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Whether a decree can be passed for possession in favor of the plaintiff on the grounds that defendants have not been able to fully establish their right, title and interest in the property.

Court Name: Hon’ble Supreme Court Of India 

Judgment Name: Smriti Debbarma (Dead) Through Legal Representative v. Prabha Ranjan Debbarma And Others, Civil Appeal No. 878 Of 2009

Judgment Date: January 04, 2023

Judge: J. Sanjiv Khanna And J. J.K. Maheshwari

 

Facts of the case

In this case, a suit was filed by the plaintiff on behalf of Maharani Chandratara Devi, who claimed to be the rightful owner of the property known as ‘Khosh Mahal’. There are two main aspects in this concerned case for which the court has answered:

  • The First one relates to the demarcation of the land given on lease vide the Deed of Patta and Ekararnama, on which the main question as to the title suit was filed by the attorney on behalf of Maharani Chandratara Devi.
  • And second, an issue related to the burden of proof w.r.t the right of possession on property described in Schedule A.

Maharani Chandratara Devi was 6th wife of late Maharaja Birendra Kishore Debbarma. She did not have any children. And so, after her demise, her legal representative, Smriti Debbarma, substituted as a plaintiff. As the will was not probated, and so was in disputes by the defendants before the trial court.

In the judgement, the court decided that the plaintiff had right, title and interest in Schedule A property. Defendants preferred appeal in the Gauhati High Court, which was allowed. And it had reversed the order, stating the plaintiff could not establish legal ownership.

 

Contentions of the plaintiff

  • The plaintiff, via Exhibit 12, states that the Deed of Patta was executed in favour of Bidurkarta on 31.10.1951 and that Bidurkarta on 25.06.1952, executed an Ekrarnama, marked as Exhibit-5, where he has acknowledged that the rights actually belonged to Maharani Chandratara Devi. 
  • Plaintiff claims she is one of the major shareholders of the company incorporated on the land.
  • Maharani Chandratara Devi had appointed Bidurkarta as her attorney, giving him power of attorney, which was later cancelled, as proved by the plaintiff.
  • That the business was closed due to losses, so the land was given for rent and the plaintiff used to receive the rent, with the passage of time, it disappeared as Bidurkarta colluded with defendants and sold the property in Schedule A and Schedule B business to defendants and others.

 

Contentions of the Respondent

  • Respondents relied on the Deed of Patta in Exhibit A, which was executed by Maharaja Durjoy Kishore Debbarma on 11.10.1358 in favour of M/s. Hotel Khosh Mahal Limited. 
  • The lease deed was terminated with a fresh agreement. Though the payment of rent to the defendant, allegation was accepted.
  • The respondents claim that the property in the possession and occupation of M/s. Hotel Khosh Mahal Limited is completely different from the land that is the subject matter of the deed.
  • Respondents contends that the building was constructed with the knowledge of the plaintiff as the land was purchased by a registered sale deed.
  • The respondents submits that the said plaintiff does not possess any right as they have acquired the same by executing and purchasing over the portions by executing purchase/sale deed. And they had also published the right over the land in favour of them from the government.
  • The counsel submits that the Deed of Patta is a fabricated document.
  • Also made reference to the letter purportedly sent by Maharaja Durjoy Kishore Debbarma as an attorney of Maharani Chandratara Devi. It highlighted that she was aware of the death of maharaja. 

 

Principles laid down:

  1. The Deed of Patta and Ekarnama, on which plaintiff relies, does not provide the description of any constructed building. 
  2. The trial court has wrongly interpreted the survey report and passed judgement in favor of the plaintiff, and the High court has rightly held that the survey report is against the contention of the plaintiff. As reports disclose, the location of the building of the hotel is different from its description in the Deed of Patta.

 

Judgement

The apex court has stated that for the plaintiff to succeed, she has to establish her right, legal title to the Schedule A property. The defendants could not be dispossessed just by the fact that plaintiff has the title, unless the plaintiff has established better title and rights over the Schedule A property.

Decree of possession just cannot be passed because the defendants have not fully established their right, title and interest. They would be entitled to the possession, unless the person who is seeking dispassion has a better legal right in the form of ownership or possession.

In the present case, the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff, as the burden lies on the party who asserts the existence of a particular state of things. And so, the court is of the view that the High Court has rightly examined the demarcation and identification of the property and material on record and held that the plaintiff has not been able to establish the better title.

 

Edited by: Anisha Dad

College Name: Balaji Law College, Pune (6th sem, 3 year LLB)

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