Act are relevant for this purpose.
Under Section 67, if a document is alleged to be signed by
any person, the signature of the said person must be proved
to be in his handwriting, and for proving such a handwriting
under Sections 45 and 47 of the Act the opinions of experts
and of persons acquainted with the handwriting of the person
concerned are made relevant. Section 68 deals with the proof
of the execution of the document required by law to be
attested; and it provides that such a document shall not be
used as evidence until one attesting witness at least has
been called for the purpose of proving its execution. These
provisions prescribe the requirements and the nature of proof
which must be satisfied by the party who relies on a
document in a court of law. Similarly, Sections 59 and 63 of
the Indian Succession Act are also relevant. Section 59
provides that every person of sound mind, not being a minor,
may dispose of his property by will and the three illustrations
to this section indicate what is meant by the expression “a
person of sound mind” in the context. Section 63 requires
that the testator shall sign or affix his mark to the will or it
shall be signed by some other person in his presence and by
his direction and that the signature or mark shall be so made
that it shall appear that it was intended thereby to give effect
to the writing as a will. This section also requires that the will
shall be attested by two or more witnesses as prescribed.
Thus, the question as to whether the will set up by the
propounder is proved to be the last will of the testator
has to be decided in the light of these provisions. Has
the testator signed the will? Did he understand the

32
nature and effect of the dispositions in the will? Did he
put his signature to the will knowing what it contained?
Stated broadly it is the decision of these questions
which determines the nature of the finding on the
question of the proof of wills. It would prima facie be true
to say that the will has to be proved like any other document
except as to the special requirements of attestation
prescribed by Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act. As in
the case of proof of other documents so in the case of proof
of wills it would be idle to expect proof with mathematical
certainty. The test to be applied would be the usual test of the
satisfaction of the prudent mind in such matters.

19. However, there is one important feature which
distinguishes wills from other documents. Unlike other
documents the will speaks from the death of the testator, and
so, when it is propounded or produced before a court, the
testator who has already departed the world cannot say
whether it is his will or not; and this aspect naturally
introduces an element of solemnity in the decision of the
question as to whether the document propounded is proved
to be the last will and testament of the departed testator.
Even so, in dealing with the proof of wills the court will start
on the same enquiry as in the case of the proof of
documents. The propounder would be called upon to show
by satisfactory evidence that the will was signed by the
testator, that the testator at the relevant time was in a sound
and disposing state of mind, that he understood the nature
and effect of the dispositions and put his signature to the
document of his own free will. Ordinarily when the evidence
adduced in support of the will is disinterested, satisfactory
and sufficient to prove the sound and disposing state of the
testator’s mind and his signature as required by law, courts
would be justified in making a finding in favour of the
propounder. In other words, the onus on the propounder
can be taken to be discharged on proof of the essential
facts just indicated.

20. There may, however, be cases in which the execution
of the will may be surrounded by suspicious
circumstances. The alleged signature of the testator may be
very shaky and doubtful and evidence in support of the
propounder’s case that the signature in question is the
signature of the testator may not remove the doubt created
by the appearance of the signature; the condition of the
testator’s mind may appear to be very feeble and debilitated;
and evidence adduced may not succeed in removing the

33
legitimate doubt as to the mental capacity of the testator; the
dispositions made in the will may appear to be unnatural,
improbable or unfair in the light of relevant circumstances; or,
the will may otherwise indicate that the said dispositions may
not be the result of the testator’s free will and mind. In such
cases the court would naturally expect that all legitimate
suspicions should be completely removed before the
document is accepted as the last will of the testator. The
presence of such suspicious circumstances naturally
tends to make the initial onus very heavy; and, unless it
is satisfactorily discharged, courts would be reluctant to
treat the document as the last will of the testator. It is true
that, if a caveat is filed alleging the exercise of undue
influence, fraud or coercion in respect of the execution of the
will propounded, such pleas may have to be proved by the
caveators; but, even without such pleas circumstances may
raise a doubt as to whether the testator was acting of his own
free will in executing the will, and in such circumstances, it
would be a part of the initial onus to remove any such
legitimate doubts in the matter.

21. Apart from the suspicious circumstances to which we
have just referred, in some cases the wills propounded
disclose another infirmity. Propounders themselves take a
prominent part in the execution of the wills which confer on
them substantial benefits. If it is shown that the propounder
has taken a prominent part in the execution of the will and
has received substantial benefit under it, that itself is
generally treated as a suspicious circumstance attending the
execution of the will and the propounder is required to
remove the said suspicion by clear and satisfactory evidence.
It is in connection with wills that present such suspicious
circumstances that decisions of English courts often mention
the test of the satisfaction of judicial conscience. It may be
that the reference to judicial conscience in this connection is
a heritage from similar observations made by ecclesiastical
courts in England when they exercised jurisdiction with
reference to wills; but any objection to the use of the word
“conscience” in this context would, in our opinion, be purely
technical and academic, if not pedantic. The test merely
emphasizes that, in determining the question as to whether
an instrument produced before the court is the last will of the
testator, the court is deciding a solemn question and it must
be fully satisfied that it had been validly executed by the
testator who is no longer alive.

34

22. It is obvious that for deciding material questions of fact
which arise in applications for probate or in actions on wills,
no hard and fast or inflexible rules can be laid down for the
appreciation of the evidence. It may, however, be stated
generally that a propounder of the will has to prove the
due and valid execution of the will and that if there are
any suspicious circumstances surrounding the
execution of the will the propounder must remove the
said suspicions from the mind of the court by cogent
and satisfactory evidence. It is hardly necessary to add that
the result of the application of these two general and broad
principles would always depend upon the facts and
circumstances of each case and on the nature and quality of
the evidence adduced by the parties. It is quite true that, as
observed by Lord Du Parcq in Harmes v. Hinkson:(1946) 50
C.W.N. 895, “where a will is charged with suspicion, the rules
enjoin a reasonable scepticism, not an obdurate persistence
in disbelief. They do not demand from the Judge, even in
circumstances of grave suspicion, a resolute and
impenetrable incredulity. He is never required to close his
mind to the truth”. It would sound platitudinous to say so, but
it is nevertheless true that in discovering truth even in such
cases the judicial mind must always be open though vigilant,
cautious and circumspect.”
(emphasis supplied)

10.5. Learned Counsel for the appellant has referred to paragraphs 7 and

8 of the decision of this Court in the case of Indu Bala Bose (supra) which

may also be taken note of as under: –

“7. This Court has held that the mode of proving a Will does
not ordinarily differ from that of proving any other document
except to the special requirement of attestation prescribed in
the case of a Will by Section 63 of the Succession Act. The
onus of proving the Will is on the propounder and in the
absence of suspicious circumstances surrounding the
execution of the will, proof of testamentary capacity and the
signature of the testator as required by law is sufficient to
discharge the onus. Where however there are suspicious
circumstances, the onus is on the propounder to explain
them to the satisfaction of the court before the court
accepts the Will as genuine. Even where circumstances

35
give rise to doubts, it is for the propounder to satisfy the
conscience of the court. The suspicious circumstances may
be as to the genuineness of the signatures of the testator, the
condition of the testator’s mind, the dispositions made in the
Will being unnatural, improbable or unfair in the light of
relevant circumstances, or there might be other indications in
the Will to show that the testator’s mind was not free. In such
a case the court would naturally expect that all legitimate
suspicions should be completely removed before the
document is accepted as the last Will of the testator. If the
propounder himself takes a prominent part in the execution of
the will which confers a substantial benefit on him, that is also
a circumstance to be taken into account, and the propounder
is required to remove the doubts by clear and satisfactory
evidence. If the propounder succeeds in removing the
suspicious circumstances the court would grant probate,
even if the will might be unnatural and might cut off wholly or
in part near relations.: AIR 1964 SC 529
8 . Needless to say that any and every circumstance is
not a “suspicious” circumstance. A circumstance would
be “suspicious” when it is not normal or is not normally
expected in a normal situation or is not expected of a
normal person.”
(emphasis supplied)

10.6. In the case of P.P.K. Gopalan Nambiar (supra), the Will in question

was a registered one and the endorsement made by the Registrar showed

that the testator was in a sound disposing state of mind and the Will was

executed out of the testator’s free will. It was also found that the testator died

8 years after registration of the Will and though legatee propounded the Will in

his written statement, but no plea was taken by the opposite party to question

the validity of the Will. The Will was duly proved with examination of the

attesting witness. In the given circumstances, the fact that whole of the estate

was given to one son under the Will while depriving two daughters, was not

36
considered to be a suspicious circumstance. On the requisite approach, this

Court said as under:-

“5. Under these circumstances, the suspicion which excited
the mind of the District Munsif is without any basis and he
picked them from his hat without fact-foundation. The
Subordinate Judge had rightly considered all the
circumstances and upheld the will. The High Court, without
examining the evidence, by merely extracting legal position
set out by various decisions of this Court has upset the
finding of the fact recorded by the Subordinate Judge in one
sentence. It is trite that it is the duty of the propounder of the
will to prove the will and to remove all the suspected features.

But there must be real, germane and valid suspicious
features and not fantasy of the doubting mind.”
(emphasis supplied)

10.7. In the case of Uma Devi Nambiar (supra), this Court reviewed the

case law dealing with the Will to a large extent and, while referring to the

Constitution Bench decision of this Court in the case of Shashi Kumar

Banerjee and Ors. v. Subodh Kumar Banerjee and Ors.: AIR 1964 SC

529, observed that merely because the natural heirs have either been

excluded or lesser share had been given to them, by itself, will not be

considered to be a suspicious circumstance. This Court observed, inter alia,

as under:-

“15. Section 63 of the Act deals with execution of unprivileged
Wills. It lays down that the testator shall sign or shall affix his
mark to the Will or it shall be signed by some other person in
his presence and by his direction. It further lays down that the
Will shall be attested by two or more witnesses, each of
whom has seen the testator signing or affixing his mark to the
Will or has seen some other person sign the Will, in the
presence and by the direction of the testator and each of the
witnesses shall sign the Will in the presence of the testator.

Section 68 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (in short the
“Evidence Act”) mandates examination of one attesting
witness in proof of a Will, whether registered or not. The law
37
relating to the manner and onus of proof and also the duty
cast upon the court while dealing with a case based upon a
Will has been examined in considerable detail in several
decisions of this Court…….A Constitution Bench of this Court
in Shashi Kumar Banerjee’s case succinctly indicated the
focal position in law as follows: (AIR p. 531, para 4)
“The mode of proving a Will does not ordinarily differ
from that of proving any other document except as to
the special requirement of attestation prescribed in the
case of a Will by Section 63 of the Indian Succession
Act. The onus of proving the Will is on the propounder
and in the absence of suspicious circumstances
surrounding the execution of the Will, proof of
testamentary capacity and the signature of the testator
as required by law is sufficient to discharge the onus.
Where however there are suspicious circumstances, the
onus is on the propounder to explain them to the
satisfaction of the court before the court accepts the Will
as genuine. Where the caveator alleges undue
influence, fraud and coercion, the onus is on him to
prove the same. Even where there are no such pleas
but the circumstances give rise to doubts, it is for the
propounder to satisfy the conscience of the court. The
suspicious circumstances may be as to the genuineness
of the signature of the testator, the condition of the
testator’s mind, the dispositions made in the Will being
unnatural, improbable or unfair in the light of relevant
circumstances or there might be other indications in the
Will to show that the testator’s mind was not free. In
such a case the court would naturally expect that all
legitimate suspicion should be completely removed
before the document is accepted as the last Will of the
testator. If the propounder himself takes part in the
execution of the Will which confers a substantial benefit
on him, that is also a circumstance to be taken into
account, and the propounder is required to remove the
doubts by clear and satisfactory evidence. If the
propounder succeeds in removing the suspicious
circumstances the court would grant probate, even if the
Will might be unnatural and might cut off wholly or in
part near relations.”

16. A Will is executed to alter the ordinary mode of
succession and by the very nature of things it is bound to
result in earlier reducing or depriving the share of natural
heirs. If a person intends his property to pass to his natural

38
heirs, there is no necessity at all of executing a Will. It is true
that a propounder of the Will has to remove all suspicious
circumstances. Suspicion means doubt, conjecture or
mistrust. But the fact that natural heirs have either been
excluded or a lesser share has been given to them, by itself
without anything more, cannot be held to be a suspicious
circumstance specially in a case where the bequest has been
made in favour of an offspring. As held in P.P.K. Gopalan
Nambiar v. P.P.K. Balakrishnan Nambiar and Ors.: [1995] 2
SCR 585, it is the duty of the propunder of the Will to remove
all the suspected features, but there must be real, germane
and valid suspicious features and not fantasy of the doubting
mind. It has been held that if the propounder succeeds in
removing the suspicious circumstances, the court has to give
effect to the Will, even if the Will might be unnatural in the
sense that it has cut off wholly or in part near relations. ……
In Rabindra Nath Mukherjee and Anr. v. Panchanan Banerjee
(dead) by LRs. and Ors.: AIR 1995 SC 1684, it was observed
that the circumstance of deprivation of natural heirs should
not raise any suspicion because the whole idea behind
execution of the Will is to interfere with the normal line of
succession and so, natural heirs would be debarred in every
case of Will. Of course, it may be that in some cases they are
fully debarred and in some cases partly.”
10.8. In the case of Mahesh Kumar (supra), this Court indicated the error

of approach on the part of High Court while appreciating evidence relating

to the Will in the following:-

“44. The issue which remains to be examined is whether the
High Court was justified in coming to the conclusion that the
execution of the will dated 10-2-1992 was shrouded with
suspicion and the appellant failed to dispel the suspicion? At
the outset, we deem it necessary to observe that the learned
Single Judge misread the statement of Sobhag Chand (DW3)
and recorded something which does not appear in his
statement. While Sobhag Chand categorically stated that he
had signed as the witness after Shri Harishankar had signed
the will, the portion of his statement extracted in the
impugned judgment gives an impression that the witnesses
had signed even before the executant had signed the will.

45. Another patent error committed by the learned Single
Judge is that he decided the issue relating to validity of the
will by assuming that both the attesting witnesses were
39
required to append their signatures simultaneously. Section
63(c) of the 1925 Act does not contain any such requirement
and it is settled law that examination of one of the attesting
witnesses is sufficient. Not only this, while recording an
adverse finding on this issue, the learned Single Judge
omitted to consider the categorical statements made by DW
3 and DW 4 that the testator had read out and signed the will
in their presence and thereafter they had appended their
signatures.

46. The other reasons enumerated by the learned Single
Judge for holding that the execution of will was highly
suspicious are based on mere surmises/conjectures. The
observation of the learned Single Judge that the possibility of
obtaining signatures of Shri Harishankar and attesting
witnesses on blank paper and preparation of the draft by Shri
S.K. Agarwal, Advocate on pre-signed papers does not find
even a semblance of support from the pleadings and
evidence of the parties. If Respondent 1 wanted to show that
the will was drafted by the advocate after Shri Harishankar
and attesting witnesses had signed blank papers, he could
have examined or at least summoned Shri S.K. Agarwal,
Advocate, who had represented him before the Board of
Revenue. …..”
10.9. In the case of K. Laxmanan (supra), this Court, with reference to the

settled principles including those in the case of Shashi Kumar Banerjee

(supra) re-emphasised on the requirement that the propounder has to prove

the legality of execution of the Will as also the genuineness thereof by

proving the testamentary capacity of the testator as also his signatures and

further by proving absence of suspicious circumstances. This Court, inter alia,

said,-

“18……The propounder has to prove the legality of the
execution and genuineness of the said will by proving
absence of suspicious circumstances surrounding the said
will and also by proving the testamentary capacity and the
signature of the testator. Once the same is proved, it could be
said that the propounder has discharged the onus.

40

19. When there are suspicious circumstances regarding the
execution of the will, the onus is also on the propounder to
explain them to the satisfaction of the court and only when
such responsibility is discharged, the court would accept the
will as genuine. Even where there are no such pleas, but
circumstances give rise to doubt, it is on the propounder to
satisfy the conscience of the court. Suspicious circumstances
arise due to several reasons such as with regard to
genuineness of the signature of the testator, the conditions of
the testator’s mind, the dispositions made in the will being
unnatural, improbable or unfair in the light of relevant
circumstances or there might be other indications in the will
to show that the testator’s mind was not free. In such a case,
the court would naturally expect that all legitimate suspicion
should be completely removed before the document is
accepted as the last will of the testator…..”
10.9.1. In K. Laxmanan (supra), this Court also explained the principles

governing the pleadings in such matters while observing, inter alia, as

under:–

“28. It is however established in the present case that the
issue of validity of the execution of both the deed of gift and
deed of will was taken up by the respondent-plaintiff and
specifically denied in the affidavits filed in respect of the
injunction applications. The parties have also gone to trial
knowing fully well that execution of both these
documents is under challenge. Parties knowing fully the
aforesaid factual position led their evidence also to
establish the legality and validity of both the documents.
In that view of the matter, it cannot be said that the said
document should be deemed to be admitted by the
plaintiff as no replication was filed by the plaintiff.”
(emphasis supplied)

10.10. We may also usefully refer to the principles enunciated in the case

of Jaswant Kaur (supra) for dealing with a Will shrouded in suspicion, which

were duly taken note of by the High Court in its impugned judgement, as

follows: –

41
“9. In cases where the execution of a will is shrouded in
suspicion, its proof ceases to be a simple lis between the
plaintiff and the defendant. What, generally, is an
adversary proceeding becomes in such cases a matter of the
court’s conscience and then the true question which arises
for consideration is whether the evidence led by the
propounder of the will is such as to satisfy the
conscience of the court that the will was duly executed
by the testator. It is impossible to reach such satisfaction
unless the party which sets up the will offers a cogent and
convincing explanation of the suspicious circumstances
surrounding the making of the will.”
(emphasis supplied)

11. For what has been noticed hereinabove, the relevant principles

governing the adjudicatory process concerning proof of a Will could be

broadly summarised as follows:–

1. Ordinarily, a Will has to be proved like any other document; the

test to be applied being the usual test of the satisfaction of the

prudent mind. Alike the principles governing the proof of other

documents, in the case of Will too, the proof with mathematical

accuracy is not to be insisted upon.

2. Since as per Section 63 of the Succession Act, a Will is required

to be attested, it cannot be used as evidence until at least one

attesting witness has been called for the purpose of proving its

execution, if there be an attesting witness alive and capable of

giving evidence.

3. The unique feature of a Will is that it speaks from the death of

the testator and, therefore, the maker thereof is not available for

deposing about the circumstances in which the same was executed.

42
This introduces an element of solemnity in the decision of the

question as to whether the document propounded is the last Will of

the testator. The initial onus, naturally, lies on the propounder but the

same can be taken to have been primarily discharged on proof of

the essential facts which go into the making of a Will.

4. The case in which the execution of the Will is surrounded by

suspicious circumstances stands on a different footing. The

presence of suspicious circumstances makes the onus heavier on

the propounder and, therefore, in cases where the circumstances

attendant upon the execution of the document give rise to suspicion,

the propounder must remove all legitimate suspicions before the

document can be accepted as the last Will of the testator.

5. If a person challenging the Will alleges fabrication or alleges

fraud, undue influence, coercion et cetera in regard to the execution

of the Will, such pleas have to be proved by him, but even in the

absence of such pleas, the very circumstances surrounding the

execution of the Will may give rise to the doubt or as to whether the

Will had indeed been executed by the testator and/or as to whether

the testator was acting of his own free will. In such eventuality, it is

again a part of the initial onus of the propounder to remove all

reasonable doubts in the matter.

6. A circumstance is “suspicious” when it is not normal or is ‘not

normally expected in a normal situation or is not expected of a

43
normal person’. As put by this Court, the suspicious features must

be ‘real, germane and valid’ and not merely the ‘fantasy of the

doubting mind.’

7. As to whether any particular feature or a set of features qualify

as “suspicious” would depend on the facts and circumstances of

each case. A shaky or doubtful signature; a feeble or uncertain mind

of the testator; an unfair disposition of property; an unjust exclusion

of the legal heirs and particularly the dependants; an active or

leading part in making of the Will by the beneficiary thereunder et

cetera are some of the circumstances which may give rise to

suspicion. The circumstances above-noted are only illustrative and

by no means exhaustive because there could be any circumstance

or set of circumstances which may give rise to legitimate suspicion

about the execution of the Will. On the other hand, any of the

circumstance qualifying as being suspicious could be legitimately

explained by the propounder. However, such suspicion or suspicions

cannot be removed by mere proof of sound and disposing state of

mind of the testator and his signature coupled with the proof of

attestation.

8. The test of satisfaction of the judicial conscience comes into

operation when a document propounded as the Will of the testator is

surrounded by suspicious circumstance/s. While applying such test,

the Court would address itself to the solemn questions as to whether

44
the testator had signed the Will while being aware of its contents

and after understanding the nature and effect of the dispositions in

the Will?

9. In the ultimate analysis, where the execution of a Will is

shrouded in suspicion, it is a matter essentially of the judicial

conscience of the Court and the party which sets up the Will has to

offer cogent and convincing explanation of the suspicious

circumstances surrounding the Will.

SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES/FEATURES CONCERNING THE WILL
IN QUESTION

12. Having considered the present matter in its totality while keeping the

principles aforesaid in view, we have not an iota of doubt that the High

Court has examined the matter in its correct perspective and there had

been substantial and material reasons for which, the decision of the Trial

Court could not have been upheld; and the High Court has rightly reversed

the same.

13. In summation of the lengthy discussion of the Trial Court, it could be

noticed that some of the major factors which weighed with the Trial Court in

rejecting the objections of the contesting defendants against the Will in

question had been: (i) that the testator Sangappa was not having warmth of

relations with defendant No. 1 and his family and was not willing to give

anything to them; (ii) that even in the earlier Will of the year 1974,

Sangappa had not bequeathed any property to the contesting defendants;

(iii) that the plaintiffs, the grand–nephews of testator’s wife, were residing

45
with the testator; (iv) that the father of the plaintiffs was associated with the

testator in his business and other dealings; (v) that the attesting witnesses

were only the customers of the testator and were naturally chosen as

independent persons to stand as witnesses to the Will; (vi) that the Will in

question was in possession of PW-8 and was opened by him in the

presence of Swamiji; and (vii) that PW-8 had neither any animosity with the

defendants nor was gaining anything from the Will.

13.1 As regards the discrepancies indicated by the defendants, the Trial

Court took the view that mere misdescription of the property was of no

effect, particularly when its identification was not in doubt; and for this very

reason, the Trial Court found the blank spaces as regards the particulars of

the property to be of no effect. As regards mentioning of a past event as

something to happen in future, the Trial Court found that it had no adverse

bearing on the validity of the Will because existence of a tenant in the

property was not going to affect the rights of the testator as also his

legatees. As regards the statement in the Will about likelihood of accident,

the Trial Court observed that the reason for making such a recital was

known to the testator alone. On the suspicious factors concerning the

document itself, the Trial Court observed that use of the sheets of paper of

different colours could be attributed only to the typist who was not known to

propounders. The Trial Court further found that the inconsistency regarding

the dates from the Hindi Calendar and English Calendar were of no effect

because the day of execution of the Will was Monday, as stated by the

46
witnesses. Further, the Trial Court found that the making of signatures by

the testator by different pens on different pages was duly explained by the

witness PW-4.

14. The High Court, on the other hand, felt dissatisfied with the document

itself and found no explanation on record about numerous unnatural

circumstances dilated upon and discussed by it in some of the passages

extracted hereinbefore. Having examined the material placed on record, in

our view, the observations and findings of the High Court remain

unexceptionable.

15. Taking up the document itself, it is not in dispute that the same is

carrying 5 typed pages on 3 different sheets of papers, which are definitely

not of the same colour. It had been noticed by the Trial Court as also by the

High Court, and it remains indisputable, that the said papers are of different

colours and have not been picked up from the same stack. Use of 3

different sheets of paper for typing a document of Will running in 5 pages

(with first and second paper being typed on both sides) is, in any case, not

a normal action by a normal person in normal circumstances. True it is that

this aspect could have been cleared only by the typist and the propounders

are not expected to know the typist, particularly when they had not

participated in execution and attestation of the document but, this

circumstance is enough to indicate that the matter calls for closer scrutiny

with due regard to all the surrounding factors because, ordinarily, such

47
document would be typed in one sitting and on the papers drawn from the

same stack.

15.1. Proceeding further, another feature surfaces, which was found by

the High Court (though not discussed by the Trial Court). This feature is

about the placement of the signatures of the testator on 3 pages, where it is

apparent that on the first and the last page, the distance of signatures from

the typewritten contents is excessive than usual or natural. It is not in

dispute that this feature also emanates from a bare look at the document in

question.

15.2. The aforementioned two features, by themselves, may not be of

material bearing but this much is clear that they stand at contradistinction to

the ordinary course of dealings and give rise to legitimate suspicions about

the genuineness of document. Now, the suspicion arising from the aforesaid

two features is confounded by another factor that though the document

carries 3 signatures of the testator, the same are not made from the same

pen. It has been noticed, and again it remains indisputable, that while the

signature of the testator at page number 1 are from an ink pen, that at page

number 3 is from a ballpoint pen and then, again at page number 5, it is

from an ink pen. The witness PW-4 has attempted to say that for the ink

pen being not working properly, ballpoint pen was used. It sounds utterly

unnatural and remains inexplicable that if the ink pen was not working and

the second signature was made from a ballpoint pen, as to how and why

the third signature, that is, the last one, was again made from another ink

48
pen? It had not been the explanation of the attesting witnesses that after

making the signature at page number 3, the ballpoint pen also stopped

working and, therefore, another ink pen was used for making the third

signature. We may observe that even when the possibility of the testator

using different pens or instruments for his signatures on different pages of

the same document is not ruled out altogether and even this fact, by itself,

may not be decisive of the matter but, this much is certain that such

happening cannot be categorised as normal or natural in the course of

execution of a document of Will.

15.3 Therefore, in the present case, three features of the document Ex.

P.4, carrying unusual characteristics of their own, manifest themselves on

the face of the record and nothing but a bare look at the document is

sufficient to notice them. The aforesaid three unnatural and unusual

features of the document in question, where different sheets of paper have

been used; where placement of the signatures of the testator at least at two

places is beyond normal distance from the last typed matter; and where in

making of three signatures, at least two different pens were used, make it

clear that a deeper probe is called for to find as to whether this document

could at all be accepted as the last Will of the testator.

15.4. When the exploration is pushed slightly further, another major

feature comes to the fore, which has been noticed by the High Court but

which escaped the attention of the Trial Court altogether. The document in

question is said to be a Will running in 5 pages which is typed (in kannada

49
script) on 3 sheets of papers with the first and second sheets carrying the

typewritten contents on both sides; page number 2 being typed on the

backside of page number 1 and page number 4 being typed on the

backside of page number 3. The significant feature is that page number 2

and page number 4 of this document Ex. P.4 do not carry any signature at

all!

15.4.1. It is apparent on the face of the record that even when the front

facing pages i.e., page numbers 1, 3 and 5 carry the signatures of the

testator, the backside pages i.e., page number 2 and page number 4 are

not signed at all and have gone unsigned. When this material aspect is

added to the above-referred three unusual features, the probative value of

this document Ex. P.4 is shaken to the core and it becomes a serious

question as to whether this document could be considered to be a Will that

was got typed and signed by the testator in the presence of the alleged

attesting witnesses.

15.4.2. In relation to this aspect of want of signatures of the testator on

page number 2 and page number 4, we may also observe that as per the

requirement of clause (b) of Section 63 of the Succession Act, the signature

or mark of the testator is to be so placed that it shall appear that by such

signature or mark, the intention was to give effect to the writing as a Will. Of

course, when no specific form of making a Will is provided, in a given case,

depending on the relevant facts and circumstances, a document drawn on

several sheets but carrying signature only at the end may also be accepted

50
as a genuine Will where the document was authenticated by only one

signature. However, the scenario like the present one, where the executant

had purportedly signed 3 out 5 typewritten pages while omitting to sign the

other 2, definitely stands at contradistinction to the dealing of any normal

person in normal way. When the signatures of the testator are indeed

available on page numbers 1, 3 and 5, it is difficult to find any plausible

explanation for his omission to sign at page number 2 and page number 4

of the same document. The only explanation could be that the testator

chose to sign the front face of each paper and did not consider it necessary

to sign on the backside of the paper. However, accepting such a frail

explanation, and that too in the face of other unusual features (as noticed

hereinbefore), would tantamount to thrusting the probative value into the

document while ignoring everything that is incongruous to, and incompatible

with, the normal course of happenings.

15.4.3. The indisputable fact that page number 2 and page number 4 of the

document in question (EX. P.4) do not carry the signatures of the testator

whereas other pages do carry his signatures, in our view, places the

document in conflict with, or at least non-compliant with, the requirement of

clause (b) of Section 63 of the Succession Act. The document in question

could be rejected outright for this reason alone. However, having regard to

the circumstances of the case, it would be appropriate to deal with other

factual aspects concerning the document in question before reaching to the

final conclusion.

51
15.5. The discussion thus far makes it clear that at least four unusual

features of the document in question are evident on the face of the record.

To recapitulate, the disturbing unusual features of the document in question

are that: (i) it is typewritten on 3 different sheets of paper; (ii) the placement

of signatures of the testator is not of uniformity and excessive space is seen

between the typewritten contents and the signatures on page number 1 and

page number 5; (iii) different pens have been used for signatures on

different pages with ink pen having been used for first and third signatures

(on page number 1 and page number 5) and ballpoint pen having been

used for the second signature (on page number 3); and (iv) all the

typewritten pages do not carry the signatures of the testator, with there

being no signature on page number 2 and page number 4. It does not

require any great deal of elaboration that in the ordinary, normal and usual

course, such a typewritten document is expected to be on the sheets of

paper drawn from the same stack; there would be reasonable uniformity in

placement of the signatures running through the document and every

signature would be placed alongside or at a reasonable distance from the

contents; a single pen or instrument would be used for signing at all places;

and, ordinarily, a maker of the Will would not leave such ambiguity in

expression of his intention as would arise by his signing 3 pages and not

signing 2 other pages of the same document. In fact, in the normal and

ordinary course of dealing, the maker of a Will is least expected to leave

any page of the document unsigned. Although existence of some such

52
unusual features (as noticed above) cannot be ruled out during the course

of typing and signing of the document but when all such unusual features

combine together, the document becomes too vulnerable and cannot be

readily accepted as a genuine document.

16. While proceeding further, we may usefully reiterate the principles

relating to the examination of a document propounded as Will that the

document is not approached with doubts but is examined cautiously and

with circumspection. For what has been noticed hereinabove, the document

in question carries several such features of unusualness which travel into

the realm of abnormalities. The matter does not rest with such abnormalities

only. These abnormal features get confounded with other unusual features

available in the contents of this document. Indisputably, several blank

spaces are found in relation to the particulars of the properties and even

some of the properties are not correctly described. Yet further, the dates

mentioned in the document with reference to Hindi Calendar and English

Calendar do not match. Yet another curious feature is the recital in the

document of a past event (about vacating of the shop by the tenant in the

year 1990) in the manner that such event shall happen in future. Therefore,

the abnormalities relating to paper, pen and signature get magnified with

blank spaces in the document as also with incorrect and inexplicable

recitals.

17. The problems relating to the probative value of the document Ex. P.4

do not end with the aforementioned abnormal features and curious factors.

53
A close examination of this document takes us from abnormalities to

mysteries too. In the opening passage of this document, the recital is to the

effect that the testator was making the Will because so many accidents do

happen. The fact remains that the testator and his wife both died in the car

accident on 20.05.1994 but, it would require travelling into an entirely

mystical region to accept that while making the Will on 20.05.1991, the

testator had the premonition that he would perish in a vehicular accident.

18. As noticed, even when a fishing enquiry with digging of the faults

and lacuna is not to be resorted to while examining a Will but, and at the

same time, the real and valid suspicions which arise because of anything

standing beyond normal happening or conduct cannot be ignored either.

Ignoring or brushing aside all the features noticed in relation to the

document in question would require taking up an individual feature and

ignoring it as being trivial or minor and then, proceeding with the belief that

it had only been a matter of chance that all the abnormalities somehow

chose to conglomerate into this one document. Such an approach would,

obviously, be detached from realities and cannot be adopted. It needs

hardly any emphasis that examination of a document propounded as Will

has to be on the norms of reality as also normalcy; and the overall effect of

all the features and circumstances is required to be examined.

19. When all the aforesaid abnormal, curious and rather mysterious

circumstances are put together, the inescapable conclusion is that the

document in question cannot be accepted as the last Will of the testator.

54
The unexplained, unusual and abnormal features pertaining to the

document only lead to the logical deduction that the document in question

was prepared after the demise of the testator with use of blank signed

papers that came in possession of the propounders and their associates.

The High Court has stated such deduction after thorough examination of

the material on record and, in our view, rightly so. It is noticed that all the

features and factors indicated hereinabove are very much available on the

face of the record. However, the Trial Court, even while dealing with several

contentions in excessive details, either failed to notice some of the features

indicated above or simply brushed aside the particular feature carrying

abnormality with the observations to the effect that the propounders were

not to be expected to remove the suspicions concerning the document

when they had no role in its execution. The Trial Court having, obviously,

misdirected itself on several of the key and pivotal factors, its decision could

not have been approved.

19.1. It is sought to be contented on behalf of the appellants that using of

blank papers had not been the objection taken by the defendants. The

contention remains bereft of substance for the simple reason that the

defendants indeed asserted that the document in question was a fabricated

one. The likelihood of it being drawn on the available blank papers with

signatures of the testator is nothing but a deduction that logically comes out

of the examination of the document in question.

55

20. Much emphasis is laid on behalf of the appellants on the

submissions that execution of the Will in accordance with the requirements

of Section 63 of the Succession Act and Section 68 of the Evidence Act has

been duly established on record with the testimony of the attesting

witnesses as also the witness with whom the Will along with the handwritten

draft of the Will had been deposited by the testator. The submissions so

made on behalf of the appellants cannot be accepted for the reason that

mere proof of the document in accordance with the requirements of Section

68 of the Evidence Act is not final and conclusive for acceptance of a

document as a Will. When suspicious circumstances exist and the

suspicions have not been removed, the document in question cannot be

accepted as a Will.

21. Even the aspect suggested on behalf of the plaintiffs and their

witnesses that the document in question (Ex. P.4) was drawn up as a Will

and was placed in a sealed cover with the handwritten draft (Ex. P.3) has its

own shortcomings and the share of abnormalities. It remains indisputable

that the said draft (Ex. P.3) had remained incomplete. It may be assumed

that the same was being drawn up by the testator in his own handwriting for

finally making his last Will after he had revoked the earlier Will but, it had

remained incomplete draft only. If the testator himself had got his Will typed

and then, took care to have it executed in the presence of 4 attesting

witnesses; and if he intended such executed document to operate as his

Will; and also had the intention that his Will be kept in a sealed cover to be

56
opened before Swamiji, in the ordinary course of dealings, it was least

expected of him to put the said incomplete draft also in the envelope

because placing of such incomplete draft could have only created confusion

in regard to the actual Will, if there were any. Taking an overall view of the

matter, the preponderance of probability is only to the effect that the entire

story about execution of Will by the deceased Sangappa has been cooked

up with use of readily available signed papers (though of different sheets of

paper and with signatures with different instruments) and, in order to

suggest some authenticity, the story of sealed envelope and leaving of the

same with PW-8 was sought to be inserted. This feature only operates

against the plaintiffs where it carries another unexplained unusualness.

22. The Trial Court had largely been swayed by the fact that the

deceased Sangappa was not inclined to give any property to the defendant

No. 1 and his family as had been the case of the earlier Will executed by

him in the year 1974. Admittedly, the said Will of the year 1974 was

cancelled by Shri Sangappa on 26.09.1990. He perished in the vehicular

accident on 20.05.1991. Whether he intended to bequeath any property to

the defendants or not is hardly of any bearing in relation to the suspicious

circumstances noticed above.

23. Having dilated on various major features which, individually and

cumulatively, lead only to the conclusion that the document in question

cannot be accepted to be the last Will of late Shri Sangappa, it does not

appear necessary to discuss several other shortcomings in the case of the

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plaintiffs, including various other factors like that the plaintiffs never took

steps to get the statement of the said Swamiji recorded, who was otherwise

referred to by all the material witnesses as being the person before whom

the document was allegedly opened.

24. In our view, the document in question falls flat at the very first

question indicated in the case of H. Venkatachala Iyenger (supra) that is, as

to whether the testator signed the Will in question. The answer to this

question is only in the negative. This is apart from the fact that the

document in question, propounded as a Will, is non-compliant with the

requirements of clause (b) of Section 63 of the Succession Act.

24.1. In the ultimate analysis, we are satisfied that the High Court was

right in reversing the decision of the Trial Court and in holding that the

contested Will was not a genuine document.

WHETHER REMAND WAS CALLED FOR

25. Taking up the other point for determination, the submission of

learned counsel for the appellants that the High Court ought to have

considered remanding the case by taking recourse to the provision

contained in Order XLI Rule 23A CPC, in our view, remains totally bereft of

substance; this submission has only been noted to be rejected.

25.1. The procedure relating to appeals from original decrees (usually

referred to as ‘regular first appeal’) is provided in Order XLI of the Code of

Civil Procedure, 1908 and therein, various provisions relating to hearing of

an appeal, remand of case, remitting of issues for trial, production of

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additional evidence in Appellate Court etc. are contained in Rules 16 to 29

under the sub-heading ‘Procedure on hearing’. For their relevance, we may

take note of the provisions contained in Rules 23, 23A, 24 and 25 of Order

XLI CPC as follows: –

“23. Remand of case by Appellate Court.- Where the
Court from whose decree an appeal is preferred has
disposed of the suit upon a preliminary point and the decree
is reversed in appeal, the Appellate Court may, if it thinks fit,
by order remand the case, and may further direct what issue
or issues shall be tried in the case so remanded, and shall
send a copy of its judgment and order to the Court from
whose decree the appeal is preferred, with directions to re-
admit the suit under its original number in the register of civil
suits, and proceed to determine the suit; and the evidence (if
any) recorded during the original trial shall, subject to all just
exceptions, be evidence during the trial after remand.

23A. Remand in other cases.- Where the Court from whose
decree an appeal is preferred has disposed of the case
otherwise than on a preliminary point, and the decree is
reversed in appeal and a re-trial is considered necessary, the
Appellate Court shall have the same powers as it has under
rule 23.

24. Where evidence on record sufficient, Appellate
Court may determine case finally.- Where the evidence
upon the record is sufficient to enable the Appellate Court to
pronounce judgment, the Appellate Court may, after resettling
the issues, if necessary, finally determine the suit,
notwithstanding that the judgment of the Court from whose
decree the appeal is preferred has proceeded wholly upon
some ground other than that on which the Appellate Court
proceeds.

25. Where Appellate Court may frame issues and
refer them for trial to Court whose decree appealed
from.-Where the Court from whose decree the appeal is
preferred has omitted to frame or try any issue, or to
determine any question of fact, which appears to the
Appellate Court essential to the right decision of the suit upon
the merits, the Appellate Court may, if necessary, frame
issues, and refer the same for trial to the Court from whose

59
decree the appeal is preferred, and in such case shall direct
such Court to take the additional evidence required;
and such Court shall proceed to try such issues, and shall
return the evidence to the Appellate Court together with its
findings thereon and the reasons therefor within such time as
may be fixed by the Appellate Court or extended by it from
time to time.”

25.2. Rule 23A came to be inserted in Order XLI CPC by way of the Code

of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1976. Prior to this amendment, it was

generally accepted by the Courts that although under Rule 23, an order of

remand could be made only on reversal of a decree disposing of suit on a

preliminary point but, the Appellate Court has the inherent power of

remanding a case where it was considered necessary to do so in the

interest of justice. Some of the High Courts had made similar provisions by

way of their respective amendments. Insertion of Rule 23A in Order XLI by

the Amending Act of 1976 makes it explicit that even when the suit has

been disposed of otherwise than on a preliminary point and the decree is

reversed in appeal, the Appellate Court shall have the power of remand, if a

re-trial is considered necessary.8

25.3. A comprehension of the scheme of the provisions for remand as

contained in Rules 23 and 23A of Order XLI is not complete without

8 Such powers of remand, as provided in Rules 23 and 23A of Order XLI, are different than the
power of the Appellate Court to remit an issue for findings under Rule 25. The power of remitting is
ordinarily to be resorted to when the Trial Court has omitted to try any material issue or to determine
any question of fact. In other words, the proper procedure in a case where the Trial Court, while
disposing of the suit on merits, had failed to determine one or more of the material issues/questions,
is to remit the issue/question(s) under Rule 25 and not to remand the whole case for re-trial.
Ordinarily, in the case of an order under Rule 25 of Order XLI, the matter is retained on the file of the
Appellate Court and only the issue/question(s) are remitted to the Trial Court for findings. On the
other hand, when an order of remand is made under Rule 23 or Rule 23A, the whole case goes
back for decision to the Trial Court except on the point on which the Appellate Court has returned
concluded finding, if any. While making a remand under Rule 23 or Rule 23A, the judgment and
decree of the Trial Court is required to be set aside but it is not necessary to set aside the impugned
judgment and decree when taking recourse to Rule 25 of Order XLI.

60
reference to the provision contained in Rule 24 of Order XLI that enables

the Appellate Court to dispose of a case finally without a remand if the

evidence on record is sufficient; notwithstanding that the Appellate Court

proceeds on a ground entirely different from that on which the Trial Court

had proceeded.

25.4. A conjoint reading of Rules 23, 23A and 24 of Order XLI brings forth

the scope as also contours of the powers of remand that when the available

evidence is sufficient to dispose of the matter, the proper course for an

Appellate Court is to follow the mandate of Rule 24 of Order XLI CPC and

to determine the suit finally. It is only in such cases where the decree in

challenge is reversed in appeal and a re-trial is considered necessary that

the Appellate Court shall adopt the course of remanding the case. It

remains trite that order of remand is not to be passed in a routine manner

because an unwarranted order of remand merely elongates the life of the

litigation without serving the cause of justice. An order of remand only on

the ground that the points touching the appreciation of evidence were not

dealt with by the Trial Court may not be considered proper in a given case

because the First Appellate Court itself is possessed of jurisdiction to enter

into facts and appreciate the evidence. There could, of course, be several

eventualities which may justify an order of remand or where remand would

be rather necessary depending on the facts and the given set of

circumstances of a case.

61
25.4.1. The decision cited by the learned Counsel for the appellants in the

case of Mohan Kumar (supra) is an apt illustration as to when the Appellate

Court ought to exercise the power of remand. In the said case, the

appellant and his mother had filed the civil suit against the Government and

local body seeking declaration of title, perpetual injunction and for recovery

of possession in respect of the land in question. The Trial Court partly

decreed the suit while holding that the plaintiffs were the owners of the land

in dispute on which trespass was committed by the respondents and they

were entitled to get the encroachment removed; and it was also held that

the Government should acquire the land and pay the market value of the

land to the appellant. Such part of the decree of the Trial Court was not

challenged by the defendants but as against the part of the decision of the

Trial Court which resulted in rejection of the claim of the appellant for

allotment of an alternative land, the appellant preferred an appeal before

the High Court. The High Court not only dismissed the appeal so filed by

the appellant but proceeded to dismiss the entire suit with the finding that

the plaintiff-appellant had failed to prove his ownership over the suit land

inasmuch as he did not examine the vendor of his sale deed. In the given

circumstances, this Court observed that when the High Court held that the

appellant was not able to prove his title to the suit land due to non-

examination of his vendor, the proper course for the High Court was to

remand the case to the Trial Court by affording an opportunity to the

appellant to prove his title by adducing proper evidence in addition to what

62
had already been adduced. Obviously, this Court found that for the

conclusion reached by the High Court, a case for re-trial was made out

particularly when the Trial Court had otherwise held that the appellant was

owner of the land in dispute and was entitled to get the encroachment

removed as also to get the market value of the land. Such cases where re-

trial is considered necessary because of any particular reason and more

particularly for the reason that adequate opportunity of leading sufficient

evidence to a party is requisite, stand at entirely different footings than the

cases where evidence has already been adduced and decision is to be

rendered on appreciation of evidence. It also remains trite that an order of

remand is not to be passed merely for the purpose of allowing a party to fill-

up the lacuna in its case.

25.5. It gets perforce reiterated that the occasion for remand would arise

only when the factual findings of Trial Court are reversed and a re-trial is

considered necessary by the Appellate Court.

25.6. The present case had clearly been the one where the parties had

adduced all their evidence, whatever they wished to; and it had not been

the case of the plaintiff-appellants that they were denied any opportunity to

produce any particular evidence or if the trial was vitiated because of any

alike reason. As noticed, there had been several suspicious circumstances

surrounding the Will in question, some of which were noticed by the Trial

Court but were brushed aside by it on untenable reasons. The High Court

has meticulously examined the same evidence and the same

63
circumstances and has come to a different conclusion that appears to be

sound and plausible, and does not appear suffering from any infirmity.

There was no reason or occasion for the High Court to consider remanding

the case to the Trial Court. The contention in this regard is required to be,

and is, rejected.

CONCLUSION

26. For what has been discussed hereinabove, we are satisfied that the

High Court has rightly interfered with the decision of the Trial Court and has

rightly held that the document in question cannot be accepted as the

genuine Will of the deceased Sangappa; and there was no reason for the

High Court to remand the case to the Trial Court.

27. Accordingly, and in view of the above, this appeal fails and is,

therefore, dismissed while leaving the parties to bear their own costs

throughout.

………………..………….J.

(A.M.KHANWILKAR)

…………..…………….….J.

(HEMANT GUPTA)

…………..………….…….J.

(DINESH MAHESHWARI)
New Delhi,
Dated: 24th April, 2020.

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