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Delhi HC dismisses appeal; Upholds daughter’s Class I inheritance rights.

CASE TITLE – Ms. Veeneta (Since Deceased) Through Lrs. v. Ms. Jyoti Gupta

CASE NUMBER – FAO(OS) 143/2023 & C.M.Nos.67425-67426/2023

DATED ON – 22.05.2024

QUORUM – Hon’ble Acting Chief Justice Ms. Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

The Appeal has been filed under Section 10 of the Delhi High Court Act, 1966, challenging the impugned order dated 28th November, 2023, passed by the learned Single Judge in CS (OS) No. 392/2019, dismissing the I.A. No. 14019/2021 filed by the Appellants. Late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta was the defendant no.1 in the civil suit filed by Respondent seeking partition, possession, rendition of accounts and ancillary reliefs qua the estate of late Sh. Parmanand Gupta. The suit properties relevant for the present appeal are: (a) Property No. D-133, Mahendru Enclave, Delhi – 110033; (b) Plot No. D-136, Mahendru Enclave, Delhi; (c) Plot No. D-114, Mahendru Enclave, Delhi; and (d) House No. 1601, Outram Lane, Kingsway Camp, Delhi – 110009

ISSUES

Whether the Appellants are entitled to the properties from the late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta, by virtue of previous unregistered purchase agreements.

Whether the past settlement between Sh. Parmanand Gupta and his first wife (Respondent’s mother) extinguish the Respondent’s inheritance rights.

 

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, prescribes the order of Class-I heirs.

Section 16 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, prescribes the rights of a spouse in inheritance.

Section 278 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, prescribes the process of obtaining a grant of letters of administration for an intestate estate.

 

CONTENTIONS BY THE APPELLANT

The Learned Counsel for the Appellants stated that Appellant No. (ii) i.e., Mr. Sanjeev Kumar Singhal (‘SKS’) is the brother of the late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta. He stated that Appellant No. (ii) had purchased properties bearing no. D-114 and D-136, Mahendru Enclave, Delhi, from late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta in the year 2006 by way of the customary documents i.e., Agreement to Sell (ATS), General Power of Attorney (GPA), receipt and Will. He stated that though there is no registered sale deed in favour of Appellant No. (ii), these customary documents are sufficient to entitle the said Appellant to be impleaded as a legal representative of late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta in the suit proceedings. He stated that in the alternative, it was also the case of the Appellants herein that properties bearing no. D-114 and D-136, Mahendru Enclave, Delhi and property no. 1601, Outram Lane, Kingsway Camp, Delhi – 110009 were purchased by late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta from late Sh. Parmanand Gupta in the year 1999-2000. He stated that at the relevant time, the sale consideration for purchase was provided by Appellant Nos. (i) and (ii) to late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta. He stated that, therefore, the interest of late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta in these three properties would devolve upon the Appellants herein. The Learned Counsel further stated that during the divorce by mutual consent of late Sh.Parmanand Gupta with his first wife, Smt. Madhu Gupta (i.e., the mother of Respondent), a settlement was arrived at between the said parties. He stated that as per the said settlement, all rights of the Respondent qua late Sh. Parmanand Gupta stood settled. He stated that, therefore, Respondent is not entitled to any inheritance from the estate of late Sh. Parmanand Gupta

 

CONTENTIONS BY THE RESPONDENT

The Learned Counsel for the Respondent stated that as held by the learned Single Judge in the impugned order, it is the Respondent herein, who is the natural legal heir of late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta as per Section 15(1)(b) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (‘Act of 1956’). He stated that, therefore, the Appellants are not entitled to substitution in the suit, and that after the death of late Sh. Parmanand Gupta, his mother late Smt. Bhagwati had filed a probate petition bearing PC No. 42284/2016, under Section 278 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 (‘Act of 1925’) seeking a grant of letters of administration for his estate. The said petition was opposed by the late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta, who filed her objections admitting the ownership of the late Sh. Parmanand Gupta qua the suit properties but claimed the exclusive right of inheritance based on an unregistered Will dated 12th December, 2003. He stated that the late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta propounded the said unregistered Will for contending that the subject properties have devolved upon her exclusively. The Trial Court after concluding evidence, vide judgment dated 17th March, 2018, returned a categorical finding that the said unregistered Will dated 12th December, 2003 was not genuine and that Sh. Parmanand Gupta died intestate. The aforesaid finding in the said judgment has not been challenged by late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta and the same has become final, and is binding on any person claiming through her.

 

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi noticed that the underlying suit for partition had been filed qua the estate of late Sh. Parmanand Gupta by his only daughter i.e., the Respondent herein. In the suit, the Respondent impleaded her stepmother, Ms. Vaneeta Gupta, as defendant no. 1 and her grandmother, Smt. Bhagwati, as defendant no. 2. With the death of Ms. Vaneeta Gupta and Smt. Bhagwati, the Respondent is the sole surviving Class-I legal heir of late Sh. Parmanand Gupta. They also took notice of the case between the parties which took place before the Trial Court, where, the Trial Court vide its judgment dated 17th March, 2018, concluded that the Will dated 12th December, 2003, was not genuine and declared that late Sh. Parmanand Gupta died intestate. The findings returned by the Probate Court in the said judgment had not been challenged and has attained finality, and stated that the ownership of late Sh. Parmanand Gupta of the suit properties is not in dispute. The Hon’ble High Court held that the said findings of the learned Single Judge are correct on a plain reading of Sections 15 and 16 of the Act of 1956, and that the submission of the Appellants that the properties which (i) were purchased by the late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta and also, (ii) which devolved on late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta from late Sh. Parmanand Gupta, would both be inherited by the Appellants under the Act of 1956 is contrary to law and without any merits. The Appellants are, therefore, not entitled to inherit late Ms. Vaneeta Gupta’s estate under the Act of 1956. They further stated that the contention of the Appellants that the Respondent is not entitled to claim succession under the Act of 1956 to the estate of late Sh. Parmanand Gupta due to the settlement recorded between late Sh. Parmanand Gupta and late Ms. Madhu Gupta during their divorce was without any basis, and that there was no stipulation in the said settlement that the Respondent’s rights to succession under Act of 1956 shall stand extinguished. The Hon’ble High Court held that the Respondent is admittedly the Class-I legal heir of late Sh. Parmanand Gupta as per Section 8 of the Act of 1956 and the said settlement does not curtail her rights of succession under the Act of 1956, and the appeal was thereby dismissed, stating that is had no merits.

 

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Judgement Reviewed by – Gnaneswarran Beemarao

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Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s judgment, affirming that the findings of the trial court were supported by evidence and were not perverse in  Inheritance Property

Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s judgment, affirming that the findings of the trial court were supported by evidence and were not perverse in  Inheritance Property

Case title: LEHNA SINGH (D) BY LRS VS GURNAM SINGH (D) BY LRS. & ORS.

Case no.: REVIEW PETITION (C) No. 1025 of 2019

Dated on: 16TH May 2024

Quorum:  Hon’ble Mr. Justice VIKRAM NATH And Hon’ble Mr. Justice PRASHANT KUMAR MISHRA.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The petitioner has preferred this Review Petition seeking review of the Order dated 13.03.2019 passed in Civil Appeal No. 6567 of 2014 wherein the present petitioner was the respondent. In the Order under review, the Civil Appeal was allowed, and the judgment and decree passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana on 27.11.2007 in Civil Regular Second Appeal No. 2191 of 1985 was set aside and the judgment and decree passed by the District Judge, Sangrur, on 06.06.1985 in Civil Appeal No. 27 of 1983 has been restored. This Court held that the judgment and decree passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court is beyond the scope and ambit of Section 100 of Code of Civil Procedure, 19081 on the ground that in exercise of such power, the High Court could not have reappreciated the entire evidence on record to unsettle the finding of facts recorded by the First Appellate Court, by substituting its own opinion for that of the First Appellate Court. Basing the judgment rendered in Pankajakshi (Dead) Through Legal Representatives & Ors. v. Chandrika & Ors.2, this Court directed that the review petition be listed before the open Court for hearing and subsequently on 13.08.2019 notices were issued to the opposite parties, at the same time, directing the parties to maintain status quo. In substance, the main ground for review of the judgment is that the Constitution Bench of this Court in Pankajakshi (supra) have uphold the validity of Section 41 of Punjab Courts Act, 19183, overruling this Court’s earlier judgment in case of Kulwant Kaur & Ors. v. Gurdial Singh Maan (Dead) By Lrs. & Ors.4 holding that since Section 97(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1976 has no application to Section 41 of the Punjab Act, therefore, Section 41 of the Punjab Act would necessarily continue as a law in force and the second appeal before the High Court has to be heard within the parameters of Section 41 of the Punjab Act, and not under Section 100 CPC.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

Shri P.S. Pat Walia, learned Senior counsel appearing for the petitioner would also refer to the subsequent judgments of this Court in Randhir Kaur v. Prithvi Pal Singh & Ors.5 and Gurbachan Sing (Dead) Through Lrs. v. Gurcharan Singh (Dead) Through Lrs. & Ors.6 wherein this Court relying upon Pankajakshi (supra) held that the scope of interference within the jurisdiction of the Punjab and Haryana High Court would be the same as under Section 100 of CPC as it existed prior to the 1976 amendment. The provisions of Section 41 of the Punjab Act and of Section 100 CPC, before its amendment in 1976, are in Pari Materia. Therefore, the questions of law are not required to be framed in second appeal before Punjab and Haryana High Court whose jurisdiction in second appeal is circumscribed by provision of Section 41 of the Punjab Act. Shri Pat Walia would submit that this Court has set aside the Judgment of High Court terming it as beyond the power under Section 100 CPC which is not legally correct, in view of the law laid down in Pankajakshi (supra). It is further argued that in the facts and circumstances of the case, the petitioner was entitled to succeed to the property by way of natural succession and the finding of the High Court that the Will relied upon by the respondents has not been proved as it is surrounded by suspicious circumstances ought not to have been interfered by this Court. It is argued that a finding of fact erroneously or perversely recorded by the First Appellate Court can always be interfered by the High Court. Hence, there is no infirmity in the Judgment rendered by the High Court and the same ought not to have been interfered by this Court while deciding the Civil Appeal No. 6567 of 2014 on an erroneous ground that the High Court has travelled beyond its jurisdiction and power under Section 100 CPC as it stands of the 1976 amendment.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

Shri Manoj Swarup, learned senior counsel appearing for the respondents would not dispute the legal position as has been settled by this Court in the matter of Pankajakshi (supra). However, he would submit that even in the case when the High Court would exercise the power under Section 41 of the Punjab Act, the finding of fact recorded by the First Appellate Court cannot be interfered on re-appreciation of evidence to substitute its own decision for that of the First Appellate Court. According to him, the finding recorded by the First Appellate Court was borne out from the record. Therefore, the High Court erred in interfering with the said finding, and this Court rightly set aside the Judgment and decree of the High Court while deciding the Civil Appeal. According to Shri Swarup, the respondents had proved the Will, which was a registered one, in accordance with law and that there were no suspicious circumstances accompanying the Will. When this Court rendered the judgment under review in Civil Appeal No. 6567 of 2014, the only ground which weighed with the Court was that the High Court exercised the power under Section 100 CPC erroneously and decided the second appeal by re-appreciating the evidence without even framing a substantial question of law. The provision contained in Section 41 of the Punjab Act, as reproduced above, does not mandate framing of a substantial question of law for entertaining the second appeal. Therefore, a second appeal under Section 41 of Punjab Act can be entertained by the Punjab and Haryana High Court even without framing a substantial question of law.

ISSUES

  1. Whether the Appellate Court can reverse the findings recorded by the learned trial court without adverting to the specific finding of the trial court?
  2. Whether the judgment passed by the learned lower Appellate Court is perverse and outcome of misreading of evidence?

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Section 96 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC): This section deals with the powers of the appellate court and allows it to pass any decree and make any order which ought to have been passed or made and to pass or make such further or other decree or order as the case may require.

Section 100 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908: provides for a second appeal to the High Court from an appellate decree. There is no vested right of appeal unless the statute so provides.

Section 41 of Punjab Courts Act, 1918: Second appeal An appeal shall lie to the High Court from every decree passed in appeal by any Court subordinate to the High Court

Section 97(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1976: Any amendment made, or any provision inserted in the principal Act by a State Legislature or a High Court before the commencement of this Act shall, except insofar as such amendment or provision is consistent with the provisions of the principal Act as amended by this Act, stand repealed.

 COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

This Civil Appeal is preferred by the defendants in the suit against whom the plaintiff brought a suit for perpetual injunction on the pleadings, inter alia, that he and his brother Bhawan Singh alias Nikka Singh were owners in possession of the suit land. Bhawan Singh was issueless being unmarried. Since the defendant No. 1 was trying to dispossess the plaintiff forcibly, the suit for perpetual injunction was filed. The defendants did not deny that plaintiff and Bhawan Singh were real brothers. However, he claimed to be the half-brother of Bhawan Singh as they were given birth by same lady namely Mrs. Har Kaur who was earlier married to Sunder Singh but after his death, she was married to Mehar Singh and the defendant no. 1 was born out of the wedlock of Har Kaur with Mehar Singh. The defendant’s case rested on a Will allegedly executed by Bhawan Singh on 17.01.1980. Prior to this, Bhawan Singh had executed an unregistered Will on 17.08.1979. However, the defendant admitted that during the lifetime of Bhawan Singh, the suit land was cultivated jointly by the plaintiff and Bhawan Singh. In the alternative, the defendant pleaded that if plaintiff’s possession over the suit land is proved, the defendant nos. 2 to 6, the beneficiary of the Will, are entitled to joint possession of half share of the suit land. On the strength of evidence adduced by the parties in course of trial, it was held by the trial court that the defendants have failed to prove the genuineness of the Will, therefore, the plaintiff is entitled to succeed by way of natural succession. It was found that the Will relied by the defendants is surrounded by suspicious circumstances, therefore, it is not a validly executed Will. The trial court held that the defendants’ case that they served the deceased Bhawan Singh during the lifetime and out of love and affection for the services rendered, he executed the Will in their favour as they were also related to the deceased, has not been believed by the trial court. There is evidence that it was plaintiff who admitted Nikka Singh in hospital on 02.08.1979 when he was ill and his address was also shown as care of Lehna Singh (the ‘plaintiff’). The trial court also found that the plaintiff is in possession of the suit land as the said fact has been admitted by one of the defendant’s witnesses namely Gurnam Singh. The First Appellate Court set aside the finding of the trial court holding that the trial court was wrongly persuaded by insignificant circumstances to hold that the Will in favour of the defendant nos. 2 to 6 is not genuine and that it is surrounded by suspicious circumstances. The First Appellate Court eventually passed a decree for joint possession in favour of defendant which was assailed by plaintiff Lehna Singh before the High Court by preferring an appeal under Section 41 of the Punjab Act. The High Court, under the impugned Judgment, allowed the appeal, set aside the appellate decree passed by the District Judge, Sangrur, restoring the Judgment and decree passed by the trial court. The High Court answered both the questions of law in favour of the plaintiff/respondent herein (in Civil Appeal) on the reasoning that when the person entitled to the property of the deceased by way of natural succession, is disinherited from the property without giving any reason and the covenants in the Will are also found to be factually incorrect, mere registration of the Will and proof of the same by attesting witnesses could not be treated to be sufficient to over-come the suspicious circumstances as has been done by the First Appellate Court. The High Court also observed that the propounders of the Will were earlier tried for murder of the deceased-testator and there being no evidence on record to show that the deceased had special love and affection with the defendants and when it is proved that the plaintiff is in possession of the land and the defendant and their witnesses actively participated in the execution of the Will, there is glaring suspicious circumstances to hold that the Will is not genuine. It was also observed that the testator was residing with the plaintiff, and it was he who got him admitted in the hospital, it was proved that the plaintiff was taking care of the deceased at the time of his need. Merely because the attesting witnesses had no enmity towards the plaintiff, it cannot dispel the suspicious circumstances surrounded around the Will. It is settled law that the First Appellate Court, while setting aside the Judgment and decree of the trial court, is required to meet the reasoning given by the trial court in rejecting the Will, which in the present case has not been done by the First Appellate Court. Having considered the evidence on record and the findings of the trial court, the First Appellate Court and the High Court, we are satisfied that the First Appellate Court wrongly set aside the Judgment, decree, and findings of the trial court without meeting the findings of the trial court which could not have been done in exercise of power under Section 96 CPC. Therefore, the High Court has rightly set aside the Judgment and decree of the First Appellate Court to restore the Judgment and decree of the trial court. On independent examination also, we have found that the findings recorded by trial court are borne out from the evidence on record and are neither perverse nor illegal. Therefore, we find no substance in this appeal which deserves to be and is hereby dismissed. The parties shall bear their own costs.

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Judgement Reviewed by – HARIRAGHAVA JP

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“Delay should not be excused as a matter of generosity” Supreme Court Rejects Govt’s Time Barred Suit

Case title: Union of India & Anr. v. Jahangir Byramji Jeejeebhoy

Case no.: Civil Appeal No. of 2024 (arising out of S.L.P. (Civil) No. 21096 of 2019)

Dated on: 3rd April 2024

Quorum: Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice J.B. Pardiwala

FACTS OF THE CASE

In the annals of legal battles, the saga of delays often takes center stage. The case at hand, emanating from an order by a learned single Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, bears testament to the perennial struggle between the imperatives of justice and the rigidity of timelines. Let’s delve into the intricate web of facts, submissions, issues, and judicial pronouncements that define this legal saga.

The genesis of the dispute lies in a lease agreement dated 09.03.1951, wherein the respondent leased a property to the appellants. Subsequently, due to alleged breaches by the appellants, the respondent filed a suit for possession and arrears of rent in 1981. The trial court decreed the suit in 1987, which was subsequently affirmed in appellate proceedings in 1992. The appellants then approached the High Court in 1993, seeking relief under Article 227 of the Constitution.

However, due to non-prosecution, the petition was dismissed in 2006. Despite subsequent execution proceedings initiated by the respondent in 2013, the appellants only moved to restore the petition in 2019, citing a delay of 12 years and 158 days. The High Court, in its order dated 09.07.2019, declined to condone the delay, prompting the present appeal before the Supreme Court.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The learned Attorney General, representing the appellants, argued vehemently for condonation of the delay. He underscored the significance of the suit property being within Pune Cantonment, asserted as Union-owned land. The delay, according to him, should not prejudice the government’s rights over the land.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

In opposition, Mr. Sudhanshu Chaudhari, the learned senior counsel for the respondent, contended that the High Court’s decision was legally sound. He emphasized the lack of sufficient cause presented by the appellants to justify the lengthy delay in seeking restoration.

In Oriental Aroma Chemical Industries Limited v. Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation, (2010) 5 SCC 459, SC rejected the application for condonation of delay of 4 years in filing an application to set aside an ex-parte decree on the ground that the explanation offered for condonation of delay is found to be not satisfied.

In Postmaster General and others v. Living Media India Limited, (2012) 3 SCC 563, while dismissing the application for condonation of delay of 427 days in filing the Special Leave Petition, held that condonation of delay is not an exception and it should not be used as an anticipated benefit for the government departments.

In that case, SC held that unless the Department has reasonable and acceptable reason for the delay and there was bona fide effort, there is no need to accept the usual explanation that the file was kept pending for several months/years due to considerable degree of procedural red tape in the process cannot be accepted.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Article 227 of Constitution of India, Power of superintendence over all courts by the High Court, Every High Court shall have superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction.

ISSUE

  • Whether the delay of 12 years and 158 days in filing the restoration application warrants condonation.
  • Whether the appellants have presented sufficient cause to justify the delay.
  • Whether the High Court erred in its decision to decline condonation.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

Upon meticulous examination of the submissions and pertinent legal precedents, the Supreme Court embarked on a rigorous analysis. The Court acknowledged the suggestion made by the High Court regarding the possibility of restoration if possession of the property were relinquished, a proposition the appellants declined. It emphasized the significance of diligence in litigation and the sanctity of limitation periods.

Referring to established legal principles, the Court underscored that condonation of delay is not an automatic entitlement. It stressed the need for parties to demonstrate sufficient cause, highlighting the lack thereof in the present case. The Court disapproved of the appellants’ casual approach towards litigation and their failure to proffer a compelling rationale for the delay.

Drawing parallels from prior judgments, the Court reiterated that the law of limitation is founded on principles of equity and public policy, serving to maintain certainty and prevent undue prejudice. It cautioned against leniency in condoning delays, particularly in the absence of bona fide efforts or justifiable reasons.

Ultimately, the Court upheld the High Court’s decision, refusing to intervene in the absence of compelling grounds to condone the delay. It emphasized the paramountcy of adherence to legal timelines and the imperative of balancing justice with procedural rigor.

In the realm of legal proceedings, time is of the essence, and the case law discussed serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of delay. Upholding the sanctity of limitation periods, the Supreme Court’s judgment underscores the need for parties to approach litigation with diligence and foresight, lest they risk forfeiture of their rights. As legal battles unfold, the scales of justice remain finely calibrated, weighing the merits of each case against the imperative of timely recourse to legal remedies.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Chiraag K A

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“Supreme Court Rules Out Easement by Necessity in Presence of Alternative Property Access”

Case title: Manisha Mahendra Gala & Ors. V. Shalini Bhagwan Avatramani & Ors.

Case no.: Civil Appeal No. 9643 Of 2010

Dated on: 10th April 2024

Quorum: Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra

FACTS OF THE CASE

In the legal realm, disputes often arise over property rights, particularly when it comes to access and usage of shared pathways or roads. The case of Manisha Mahendra Gala & Ors. vs. Shalini Bhagwan Avatramani & Ors., hereafter referred to as the Gala case, delves into the intricacies of easementary rights over a 20ft. wide road situated on land owned by the respondents, the Ramani family. The Supreme Court of India, through its judgment dated April 10, 2024, provided a detailed analysis of the facts, submissions, issues, and the ultimate legal decision.

The dispute revolves around a 20ft. wide road located on Survey No.57 Hissa No.13A/1, presently owned by the Ramani family. The appellants, Gala family, claimed easementary rights over this road for access to their property, Survey No. 48 Hissa No.15. The Gala family argued that they had been using the road for many years and that their access to their land depended solely on this pathway. The case stemmed from two separate suits: Suit No.14 of 1994 filed by Joki Woler Ruzer (later succeeded by Mahendra Gala and then the Gala family) for declaration of easementary rights, and Suit No.7 of 1996 filed by the Ramani family to declare the Gala family’s lack of rights over the road.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The appellants, represented by senior counsel Shri Huzefa Ahmadi, contended that the Gala family’s usage of the road for many years granted them easementary rights. They also argued that the Sale Deed dated 17.09.1994, transferring land to Mahendra Gala, acknowledged their right of way over the road.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

On the other hand, the respondents, represented by counsel Shri Devansh Anoop Mohta, disputed the Gala family’s claims, asserting that they had no legal right to the road.

ISSUE

  • Whether the appellants have acquired easementary rights over the disputed road.
  • Whether the findings of the lower courts were valid and justifiable.
  • Whether the Sale Deed dated 17.09.1994 conferred easementary rights.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The Court analyzed the evidence presented and legal precedents. It concluded that the appellants failed to establish uninterrupted use of the road for over 20 years, a requirement for acquiring easementary rights by prescription. The Sale Deed did not confer such rights, as the appellants’ predecessors did not possess them. Additionally, the Court rejected the argument of easementary rights by necessity, as there was an alternative access route available. It upheld the decisions of the lower courts, dismissing the appellants’ appeals.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals, ruling that the appellants had not acquired easementary rights over the disputed road. The judgement reaffirmed the principle that factual findings of lower courts can be reviewed by appellate courts, and highlighted the importance of clear evidence in establishing legal rights.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Chiraag K A

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Calcutta High Court held that when documentary evidence is available the oral testimony of witness is not sufficient to rebut its probative value.

Case Title: Minati Bhadra & Ors. Vs Dilip Kr. Bhadra & Ors.

Case No: S.A. 406 of 2016

Decided on: 19th October, 2023

CORAM: Hon’ble Justice Siddhartha Roy Chowdhury

 

Facts of the Case

This appeal challenges the judgement and decree passed by learned Additional District Judge, 1st Court, Jangipur, Murshidabad.

The plaintiff, son of Chabi Rani Bhadra and Aswini Bhadra, filed the suit for partition stating, inter alia, that Chabi Rani Bhadra was the original owner of the suit property which was acquired by purchase and Chabi Rani died intestate on 15th March, 1984 and she was survived by her husband Aswini and son Dilip Kumar Bhadra who thus acquired the property by inheritance.

Aswini Bhadra entered into her second marriage. His second wife, Minati Bhadra, bears him two children: a son named Swadhin Kumar Bhadra and a daughter named Payel Munmun Bhadra. Following the birth of defendant no. 3, Swadhin Kumar Bhadra, the plaintiff’s stepmother’s conduct towards him underwent a radical transformation, and she began inciting Aswini against the plaintiff. Aswini Kumar Bhadra passed away on March 12, 2003, leaving behind his widow, defendant number 1, and plaintiff and defendant number 3, who were his sons and defendant number 2, who was his sole daughter.

After the demise of Chabi Rani Bhadra the plaintiff acquired the half share in the suit property and he acquired 1/8th share by way of inheritance after the demise of Aswini Kumar Bhadra.  Seeking peaceful co-ownership with the defendants failed due to their denial of his rights. Defendant 1 claims sole ownership through a purchase.

According to defendants, the plaintiff was not the biological son of Chabi Rani Bhadra, but was the son of Ashwini’s elder brother.

Legal Provisions

Section 50 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Opinion on relationship, when relevant.—When the Court has to form an opinion as to the relationship of one person to another, the opinion, expressed by conduct, as to the existence of such relationship, or any person who, as a member of the family or otherwise, has special means of knowledge on the subject, is a relevant fact: Provided that such opinion shall not be sufficient to prove a marriage in proceedings under the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 (4 of 1869) or in prosecutions under section 494, 495, 497 or 498 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860). Illustrations

  1. The question is, whether A and B were married. The fact that they were usually received and treated by their friends as husband and wife, is relevant.
  2. The question is, whether A was the legitimate son of B. The fact that A was always treated as such by members of the family, is relevant. Comments Contradiction in evidence of relationship of witness of triffle nature, not material in a partition suit; Gowhari Das v. Santilata Singh, AIR 1999 Ori 61.

Section 35 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Relevancy of entry in public 1[record or an electronic record] made in performance of duty.—An entry in any public or other official book, register or 1[record or an electronic record], stating a fact in issue or relevant fact, and made by a public servant in the discharge of his official duty, or by any other person in performance of a duty specially enjoined by the law of the country in which such book, register, or 1[record or an electronic record] is kept, is itself a relevant fact.

Issues

  • Whether Dilip, the plaintiff, was the biological son of Ashwini?
  • What would happen if there is conflict between the document admissible under Section 35 and oral evidence as to conduct under Section 50?

Court analysis and decision

The High court took referral to supreme court case like MOHD. SALIM VS. SHAMSUDEEN (2019) 4 SCC 130, M. YOGENDRA VS. LEELAMMA N. (2009) 15 SCC 184 to come to the conclusion that when documentary evidence is available the oral testimony of D.W. 2 is not sufficient to rebut the probative value of Exhibits – 7, 8, 8/1 and 9 (the Admit Card, Mark Sheet of Board of Secondary Education wherein Aswini has been depicted as father of Dilip Bhadra, the plaintiff). Based on this it can be said that Dilip was not the biological son of Aswini.

The Calcutta High Court Judge, therefore, was of the view that the oral testimony of D.W. 2 is not sufficient to outweigh the evidentiary value of Exhibits, which unerringly indicate the relationship between Aswini and Dilip as father and son. Therefore, I do not find any reason to interfere with the judgment impugned.

The appeal does not merit any consideration and is dismissed, however, without cost.

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 Written by- Bhawana Bahety

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