Monthly sum for widow whose husband granted property to neighbour

Will is genuine, we can’t do anything: SC

An elderly widow whose husband bequeathed his entire agricultural property and house to their neighbour in what seems to be an overdose of the maxim ‘do thy neighbour good’ had to finally settle for a monthly amount for her sustenance following a prolonged legal battle which spanned over a decade.

A Vacation Bench of Justices M.R. Shah and A.S. Bopanna concluded that the husband’s will in favour of the neighbour was genuine, and that there was nothing the court could do.

Shewantabai, the widow, who appealed the Bombay High Court decision in the apex court in 2016, was left with no choice but take a monthly maintenance of ₹7,500 from the neighbour. The neighbour would have to pay the sum on a monthly basis during the widow’s lifetime. The amount would be derived out of the income from the agricultural property.

“Merely because the testator executed the will in favour of the neighbour, the genuineness of the will cannot be doubted,” the court observed in a recent order.

The court described the predicament of the widow, describing her as “an old lady” who would find it “difficult to maintain herself in this old age”.

The court however noted that the neighbour wanted to do her a good turn by allowing the widow to stay on in the house, which apparently was once hers, and he would look after her. He had said he was even “ready and willing” to pay her ₹3,000.

Shewantabai had initially refused the offer, but later accepted the alternative provided the maintenance amount was enhanced. The apex court said ₹7,500 would “meet the ends of justice”.

The court also directed the neighbour to pay arrears of maintenance from January 2011 to her within three months.

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