Showing posts with label civil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label civil. Show all posts

28 August 2020

Adverse possession; even if not pleaded, can be presumed when Plaintiff claims the original possession of defendant was permissive, but fails to prove it

A decree of possession does not automatically follow a decree of declaration of title and ownership over property. It is well settled that, where a Plaintiff wants to establish that the Defendant’s original possession was permissive, it is for the Plaintiff to prove this allegation and if he fails to do so, it may be presumed that possession was adverse, unless there is evidence to the contrary.[Para No.46]

    The Appellant-Defendant has in his written statement in the suit, denied the title and ownership of the Respondent- Plaintiff to the suit property. The Appellant-Defendant has asserted that the Appellant-Defendant is the owner of the suit property and has been in possession and in occupation of the suit premises as owner from the very inception.[Para No.47]

    In our considered opinion, the High Court erred in law in proceeding to allow possession to the Respondent-Plaintiff on the ground that the Appellant-Defendant had not taken the defence of adverse possession, ignoring the well established principle that the Plaintiff’s claim to reliefs is to be decided on the strength of the Plaintiff’s case and not the weakness, if any, in the opponent’s case, as propounded by the Privy Council in Baba Kartar Singh v. Dayal Das reported in AIR 1939 PC 201.[Para No.48]

    From the pleadings filed by the Appellant-Defendant, it is patently clear that the Appellant-Defendant claimed the right of ownership of the suit property on the basis of a deed of conveyance, executed over 75 years ago. The Appellant- Defendant has claimed continuous possession since the year 1966 on the strength of a deed of release executed by his father. In other words, the Appellant-Defendant has claimed to be in possession of the suit premises, as owner, for almost 28 years prior to the institution of suit.[Para No.49]

Adverse possession; even if not pleaded, can be presumed when Plaintiff claims the original possession of defendant was permissive, but fails to prove it
    In the facts and circumstances of this case, where the Appellant-Defendant was owner of only a portion of the suit property but has admittedly been in possession of the entire suit property, and the Appellant-Defendant has, in his written statement, claimed to be in continuous possession for years as owner, the defence of the Appellant in his written statement was, in effect and substance, of adverse possession even though ownership by adverse possession had not been pleaded in so many words. It is, however not necessary for this Court to examine the question of whether the Appellant-Defendant was entitled to claim title by adverse possession or not.[Para No.50]

24 August 2020

No relief can be granted to the tenant on the ground of comparative hardship if he has never made any effort for searching alternative accomodation

So far as comparative hardship is concerned, it is undisputed fact that the petitioner has never attempted to search alternative space for shifting his business and law is very well settled on this point. The Apex Court as well as this Court has repeatedly held that it is necessarily required on the part of tenant to make full endeavour to search alternative accomodation to prove his comparative hardship after receiving copy of release application. In the matter of Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation (supra), the Court has clearly held that it is required on the part of tenant to make effort for searching alternative accomodation. Again in the matter of Salim Khan (supra), this Court, relying upon the judgments of the Apex Court as well as this Court, was of the view that it is required on the part of petitioner to search accomodation after filing the release application and in the present case there is no dispute that the petitioner had never made any effort to search alternative accomodation. Not only this, the Court has also considered the Rule 16 of the Rules, 1972 and considering the another judgment of Ganga Devi (supra), Court has taken the view that Rule 16 of Rules, 1972 would not come in the rescue of petitioner, in case, petitioner-tenant has not made any effort to search another accomodation. Here in the present case, there is no dispute on the point that petitioner has not made any effort to search alternative accomodation.

No relief can be granted to the tenant on the ground of comparative hardship if he has never made any effort for searching alternative accomodation
    In the matter of Sarju Prasad (supra), this Court has again taken the same view and held that in case effort was not made for alternative accomodation, this would be sufficient to tilt the balance of comparative hardship against the tenant. This view was again repeated by this Court in the case of Bachchu Lal (supra) and held that to prove the comparative hardship, it is necessarily required to make effort to search alternative accomodation, which is absolutely missing in the present case.

    Therefore, in light of fact that petitioner has never made any effort for searching alternative accomodation coupled with law laid down by the Apex Court as well as this Court, no relief can be granted to the petitioner on the ground of comparative hardship.

23 August 2020

Even If landlord has multiple premises available with him still the tenant cannot dictate to him which of the premises he may seek to get vacated

Tenant can be evicted for bona fide requirement of married daughter of landlord even if such daughter or her husband is having resources to purchase other premisses


    In another decision rendered by a single Judge of our High Court in Vinod Gupta vs. Kailash Aggarwal & Ors. where the bona- fidé requirement of a married daughter was canvassed, the single Judge relying upon the decision in Sunder Singh Talwar (supra) has also referred to a 2014 decision as follows :
"14. Further in Rajender Prasad Gupta V. Rajeev Gagerna 2014 (114) DRJ 182, the Court held as follows :
"5. Having considered the arguments of learned counsel for the parties, this Court is of the view that the Trial Court has taken into consideration each of the contentions raised in the leave-to-defend and found them to be not triable issues. The reasons for and conclusion arrived at cannot be faulted. Furthermore, simply because the daughter of a marriageable age and allegedly likely to marry would not necessary cut her ties from her maternal family nor would the requirement for her accommodation in her father's house be lessened. Indeed, in the present times a daughter who is married-out, may like to retain her accommodation in her father's house which forms an emotional anchor and a place for refuge for all times. In times of an unfortunate marital discord such need becomes more acute should there be such a need.
    Conversely her family also would want to retain a room so as to re-assure her of a continued place of residence in her paternal home. A married daughter's ties with her paternal family do not end upon her marriage. For a married daughter her parents' home is always a refuge; an abode of reassurance and an abiding source of emotional strength and happiness. In the present case the daughter is a practicing advocate, i.e. a qualified professional, the need is all the more acute and bona fide. This Court finds, as did the Trial Court did, that no triable issues were raised in the leave-to- defend. Therefore, there was no need to grant leave or set the matter for trial. The reasons and the conclusion arrived at in the impugned order are correct and call for no interference." 
"15. Thus the law discussed above does not leave any room for further discussion on this topic. Admittedly the law as it stands, the daughters share equal rights in their parental properties as a son does, hence saying a married daughter severe (sic) all her relations with her father's family and would never be considered dependent upon the family's property, residential or commercial, that her parents own, would not be correct. Hence no fault can be found in impugned order even on this score."
(emphasis supplied) The single Judge thereby upheld the denial of leave-to-defend to the tenant.[Para No.16]

Even If landlord has multiple premises available with him still the tenant cannot dictate to him which of the premises he may seek to get vacated
    While the ARC has clearly erred in holding that the requirement of a married daughter can never be considered while deciding the bona-fidé requirement of a landlord under section 14(1)(e) since a married daughter does not remain a member of the family, another question arises in the present case, and that is : whether in assessing the availability of suitable, alternate accommodation for the use of a married daughter, it is necessary to first assess the availability of such accommodation in the hands of the husband ; or is it permissible to assess the availability of such accommodation in the hands of the maternal family of the married daughter. In the opinion of this court, this question must be answered from the perspective of the eviction petitioner who seeks recovery of possession for the bona fidé requirement of a dependent family member. Accordingly, the availability of suitable, alternate accommodation is to be seen in the hands of the person filing the eviction petition, in this case the mother/landlady; and it is not relevant whether other relatives of the dependant family member have any alternate accommodation available. In this case, it is therefore not relevant whether the petitioner's sons-in-law have alternate accommodation or not.[Para No.17]

20 August 2020

Sale-deed is not a public document but the entry in the register book is a public document

Let us see whether section 31(2) makes any difference to this position in law. According to the judgment in Aliens Developers (supra), the moment a registered instrument is cancelled, the effect being to remove it from a public register, the adjudicatory effect of the Court would make it a judgment in rem. Further, only a competent court is empowered to send the cancellation decree to the officer concerned, to effect such cancellation and “note on the copy of the instrument contained in his books the fact of its cancellation”. Both reasons are incorrect. An action that is started under section 31(1) cannot be said to be in personam when an unregistered instrument is cancelled and in rem when a registered instrument is cancelled. The suit that is filed for cancellation cannot be in personam only for unregistered instruments by virtue of the fact that the decree for cancellation does not involve its being sent to the registration office – a ministerial action which is subsequent to the decree being passed. In fact, in Gopal Das v. Sri Thakurji, AIR 1943 PC 83, a certified copy of a registered instrument, being a receipt dated 29.03.1881 signed by the owner, was held not to be a public record of a private document under section 74(2) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 for the reason that the original has to be returned to the party under section 61(2) of the Registration Act, 1908 (see p. 87). This judgment has been followed in Rekha v. Ratnashree, (2006) 1 MP LJ 103 by a Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, in which it was held:

Sale-deed is not a public document but the entry in the register book is a public document
“8. A deed of sale is a conveyance. A deed of conveyance or other document executed by any person is not an act nor record of an act of any sovereign authority or of any official body or tribunal, or of any public officer, legislative, judicial and executive. Nor is it a public record kept in a State of any private documents. A sale-deed (or any other deed of conveyance) when presented for registration under the Registration Act, is not retained or kept in any public office of a State after registration, but is returned to the person who presented such document for registration, on completion of the process of registration. An original registered document is not therefore a public record kept by a State of a private document. Consequently, a deed of sale or other registered document will not fall under either of the two classes of documents described in section 74, as ‘public documents’. Any document which is not a public document is a private document.

    We therefore have no hesitation in holding that a registered sale-deed (or any other registered document) is not a public document but a private document.

18 August 2020

Bequeath of disproportionate share in Will does not make the Will suspicious or unnatural

Thus, from the tenor of the Will read with the document dated 30 September, 2000, it appears that Pravin had equal love and affection for Ashok and Dipti. However, Pravin was of the opinion that he had spent sufficient sums of money on Dipti to give her a comfortable life and hence he did not think it necessary to leave much of his properties to his daughter. However, it is not that Dipti was totally deprived by Pravin in the Will. As noted, 9% Relief Bonds with face value of Rs.31,00,000/- and Maturity Value of over Rs.48,00,000/- were left for Dipti. It has also come out from the evidence on record that Dipti and her husband are both well established in U.S.A. and between the two of them, they earn over 1 million U.S. dollars per year. This factor is also likely to have played in the mind of the testator in deciding that it was not necessary to leave much for Dipti who was financially more than secure. Just because the bequests in favour of the testator's two children are not equal and may even be disproportionate, the same in my view, per se would not amount to a suspicious circumstance or make the Will unnatural. A Will is generally made when the testator desires to alter the natural course of succession. As observed by the Apex Court in the case of Ramabai Padmakar Patil (Dead) v. Rukminibai Vishnu Vekhande (supra), a Will is executed to alter the natural mode of succession and by the very nature of things it is bound to result in either reducing or depriving the share of a natural heir. If a person intends his property to pass equally to his natural heirs there is no necessity at all of executing a Will. It is true that the propounder of a Will has to remove all suspicious circumstances. Suspicion means doubt, conjecture or mistrust. But the fact that the natural heirs or some of them have been excluded or a lesser share has been given to them, by itself without anything more, cannot be held to be a suspicious circumstance.[Para No.31]

Bequeath of disproportionate share in Will does not make the Will suspicious or unnatural

    In S. Sundaresa Pai vs. Sumangala. T. Pai (supra), the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed at Paragraph 7 of the judgment inter alia as follows:
"The uneven distribution of assets amongst children, by itself, cannot be taken as a circumstance causing suspicion surrounding the execution of the will. One son was given bulk of immovable properties; another none; another half share in one immovable property; other half being given to the plaintiff and another daughter and husband were given nothing. It is also not in dispute that some properties were given in gift to the plaintiff by her mother during her lifetime. There was nothing unnatural."[Para No.51]

16 August 2020

Arbitrator can order to array necessary parties but can not close proceeding with permission to file fresh proceeding

After hearing counsel on both sides, we do not have any doubt in mind that the Arbitrator cannot be justified in closing the proceeding abruptly for the mere reason that the other employees whose names found place in the final report were not impleaded. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the reference was made to the Arbitration Court for the recovery of a whopping amount, nearly Rs.18 crores from the appellants and others, who had defalcated money while working in the employment of the Bank. It is shown that the contesting defendants had contended that the suit is bad for non-joinder of necessary parties. But, from the proceedings, it cannot be inferred whether, in the light of the pleadings, opportunity was afforded to the plaintiff Bank for impleading additional defendants and to amend the plaint. Even though it is a quasi-judicial proceedings, having regard to the scope and ambit of Section 70 of the Co-operative Societies Act, we are of the opinion that the said forum has all the powers and trappings of a civil court and any interpretation restricting the scope and ambit would not be in terms of advancement of justice.[Para No.7]

Arbitrator can order to array necessary parties but can not close proceeding with permission to file fresh proceeding
    Even when we are inclined to uphold the finding of the learned single Judge that Ext.P10 cannot stand judicial scrutiny, we are of the definite opinion that it was open to the Arbitrator to invoke the powers under Rule 10(2) of Order 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Though the plaintiff is the dominus litis, and has to decide who are the necessary parties to the suit, if the plaintiff does not implead all the necessary parties, it is open to the Court to add any person as party at any stage of the proceedings, if the person whose presence before the Court is necessary for an effective and complete adjudication of the issues involved in the suit. It is the settled proposition of law that a person may be a necessary party in a suit, namely, (a) if he ought to have been joined as a party to the suit and has not been so joined, and (b) if the suit cannot be decided without his presence. Apex Court has repeatedly held that the theory of dominus litis should not be overstretched in the matter of impleading of parties, because it is the duty of the Court to ensure that, if for deciding the real matter in dispute, a person is a necessary party, the said person is impleaded. In order to do complete justice between the parties the power available under sub-rule (2) of Rule 10 of Order 1 CPC shall be invoked by the Court.[Para No.8]

    It is trite that all powers which are not specifically denied by the statute or the statutory rules should be vouchsafed to a Tribunal that it may effectively exercise its judicial function. In this connection, it is apposite to extract the following paragraph from the decision reported in Ebrahim Ismail Kunju v. Phasila Beevi [1991 (1) KLT 861].
"5. The increasing importance of the Tribunals in the vast changing life of the community cannot be ignored by a modern court. A modern ostrich even in the distant deserts may not make such limited use of its eyes. Many valuable rights of the modern citizen are deeply involved with the adjudicator, processes of the Tribunals. Many areas hitherto occupied by courts, are now the domains of the Tribunals. A liberal approach towards their functioning and a larger view about the powers they need, are the requirements of the times. A Tribunal should be facilitated to do all that a court could do in similar situations; and much more than that. Greater speed and a total liberation from the tentacles of technicalities, give a better look and greater efficiency for effectively manned Tribunals. If there be no statutory prohibition, the Tribunal should therefore normally be in a position to ordain its affairs and modulate its procedures in such a manner as to best subserve the interest of the public, and in particular the litigant public."[Para No.11]

15 August 2020

Insurance company is not liable to pay compensation for death of third party if vehicle is used as a weapon to murder by crushing down

Whether the brutal killing of two persons by the 7 th Respondent/Driver (who has been found guilty of murder under Section 302 IPC and has been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Trial Court) using the Truck as a weapon and crushing them down, could be treated as an 'accident' or as 'out of the use of a motor vehicle' so as to award compensation to the legal representatives of the deceased, on the strength of a policy issued by the Appellant-Insurer? The finding of the Tribunal that the said incident is an accident and the Appellant/Insurer is liable to pay the compensation, is put to challenge in these appeals.[Para No.1]

    Coming to the scope for payment of compensation under the MV Act and the coverage of third party risk, Chapter XI has been provided for insurance of the motor vehicles against the third party risk. Section 146 speaks about the necessity for insurance against third party risk to the effect that no person shall use, except as a passenger, or cause or allow any other person to use, a motor vehicle in a public place, unless there is in force in relation to the use of the vehicle by that person or that other person, as the case may be, a policy of insurance complying with the requirements of the said Chapter. The requirements of policy and limits of liability have been mentioned under Section 147 of the MV Act; whereas the duty of the insurers to satisfy judgments against persons insured in respect of third party risk has been dealt with under Section 149 of the MV Act.[Para No.11]

    As mentioned already, on occurrence of an accident involving use of a motor vehicle, compensation can be claimed either under Section 163A of the MV Act on the basis of a structured formula (where it is not necessary for the Claimants to plead or prove negligence on the part of the Driver or the Owner) or under Section 166 of the MV Act by proving the negligence on the part of the Driver of the offending vehicle. It is quite possible that in a given case, 'murder' can be an 'accident'. If only it amounts to an 'accident', can it lead to a claim petition, to be filed by the Claimants, seeking compensation in respect of such accident because of the use of the motor vehicle either under Section 163A or under Section 166 of the MV Act. The Claims Tribunal envisaged under Section 165 of the MV Act names the Tribunal as 'Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal' and if it is not an accident, no such claim can be held as maintainable, to be entertained by the Tribunal.[Para No.12]

Insurance company is not liable to pay compensation for death of third party if vehicle is used as a weapon to murder by crushing down
    The question whether a murder can be an accident in a given case had come up for consideration before the Apex Court in Rita Devi (supra). It was a case where some unknown passengers hired an Autorickshaw from an autostand at Dimapur and later, the vehicle was reported stolen and the dead body of the Driver was recovered by the Police on the next day. The Autorickshaw was never recovered and the claim of the owner for the loss of Autorickshaw was considered and sanctioned by the Insurer, satisfying the amount for which it was settled. A claim petition was filed by the legal representatives of the deceased Driver under Section 163A of the MV Act, claiming compensation for the death as having arisen out of and in the course of his employment. The Tribunal held that it was caused by 'accident' coming within the purview of the MV Act and the owner and the Insurer were liable. The Insurance Company took up the matter before the High Court where it was held that there was no motor accident as contemplated under the MV Act and that it was an act of murder. Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the award passed by the Tribunal was set aside. This led to the proceedings before the Apex Court where the question was subjected to a threadbare analysis; particularly on the point of 'dominant intention'. The Apex Court observed that there are instances where murder can be by accident on a given set of facts and that the difference between a murder 'which is not an accident' and a murder 'which is an accident' depends upon the proximity of the cause of murder. The Apex Court held that if the 'dominant intention' of the act of felony is to kill any particular person, then such killing is not an accidental murder but a 'murder simplicitor'; whereas, in a case where act of murder was originally not intended and the same was caused in furtherance of any other felonious act, then such murder is an 'accidental murder'.[Para No.13]

14 August 2020

Revenue authority can not refuse to issue property extract of a property even if an offence is registered in respect of its transaction

It is also stated in Status Report that it was also found during investigation that SGCT Mohinder Singh has purchased land measuring 5 ½ Marlas under Khasra no.497 min situated at Barnai, Jammu, from one, Kiran Bala daughter of Hans Raj resident of Barnai, Bantalab, Jammu, in the year 2012 and sale deed had been executed in favour of alleged accused, Mohinder Singh, for sale consideration of Rs.3.85 Lacs, which was also mutated in his favour. The matter was taken up with Tehsildar North, Jammu, asking him not to allow alienation of the above landed property till further communication from Investigating Agency. Respondents maintain that when accused, Mohinder Singh, became aware about initiation of enquiry, he sold aforesaid piece of land to one, Tanveer Malik (petitioner herein) for Rs.4,68,875/-. The statement of OWP no.1404/2017 IA no.01/2017 witnesses was recorded under Section 161 and 164-A Cr.P.C. Besides, the amount collected by accused, Nirmal Kour and Mohinder Singh, from depositors by way of cheating and fraud, is required to be recovered from them, for which all efforts are being made by respondent and that the investigation of the case is in progress. Thereafter, again on 8 th August 2019 respondent no.2 filed Status Report reiterating the averments made in earlier Status Report and nothing new emerges therefrom.[Para No.5]

  Respondents 1&3 (Revenue Department) have filed their objections, asserting therein that FIR no.23/2014 police Station Crime Branch, Jammu, has been lodged against Nirmal Kour and Mohinder Singh, who have sold the land to petitioner. Respondents have made reference of communication no.CBJ/FIR-23/14/21078 dated 21st December 2015, in which they were asked not to allow alienation of land measuring 5 ½ Marlas falling under Khasra no.497 min situated at Barnai, Jammu, and make necessary entry in this regard in revenue records. Respondents 1&3 maintain in their Reply that petitioner was in possession of land in question, mutated in his favour, prior to filing of complaint against seller/vendor and, therefore, petitioner had purchased the land in question legally and was holding its possession peacefully. However, in view of communication dated 21st December 2015, received from Zonal Headquarters, Crime Branch, Jammu, issuance of revenue papers (Fard) has been withheld as respondents have no option but to withhold issuance of revenue paper in order to carry out the directions received from Crime Branch.[Para No.6]

Revenue authority can not refuse to issue property extract of a property even if an offence is registered in respect of its transaction
    Petitioner has purchased land in question by way of a Sale Deed. The said Sale Deed has been registered by registering authority, viz. Sub Registrar, Jammu, on 9th July 2014. Registration of a document, in the present case is a Sale Deed, is a final seal to a document to be implemented and carried in revenue records. From the file as also from the Reply, filed by respondents 1&3, it is evident that mutation has been effected in compliance of registration of aforesaid Sale Deed and necessary entries have been made in revenue records by Revenue Department. Neither Sale Deed nor is Mutation under challenge before any court of law and therefore, the same has attained finality.[Para No.8]

    In addition to this, perusal of Reply reveals that respondents 1&3 have categorically stated that petitioner was in possession of land in question, mutated in his favour, prior to filing of complaint(s) against seller/ vendor and that petitioner has purchased the land in question legally and was holding its possession peacefully. Once that being the position, issuance of impugned direction contained in communication dated 21 st December 2015, amounts to infringement of constitutional and statutory rights of petitioner. He has purchased the land in question by way of a valid document. Preventing him from enjoying the property amounts to infringement of his constitutional rights as guaranteed under Article 300A of the Constitution of India and a human right as well. Petitioner has every right to obtain revenue excerpts with respect to his aforesaid landed property as also to alienate it in accordance with laws and rules regulating the field.[Para No.9]

10 August 2020

Insurance company is not liable to pay compensation to the claimants if cheque of premium issued by vehicle-owner is dishonored before the date of accident

On perusal of the entire record, it is not in dispute that respondent No.6, owner of the offending vehicle, has issued the cheque on 28.02.2014 for Rs.42,335/- towards payment of premium in respect of the offending vehicle. Pursuant to the same, the Insurer has issued a cover note on the very same day. The Insurer deposited the said cheque with its banker on 10.03.2014 for encashment, but the same was dishonoured on 11.03.2014. The same was informed to the Insurer vide cheque return memo dated 11.03.2014. Thereafter, the Insurer has addressed Ex.B5 - letter dated 13.03.2014 to the owner by sending the same through registered post with acknowledgment due to the address furnished by the owner while issuing Ex.B1 - cover note. A copy of Ex.B5 was marked to the RTO informing about the dishonour of cheque as well as cancellation of cover note. The said letter was received by the owner vide Ex.B6, while the RTO under Ex.B7. In Ex.B6 - postal acknowledgment card, there is a signature in proof of receipt of Ex.B5 - letter. It further discloses that the article was booked vide RLAD No.RM838996406IN. The learned counsel for the claimants would contend that signature on Ex.B6 does not belong to respondent No.6 and, therefore, he has not received Ex.B5 - letter. But, the said contention cannot be accepted in view of Exs.B1, B5 and B6. Admittedly, Ex.B5 was sent to the address furnished by the owner under Ex.B1.[Para No.26]

Insurance company is not liable to pay compensation to the claimants if cheque of premium issued by vehicle-owner is dishonored before the date of accident
    From the above discussion, it is clear that the cheque issued under Ex.B2 was dishonoured and consequently Ex.B1, cover-note was cancelled by the Insurer. The Insurer also intimated about the dishonour of cheque as well as cancellation of policy to the owner as well as RTO by addressing a letter under Ex.B5 and the said letter was received by the owner under Ex.B6 while Ex.B7 discloses receipt of Ex.B5 letter by the RTO. Thus, there is no valid policy exists as on the date of accident i.e., 04.05.2014. Section 64-VB of the Insurance Act also says that no risk to be assumed unless premium is received in advance. In the present case, the Insurer has not received the premium and, therefore, the Insurer shall not assume any risk. As such, the Insurer is not liable to pay compensation to the claimants - legal heirs of the deceased.[Para No.31]

    As already discussed above, the accident is not in dispute. The claim was under Section 163A of the M.V. Act. The policy was cancelled as on the date of accident i.e., 04.05.2014. The policy was not in force as on the date of accident. Therefore, the appellant - Insurer is not liable to pay compensation to the claimants. It is respondent No.6, owner of the vehicle who is liable to pay compensation to the claimants. Thus, the finding of the Tribunal that the appellant - Insurer has to pay the compensation at the first place and recover the same from the owner is unsustainable.[Para No.37]

09 August 2020

Unlawful possessor can not seek injunction against the true owner

It is settled law that no injunction could be granted against the true owner at the instance of persons in unlawful possession. It is true that the appellants placed reliance in their plaint on resolutions passed by the municipality on 11.11.72 and 29.11.72. A reading of those resolutions would prima facie show that possession would be taken where the acquisition proceedings have become final and land acquisition proceedings would not he pursued where award has not been made as on the date of the resolutions. In this case since the acquisition proceedings have become final, then necessarily possession has to be taken by the Corporation for the public purpose for which the acquisition was made. In that context the question arises whether the appellants can seek reliance on two resolutions. They furnish no prima facie right or title to the appellants to have perpetual injunction restraining the Corporation from taking possession of the building. The orders of eviction were passed by due process of law and had become final. Thereafter no right was created in favour of the appellants to remain in possession. Their possession in unlawful and that therefore, they cannot seek any injunction against the rightful owner for evicting them. There is thus neither balance of convenience nor irreparable injury would be caused to the appellants.[Para No.9]

Unlawful possessor can not seek injunction against the true owner

    It would thus be clear that in a suit for perpetual injunction, the court should enquire on affidavit evidence and other material placed before the court to find strong prima facie case and balance of convenience in favour of granting injunction otherwise irreparable damage or damage would ensue to the plaintiff. The court should also find whether the plaintiff would adequately be compensated by damages if injunction is not granted. It is common experience that injunction normally is asked for and granted to prevent the public authorities or the respondents to proceed with execution of or implementing scheme of public utility or granted contracts for execution thereof. Public interest is, therefore, one of the material and relevant considerations in either exercising or refusing to grant ad interim injunction. While exercising the discretionary power, the court sould also adopt the procedure of calling upon the plaintiff to file a bond to the satisfaction of the court that in the event of his failing in the suit to obtain the relief asked for in the plaint, he would adequately compensate the defendant for the loss ensued due to the order of injunction granted in p favour of the plaintiff. Even otherwise the court while exercising its equity jurisdiction in granting injunction has also jurisdiction and power to grant adequate compensation to mitigate the damages caused to the defendant by grant of injunction restraining the defendant to proceed with the execution of the work etc., which is retrained by an order of injunction made by the court. The pecuniary award of damages is consequential to the adjudication of the dispute and the result therein is incidental to the determination of the case by the court. The pecuniary jurisdiction of the court of first instance should not impede nor be a bar to award damages beyond it pecuniary jurisdiction. In this behalf, the grant or refusal of damages is not founded upon the original cause of action but the /consequences of the adjudication by the conduct of the parties, the court gets inherent jurisdiction in doing ex debito justitiae mitigating the damage suffered by the defendant by the act of the court in granting injunction restraining the defendant from proceeding with the action complained of in the suit It is common knowledge that injunction is invariably sought for in laying the suit in a court of lowest pecuniary jurisdiction even when the claims are much larger than the pecuniary jurisdiction of the court of first instance, may be, for diverse reasons. Therefore, the pecuniary jurisdiction is not and should not stand an impediment for the court of first instance in determining damages as the part of the adjudication and pass a decree in that behalf without relegating the parties to a further suit for damages. This procedure would act as a check on abuse of the process of the court and adequately compensate the damages or injury suffered by the defendant by act of court at the behest of the plaintiff.[Para No.14]

08 August 2020

If a litigant does not come to the Court with clean hands, he is neither entitled to be heard nor entitled to any relief from any judicial forum

The Supreme Court in the case of 'Bhaskar Laxman Jadhav and others vs. Karamveer Kakasaheb Wagh Education Society and others', reported as (2013) 11 Supreme Court Cases 531 held that it is the duty of the litigant to disclose all material facts and a litigant cannot decide which facts are material and which are not. He must come to court with clean hands and disclose all material facts relating to his case. The Supreme court further held as under:-
"Suppression of fact
42. While dealing with the conduct of the parties, we may also notice the submission of the learned counsel for Respondent 1 to the effect that the petitioners are guilty of suppression of a material fact from this Court, namely, the rejection on 2-5-2003 of the first application for extension of time filed by the trustees and the finality attached to it. These facts have not been clearly disclosed to this Court by the petitioners. It was submitted that in view of the suppression, special leave to appeal should not be granted to the petitioners. 
43. Learned counsel for the petitioners submitted that no material facts have been withheld from this Court. It was submitted that while the order dated 2-5-2003 was undoubtedly not filed, its existence was not material in view of subsequent developments that had taken place. We cannot agree. 
44. It is not for a litigant to decide what fact is material for adjudicating a case and what is not material. It is the obligation of a litigant to disclose all the facts of a case and leave the decision-making to the court. True, there is a mention of the order dated 2-5-2003 in the order dated 24-7-2006 passed by the JCC, but that is not enough disclosure. The petitioners have not clearly disclosed the facts and circumstances in which the order dated 2-5-2003 was passed or that it has attained finality. 
45. We may only refer to two cases on this subject. In Hari Narain v. Badri Das, AIR 1963 SC 1558 stress was laid on litigants eschewing inaccurate, untrue or misleading statements, otherwise leave granted to an appellant may be revoked. It was observed as follows: (AIR p.1560, para 9) "9. .......It is of utmost importance that in making material statements and setting forth grounds in applications for special leave care must be taken not to make any statements which are inaccurate, untrue or misleading. In dealing with applications for special leave, the Court naturally takes statements of fact and grounds of fact contained in the petitions at their face value and it would be unfair to betray the confidence of the Court by making statements which are untrue and misleading. That is why we have come to the conclusion that in the present case, special leave granted to the appellant ought to be revoked. Accordingly, special leave is revoked and the appeal is dismissed. The appellant will pay the costs of the respondent." 
If a litigant does not come to the Court with clean hands, he is neither entitled to be heard nor entitled to any relief from any judicial forum
46. More recently, in Ramjas Foundation v. Union of India, (2010) 14 SCC 38 the case law on the subject was discussed. It was held that if a litigant does not come to the Court with clean hands, he is not entitled to be heard and indeed, such a person is not entitled to any relief from any judicial forum. It was said: (SCC p.51, para 21) "21. The principle that a person who does not come to the court with clean hands is not entitled to be heard on the merits of his grievance and, in any case, such person is not entitled to any relief is applicable not only to the petitions filed under Articles 32, 226 and 136 of the Constitution but also to the cases instituted in others courts and judicial forums. The object underlying the principle is that every court is not only entitled but is duty-bound to protect itself from unscrupulous litigants who do not have any respect for truth and who try to pollute the stream of justice by resorting to falsehood or by making misstatement or by suppressing facts which have a bearing on adjudication of the issue(s) arising in the case."

06 August 2020

Civil suit shall proceed de novo if paint is returned for presentation in proper court

Modern Construction (supra), referred to the consistent position in law by reference to Ramdutt Ramkissen Dass vs. E.D. Sassoon & Co., Amar Chand Inani vs. The Union of India, Hanamanthappa vs. Chandrashekharappa, (1997) 9 SCC 688, Harshad Chimanlal Modi (II) (supra) and after also noticing Joginder Tuli (supra), arrived at the conclusion as follows:

Civil suit shall proceed de novo if paint is returned for presentation in proper court

“17. Thus, in view of the above, the law on the issue can be summarised to the effect that if the court where the suit is instituted, is of the view that it has no jurisdiction, the plaint is to be returned in view of the provisions of Order 7 Rule 10 CPC and the plaintiff can present it before the court having competent jurisdiction. In such a factual matrix, the plaintiff is entitled to exclude the period during which he prosecuted the case before the court having no jurisdiction in view of the provisions of Section 14 of the Limitation Act, and may also seek adjustment of court fee paid in that court. However, after presentation before the court of competent jurisdiction, the plaint is to be considered as a fresh plaint and the trial is to be conducted de novo even if it stood concluded before the court having no competence to try the same.”  
    Joginder Tuli (supra) was also noticed in Harshad Chimanlal Modi (II) (supra) but distinguished on its own facts.[Para No.16]

    We find no contradiction in the law as laid down in Modern Construction (supra) pronounced after consideration of the law and precedents requiring reconsideration in view of any conflict with Joginder Tuli (supra). Modern Construction (supra) lays down the correct law. We answer the reference accordingly.[Para No.17]

05 August 2020

Employee on continuous and long-period part-time service has not right to be regularised

In paragraph 8 of State of Tamil Nadu v. Singamuthu [(2017) 4 SCC 113], the Honourable Supreme Court laid down as follows:
"8 Part-time of casual employment is meant to serve the exigencies of administration. It is a settled principle of law that continuance in service for long period on part-time or temporary basis confers no right to seek regularisation in service. The person who is engaged on temporary or casual basis is well aware of the nature of his employment and he consciously accepted the same at the time of seeking employment. Generally, while directing that temporary or part-time appointments be regularised or made permanent, the courts are swayed by the long period of service rendered by the employees. However, this may not be always a correct approach to adopt especially when the scheme of regularisation is missing from the rule book and regularisation casts huge financial implications on public exchequer." (emphasis given) "[Para No.21]
Employee on continuous and long-period part-time service has not right to be regularised

    Going by the ratio decidendi in the above-cited precedents, the law is well settled that merely because a person claims to be in continuous service for a long period, on part-time basis, it does not confer on him any right to seek regularisation of service. The courts should not be swayed by a long period, especially when the scheme of regularisation is absent. Further, there can be no rule of the thumb particularly without the existence of a vacancy.[Para No.22]

01 August 2020

Oral family-settlement and its memorandum does not require registration

Be that as it may, the High Court has clearly misapplied the dictum in the relied upon decisions. The settled legal position is that when by virtue of a family settlement or arrangement, members of a family descending from a common ancestor or a near relation seek to sink their differences and disputes, settle and resolve their conflicting claims or disputed titles once and for all in order to buy peace of mind and bring about complete harmony and goodwill in the family, such arrangement ought to be governed by a special equity peculiar to them and would be enforced if honestly made. The object of such arrangement is to protect the family from long drawn litigation or perpetual strives which mar the unity and solidarity of the family and create hatred and bad blood between the various members of the family, as observed in Kale (supra). In the said reported decision, a three­Judge Bench of this Court had observed thus: ­ “9. ….. A family arrangement by which the property is equitably divided between the various contenders so as to achieve an equal distribution of wealth instead of concentrating the same in the hands of a few is undoubtedly a milestone in the administration of social justice. That is why the term “family” has to be understood in a wider sense so as to include within its fold not only close relations or legal heirs but even those persons who may have some sort of antecedent title, a semblance of a claim or even if they have a spes successionis so that future disputes are sealed for ever and the family instead of fighting claims inter se and wasting time, money and energy on such fruitless or futile litigation is able to devote its attention to more constructive work in the larger interest of the country. The courts have, therefore, leaned in favour of upholding a family arrangement instead of disturbing the same on technical or trivial grounds. Where the courts find that the family arrangement suffers from a legal lacuna or a formal defect the rule of estoppel is pressed into service and is applied to shut out plea of the person who being a party to family arrangement seeks to unsettle a settled dispute and claims to revoke the family arrangement under which he has himself enjoyed some material benefits. …..” (emphasis supplied) In paragraph 10 of the said decision, the Court has delineated the contours of essentials of a family settlement as follows: ­ “10. In other words to put the binding effect and the essentials of a family settlement in a concretised form, the matter may be reduced into the form of the following propositions:

“(1) The family settlement must be a bona fide one so as to resolve family disputes and rival claims by a fair and equitable division or allotment of properties between the various members of the family;
(2) The said settlement must be voluntary and should not be induced by fraud, coercion or undue influence;
(3) The family arrangement may be even oral in which case no registration is necessary;
Oral family-settlement and its memorandum does not require registration
(4) It is well­ settled that registration would be necessary only if the terms of the family arrangement are reduced into writing. Here also, a distinction should be made between a document containing the terms and recitals of a family arrangement made under the document and a mere memorandum prepared after the family arrangement had already been made either for the purpose of the record or for information of the court for making necessary mutation. In such a case the memorandum itself does not create or extinguish any rights in immovable properties and therefore does not fall within the mischief of Section 17(2) of the Registration Act and is, therefore, not compulsorily registrable;
(5) The members who may be parties to the family arrangement must have some antecedent title, claim or interest even a possible claim in the property which is acknowledged by the parties to the settlement. Even if one of the parties to the settlement has no title but under the arrangement the other party relinquishes all its claims or titles in favour of such a person and acknowledges him to be the sole owner, then the antecedent title must be assumed and the family arrangement will be upheld and the courts will find no difficulty in giving assent to the same;
(6) Even if bona fide disputes, present or possible, which may not involve legal claims are settled by a bona fide family arrangement which is fair and equitable the family arrangement is final and binding on the parties to the settlement.” (emphasis supplied) Again, in paragraph 24, this Court restated that a family arrangement being binding on the parties, clearly operates as an estoppel, so as to preclude any of the parties who have taken advantage under the agreement from revoking or challenging the same. In paragraph 35, the Court noted as follows: ­ “35. … We have already pointed out that this Court has widened the concept of an antecedent title by holding that an antecedent title would be assumed in a person who may not have any title but who has been allotted a particular property by other party to the family arrangement by relinquishing his claim in favour of such a donee. In such a case the party in whose favour the relinquishment is made would be assumed to have an antecedent title. …..” And again, in paragraph 36, the Court noted as follows: ­ “36. … Yet having regard to the near relationship which the brother and the son­in­law bore to the widow the Privy Council held that the family settlement by which the properties were divided between these three parties was a valid one. In the instant case also putting the case of Respondents Nos. 4 and 5 at the highest, the position is that Lachman died leaving a grandson and two daughters. Assuming that the grandson had no legal title, so long as the daughters were there, still as the settlement was made to end the disputes and to benefit all the near relations of the family, it would be sustained as a valid and binding family settlement. …” While rejecting the argument regarding inapplicability of principle of estoppel, the Court observed as follows: ­ “38. … Assuming, however, that the said document was compulsorily registrable the courts have generally held that a family arrangement being binding on the parties to it would operate as an estoppel by preventing the parties after having taken advantage under the arrangement to resile from the same or try to revoke it. …..” (emphasis supplied) And in paragraph 42, the Court observed as follows: ­

29 July 2020

Facts stated in plaint has to be presume correct while deciding application under Order 7 Rule 11

In a nut shell, it can be said that for deciding whether the plaint discloses cause of action or not, the court has to see only the averments in the plaint and the accompanying documents relied upon in the plaint and the facts elicited from the plaintiff by examining him under Order 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure. For the purpose of deciding the application under Order 7 Rule 11 for rejecting the plaint, the court has also to presume the facts stated in the plaint as correct.

    In the instant matter,the court below rejected the application moved by the appellant under Order 7 Rule 11 C.P.C. read with section 151 C.P.C. with the following observations:-
"जहाँ तक प्रथम आपत्ति का प्रश्न है आदेश-7 नियम-11 में यह प्रावधान है कि जहाँ वाद पत्र हेतुक प्रकट नहीं करता है वहां वाद पत्र नामंजूर कर दिया जायेगा | वादी द्वारा प्रस्तुत दावे के अवलोकन से यह स्पष्ट है कि वाद पत्र कागज संख्या ए -3 के पैरा 49 में वादी का वाद कारण को करमवार अंकित किया है जिस पर प्रतिवादिनी का कथन है कि वह बिना आधार के और पूर्णतया असत्य है | वादी द्वारा प्रस्तुत वाद कारण सत्य है अथवा असत्य है यह साक्षयोपरांत ही तय हो सकता है | धारा 7 नियम 11 के अधीन वाद पत्र की अपेक्षा केवल वाद हेतुक प्रकट करना है न की इस स्तर पर सत्यता अथवा असत्यता परिलक्षित होनी है | चुकिं वाद पत्र वाद हेतुक प्रकट करता है ऐसे स्थिति में आदेश-7 नियम-11 के अधीन वाद पत्र नामंजूर किये जाने का कोई औचित्य आधार नहीं है |"
    Keeping in view the observations made by the court below while rejecting the application of the appellant under Order 7 Rule 11 C.P.C. read with section 151 C.P.C. as well as the settled legal proposition of law on the point in issue that the plaint filed by the plaintiff can only be rejected when the same is barred by any law or no cause of action has accrued to the plaintiff for filing the same.

26 July 2020

Party who rely on existence of a custom, must plead and prove the same

It can be concluded from the above discussion that a person claiming a customary right to succeed to the office of mutawalli would have to show that the waqif intended for the office to devolve through a practice of hereditary succession. In the absence of any express directions in the waqfnama to this effect, the claimant would have to show that such practice has been in existence throughout the history of the trust, and not merely for a few generations, such that the waqif’s intention that the office should be hereditary can be presumed. The burden of proof would be higher with respect to a public waqf, such as the suit waqf in the instant case, than a family trust.[Para No.22]

Party who rely on existence of a custom, must plead and prove the same
   We may now consider what the principles governing the establishment of a custom under Muslim law are. It is a settled position of law that a custom in order to be legal and binding must be certain, reasonable and acted upon in practice for a long period with such invariability and continuity that it has become the established governing rule in a community by common consent. It is equally settled that it is incumbent upon the party relying on the custom to plead and prove it.
   In this regard, we may fruitfully refer to the following observations from Fyzee’s Outlines of Muhammedan Law (5th edn., 2008, Prof. Tahir Mahmood ed., p. 49) (for short “Fyzee”):
“First, the burden lies heavily upon the person who asserts to plead the custom relied upon and prove clearly that he is governed by custom and not by the general law. Secondly, as to the proof of custom, there is in law no presumption in favour of custom and the custom must be ancient, certain and not opposed to public policy.” (emphasis supplied) The leading case with respect to the requirements of proving a custom is the decision of the Privy Council in H.H. Mir Abdul Hussein Khan v. Bibi Sona Dero, AIR 1917 PC 181.

23 July 2020

Arbitrator can pass an award directing specific performance of an agreement of sale

Point 3: This point becomes relevant because if the arbitrators cannot grant specific performance, a point can be raised under Section 34(2)(b)(i) that the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of arbitration. [Para No.35]

   One of the points raised in the grounds in this Court is that the grant of specific performance is discretionary and the discretion to grant or not to grant specific performance has been conferred by the Specific Relief Act, 1963 on the Civil Court and hence the arbitrator cannot be deemed to have been empowered to grant such a relief. [Para No.36]

    We may point out that the Punjab High Court in Laxmi Narayan vs. Raghubir Singh [AIR 1956 Punjab 249] the Bombay High Court in Fertiliser Corporation of India vs. Chemical Construction Corporation [ILR 1974 Bombay 856/858 (DB)] and the Calcutta High Court in Keventer Agro Ltd. vs. Seegram Comp. Ltd. [Apo 498 of 1997 & Apo 449 of (401)] (dated 27.1.98) have taken the view that an arbitrator can grant specific performance of a contract relating to immovable property under an award. No doubt, the Delhi High Court in M/s PNB Finance Limited vs. Shital Prasad Jain & Others [AIR 1991 Del. 13] has however held that the arbitrator cannot grant specific performance. The question arises as to which view is correct. [Para No.37]

Arbitrator can pass an award directing specific performance of an agreement of sale
   In our opinion, the view taken by the Punjab, Bombay and Calcutta High Courts is the correct one and the view taken by the Delhi High Court is not correct. We are of the view that the right to specific performance of an agreement of sale deals with contractual rights and it is certainly open to the parties to agree - with a view to shorten litigation in regular courts - to refer the issues relating to specific performance to arbitration. There is no prohibition in the Specific Relief Act, 1963 that issues relating to specific performance of contract relating to immovable property cannot be referred to arbitration. Nor is there such a prohibition contained in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 as contrasted with Section 15 of the English Arbitration Act, 1950 or section 48(5)(b) of the English Arbitration Act, 1996 which contained a prohibition relating to specific performance of contracts concerning immoveable property. [Para No.38]

22 July 2020

Party, who is guilty of protracting the litigation, is not entitled to interest

It is not in dispute that while the claim petition was pending before the Tribunal, the claimants in the month of June 2013 filed a transfer petition seeking transfer of the claim petition from MACT, Kishtwar to MACT, Jammu which was finally dismissed as not pressed by this Court vide order dated 18.02.2016. The said transfer petition, thus, remained pending for almost three years and during this period, the proceedings in the claim petition remained stayed. According to learned counsel for the insurer, no interest should have been paid for this period as the claimants cannot be given the benefit of their own wrong.[Page No.35]

    Per contra, Mr. Bhat submits that the interest awarded by the Tribunal is not a penal interest, but is only a compensation for the amount withheld and, therefore, the Tribunal was right in awarding interest even for the aforesaid period when the proceedings in the claim petition remained suspended. Reliance is placed upon the judgment of Hon‟ble Supreme Court rendered in the case of Alok Shankar Pandey v. Union of India (AIR 2007 SC 1198) [Para No.36]

Party, who is guilty of protracting the litigation, is not entitled  to interest

  I have given my thoughtful consideration to the plea raised and am of the view that, although in the commercial parlance, the interest is ordinarily not a penalty or punishment, but is a normal accretion on capital, yet the same cannot be applied in the cases of claims under the Motor Vehicles Act. Granting interest to a party, who is guilty of protracting the litigation, would be encouraging the parties to indulge in unnecessarily delaying the litigation. It is well settled that a person cannot be permitted to take the benefit of his own wrong. In the instant case, determination of compensation by the Tribunal was delayed by almost three years due to filing of a transfer petition by the claimants which later on was not pressed and was dismissed by this Court. In that view of the matter, I am inclined to accept the submission of learned counsel for the insurer that the claimants should not be held entitled to interest for the period from June 2013 to 18th February 2016. In the light of discussion made hereinabove the appeal of the insurer is partly allowed and the award is modified to the following extent.[Page No.37]

17 July 2020

No obligation on legal heirs to intimate the death of the assessee to the revenue/income tax department

Notice u/s. 148 of Income Tax Act issued to the deceased assessee requiting details of finantial transactions made by him in the past - Income tax department contacted the daughter of deceased on phone - they transferred the proceeding on her PAN - order passed against her - order challenged in writ petition

It is well settled law that an alternative statutory remedy does not operate as a bar to maintainability of a writ petition in at least three contingencies, namely, where the writ petition has been filed for the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights or where there has been a violation of the principles of natural justice or where the order or notice or proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction or the vires of an Act is challenged. [See Whirlpool Corporation Vs. Registrar of Trade Marks, Mumbai and Others, (1998)8 SCC 1].[Para No.23]

No obligation on legal heirs to intimate the death of the assessee to the revenue/income tax department

Further, the fact that an assessment order has been passed and it is open to challenge by way of an appeal, does not denude the petitioner of its right to challenge the notice for assessment if it is without jurisdiction. If the assumption of jurisdiction is wrong, the assessment order passed subsequently would have no legs to stand. If the notice goes, so does the order of assessment. It is trite law that if the Assessing Officer had no jurisdiction to initiate assessment proceeding, the mere fact that subsequent orders have been passed would not render the challenge to jurisdiction infructuous. In Calcutta Discount Co. Ltd. Vs. Income Tax Officer, Companies District I Calcutta and Another, AIR 1961 SC 372 the Supreme Court has held as under:-
"27. .....It is well settled however that though the writ of prohibition or certiorari will not issue against an executive authority, the High Courts have power to issue in a fit case an order prohibiting an executive authority from acting without jurisdiction. Where such action of an executive authority acting without jurisdiction subjects or is likely to subject a person to lengthy proceedings and unnecessary harassment, the High Courts, it is well settled, will issue appropriate orders or directions to prevent such consequences.
28. Mr Sastri mentioned more than once the fact that the Company would have sufficient opportunity to raise this question viz. whether the Income Tax Officer had reason to believe that underassessment had resulted from non-disclosure of material facts, before the Income Tax Officer himself in the assessment proceedings and if unsuccessful there before the appellate officer or the Appellate Tribunal or in the High Court under Section 66(2) of the Indian Income Tax Act. The existence of such alternative remedy is not however always a sufficient reason for refusing a party quick relief by a writ or order prohibiting an authority acting without jurisdiction from continuing such action.
29. In the present case the Company contends that the conditions precedent for the assumption of jurisdiction under Section 34 were not satisfied and come to the court at the earliest opportunity. There is nothing in its conduct which would justify the refusal of proper relief under Article 226. When the Constitution confers on the High Courts the power to give relief it becomes the duty of the courts to give such relief in fit cases and the courts would be failing to perform their duty if relief is refused without adequate reasons....."[Para No.24]

15 July 2020

Municipal Authority is liable to pay compensation for injury cause due to fall of road-side tree

By a catena of decisions, the law is well settled that if there is a tree standing on the defendant's land which is dried or dead and for that reason may fall and the defect is one which is either known or should have been known to the defendant, then the defendant is liable for any injury caused by the fall of the tree (see Brown Vs. Harrison (1947) 63 Law Times Reports 484; Quinn Vs. Scott (1965) 1 W.L.R. 1004, Mackie Vs. Dumbartonshire County Council, (1927) W.N. 247. 


Municipal Authority is liable to pay compensation for injury cause due to fall of road-side tree
The duty of the owner/occupier of the premises by the side of the road whereon persons lawfully pass by, extends to guarding against what may happen just by the side of the premises on account of anything dangerous on the premises. The premises must be maintained in a safe state of repair. The owner/occupier cannot escape the liability for injury caused by any dangerous thing existing on the premises by pleading that he had employed a competent person to keep the premises in safe repairs. In Municipal Corporation of Delhi Vs. Subhagwanti and Ors. AIR 1966 SC 1750 a clock tower which was 80 years old collapsed in Chandni Chowk Delhi causing the death of a number of persons. Their Lordships held that the owner could not be permitted to take a defence that he neither knew nor ought to have known the danger. "The owner is legally responsible irrespective of whether the damage is caused by a patent or a latent defect," - said their Lordships. In our opinion the same principle is applicable to the owner of a tree standing by the side of a road. If the tree is dangerous in the sense that on account of any disease or being dead the tree or its branch is likely to fall and thereby injure any passer-by then such tree or branch must be removed so as to avert the danger to life. It is pertinent to note that it is not the defence of the Municipal Corporation that vis major or an act of God such as storm, tempest, lightning or extraordinary heavy rain had occurred causing the fall of the branch of the tree and hence the Corporation was not liable.

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