New Delhi: Alterations made in the Will made by a person has no legal sanctity unless the corrections are executed in the same manner as was done in the case of the original document, the Supreme Court has ruled.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and Ashok Kumar Ganguly said those claiming benefits under an altered Will must prove with convincing evidence that the testator (a person who makes a Will) did make such alterations to the original Will in conformity with the rules governing the Indian Succession Act.

"The plain language of Section 71 makes it clear that any alteration made in an unprivileged Will after its execution has no effect unless such alteration has been executed in the same  manner in which the Will is executed," Justice Singhvi, writing the judgement, said.

The Apex Court passed the ruling while dismissing the appeal of Dayanandi who claimed her deceased father Singa Gujaran had disinherited her sister Rukma D Suvarna through an altered Will after initially allotting her a share in the family's property.

The bench said it was also mandatory that a Will or its altered version must be signed by the testator or someone at his behest.

A few months prior to death, Singa Gujaran executed the Will dated May 25,1987, in which he bequeathed the property through a typed Will to his four daughters- Kalyani, Dayanandi, Rukma and Deena (respondent No.2).

A year after Gujaran's death, Rukma filed a suit alleging that taking advantage of her father's acute illness, Dayanandi and another sister deprived her of a share in the property by producing an altered Will purportedly dated August 25, 1987, in which she was disinherited.

A Civil Court rejected her plea but a single judge of the Karnataka High Court decreed in her favour on the ground that the altered Will was not genuine. Aggrieved, Dayanandi had appealed in the Apex Court.

Dismissing the appeal, the Apex Court said an analysis of Section 63 shows that the testator must sign or affix his mark on the Will or the same shall be signed by some other person as per his direction and in his presence.

"The signature or mark of the testator or the signature of the person signing for him shall be placed in a manner which may convey the intention of the testator to give effect to the writing as a Will, which is also required to be attested by two or more persons, each of whom must have seen the testator sign or affix his mark on the Will or some other person sign the Will in the presence or as per the direction of the testator.

"The proviso to this section carves out an exception and lays down that such alterations shall be deemed to be duly executed if the signature of the testator and the subscription of the witnesses is made in the margin or on some other part of the Will opposite or near to such alterations or at the foot or end or opposite to a memorandum referring to such alterations and written at the end or some part of the Will." the bench said.

In the present case, the Apex Court said perusal of records clearly indicated that the alleged altered Will was not attested by Gujaran and there was no reason why a second Will would be made by him after altering the original Will.

"It is also apposite to observe that if Singa Gujaran had consciously decided to disinherit respondent No.1 in the first Will by appending his left thumb mark after corrections/alterations were made and the name of respondent No.1 was deleted, there was no reason for him to execute the second Will.

"In her evidence, the appellant and respondent No.2 could not offer any tangible explanation as to why it became necessary for her father to execute the second Will after he had already disinherited respondent No1," the bench added.

In the present case, the apex court said perusal of records clearly indicated that the alleged altered Will was not attested by Gujaran and there was no reason why a second Will would be made by him after altering the original Will.

"It is also apposite to observe that if Singa Gujaran had consciously decided to disinherit respondent No.1 in the first Will by appending his left thumb mark after corrections/alterations were made and the name of respondent No.1 was deleted, there was no reason for him to execute the second Will.

"In her evidence, the appellant and respondent No.2 could not offer any tangible explanation as to why it became necessary for her father to execute the second Will after he had already disinherited respondent No1," the bench added.

(Agencies)