“Husband And Wife Two Wheels Of The Chariot, Wife Is Entitled For Equal Share In Property” – Madras High Court Allows Second Appeal

“Husband And Wife Two Wheels Of The Chariot, Wife Is Entitled For Equal Share In Property” – Madras High Court Allows Second Appeal

“Husband And Wife Two Wheels Of The Chariot, Wife Is Entitled For Equal Share In Property” – Madras High Court Allows Second Appeal

In a historic ruling, High Court Madras held that wife is an equal owner/sharer in the properties acquired from the money earned by the Husband and saved by the wife. The Hon’ble court partly allowed the Second appeal and cross objection and decided in favor of the wife by setting aside the order passed by the learned appellate court.

Hon’ble court observed that To recognise the contribution made by the wife either directly or indirectly, so far, no legislation has been enacted. However, in the present case, this Court can very well recognise the contribution made by the 1st defendant/wife towards the purchase of the properties by her husband either directly or indirectly not only in money or in money’s worth, but also the contribution made by looking after the home and taking care of the family. No law prevents the Judges from recognizing the contributions made by a wife facilitating her husband to purchase the property. In my view, if the acquisition of assets is made by joint contribution (directly or indirectly) of both the spouses for the welfare of the family, certainly, both are entitled to equal share.”

BRIEF FACTS OF THE CASE

The plaintiff and 1st defendant (Wife) married in the year 1962. They had three children out of the wedlock. The plaintiff moved to Saudi Arabia in the year 1982 leaving behind his wife and three minor children where he started earning lot of money. The plaintiff used to send money to defendant for their living. Defendant saved that money and out of that she bought certain properties in question in the name of the plaintiff and some on her name. Plaintiff returned in the year 1994 and found that defendant had affair with some other person whom she had executed a power of attorney to sell the property. The plaintiff thereafter filed a suit for permanent injunction which was decreed in his favor. The matter was appealed before appropriate lower court by defendant no.1. The appeal was partly allowed and judgment related to item no. 3 to 5 were set aside. Now plaintiff filed the second appeal challenging the lower appellate court order. Meanwhile, plaintiff died and now his legal heirs were contesting the appeal.

CONTENTION OF THE APPELLANT

Learned Senior Counsel appearing for the plaintiff stated that the Trial Court has well appreciated the contentions of the plaintiff and decreed the suit in favour of the plaintiff with respect to the Item Nos.1 to 5 of the schedule mentioned properties. The Trial Court has held that these properties have not been purchased for the benefit of the 1st defendant and she had no source of income on her own. The 1st defendant acquired the title over the suit properties as ostensible owner in fiduciary capacity and therefore Section 4 of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act is not applicable and the same was reiterated by the learned Senior Counsel. Since the plaintiff was working in abroad, he was not in a position to come to India to execute the sale deeds in his name therefore, he requested his 1st defendant/wife to purchase the immovable properties i.e., Item Nos.1 to 4 of the schedule mentioned properties in her name and accordingly, the 1st defendant purchased the said properties on behalf of the plaintiff in fiduciary capacity.

CONTENTION OF THE OPP. PARTIES

learned counsel appearing for the 1st defendant would submit that the Trial Court has committed grave error while decreeing the suit in favour of the plaintiff. Against which, the 1st defendant preferred an appeal before the First Appellate Court and the Appellate Court has set aside the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court to an extent of Item Nos.3 to 5 of the schedule mentioned properties and held that Item Nos.3 to 5 belong to the 1st defendant. Further, she would contend that at any cost, the plaintiff cannot claim absolute ownership over Item Nos.1 and 2 of the schedule mentioned properties. It is not that the plaintiff alone has contributed for purchase of the Item Nos.1 to 4 of the schedule mentioned properties. Though the promise made by the plaintiff to purchase the property in the name of the 1st defendant, in order to compensate the sale of her ancestral property to an extent of 1 acre 4.5 cents, the 1st defendant also contributed in purchasing all these properties indirectly in her name.

It was further contended that that the 1st defendant also earned money through tailoring and taking tuitions to the students. That apart, she would contend that it was a mutual understanding between them and on request of the plaintiff, the 1st defendant who stayed at home took care of the children and maintained the family. Otherwise, the 1st defendant would have gone for employment and she would have earned money on her own. But she stayed at home and maintained three children. The plaintiff also had equal responsibility in bringing up their children. If the 1st defendant had not stayed at home and gone for employment, she would have earned more money, in which case the plaintiff was supposed to have spent time to take care of the children and to maintain the family affairs. Even if any maid was appointed, it is doubtful whether the said maid will take care of the family for 24 hours and towards these contributions made by the 1 st defendant towards the family, obviously there should be equal consideration.

HON’BLE COURT’S OBSERVATIONS

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Krishnan Ramaswamy framed 7 substantial question of law for the consideration of the Hon’ble Court.

Hon’ble court has observed that the correspondence between the plaintiff and defendant no. 1 shows the suffering and pain she faced in maintaining the family and looking after the children solely. She could have also gone to work and might have earned equal amount to the plaintiff.

Further, it was observed that “the averments contained in Exhibits A1 to A11 would reveal that the 1 st defendant stayed at home by obliging the words of her husband, by which, one way she had lost her income and in other way, merely by staying at home, it cannot be said that the wife was not contributing anything towards the savings of her husband. For taking care of the children and family, it is nothing like 8 hours job, what the husband was doing abroad but it is 24 hours job. The 1st defendant, being a wife, had physically contributed to the family for 24 hours. However, the husband, out of his 8 hours job at abroad, had financially contributed to the family and sent the money out of his savings, from which they had purchased the property. The said savings were done because of the 24 hours efforts put by the 1st defendant/wife for the family, whereby she had made her husband to save money without contributing much towards the house maid etc., and for payment of money towards other jobs.

In fact, the 1st defendant being a home maker, though she did not make any direct financial contribution, she played a vital role in managing the household chores by looking after the children, cooking, cleaning and managing day-to-day affairs of the family without giving any inconvenience to the plaintiff abroad and moreover, she sacrificed her dreams and spent her entire life towards the family and children.

In generaility of marriages, the wife bears and rears children and minds the home. She thereby frees her husband for his economic activities. Since it is her performance of her function which enables the husband to perform his, she is in justice, entitled to share in its fruits.

A wife, being a home maker peforms multi tasks, viz., as a Manager with managerial skills-planning, organizing, budgeting, running errands, etc.; as a Chef with cullinary skills-preparing food items, designing menus and managing kitchen inventory; as a Home Doctor with health care skills-taking precautions and giving home made medicines to the members of the family; as a Home Economist with financial skills- planning home budget, spending and saving, etc. Therefore, by performing these skills, a wife, makes the home as a comfortable environment and her contribution towards the family, and certainly it is not a valueless job, but it is a job doing for 24 hours without holidays, which cannot be less equated with that of the job of an earning husband who works only for 8 hours.

The contribution which wives make towards acquisition of the family assets by performing their domestic chores, thereby releasing their husbands for gainful employment, would be a factor which, this Court would specifically take into account while deciding the right in the properties either the title stand in the name of the husband or wife and certainly, the spouse who looks after the home and cares for family for decades, entitled to a share in the property.

When the husband and wife are treated as two wheels of a family cart, then the contribution made either by the husband by earning or the wife by serving and looking after the family and children, would be for the welfare of the family and both are entitled equally to whatever they earned by their joint effort. The proper presumption is that the beneficial interest belongs to them jointly. The property may be purchased either in the name of husband or wife alone, but nevertheless, it is purchased with the monies saved by their joint efforts.

In the present case, if the 1st defendant/wife is not there, certainly, the plaintiff would not have gone to abroad and earned all the money. The 1st defendant rendered her continuous services for 24 hours to the family by maintaining the children, preparing food, taking them to school, looking after their needs and taking care of their health, household chores etc., which cannot be weighed lower than earning money by the plaintiff/husband in abroad. Therefore, the common intention of the couple, viz., the plaintiff/husband and 1 st defendant/wife was to co-ordinate each other and to strive hard for the benefit of family and even if any properties purchased in the name of husband or wife alone, ultimately, it can be held that both are entitled to equal share as far as in the present facts of the case keeping in mind the earning of the husband since the same were purchased by both of their contributions, one by earning money and another by serving/looking after the family as stated above.

In the light of the above discussion, this Court is of the view that Item Nos. 1, 2 and 4 of the schedule mentioned properties were purchased from and out of the joint contribution made by both the plaintiff and the 1st defendant and they are entitled to equal shares over the item Nos.1, 2 and 4 of the schedule mentioned properties. Accordingly, the Substantial Questions of Law Nos.2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are answered”

In view of the above, Second Appeal and Cross Objection was partly allowed.

 

Case Title:-  Kannaian Naidu & ors Vs. Kamsala Ammal & ors.

Case no. :-   S.A.No.59 of 2016

Order date :- 21.06.2023

 

 

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