Successor-in-title held not to get supervening testamentary rights; person signing as witness not a signatory to document: Bombay HC

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of G.S. Patel, J. held a testamentary petition seeking Letters of Administration as entirely misconceived, not maintainable and barred by provision of Indian Succession Act, 1925.

The petitioners—Sydney and Cynthia  — claimed that one Maureen who died in November, 2006 left a Will under which one June Miranda  was appointed as executor of her property. The petitioners claimed to be entitled to demand that June Miranda must explain to them that how she had administered Maureen’s estate and they further asked that she be removed as an executor. It is pertinent to note that the petitioners were nobodies in relation to Maureen’s estate. They were the assignees or transferees of the heirs of a lessee of a property which Maureen owned and of which she was the lessor.

Counsel for the petitioners submitted that Maureen had signed as a witness the Deed of Confirmation between the said heirs of the lessee and the petitioners. The High Court held that the submission was without merit as a signatory does not become a party to a document only by signing it as a witness.

The High Court perused Sections 57, 213, 218, 219 and 264 of the Succession Act. It was observed that Section 57 read with Section 213 (2) makes it evident that probate to a testamentary instrument by a Christian is never compulsory or mandatory. Section 219 and its sub-section then tells who, in the case of a person other than a Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist or Muhammedan is entitled to apply for Letters of Administration; and there is a hierarchy provided. It begins with marriage and consanguinity, and goes on down the line to include those beneficially interested in the estate as heirs, then kindred of equal standing, and finally creditors. The petitioners stood in none of these categories. They had absolutely no right in law to even apply for Letters of Administration in respect of nay testamentary writing said to have been made by Maureen. They most certainly have not the slightest vestige of a right to demand accounts from her executor. They could not question the administrator of that Will. They were merely successors-in-title in regard to some immovable property. They could get no supervening right in relation to the state on account of that title having – passed and especially not since that title was one that passed in Maureen’s lifetime. In light of the aforementioned, the testamentary petition was passed. [Sidney Francis Gomes and Maureen Therese Gonzales, In Re, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 3424, dated 11-10-2018]

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