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Dispute Related to Title of Immovable Property [Some Latest Judgments]

The articles compile the latest judgements involving Title Disputes of immovable property. The nature of disputes generally involves who is the original titleholder of the immovable property and on which document the right of the party to the said property arises. The disputes require high scrutiny through documentary evidence such registered sale deeds, the government land record which determines the right of the disputing parties.

This article produces some legal questions arising from the three recent cases in relation to such title disputes.

Also Read: A Comprehensive Guide About the SARFAESI Act

Case 1: Gurmail Singh Vs Charan Singh

A Buyer can enforce specific performance of a contract where an imperfect title of the seller becomes perfect due to happening of subsequent events while being in contract. 

[Bench: Hon’ble Justice Shri R.N Raina of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in C.R 225 of 2020]  

The case involves a legal question wherein, an agreement to sale of immovable property the seller does not have a perfect title. But if the seller subsequently through certain events has acquired the title and now is the holder of such immovable property as per the agreement can the buyer sue for specific performance against such property which was not executable because of the previous suit for specific performance of the agreement.

Though the case involves the rejection of the plaint because relief for specific performance was struct by res judicata because of a previous similar suit was decreed in favour of the Buyer wherein it was decreed to the extent of the titles the Seller had.

Facts.- The seller/defendant executed an agreement for the sale of land measuring 16 Kanals 0 Marla with the petitioner and made a part payment of the consideration. After the said agreement the defendant was not willing to register the said lands in favour of the petitioner. Therefore, the petitioner filed a civil suit praying for specific performance of the agreement, and permanent injunction restraining the defendant from creating any encumbrances on the suit property.

The Trial Court found that the defendant had only 11 Kanals 6 Marlas of the land in his ownership and a decree can be executed to that extent only because, the remaining land was in the ownership of his parents on which he had no title or power to sell.  The said decree was challenged in an appeal which got rejected and the decree was executed to the extent of 11 Karnals 6 Marlas out of the agreed proposition.

The petitioner later discovered that the defendant had inherited the title from his father of the remaining portion of the land, that is, 8 Kanals 18 Marlas. Seeing, the change in the scenario of the ownership title to the defendant, even accepting the previous decree which was executed to 4 Kanals 16 Marlas of the land. The petitioner deprived of the proposed ownership of the balance 4 Kanals 14 Marlas filed a second suit in 2014 for specific performance for the remaining portion of the property.

The defendant filed an application under Order 7 Rule 11 of the CPC for the rejection of the plaint for the reasons that the suit was not maintainable and was barred by the principle of res judicata, as the controversy was already decided finally by the previous civil suit. The trial court dismissed the application on 17.12.2015 and held that the suit was barred by limitation as the agreement pertains to be of the year1994 and also that the principle of res judicata is applicable.

Then, the petitioner aggrieved by the rejection of plaint by the trial court appealed before the Addl. District Judge under S.96 of the CPC. The learned Districted Judge observed and framed a question of whether such an issue is triable in a second suit by giving an opportunity to the parties to lead their evidence and urge please on law and facts?

The District Judge rejected the appeal and the petitioner aggrieved filed the Writ Petition under Art.227 of the Constitution.

Held.–  The Writ Court observed that under the said order the learned District Judge leaned to the provision under Section 13 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963, wherein, the Rights of purchaser or lessee against a person with no title or imperfect title has been laid down.

As per S. 13 (a) of the provision, where a person contracts to sell an immovable property having no title or imperfect title and under subsequent event, the vendor has acquired any interest in the property, the purchaser may compel him to make good the contract out of such acquired interest.

So, the claim of the petitioner is based on an acquisition of title by the defendant to some more land in the same parcel created at a subsequent stage by succession upon the death of the parents. Though, the decree from the previous suit was to the extent of 11 Kanals 6 Marlas which was a partial satisfaction of the agreed land to be sold. Thus, the question of limitation and res judicata cannot be resolved without parties producing their evidence. The question cannot be decided without a written statement, framing issues, and the parties following the lead evidence.

Thus, all the questions have been gone through trial, adjudication, and determination of inter se rights of the parties so, the plaint should not have been rejected under Order 7 Rule 11 of the CPC without trial. The Court observed that the balance land is the subject matter of a fresh suit and the issue is eminently triable by an adjudication of the rights of the parties.

The Court emphasized the actionable statutory rights of the purchaser under Section 13 of the Specific Relief Act, that if the vendor or lessor has subsequent to the contract acquired any interest in the property, the purchaser or lessee may compel him to make good the contract out of such interest.

Also Read: What the Borrower Should Know of SARFAESI Act 2002?

Case 2: Gram Panchayat Palri Khurd vs Ishwar Singh and Ors.

The Jurisdiction of Civil Court for determining the title in Shamlat deh land is barred.

[Bench: Hon’ble Justice Anil Shetrapal of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in RSA 4309of 2014]  

Fact.– The dispute is with the land measuring 109 Kanals 14 Marlas as the plaintiff pleaded to be the owner of the land which was used for the agricultural and allied purpose. Also, the revenue records bear the entry of proprietors of the village named Hasab Rasad Raqba Khewat. Subsequently, due to a mutation dated 26.07.1955, the land was mutated and the name of Gram Panchayat was entered into without the notice to the plaintiff or proprietors of the village.

The defendant Gram Panchayat pleaded that the Civil Court has no jurisdiction in the adjudication of the dispute because the land is shamlat deh (means land which is owned and held by a proprietor or the village Pradhan or the panchayat) and thus used for various common purpose in the village.

Held.- The Court observed that the learned Civil Court framed the issue “Whether the Civil Court has no jurisdiction to try and entertain the present suit?”. The Court relied on the judgement in the case of Lehna Singh v The State of Haryana [1995 PLJ 506] which held on the basis of the Supreme Court decision in Abdullah Bin Ali and Others v. Glappa and Others [1985(2) SCC 54]  on the same contesting issue, hold that while deciding the question of maintainability of the suit before the Civil Court, only the assertion/averments made in the plaint are required to be examined.

The learned civil Court observed the in the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961 (the Act) before it was enacted, the disputed land as per the ownership record it was a Shamlat Deh Hasab Raasad Raqba used for cultivation and other various common purposes.

But the question was whether the suit property is shamlat deh or not and if not the jurisdiction of the Civil Court is barred under Section 13 of the Act of 1961. As per Section 13(1) is no Civil Court shall have jurisdiction to adjudicate on any question related to any land or other immovable property is or not a shamilat deh land. Also, under S13A any question related to such land or immovable property is sahamilat deh or not, any person or the panchayat or it’s Gram sachiv or their other officers, to take the matter before the Court of Collector having jurisdiction in the area of such land or immovable property.

The defendant in counter referred to Section 45 of the Punjab Land Revenue Act 1887 which gives the right to any person to file a suit for a declaratory decree before the civil court if aggrieved by any entry under the record of rights of the Act.

So, if one party claims that the property is shamlat deh and the civil court has no jurisdiction to entertain such disputes, whereas the other party declares that the civil court has a competent jurisdiction in deciding the rights of the party as it is a dispute in the revenue records of the State as per the Land Revenue Act. Therefore, the question arises as to whether the Civil Court has jurisdiction or not?

The Court observed the applicability of the two laws whereby, Section 45 of Punjab Land Revenue Act provides that any person aggrieved of any entry in the revenue record is entitled to file a civil suit whereas the 1961 Act is a special statue was enacted to deal with the common lands which are normally known as shamlet deh. The special statue has framed an alternative Forum for adjudication of such disputes under Section 13A, thus Section 45 of the Land Revenue Act has to be read in the context of the specific statute enacted for dealing with shamlat deh.

Thus, a special statute dealing with a specified subject has to be given preference over the general provision. Therefore, the Court considered the view that the parties are required to be relegated to the remedy before the Forum constituted under Section 13-A of the 1961 Act.

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Case 3: Smt. Kakuli Mitra (Widow) & Ors. Vs Sri Prabir Kumar Neg & Anr

The wrong description of the tenancy in the legal notice for eviction under Section 13(6) of West Bengal Tenancy does not mean the suit for eviction is illegal.

[Bench: Hon’ble Justice Shri Bibek Chaudhuri of the High Court of Calcutta in S.A 118of 2020]  

Facts- The respondents filed a civil suit for eviction of the appellants on the grounds of default, reasonable requirement and violation of clauses (m), (o), and (p) of Section 108 of the Transfer of Property Act.  The trial Court after hearing the decreed and dismissed the suit on the ground that the notice under Section 13(6) of the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1956 (tenancy Act) was defective because in the said notice the entire tenancy of the defendants was not determined. However, the trial court held decreed on the ground of reasonable requirement.

The respondent filed an appeal that decreed the suit on the ground of reasonable requirement and also that the notice under Section 13(6) of the tenancy act was legal, valid, and sufficient.

The dispute as per the plaint is related to a flat and the defendants/tenants were in the possession of the ground of floor of the flat consisting of three bedrooms, kitchen, bath privy, and water tap of the premises with a monthly rental of Rs 75/-.

Held.- The Court observed the questions framed by the lower appellate court which were-

Whether the notice to the tenants was legal, valid, and sufficient in respect of the portion of the tenancy? And Whether the partial eviction in terms of S.13(6) of the West Bengal Tenancy Act, 1956 was valid?

The landlord contended that the defendants in the year 1990 illegally occupied a space on the ground floor near the entrance of the gate walled up the northern side and converted the space into a room without the consent & permission of the plaintiff. For this, the appellant in the said proceeding before the trial court in an amendment brought the prayer (b) whereby the declaration was made that the defendant had no legal right to retain the legal possession of the said room and the recovery of possession thereof.

The defendants in their written statement mentioned that, Hrishikesh Mitra the husband of defendant no. 2 was the original tenant with respect to the suit property whereby possession of three bedrooms, one kitchen one Thakurghar, bath, privy, and courtyard which was rented at a monthly rate of Rs 60/-. In the year 1955, the room situated near the main entrance gate of the defendant’s flat was let out to P.K Engineering Works a firm owned by P.K Mitter, the deceased husband of defendant No.1 at a monthly rate of Rs 15/-.

After the death of Hrishikesh Mitra in the year 1960 the two tenancies were clubbed and consolidated into a single tenancy in respect of the entire ground floor at a rental of Rs 75/- in favor of P.K Engineering. After the death of P.K Mitter tenancy was attorned to the defendants who were the widows of Hrishikesh Mitra and P.K Mitter. The then owners left one side of the suit property for his Darwan on the request of the original landowner. Then the plaintiff purchased the suit property from the original owners.

Thus, on the basis of the above averments, the defendants claimed that the description of the premises was wrongly stated in the plaint also in the eviction notice under S.13(6) of the Act.

To avail more evidence a Commissioner was appointed and as per its report, the tenancy consists of one room on the eastern side, two rooms on the southern side, and one small room as Thakurghar or storeroom in between the two southern side rooms. The report also mentioned a room on the western side of the courtyard which was surrendered by the defendants for the Darwan of the plaintiff. On the extreme north by the side of the staircase a room which according to the plaintiff was forcibly occupied by the defendants. This room was given to P.K Mitter and upon his death, the tenancies were clubbed together.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendants were tenants of four rooms one Thakurghar, one kitchen bath and privy, etc leaving aside one room which was surrendered by the tenants at the request of the original landowner. Thus, the ejectment notice under S.13(6) mentioning three rooms one kitchen, one thakurghar or storeroom, etc as per the description of the tenancy was wrong and the entire tenancy was not determined and the notice to quit was illegal, inoperative and insufficient.

The issue of tenancy not properly described under the eviction notice of Section 13(6) of the Act, the Court referred to the Division Bench of the High Court of Calcutta in Smt. Gita devi Shah & Ors. Vs Sm.t Chandra Moni Karnani & Ors [AIR 1993 Cal280] wherein, it was held that the notice under S.13(6) is a procedural aspect of the law and the serving notice is an intimation to the tenant to sue in case the tenant fails to comply with the requisition. The language must be clear, the tenancy should be described as specifically as is expected to form a normal and reasonable man. Thus, no notice under S.13(6) of the said Act would be declared bad only because the tenancy was had not been exactly defined. The reason being that the tenant knows his own tenancy and the test is whether he had understood the purpose of the notice or not.

Thus, on the above-opined judgment of Gita Devi Saha, the Court held that notice to evict under S.13(6) of the said Act cannot be held to be illegal, invalid, or insufficient on the ground of misdescription of the extent of the tenancy.

The Court in the latter part of the judgment granted the decree of eviction on the ground of reasonable requirement of the plaintiff’s daughter and son in requirement of two rooms for their own accommodation. The defendants were directed to vacate and deliver peaceful possession of the suit premises to the plaintiff.

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