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Case Analysis: C. N. Arunachala Mudaliar v/s C. A. Muruganatha Mudaliar

Mitakshara Law is the most prominent law in our country and Hindus are guided by it all over India except in West Bengal and Assam. The most significant character of the law is that Father as a Karta has the capacity to gift a share out of a movable joint family in pursuit of love and affection to anyone he is in proximate relation with.

The father's right to make a gift or will of his separate property in favor of anyone can't be questioned. However, the significant contention is regarding whether a father gives his movable or immovable property, by gift intervivos or by the will to any one of his sons excluding others whether the son will take it as ancestral property or separate property, and what kind of the gifted or willed property it will be in hands of his son about the male issue. However, difficulty can arise if the intention of the donor is not to be able to gather from will/gift regarding the nature of the property highlighted in case - C.N. Arunachala Mudaliar. V C.A. Muruganatha Mudaliar[1].

Facts Of The Case:
Arunachalam had two sons from his first wife that is Muruganatha and his brother, on the death of his first wife, he married again. The case was filed by the plaintiff, Muruganatha, where he alleged that he is entitled (Respondent 1) for his one-third share in the property that belongs to, his father, Defendant 1, and he argued that they were the joint properties of a family consisting of himself, and his father and his brother, Defendant 2.

The properties which the plaintiff claims partition included agricultural Land, a house, jewelry and furniture, etc., and cash in the name of the Father. Defendant 1 (Father) denied the allegation and contended the presence of any joint family property to which the plaintiff could ask for ownership. He contended that agricultural land and house were his father's self-acquired properties that he got under a will executed by him. The other items of immovable property and cash, furniture, and utensils were his own; his separate property and jewels belonged exclusively to his second wife, Defendant 3.

  • Does the son have any stake in the property that is self-acquired by the father?
  • In relation to his male issue, should the properties that Arunachala, Defendant No. 1, obtained under his father's will be regarded as self-acquired or ancestral property in his possession?
Lower Court Decision
The Lower that is Trial court concluded that the properties ceded to Arunachala (Defendant 1) by his father are ancestral properties in this context and other properties attained by Defendant 1 from the income obtained out of the patriarchal property, have the character of joint property except jewelry belonging to his second wife. The High Court rejected the appeal then the respondent applied for special leave under Article 136[2] .

The case came before Judge Mukherjea. The Apex Court referred to the law laid down in Mitakshara that points out that "The father has a birthright to the property in the ancestral estate, and he has independent power to dispose of effects other than the immovable for necessary duties and for purposes outlined in legal texts as gifts, etc. However, he is under the control of his sons and the rest regarding the immovable estate, whether it was purchased by himself or inherited from ancestors because it is ordained."[3].

In reference to Grandson's rights, the Mitakshara holds the view that the grandson cannot claim any interference because though he has a right by birth on his hereditary property but about his share in the paternal estate, he depends on his father and his choice in regard, In Rao Balwant v. Rani Kishori[4] case it was held, in the joint Hindu family, the father has complete and uncontrolled discretion over disposition of his self-acquired immovable property and there is no right of male issue to interfere in these unfettered right of his father governed by Mitakshara Law.

According to an early Calcutta High Court judgment, the father's self-acquired property that the son gets as a gift from him or a bequest in his will shall be regarded as ancestral property in the hands of his son or his male offspring. This was rejected by the Madras High Court, which also agreed with the Patna High Court, which said that the father has complete discretion over whether the property he has left to his son is ancestral or self-acquired. If, however, the father fails to make clear his intentions, the son should be allowed to treat the property as ancestral.

Court opined when the father acquires the grandfather's property via gift or will, he receives it not because of his position as a son or because of some statutory right he has on such property but because of his father's choice to bequest certain property in favor of him, which if his father wants also could have conferred to someone else too. The grantor's will must govern the interest he acquires in such property[5].

The Mitakshara law acknowledged that the Father has full discretion regarding his self-acquired property, however, it must be in concurrence with an important condition that the father is competent enough to explain that the donee would take the property for his own gain or that the gift acquired by him is for the benefit for the branch of the family.

The provision detailed in the deed of will or gift is expressly or indicated to effect that the son would take property depending on the terms of the grant, however in the absence of clear indication regarding the donee's interest then it's up to the discretion of the court to decide the character of the property that depends upon on intention of the donor that can be seen from the expression of the document and the circumstances.

The court concluded that the father's objective regarding the nature of property as the separate or joint family property is significant and it has to be taken accordingly by the son in the absence of his intention, the nature of property is seen in the context of the language of the deed and circumstances.

According to the learned judge's interpretation of the will, the testator did not intend for the property to pass to the sons as ancestral property. The ruling of the Lower Court is overturned, and the plaintiff's lawsuit is dismissed. This means that the testator made the choice to give his son complete ownership of the property reflected in his will.

  1. C.N. Arunachala Mudaliar v. V C.A. Muruganatha Mudaliar(1953) SC 495
  2. Constitution Of India, 1950, art 136
  3. Mitakshara: Placitum 27, Chapter I, Section 1
  4. Rao Balwant v. Rani Kishori [25 IA 54]
  5. Sachin Chopda, (Legal Vidhya) 'C.N. Arunachala Mudaliar Vs C.A. Muruganatha Mudaliar' (URL:, Accessed on 18 Aug 2023

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