Sovereign Grant means

12. The original of the underlined sentence, in the Gazette Notification reads:

“aur unko sakoonti makan waqya Bara Mahal Shahjahanabad inayat marhmat pharmate hain.”

13. It is to be noted that the disposition evidenced by the Firman, Ex. P.-I, is a tripartite grant made by an autocratic ruler to his subject in recognition of long, meritorious services rendered by the latter. This grant belongs to the category of dispositions, which under the English Common Law are known as “Crown grants”.

14. The tenor and language of the Firman, particularly the words “aapko Inayat ataa Kiya Jata Hai” unmistakably mark it out as a Sovereign grant. According to Steingass’ Persian-English Dictionary “inayat” (Noun) Signifies “a favour, a gift, a present a bounty” and “Atta (Verb) means “to give, to confer a benefit or present with”; and ‘Atta ‘(Noun) implies ‘Giving, a present gift, donation, favour, a grant, endowment, concession; consideration”.

15. In the widest sense ‘grant’ may comprehend everything that is granted or passed from one to another by deed. But commonly the term is applied to rights created or transferred by the Crown, e,g. grants of pensions, patents, charges, franchise (See Earl Jowitt’s Dictionary of English Law).

16. In England contrary to the ordinary rule applicable to grants by a subject, grants by the Crown are usually construed most favorably for the Crown. The rule in case of Royal Grants is that general words will not pass prerogative rights by implication.

17. This general rule is, however, capable of important relaxations in favour of the subject. If the intention of the Sovereign is obvious from the document which in precise, unequivocal terms defines the extent and nature of the benefit conferred, it must take, effect. No question of seeking extrinsic aid to its construction arises. If the grant is for valuable consideration it must be construed strictly in favour of the grantee, for the honor of the Sovereign and where two constructions are possible, one valid and the other void, that which is valid ought to be preferred, for the honour of the Sovereign, ought to be more regarded than the Sovereign’s profit. Where, however, two interpretations may be given to the grant, both of which are good, that which is most favourable to the Crown is in many cases preferred (see Halsbury’s Laws of England, 3rd Edn. Vol. 7, Paragraphs 669 and 670, pages 314-316).

18. These rules of interpretation have been applied to Sovereign grants in India, also (See Raja Rajinder Chand v. Sukhi, (1956) SCR 889 (as per S. K. Das J. at page No. 902) = (AIR 1957 SC 286 at page No. 292); Gulabdas Jagjivandas v. Collector of Surat, (1878) 6 Ind Ap 54 (PC); Sheikh Sultan Sani v. Shekh Ajmoddin, (1892) 20 Ind App 50 (PC); Aziz-un-nissa v. Tasadduq Husain Khan, (1901) 28 Ind App 65 (PC); Ram Narayan Singh v. Ram Saran Lal, ILR 46 Cal 683 .

19. It is in the light of the above principles that we have to determine whether by the Firman, Ex. P-1 the Ruler intended to grant a life-estate or an absolute estate in the suit house.

20. Mr. Hardy, learned Counsel for the appellants contends that the disposition in dispute would not fall within an exception to the general rule according to which a Sovereign grant is construed in favour of the Sovereign, because firstly, the last sentence of the Firman, the interpretation of which alone is in question, declares in plain, self-contained and unambiguous terms that the grant of the house is an out and out gift to the grantee, and secondly, the grantor and the grantee, being Muslims, the gift would, under Mohammedan Law, have the effect of conveying an absolute heritable estate. In this connection, support has been sought from certain observations of the Privy Council in Sardar Nawazish Ali Khan v. Sardar Ali Raza, 75 Ind App 62 at page No. 77 = (AIR 1948 PC 134 at page No. 138), which are as follows:

“In general, Muslim Law draws no distinction between real and personal property, and their Lordships know of no authoritative work which affirms that Muslim Law recognizes the splitting up of ownership of land into estates, or in point of quality like legal and equitable estates, or in point of duration like estates in fee simple, in tail, for life, or in remainder. What Muslim Law does recognize and insist on, is the distinction between the corpus of the property itself (ayn) and the usufruct in the property (manafi). Over the corpus of the property the law recognizes only absolute dominion, heritable and unrestricted in point of time, and where a gift of the corpus seeks to impose a condition inconsistent with such absolute dominion’ the condition is rejected as repugnant, but interest limited in point of time can be created in the usufruct of the property and the dominion over the corpus takes effect subject to any such limited interests.”(emphasis added) [Refer : AIR 1975 SC 1518 : (1975) Suppl. SCR 240 : (1975) 2 SCC 122]


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