18 August 2020

Bequeath of disproportionate share in Will does not make the Will suspicious or unnatural

Thus, from the tenor of the Will read with the document dated 30 September, 2000, it appears that Pravin had equal love and affection for Ashok and Dipti. However, Pravin was of the opinion that he had spent sufficient sums of money on Dipti to give her a comfortable life and hence he did not think it necessary to leave much of his properties to his daughter. However, it is not that Dipti was totally deprived by Pravin in the Will. As noted, 9% Relief Bonds with face value of Rs.31,00,000/- and Maturity Value of over Rs.48,00,000/- were left for Dipti. It has also come out from the evidence on record that Dipti and her husband are both well established in U.S.A. and between the two of them, they earn over 1 million U.S. dollars per year. This factor is also likely to have played in the mind of the testator in deciding that it was not necessary to leave much for Dipti who was financially more than secure. Just because the bequests in favour of the testator's two children are not equal and may even be disproportionate, the same in my view, per se would not amount to a suspicious circumstance or make the Will unnatural. A Will is generally made when the testator desires to alter the natural course of succession. As observed by the Apex Court in the case of Ramabai Padmakar Patil (Dead) v. Rukminibai Vishnu Vekhande (supra), a Will is executed to alter the natural mode of succession and by the very nature of things it is bound to result in either reducing or depriving the share of a natural heir. If a person intends his property to pass equally to his natural heirs there is no necessity at all of executing a Will. It is true that the propounder of a Will has to remove all suspicious circumstances. Suspicion means doubt, conjecture or mistrust. But the fact that the natural heirs or some of them have been excluded or a lesser share has been given to them, by itself without anything more, cannot be held to be a suspicious circumstance.[Para No.31]

Bequeath of disproportionate share in Will does not make the Will suspicious or unnatural

    In S. Sundaresa Pai vs. Sumangala. T. Pai (supra), the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed at Paragraph 7 of the judgment inter alia as follows:
"The uneven distribution of assets amongst children, by itself, cannot be taken as a circumstance causing suspicion surrounding the execution of the will. One son was given bulk of immovable properties; another none; another half share in one immovable property; other half being given to the plaintiff and another daughter and husband were given nothing. It is also not in dispute that some properties were given in gift to the plaintiff by her mother during her lifetime. There was nothing unnatural."[Para No.51]

In Ramabai Padmakar Patil (Dead) v. Rukminibai Vishnu Vekhande (supra), at Paragraph 8 of the judgment, the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed as follows:
"A Will is executed to alter the mode of succession and by the very nature of things it is bound to result in either reducing or depriving the share of a natural heir. If a person intends his property to pass to his natural 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, especially in a case where the bequest has been made in favour of an offspring. In P.P.K. Gopalan Nambiar v. P.P.K. Balakrishnan Nambiar it has been held that it is the duty of the propounder 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. In this case, the fact that the whole estate was given to the son under the Will depriving two daughters was held to be not a suspicious circumstance and the finding to the contrary recorded by the District Court and the High Court was reversed. In Pushpavathi v. Chandraraja Kadamba it has been held that if the propounder succeeds in removing the suspicious circumstance, the court would have 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 the near relations. In Rabindra Nath Mukherjee v. Panchanan Banerjee 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. The concurrent finding recorded by the District Court and the High Court for doubting the genuineness of the Will on the aforesaid ground was reversed."[Para No.52]

Calcutta High Court

Ashok Kothari
Vs.
Dipti Bavishi

Decided on 17/08/2020





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