The Bombay High Court has held that a citizen’s right to seek administration of a deceased person’s estate in accordance with the latter’s will must be protected. No straitjacket formula can be fixed for deciding a time limit to move courts for such administration (management of estate and distribution of assets), it observed.
The court passed the judgement on May 4 when a full bench comprising Justices S C Dharamadhikari, A A Sayyed, and K R Sriram was hearing a suit filed by a city resident seeking administration of the estate left behind by his mother. The petitioner had approached the court alleging that his father and other relatives hid his mother’s will for five years after her death, and sought the court’s help in getting what was rightfully his share. However, his father contended that the law of limitation mandated that a suit for administration be filed within three years of the person’s death.
In this case, the petitioner’s mother died in 2007. The petitioner, however, argued that his suit was not merely for administration of the estate but he was also staking a claim for a share to what had been left behind by his mother in her will. In the latter case, he argued, the period of limitation was 12 years. The bench took note of this argument and ruled in his favour. “A suit may contain a bouquet of reliefs, one of which would be a prayer for administration of a joint family property along with his share there in,” it said.
The other relief could be to enforce a right to share in a joint family property alleging that he was excluded from it, the court said. “In the circumstances, there cannot be a straitjacket formula to determine the period of limitation for filing an administration suit. The pleadings and the prayers of a suit for administration would have to be analysed and thereafter, the relevant Article is to be made applicable,” it said.
“Thus, if in a situation two articles of the law may be wide enough to cover a given right of suit and the court is unable to come to a conclusion that one applies more specifically than the other, then it should lean in favour of the application which would keep the right of suit alive in preference to that which would destroy it,” the bench said.