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Whether the compromise decree dated 16.08.1976 is fraud and collusive and was intended/designed to overcome the provisions of the Urban Land Ceiling Act in so far the suit property is concerned. = The basis of the suit (O.S. No.397/1976) filed by the defendant Nos.1 & 2 is the division of property made in the year 1962 and the will dated 18.05.1976. Though some amount of haste may be disclosed by the facts surrounding the passing of the compromise decree dated 16.08.1976, as already noted, the said decree had been acknowledged by the father in Exhibit D-1 i.e. sale deed by which a part of the Schedule ‘C’ property was sold by him. The father of the parties died in the year 1991 and for a period of 15 years after the compromise decree and the execution of the sale deed he had not raised any question with regard to the authenticity or genuineness of what is stated in the will and the compromise decree. In these circumstances, the compromise decree dated 16.08.1976 must pass the test of acceptability. there were four buildings standing on the land in question which fact alone would throw considerable doubt with regard to the applicability of the Urban Land Ceiling Act to the suit land.=2014- OCt. Part – CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6197 OF 2010 LALITHA THERESA SEQUERIA (SINCE DIED) BY L.RS. … APPELLANT (S) VERSUS DOLFY A PIAS @ ADOLPHYS JOSEPH PAIS & ANR. … RESPONDENT (S)

NON-REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6197 OF 2010
LALITHA THERESA SEQUERIA
(SINCE DIED) BY L.RS. … APPELLANT (S)

VERSUS

DOLFY A PIAS @ ADOLPHYS
JOSEPH PAIS & ANR. … RESPONDENT (S)
J U D G M E N T

RANJAN GOGOI, J.

1. The substituted appellants (hereinafter referred to as the
plaintiffs) are the legal heirs of the plaintiff who had died during the
pendency of the present appeal. The respondents 1 and 2 (Defendants 1 and
2) are the brothers of the deceased plaintiff whereas respondent Nos. 3(i)
and (ii) are the legal heirs of the original defendant No.3 who is the
elder sister of the parties.
2. The plaintiff had filed the suit (OS No.99 of 1995) out of which the
present appeal has arisen seeking a declaration that the decree dated
16.8.1976 passed in OS No.397 of 1976 by the learned Munsiff, Mangalore was
obtained by the defendants 1 and 2 (plaintiffs in that suit) by fraud and
collusion designed to defeat the provisions of the Urban Land Ceiling Act,
1976. It was, therefore, prayed that the said decree be declared as null
and void. The suit was dismissed by the learned trial court. Aggrieved, the
plaintiff filed an appeal before the learned District Judge, Mangalore who
allowed the same and decreed the suit of the plaintiff. A second appeal
before the High Court of Karnataka was instituted by defendants 1 and 2
which was allowed by the impugned order dated 30.6.2005 reversing the
decree passed in favour of the plaintiff by the learned First Appellate
Court. It is against the aforesaid judgment and decree dated 30.6.2005 that
the present appeal had been filed by the plaintiff who died during the
pendency of the appeal and has been substituted by her legal heirs.

3. The facts essential for an effective adjudication of the present
appeal may be briefly noted at this stage.

In the plaint filed in OS No.99 of 1995 the plaintiff had stated that
the father of the plaintiff and defendants, one Anthony Pais, inherited
land measuring 96 cents and 47 cents covered by Survey No.124 and 127
respectively situated in 90-A Boloor Village, Mangalore. According to
the plaintiff, O.S.No.397 of 1976 was instituted by the defendants 1 and 2
claiming that in the year 1962 an oral partition was effected between her
father and defendants 1 and 2 dividing the aforesaid property in more or
less equal proportions i.e. 42, 42 and 47 cents respectively. The
defendants as plaintiffs in O.S.No.397 of 1976 had averred that on
18.5.1976 their father had executed a Will wherein the oral partition
effected in 1962 was reiterated. However, as their father had subsequently
denied the oral partition of the property made in the year 1962, the
aforesaid OS No.397 of 1976 was filed by the defendants 1 and 2 seeking the
relief of declaration of their ownership etc. OS No.397 of 1976 was
compromised and a decree was passed on 16.8.1976 to the effect that the
defendants 1 and 2 and their father were the absolute owners of the
property divided/partitioned in the year 1962 described as Schedule A, B
and C properties respectively consisting of 42, 42 and 47 cents of land
respectively. According to the plaintiff, she and her elder sister
defendant No.3 were not made parties to the suit and the same was
instituted by the defendant Nos. 1 and 2 with an oblique purpose i.e. to
defeat the provisions of the original Urban Land Ceiling Act, 1976.
According to the plaintiff, no oral partition was made in the year 1962 as
claimed and the Will dated 18.5.1976 had not been probated or registered so
as to have any legal effect. It was claimed that the concept of joint
family property is alien to the parties who are Christians by faith.
Therefore, the properties belonging to the father of the plaintiff could
not have been divided/partitioned without giving the plaintiff her share
therein.

4. In the written statement filed by the defendants 1 and 2, it was
contended that after the partition was effected in the year 1962, their
father had not disowned the same and in fact by the Will dated 18.5.1976
had re-affirmed the said oral partition. It was further stated that though
there was a dispute that led to the filing of the OS No. 397 of 1976, the
same was amicably resolved, as evident from the compromise decree dated
16.8.1976. According to the defendants, their father had, all along, acted
in terms of the compromise decree passed in OS No.397 of 1976. In fact, he
had sold a part of the Schedule ‘C’ property that had devolved on him under
the compromise decree and in the sale deed it was again recited that he was
the absolute owner of the property, conveyed by the said sale deed, under
the compromise decree dated 16.8.1976.

5. The learned trial court dismissed the suit by its judgment and decree
dated 22.7.1997 holding that the property having devolved on the father
from his mother it was open for him to divide the same amongst his
children, as he desired. As the plaintiff had no pre-existing right to the
said property, she could not have questioned the division of the same made
in the year 1962. The learned trial court further held that the Will dated
18.5.1976 specifically refers to the division of the family property in the
year 1962 and though the Will itself is un-probated, its execution stood
proved on the basis of the evidence of the attesting witnesses. Therefore,
the Will can be looked into for collateral purpose. The learned trial court
also came to the conclusion that the evidence of PW1, husband of the
plaintiff, clearly demonstrated that there were four buildings on the suit
land prior to the year 1968 and, therefore, the provisions of the Urban
Land Ceiling Act were not applicable to the suit property. In these
circumstances, the learned trial court came to the conclusion that the
validity of the compromise decree cannot be doubted on the grounds urged.
The learned trial court also took note of the fact that after the
compromise decree was passed, its authenticity and genuineness had not been
questioned by the father of the parties and the facts subsequent thereto,
i.e. execution of the sale deed (Ext.D-1) by the father and the testimony
of DW-1 would go to show that the compromise decree was given due effect.
The learned trial court further held that the compromise decree was not
required to be registered in view of the fact that the decree was only
declaratory of the shares of the parties made as far back as in the year
1962.

6. The First Appellate Court overturned the findings of the learned
Trial Court, primarily, on the ground that the partition effected in the
year 1962 was without any legal effect as the concept of coparceners or
joint family property was exclusive to Hindu Law and was not existent
amongst Christians. The execution of the Will dated 18.5.1976; the filing
of the suit by the defendants (OS No.397/76) and the passing of the
compromise decree dated 18.07.1976, in view of the close proximity of time
to each other, were held to be relevant facts leaning in favour of the
version put forward by the plaintiff and casting a serious doubt on the
bona fides of the defendants in filing OS No.397/76, so as to warrant the
conclusion that the decree in the said suit was intended to overcome the
effect of the Urban Land Ceiling Act on the suit property.

7. In the second appeal, the High Court following the two substantial
questions of law for its determination –
“1. Whether the lower appellate court is right in holding that the
compromise arrived at was liable to set aside without going into the
question that plaintiff had locus stand to question the compromise?
2. Whether the Urban Land Ceiling Act is applicable to this case?”
8. Both the substantial questions of law framed by the High Court are
interconnected inasmuch as the answer to either revolves around the legal
validity of the compromise decree dated 16.08.1976. In answering the
aforesaid question the existence or otherwise of the oral partition of the
year 1962; the will dated 18.05.1976; the circumstances surrounding the
compromise leading to the decree dated 16.08.1976 in O.S. No.397 of 1976 as
also the facts subsequent thereto, namely, the sale of the Schedule ‘C’
property by the father and acknowledgment of the compromise decree in the
sale deed (Exbt.1), would all be relevant. We find no basis to hold that
what was claimed by the defendants to have occurred in the year 1962 is a
partition of the joint family property as understood in Hindu Law. The
property was inherited by the father of the plaintiff from his mother and
the parties being Christians, the father must be understood to be absolute
owner of such property. In that capacity he was certainly entitled to
divide or distribute the property as he considered fit. What had actually
happened in the year 1962 is, therefore, an oral division of the property
at the instance of the absolute owner thereof i.e. the father in three more
or less equal shares. So far as Schedule ‘C’ property which fell to the
share of the father, a part of it was sold by Exhibit D-1 and the remaining
devolved on 2 daughters including the plaintiff. The aforesaid arrangement
was acknowledged in the will dated 18.05.1976 though the same has been
referred to, and one must understand such reference to be loosely made, as
a partition of the property. The execution of the will dated 18.05.1976
has been proved by one of the attesting witnesses who had been examined in
the trial. The above understanding of the facts would dispel the arguments
advanced on behalf of the plaintiff-appellant that the partition effected
in 1962 has been wrongly accepted by the High Court though no question of
partition of joint family properties could arise in the present case, the
parties being Christians by faith.

9. The basis of the suit (O.S. No.397/1976) filed by the defendant Nos.1
& 2 is the division of property made in the year 1962 and the will dated
18.05.1976. Though some amount of haste may be disclosed by the facts
surrounding the passing of the compromise decree dated 16.08.1976, as
already noted, the said decree had been acknowledged by the father in
Exhibit D-1 i.e. sale deed by which a part of the Schedule ‘C’ property was
sold by him. The father of the parties died in the year 1991 and for a
period of 15 years after the compromise decree and the execution of the
sale deed he had not raised any question with regard to the authenticity or
genuineness of what is stated in the will and the compromise decree. In
these circumstances, the compromise decree dated 16.08.1976 must pass the
test of acceptability. The plaintiff contends that the compromise decree
dated 16.08.1976 is fraud and collusive and was intended/designed to
overcome the provisions of the Urban Land Ceiling Act in so far the suit
property is concerned. Though an elaborate discussion on the said question
has been made by the High Court, the issue has to be answered against
plaintiff on the basis of the evidence of PW-1, her husband, who had
deposed that, at the relevant point of time, there were four buildings
standing on the land in question which fact alone would throw considerable
doubt with regard to the applicability of the Urban Land Ceiling Act to the
suit land. The plaintiff not having examined herself and having based her
entire case on the testimony of PW-1, in the light of the evidence tendered
by the said witness, it would be reasonable and justified to hold that the
said evidence of PW-1 has itself demolished the case of the plaintiff in
its entirety.

10. Accordingly, we find no ground or reason to interfere with the
judgment and order dated 30.6.2005 passed by the High Court which has been
challenged in the present appeal. We, therefore, dismiss the appeal and
affirm the aforesaid order passed by the High Court of Karnataka in Second
Appeal No.49 of 2003.

……………………………J.
[RANJAN GOGOI]

..………………..………..J.
[R.K.AGRAWAL]
New Delhi;
October 09, 2014.
———————–
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