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Calcutta High Court
Sris Chandra Choudhury vs Bhaba Tarini Devi on 23 November, 1927
Equivalent citations: AIR 1928 Cal 695


1. This appeal arises out of an application for revocation of a grant of letters of administration which was-made under Section 50 of the Probate and Administration Act now replaced by Section 263, Succession Act of 1925. The letters of administration wore granted with the will annexed of the testator who died in the year 1883. By his will he gave his property to his two grandsons Satis and Sris and he made provisions for payment of annuities to his daughter Bama Sundari and his daughter-in-law Sakhi Sundari. Letters of administration were granted to Bama Sundari in. 1901 and she was administering the estate till her death on 21st June 1923. After the death of Bama Sundari the present opposite party Sris applied for grant of Letters of Administration for the un administered portion of the estate. The present petitioner for revocation objected to it, but letters were granted to the objector Sris on 19th June 1924. The other annuitant Sakhi Sundari died some time in October 1924. The present application was made by the widow of Satis for revocation of the letters of administration on 21st March 1925. The grounds stated for revocation were two:

(1) That the estate having been fully administered, the grant has become useless and inoperative through circumstances; and

(2) the opposite party to whom the grant was made has wilfully and without reasonable cause omitted to exhibit an inventory or account as ordered by the Court granting administration.

2. It has been found by the learned Judge below that the second ground has not been substantiated. As a matter of fact the administrator has rendered accounts. He has, however, made the order for revocation of the grant on the ground that the estate has been fully administered. There is some confusion of ideas when it is stated that the estate has been fully administered. Because, if the estate has been fully administered, there is no occasion for an application for revocation of the grant of the letters of administration. What the applicant for revocation must have meant is – and that seems to be the idea of the learned Judge, – that nothing further has to be done by the administrator except to make over the legacies to the legatees. So long as the legacies are not paid, it cannot be said that the estate has been fully administered. The question, however, is whether the application comes within any of the provisions of Section 263 of the Act. It is now well settled that the Courts in India can revoke a grant of letters of administration only according to the provisions of the section which previously was Section £0, Probate and Administration Act : see the cases of Annoda Prosad v. Kali Krishna (1897) 24 Cal. 95, Official Trustee of Bengal v. Kumudini Dasi (1910) 37 Cal. 387. It is observed by the learned Judge that the present application comes within Clause (d) of the explanation of “just cause” in Section 263 of the Act and upon that ground he has made an order for revocation of the grant. The administrator appeals against that order and it is contended on his behalf that the present question does not come within that clause while it is contended, on the other side, that it does. Under that clause it is provided that a “just cause” shall be deemed to exist where “the grant has become useless and inoperative through circumstances.” It seems to me that it would be straining the meaning of the expression “useless and inoperative” if it is said that a grant becomes useless when the administrator has nothing more to do than to distribute the legacies to the several legatees. The illustration as to how a grant becomes useless and inoperative is given in illustration (viii), Section 263. It seems to me that the clause contemplates that there is an administrator who, however, under certain circumstances, is incapable of acting so that the estate is practically without an administrator; and it does not mean that there is an administrator but he is wilfully withholding the legacies payable under the will. That would be maladministration by the administrator, but it has been held that maladministration by an administrator is not a just cause for revocation of the grant : see the case of Annoda Prosad v. Kali Krishna (1897) 24 Cal. 95. The grant does not become useless or inoperative if an administrator is acting under the grant and is capable of doing so. Further, it would appear to be extremely inconvenient if the grant is revoked on the ground that the administrator has no further work to do and he ought to distribute the legacies at once. If that were done, difficulties and complications would arise, and notwithstanding the saving provisions of Section 297, as to what would happen when the grant of letters of administration is revoked, it would be difficult for the administrator who has acted under such revoked grant to reimburse himself in respect of any payments made by him under the grant. The remedy of a legatee to obtain the legacy from the hands of the administrator is either by a suit for obtaining the legacy or for administration of the estate-: see the case of Okhoy Coomar v. Koylash Chunder (1890) 17 Cal. 387. It seems that the order of revocation made by the learned Judge does not fall within the provisions of the law and is, therefore, wrongly made.

3. It may be added that the learned vakils an either side could not point out any authority with regard to the question before us. It is well known that in England the right to revoke a grant is not limited, as here, by statutory provisions. No authority has been pointed out to us that in England a grant of probate or letters of administration was ever revoked on the ground that the administrator has nothing further to do but simply to distribute the legacies and it seems to us that the power of the Courts in India should not be exercised with regard to the revocation of a grander such circumstances.

4. The appeal is, accordingly, decreed the judgment and order of the Court below must be set aside and the application dismissed. Having regard to the fact that there is no reason why the administrator should not distribute the legacies and it seams to us that he is in possession of the properties without any just reason, we make no order as to costs either in this Court or in the Court below.

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