Friday, March 31, 2023

Court has to look behind the cloak and lift the veil of Will to understand its purpose in present context

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The Delhi High Court has said that a Will has to be looked at from the point of view of layman while its clauses should be harmoniously construed, given equal importance, benefit and uniformity.

A division bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Saurabh Banerjee said that clauses in a Will have individual values like each sailor in a ship who has an individual role to play.

The Court said that in our opinion, for reaching a final culmination with respect to interpretation of a Will it is imperative for the Court to look at it from the eyes of a layman rather than a lawman.

The Court noted that disputes pertaining to interpretation of a Will have been a constant knocks at the legal doors since time immemorial and though such doors have been successfully closed through numerous pronouncements, the issue never has.

The bench said that as per basic settled principles of law, it is the foremost duty of the Court to carefully give a purposeful meaning to the words and logical interpretation to the language of a Will to infer and draw the real intention of the testator.

It further said that as meaning is sought to be given to the intention of the testator to what he must’ve meant, when he was alive, after his demise, due importance has to be given to the surrounding circumstances, the background, the status and relations with the family and society of the testator.

The Court further stated that it has to look behind the cloak and lift the veil and that its purpose to derive the real intention of the testator and recognize the rights of the beneficiaries as closely.

The Court also said that it has to be kept in mind that when some clause(s) overlap each other and the testator is not present it has to be made sure that such clause(s) do not trample upon each other so as to negate any one of them.

The Judgement also said that in case the clauses are inconsistent and a divergent meaning is possible, the order of precedence should be followed, i.e., the more powerful/meaningful clauses is to take precedence over the less meaningful clauses.

The bench held that where will can be read in other way also then, it would be in the interest of things to choose and give the best possible, plausible, constructive meaning in the overall interest of everybody.

However, if for some reason it is not possible to do the same, then the more beneficial interpretation should be adopted to bring the best possible answer.

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