It is well settled that the nomenclature given to the document is not a decisive factor but the nature and substance of the transaction has to be determined with reference to the terms of the documents.
In a recent ruling, the Hon’ble Bombay High Court has clarified that a deed of relinquishment for inherited property must be registered to be admissible as evidence in a court of law. In this article, we look at a judgment of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court in Chandrabhaga Kolhe (deceased) through her legal heirs Vs. Suryabhan S/o Champatra Shende (deceased) through his legal heirs.
- The subject matter of the present appeal is the judgment and decree passed by the Learned Civil Judge, Junior Division, Ashti, which was then confirmed by Learned Adhoc District Judge, Wardha (collectively referred to as the “Learned Lower Courts”). The dispute is pertaining to certain agricultural property (“Suit Property”).
- The appellant (“Chandrabhaga”) and the respondent (“Suryabhan”) were brother and sister.
- The father of Chandrabhaga and Suryabhan owned and possessed the Suit Property. The father died in or around 1977, leaving behind Changrabhaga and Suryabhan as his legal heirs.
- Both Chadrabhaga and Suryabhan had an equal share in the Suit Property, after the death of their father.
- Since the Suit Property was a joint property, Chandrabhaga demanded partition of the same several times, however, Suryabhan did not pay any heed. In light of the aforesaid, Chandrabhaga issued a registered notice in or around 1986 for partition.
- Suryabhan received the notice; however, he did not reply to the same. On the other hand, Suryabhan obtained signature of Chandrabhaga by representing to her that the same was pertaining to the partition deed between them.
- Pursuant to obtaining the signature of Chandrabhaga, Suryabhan produced the said document before the Tehsildar for getting his name mutated with respect to the Suit Property. Thereafter, Chandrabhaga received a notice from the Tehsildar and upon enquiry, it came to her knowledge that the document signed by her was not pertaining to the partition of the Suit Property but was an unregistered relinquishment deed.
- Chandrabhaga filed her written objections against the name of Suryabhan being mutated in respect of the Suit Property. After raising the objections before the Tehsildar, another legal notice, in and around 1990 was issued claiming that the relinquishment deed signed by Chandrabhaga is not admissible since it was unregistered and therefore was illegal and not operative.
- In view of the aforesaid circumstances, Chandrabhaga filed a Regular Civil Suit No. 242 of 1992 before the Learned Civil Judge, Junior Division, Ashti. The Suit was dismissed and a judgment and decree was passed on 07thOctober 1997. Chandrabhaga filed a Regular Civil Appeal No. 2 of 1998 before the Learned Adhoc District Judge, Wardha. The Learned District Judge confirmed the judgment and decree passed by the Civil Judge, Junior Division, Ashti and dismissed the Appeal vide a judgment and decree dated 30th January 2014.
- Being aggrieved by the judgment and decree passed by the Learned Lower Courts, Chandrabhaga preferred the present appeal before the Hon’ble Bombay High Court.
Contention of Chandrabhaga
- It was the contention of Chandrabhaga that the Learned Lower Courts failed to address the issue of partition.
- Chandrabhaga alleged that in and around 1990, under the pretext of executing a partition deed, Suryabhan obtained her signatures, however no partition was effected. She further stated that she is entitled to the Suit Property and has the right to get it partitioned, since she is a legal heir along with her brother Suryabhan.
- Chandrabhaga alleged that the Learned Lower Courts recorded perverse findings that she did not file suit for partition for more than fourteen (14) years after the death of her father and thus her silence would amount to waiving of right of partition by her despite the fact that her name along with Suryabhan was recorded in the revenue records.
- Chandrabhaga further contended that the Learned Lower Courts in an erroneous manner recorded that since she took plea in her plaint that the document on which she had signed was a relinquishment deed and her signature was fraudulently obtained by Suryabhan, however, no such relinquishment deed was ever produced by her, she failed to prove that any fraud was committed by Suryabhan. The Learned Lower Courts further recorded that Chandrabhaga was not entitled to a decree of partition.
Arguments Of Suryabhan
- Suryabhan has further contended that his deceased father Champatrao had executed a will deed in the presence of the Chandrabhaga. As per the will deed, he was the exclusive owner of the Suit Property.
- Suryabhan stated that the Suit Property was the self-acquired property of their deceased father and that Chandrabhaga did not have any share therein.
MAIN ISSUE RELATING TO RELINQUISHMENT
The present appeal was admitted vide order dated 05th October 2015 by the Hon’ble Bombay Court. The following substantial question of law were framed by the Hon’ble High Court:-
- Issue: When Chandrabhaga by way of abundant precaution stated in her plaint that some signatures were obtained by her brother in the year 1990 under the pretext of execution of partition deed, then is it proper for the Learned Lower Courts to record finding that Chandrabhaga failed to prove that the relinquishment deed was fraudulently obtained by Suryabhan particularly when Suryabhan himself failed to produce the relinquishment deed on the record?
- The Hon’ble High Court observed that the Learned Lower Courts failed to appreciate the fact that the relinquishment deed relied on by Suryabhan is not produced on record and the same is disputed by Chandrabhaga.
- The Hon’ble High Court stated that it is the contention of Suryabhan that his father had executed a will in and around 1977. The Court observed that if there is any will in existence, then there was no reason to get any relinquishment deed executed from Chandrabhaga in the year 1990. The Court held that such conduct by Suryabhan clearly shows that he wanted to deceive his sister Chandrabhaga.
- The Hon’ble High Court held that the relinquishment deed ought to be registered in view of Section 17 (1)(b) of the Registration Act, which states that “other non-testamentary instruments which purport or operate to create, declare, assign, limit or extinguish, whether in present or future, any right, title or interest, whether vested or contingent, of the value of one hundred rupees and upwards, to or in immovable property” shall be registered.
- The Hon’ble Court relied upon the decision passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Yellapu Uma Maheshwari and Anr. Vs. Buddha Jagadheeswararao and others (2015) 16 SCC 787 wherein it was held that where there is relinquishment of right in respect of immovable property through a document which is compulsorily registrable and if the same is not registered, then the document becomes inadmissible under Section 49 of the Registration Act.
- The Hon’ble Court also relied upon the decision passed by the larger bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court in Chinnappa Reddy Gari Muthyala Reddy Vs. Chinnappa Reddy Gari Vankat Reddy (AIR 1969 A.P. (242)) wherein it was held that in a suit for partition, an unregistered document can be relied upon for collateral purpose i.e., severance of title and nature of possession of various shares but not for the primary purpose i.e., division of joint properties by metes and bounds.
- The Hon’ble Court held that in the present matter, the relinquishment deed itself was not produced and neither was it registered and in view of the same, the substantial question of law in Issue No. I was answered in the negative.
After considering the rival submissions made by both the parties, the Hon’ble Court passed the following order:
- The second appeal filed by Chandrabhaga was allowed.
- The judgment and decree passed by the Learned Lower Courts were quashed and set aside.
- The suit was decreed. It was declared that Chandrabhaga was having half share in the Suit Property and that she be put in separate possession of the same.
- Enquiry was directed under Order 20 Rule 12 of the Civil Procedure Court for mesne profit from filing of the suit till delivery of possession.
- The decree of partition of the Suit Property was to be sent to the Collector Wardha, under the provisions of Section 54 of the Civil Procedure Code.
- Preliminary decree was to be drawn up accordingly.
We often see especially in relation to village lands that revenue records are mutated basis release deeds which are not registered. These revenue records and mutation entries are then shown as evidence of title of the releasee. While it is already a settled principle of law that revenue records are not documents of title, this judgment reiterates that such mutation entries may not withstand judicial challenge. It is therefore highly advisable to carry out litigation searches and issue public notices to ensure that no such claims are pending between parties before relying solely on revenue records as evidence of title.
Manisha Paranjape, Partner
Binkal Mehta, Associate