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Supreme Court today dismissed an appeal calling it “completely without merit” where proceedings since 2003 were long drawn out by grandsons of one Laxman whose name featured on the Kabuliyatnama of the disputed land as a witness only and not as one of the parties taking the lease.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K.M. Joseph held that there was no requirement of altering any part of judgements awarded concurrently by the trial court and the High Court which was the first appellate court, having the final authority to decide questions of fact.

Briefly, the case of Chandrakant Baban Motkari & Ors. v Gotiram Laxman Motkari(D) by Lrs. is a dispute on ownership of land between the legal heirs of two brothers Laxman and Nivrutti. In 1944, the land was taken on lease for cultivation by Nivrutti and their two uncles Govind and Sadashiv. Laxman signed on the Kabuliyatnama of the lease as a witness only. Laxman had a Government job of peon. Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 deemed the tenants as purchasers of the land after following due procedure.

An ‘Agreement to Sell’ was registered where Laxman was also a party. But the same never converted to a ‘Sale Deed’. By an order of the Deputy Collector under Section 32M of the Act, the three tenants were certified as owners of the 8-acre land. They sought partition. Laxman’s wife and children challenged the name mutation of Nivrutti as the sole owner but were unsuccessful in court.

Between 1991 and 2003, Laxman’s heirs filed no motion in court. However, in 2003, when Nivrutti’s heirs tried to transact the land, laxman’s heirs contested the same on grounds that they are Joint Hindu Family and property thus belonged to the family as a whole.

Court held that neither Laxman nor his heirs ever had any right on the land. Court held that, “We have no doubt that the present proceedings in question are what has been labeled as “side wind”, to re-open the chapter which could not have been directly challenged, i.e., by challenging the certificate issued under Section 32M of the said Act. Thus, the ruse of filing a suit was used by the grandsons of Laxman, impleading the father as a supporting party as Laxman’s wife had since passed away. It is this endeavour, which is not proved to be successful.”

Court further went on to discuss the other issue raised by Laxman’s heirs that “the civil court fell into an error in not staying the suit proceedings and remitting the matter to the Mamlatdar on the issue of tenancy rights. This plea was not even raised in the suit proceedings, even though the suit was filed by the appellants. It was sought to be raised at the appellate stage on the plea that, being a jurisdictional issue, it can be raised at that stage.”

The plea was rejected by the Court as being without merits in the presence of a certificate under Section 32M of the Bombay Act.

–India Legal Bureau

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