SUPREME COURT REITERATES THAT THE DEFENDANTS CANNOT BE DISPOSSESSED FROM SUIT PROPERTY UNLESS THE PLAINTIFF ESTABLISHES BETTER TITLE OVER THE SAID PROPERTY
Recently, a two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice J.K. Maheshwari passed a Judgment dated 04-01-2023 in Smriti Debbarma (Dead) Through Legal Representative Versus Prabha Ranjan Debbarma And Others Civil Appeal No. 878 of 2009 and observed that the Defendants cannot be dispossessed from the Suit Property unless the Plaintiff establishes a better title over the Suit Property.
In this case, one, Maharani Chandratara Devi had filed a Title Suit bearing No. 66 of 1986 before the Trial Court on 19-06-1986 (i) seeking declaration that Maharani Chandratara Devi is the owner of the property known as ‘Khosh Mahal’ in Agartala (Suit Property) and (ii) further, seeking declaration that any transfer done for and on behalf of Maharani Chandratara Devi, the Plaintiff, in favor of Late Bikramendra Kishore Debbarma and his legal representatives, the Defendants herein, would be void and that the Defendants should be restrained from selling the Suit Property. (iii) The Plaintiff further prayed that she had right, title and interest in the shares and business of M/s. Hotel Khosh Mahal Limited, Agartala. But during the pendency of the Suit, Maharani Chandratara Devi had expired on 27-12-1988. Thus, one, Smriti Debbarma, a Legal Representative of Maharani Chandratara Devi, who had inherited the Suit Property and other properties under her Will, was substituted as the Plaintiff in the Title Suit.
The Ld. Trial Court vide Judgment dated 23-11-1996, decreed the Suit and held that the Plaintiff had right, title and interest in the Suit Property and that she was entitled to khas possession of the Suit Property after evicting all the Defendants. Further, any transfer done in favour of the Defendants of any part of the Suit Property would be deemed illegal and void. The Defendants were further restrained from entering into the said Property and from creating any sort of disturbance.
Aggrieved by the Trial Court Judgment dated 23-11-1996, the Defendants filed Appeal before the Gauhati High Court, which was allowed vide Judgment dated 17-05-2006, on the grounds that the Plaintiff could not establish the legal ownership and title to the Suit Property and further directed the Defendants to approach the appropriate forum to decide the question pertaining to right, title and interest of the Defendants in respect of the Suit Property.
Aggrieved by the High Court Judgment dated 17-05-2006, the Plaintiff, Smriti Debbarma filed an Appeal before the Supreme Court. However, the Plaintiff, Smriti Debbarma expired during the pendency of the Appeal and thus, was represented by her Legal Representatives.
The Apex Court vide Judgment dated 04-01-2023, made the following observations:
- That as per Section 101 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 (On whom the burden of proof lies), a party who is asserting the existence of facts has the burden of proving the same. But the Plaintiff in this case has not produced any evidence to establish that Maharani Chandratara Devi had obtained right, title and interest in the Suit Property.
- That the Deed of Patta dated 31-10-1951 which granted lease of Suit Property in favor of the Defendants was more than thirty-years old and would be presumed to be genuine under Section 90 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 (Presumption as to documents thirty years old).
- The Defendant No. 8 further produced a Registered Sale Deed dated 17-07-1985 executed by M/s. Hotel Khosh Mahal Limited in his favor in respect of the Suit Property, which is also more than 30 years old. The other Defendants also produced Registered Sale Deeds executed by M/s. Hotel Khosh Mahal Limited in their favor.
- Thus, it was established that the Plaintiff was not in constructive or actual physical possession of the Suit Property at the time of filing the Suit in 1986.
- The defendants, being in possession, would be entitled to protect and save their possession, unless the person who seeks to dispossess them has a better legal right in the form of ownership or entitlement to possession.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the Supreme Court held that the Plaintiff could not prove that Maharani Chandratara Devi had legal title to the Suit Property. Therefore, the Apex Court held that the Defendants cannot be dispossessed until the Plaintiff has established a better title to the Suit Property. As a result, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court Judgment dated 17-05-2006 and set aside the Trial Court Judgment dated 23-11-1996. Thus, the Appeal filed by the Plaintiff was dismissed.
The Indian Lawyer