IN THE HIGH COURT OF GAUHATI
Decided On: 18.07.2018
Nepurjan Bibi Choudhury
Musabbir Ali Choudhury and Ors.
Hon’ble Judges/Coram:Mir Alfaz Ali, J.
Citation: AIR 2018 Gauhati 151
1. This second appeal by the defendant is filed against the judgment and decree dated 12.03.2014 passed by the learned Civil Judge, Hailakandi in Title Appeal No. 2/2013, whereby learned Civil Judge reversed the judgment and decree dated 26.11.2012 passed by the learned Munsiff, Hailakandi in Title Suit No. 85/2007 and decreed the suit of the plaintiff.
2. The plaintiff filed Title Suit No. 85/2007 for declaration of right, title and interest, confirmation of possession and other consequential reliefs.
3. The case of the plaintiffs was that the suit land measuring 1 bigha, 4 katha and 4 chatak covered by Patta No. 177 and Dag No. 444 was purchased by Insan Ali from Mahmud Ali and Koramat Ali, predecessors of the plaintiffs and principal defendant No. 1, respectively. After purchasing the suit land, said Insan Ali allowed Mahmud Ali to occupy the land by executing a ‘Korarnama’ and subsequently by a registered sale deed, Insan Ali sold the suit land to Mahmud Ali, predecessor of the plaintiffs and Mahmud Ali had been possessing the suit land as owner. After the death of Mahmud Ali, the plaintiffs as legal heir, inherited the suit property and have been possessing the same without any interference from any quarter. The principal defendant No. 1 instituted a criminal proceeding under Section 145 & 146 CrPC by making false allegations and obtained an order of attachment of the suit land. Although the Executive Magistrate passed the order of attachment, the land was not physically attached and as such, the plaintiffs continued to possess the suit land. On the strength of the order passed by the Executive Magistrate, the defendant No. 1 tried to occupy the suit land and hence, the plaintiffs filed the suit praying for the reliefs as indicated above.
4. The suit was contested only by the principal defendant No. 1. The pleaded case of the principal defendant was that Koramat Ali, being father -in-law of the main defendant, purchased the suit land from Mahmud Ali Choudhury by registered sale deed in the year 1956 and was in possession thereof. After the death of Koramat Ali, his son, the husband of the defendant No. 1 inherited the suit land and after the death of her husband, the defendant No. 1 inherited the suit land and has been in possession of the same peacefully. On 30.06.2004, the plaintiffs tried to trespass into the suit land forcibly and as such, the defendant No. 1 instituted a criminal proceeding under Section 145 & 146 CrPC. In the said proceeding under Section 145/146 CrPC, the suit land was attached and eventually possession of the defendant No. 1 was declared by the Executive Magistrate. The plaintiffs, though filed a revision petition before the learned Sessions Judge against the order of the Executive Magistrate, the same was dismissed.
5. On the basis of the above pleadings of the parties, learned Munsiff framed the following issues:
(1) Is there any cause of action for the suit?
(2) Whether the plaintiffs are entitled to get declaration that the suit land was purchased and possessed land of their father?
(3) Whether the plaintiffs are entitled to get declaration for possession over the suit land?
(4) Whether the plaintiffs are entitled to get declaration that principal defendant has no title, possession over the suit land?
(5) Whether the order dated 07.08.2006 and proforma defendant No. 7 is illegal, collusive and is liable to be cancelled?
(6) To what relief, the plaintiffs are entitled?
6. Both the parties adduced evidence, oral as well as documentary and the learned Munsiff, after hearing the parties dismissed the suit of the plaintiffs.
7. Feeling aggrieved, the plaintiffs preferred first appeal before the learned Civil Judge. Learned Civil Judge, by the impugned judgment and decree allowed the appeal and decreed the suit of the plaintiffs.
8. Aggrieved by the judgment and decree of the first appellate court, the defendants preferred the instant appeal, which was admitted to be heard on the following substantial questions of law.
“i) Whether the Ext. 1 is a valid document of title?
ii) Whether the impugned judgment of the lower Appellate Court was vitiated for non consideration of Ext. A in its appropriate perspective?”
9. Learned counsel Ms. R. Choudhury, for the appellant and learned counsel Mr. M.H. Rajbarbhuiya for the respondent were heard.
10. Learned counsel for the appellant, Ms. R. Choudhury submits that the suit land was purchased by the predecessor of the defendant No. 1 vide Ext. A sale deed, which was duly proved. However, learned first appellate court rejected Ext. A with a perverse finding, that the same was not proved by bringing the volume from the sub-registrar’s office inasmuch as, Ext. A was duly proved through DW-5, an officer from the office of the sub-registrar. It was also submitted by Ms. Choudhury, that execution of Ext. 1 was not duly proved and that it was not a valid document to effect transfer of the suit land, whereas, the learned Trial Court failed to appreciate Ext. 1 (sale deed) properly and took a presumption under Section 90 of the Evidence Act.
11. Contention of the learned counsel for the respondent was that Ext. 1 was a 30 years old document and as such, learned first appellate court rightly took presumption as to its genuineness. Further submission of the learned counsel was that a 30 years old document, when produced from proper custody, a legal presumption is available in favour of the genuineness thereof, and no formal proof is required. In support of the submission, learned counsel for the respondent placed reliance on the decision of this court in Paramesh Sarmah & Ors. Vs. Islamali & Ors. reported in MANU/GH/0133/2002 : 2000(3) GLT 453, where learned Single Judge observed that if the document is more than 30 years old and produced from proper custody, court may presume about its genuineness and it can be introduced in evidence without formal proof.
12. The plaintiff No. 1 examining himself as PW-1 deposed that the suit land was purchased by his father Mahmud Ali by sale deed, Ext. 3. PW-1 also stated that Mahmud Ali and Koramat Ali sold the suit land in favour of Insan Ali by Ext. 1 sale deed No. 3555 dated 14.05.1958. He also stated that Insan Ali by executing a Korarnama, Ext. 2 allowed his father to cultivate the land with a condition of re-selling the same within three years and later on, by executing Ext. 3, registered sale deed No. 4574 dated 28.06.1965, Insan Ali sold the suit land to Mahmud Ali. The defendant proved Ext. A, a certified copy of the sale deed and deposed that Mahmud Ali, predecessor of the plaintiffs sold the suit land to Koramat Ali, predecessor of the defendant No. 1 by executing the registered sale deed on 26.07.1956 and Ext. A was the certified copy of the said sale deed.
13. Learned Munsiff held that Ext. 1, sale deed was not duly proved and a presumption under Section 90 was also not possible as the sale deed did not contain signature of the alleged vendor, Koramat Ali and therefore rejected the sale deed Ext. 1 and dismissed the suit of the plaintiff. Rejecting Ext. 1, learned Munsiff observed as under:
“Section 90 presumes genuineness of execution of a document, but in the instant case, where there has been no execution at all of Ext. 1, the question of application of Section 90 does not arise.”
14. However, learned first appellate court on examination of Ext. 1, which was evidently a 30 years old document, took a presumption under Section 90 of the Evidence Act and decreed the suit. With regard to Ext. A, the basis of the defendant’s claim, by which allegedly Mahmud Ali, predecessor of the plaintiffs sold the suit land in favour of Koramat Ali, the learned Civil Judge observed, that Ext. A, certified copy of the sale deed was not proved by producing the volume book from the sub-registrar’s office and as such rejected the Ext. A, holding it to be an invalid document. Evidently, Ext. A was a certified copy of the sale deed and the same was proved through DW-5, an Assistant of the office of the Sub-registrar, who deposed to have come with the relevant volume containing the record of Deed No. 4979. DW-5 also stated, that by the said deed, Mahmud Ali as vendor, sold 1 bigha, 4 katha and 4 chatak of land in favour of Koramat Ali. No evidence on record was available to show, that the plaintiffs had raised any objection, while admission of Ext. A being the certified copy of the sale deed, in evidence. In view of the evidence of DW-5, finding of the learned Civil Judge to the effect that Ext. A was not proved by bringing the volume book from the sub-register office, appears to be perverse and contrary to the evidence brought on record.
15. When the defendant proved Ext. A, certified copy of the sale deed without any objection, it could not have been rejected as invalid document, reason being that certified copy of a sale deed is admissible as secondary evidence under Section 74(2) read with Section 63(1) of the Evidence Act. It is no doubt true, that the admissibility of a document and its probative value are altogether different aspect. Evidently, learned first appellate court did not consider the probative value of the Ext. A as well as its effect in deciding the rival claim of the parties with regard to title over the suit land, though, evidently, the claim of the defendant rests on Ext. A. The first appellate court being the last court of facts is obliged to consider all the facts and evidence independently, to arrive at a correct decision. Learned appellate court by rejecting Ext. A, perfunctorily without applying its mind, failed to discharge its duty and as such, the substantial question No. 2 deserves to be answered in affirmative and in favour of the defendant/appellant.
16. Contention of the learned counsel for the defendant/appellant was that since Ext. 1, the sale deed, by which Insan Ali was shown to have purchased the suit land, was not a valid document, as the same was not executed by Koramat Ali, the subsequent deed executed by Insan Ali being Ext. 2 & Ext. 3 were of no consequence. What is evident from the pleaded case of both the sides is that title of Koramat Ali over the suit land, was not disputed, inasmuch as, according to the defendant, the suit land originally belonged to Mahmud Ali, the predecessor of the plaintiffs, and Mahmud sold the suit land to Koramat Ali in 1956 by Ext. A. It was the case of the defendant, that Koramat Ali never sold the suit land to Insan Ali and Ext. 1 was not a genuine document. Whereas, the case of the plaintiffs was that Koramat Ali and Mahmud Ali sold the suit land to Insan Ali and Mahmud Ali purchased the suit land from Insan Ali. Evidently, Ext. 1 was not proved as per Section 67 of the Evidence Act and the learned Civil Judge took presumption under Section 90 of the Evidence Act, as the document was 30 years old. However, learned counsel for the appellant contended that Ext. 1 was an anonymous document as the vendor Koramat Ali did not sign the Ext. 1.
17. Section 90 of the Evidence Act reads as under:
“90. Presumption as to documents thirty years old.- Where any document, purporting or proved to be thirty years old, is produced from any custody which the court in the particular case considers proper, the court may presume that the signature and every other part of such document, which purports to be in the handwriting of any particular person is in that person’s handwriting, and, in the case of a document executed or attested, that it was duly executed and attested by the persons by whom it purports to be executed and attested.”
18. Section 90 of the Evidence Act, lays down, that the court may presume a document purporting or proved to be 30 years old as genuine, when it is produced from proper custody and therefore, Section 90 of the Evidence Act does not contemplate a mandatory presumption in favour of a 30 years old document. The provision of Section 90 vests a discretion on the court and the court may exercise the discretion vested on it, either by taking a presumption as to the genuineness of the document, which is purported or proved to be 30 years old. The court also may not take presumption and ask for proof of the document. But, at the same time, it needs no mention that the discretion of the court should be exercised judiciously and not arbitrarily. If necessary conditions for taking a presumption under Section 90 of the Evidence Act are found to exist, usually court is suppose to take a presumption keeping in view the object of the provision of Section 90 of the Evidence Act. Once presumption is taken under Section 90, requirement of proof under Section 67 of the Evidence Act is absolved.
19. When a document is executed long 30 years back, it may so happen, that the executor or the witness or any one acquainted with the document may not survive to prove the document as per the provision of the Evidence Act and therefore apparently the underlying object of Section 90 of the Evidence Act is to obviate the necessity of proving a document by observing legally prescribed procedure inasmuch as, because of efflux of time it may be practically not feasible to prove a document, which is 30 years old, as per the prescribed procedure of law.
20. The Apex Court in Lakhi Baruah & Ors. Vs. Padma Kanta Kalita & Ors. reported in MANU/SC/0334/1996 : 1996 (8) SCC 357 observed as under:
“Section 90 of the Evidence Act, 1872 is founded on necessity and convenience because it is extremely difficult and sometimes not possible to led evidence to prove handwriting, signature of execution of old documents after lapse of thirty years. In order to obviate such difficulties or improbabilities to prove execution of an old document. Section 90 has been incorporated in the Evidence Act, 1872 which do away with the strict rule of proof of private documents, Presumption of genuineness may be raised if the document in question is produced from proper custody. It is, however, the discretion of the court to accept the presumption flowing from Section 90. There is, however, no manner of doubt that judicial discretion under Section 90 should not be exercised arbitrarily and not being informed by reasons.”
21. Therefore, court needs to exercise the discretion judiciously while taking presumption under Section 90 of the Evidence Act, keeping in mind the underlying object of the provision, being the necessity and convenience and also the precondition required for taking a presumption. Section 90 of the Evidence Act provides that before taking a presumption, two basic ingredients should be there, namely the document sought to be proved must be of 30 years old and it must be produced from proper custody.
22. This Court in Paramesh Sarmah & Ors. Vs. Islamali & Ors. (supra), held in para-9 as under:
“9. The condition on which the execution of a document may presume for:-
‘(1) That it must have been existed for 30 years or more; (2) It must be produced in court from proper custody. (3) The document must be in appearance free from suspicion and doubt; (4) It must be in a handwriting of a person and should not be anonymous. Generally there is no presumption about recitals in ancient document, but in special circumstances a recital of consideration, legal necessity, etc., may be presumed under S. 90………………..”
23. In Bipin Ch. Kalita Vs. Sarama Kalita & Ors. (supra), this court in para-21 held as under:
“The gravamen of the authorities referred to above, is that the presumption comprehend in Section 90 of the Act, is relatable to the writings, execution and the attestation of the document, the contents thereof, being subject to proof in accordance with law. Unerringly, the approach of a court in the matter of presumption under Section 90 of the Act has to be essentially to effectuate the purpose thereof and not to render it nugatory. Though, a court is endowed with a discretion to draw a presumption as enumerated in the section, the exercise thereof, has to be informed with objectivity to further the legislative intendment. Unless, the attending facts and circumstances on the face of the document renders its existence, execution and attestation impossible, a rebuttable presumption is raised in favour of the genuineness and authenticity thereof, casting a burden on the other side to establish the contrary.”
24. Thus, presumption under Section 90 of the Evidence Act, may be taken if the following conditions are satisfied.
(i) The document, which existed for 30 years or more.
(ii) It must be produced from proper custody.
(iii) The document in appearance must be free from any suspicion.
(iv) It must be in the handwriting of person and should not be anonymous.
25. In the instant case, the Ext. 1 purportedly executed in the year 1958 was apparently more than 30 years old and was produced from proper custody, inasmuch as, the plaintiffs, from whose custody the document were produced, was the beneficiaries of the document. Learned Munsiff did not take presumption under Section 90 of the Evidence Act on the ground that it did not contain the signature of the alleged vendor Koramat Ali and considered it to be an anonymous document.
26. Learned counsel for the plaintiffs referring to the document (Ext. 1) submits that on the back page of Ext. 1, there was signature of Koramat Ali. In Ext. 1, the vendors of the suit land were shown as Koramat Ali and Mahmud Ali and said Mahmud Ali, as would appear from Ext. 1, signed the document on both the pages, but Koramat Ali did not put his signature on any of the front page of Ext. 1. It appears that thumb impression of Mahmud Ali and purported signature of Koramat Ali was available on the last back page of Ext. 1. Mahmud Ali put his signature on the first and second front page, whereas on the back side of the second page, his purported thumb impression is available. Though, both Koramat Ali and Mahmud Ali were shown as co-vendors and Mahmud put his signature on both page 1 & page 2 of Ext. 1 as vendor, but Koramat Ali did not put his signature on page-1 and page 2 along with Mahmud. Evidently, by Ext. A, Mahmud Ali, the predecessor of the plaintiffs sold the suit land to Koramat Ali in 1956. If that be so, Mahmud Ali was no longer the owner of the suit land and as such it is difficult to understand, how and why Mahmud Ali also could be a co-vendor of suit land in Ext. 1. Ext. 1 was purportedly executed by Mahmud Ali and Koramat Ali on 14.05.1958 in favour of Insan Ali and only after two days, on 16.05.1958 said Insan executed another deed in respect of the suit land in favour of Mahmud Ali. Execution of Ext. A, sale deed in favour of Koramat Ali by Mahmud Ali, the predecessor of the plaintiffs and Mahmud Ali again executing Ext. 1 along with Koramat Ali in favour of Insan Ali and thereafter only after two days Insan Ali executing a deed, transferring the suit land in favour of Mahmud Ali necessarily creates a suspicion on the bona fide of the Ext. 1. At the time of purported execution of Ext. 1 Mahmud did not have any right, title or interest over the suit land, reason being that Mahmud Ali had already earlier sold the suit land to Koramat Ali in 1956. Therefore, showing Mahmud Ali as co-vendor with Koramat Ali, when Mahmud Ali admittedly had no title over the suit land and absence of signature of Koramat Ali on the vital part of the deed further rooted the suspicion as to the genuineness of the sale deed (Ext. 1). While taking presumption under Section 90 of the Evidence Act, having found the document to be 30 years old, learned Civil Judge did not take into account these aspects of the matter, though apparently the document was not free from suspicion or doubt.
27. The pleadings and evidence of the plaintiffs was that Insan Ali purchased the suit land from Koramat Ali and Mahmud Ali. In view of Ext. A, when Mahmud Ali did not have any title over the suit land, necessarily he did not have the locus to sell the suit land to Insan Ali. In such circumstances executing Ext. 1 by Mahmud Ali along with Koramat Ali in favour of Insan Ali and again Insan Ali transferring the land to Mahmud Ali after two days, and absence of signature of Koramat Ali on the recital part of the sale deed as vendor, clearly indicates that the sale deed Ext. 1 may not be above board. All these facts and circumstances demonstrates that the sale deed Ext. 1 in its very appearance was not free from suspicion. In view of the above facts and circumstances, learned appellate court does not appears to have exercised the discretion under Section 90 of the Evidence Act judiciously. It is however, contended by the learned counsel for the appellant that DW-5, an employee of the sub-register’s office deposed from the volume and stated that it was duly executed by Koramat Ali and Mahmud Ali. It is also contended by the learned counsel for the plaintiffs referring to Section 58 and 32 of the Registration Act that a document can be presented before the registering authority either by the person executing it or any one claiming under him or his representative. Learned counsel contended that as per Section 58 of the Registration Act, the registering officer is required to endorse the signature and addition of every person admitting the execution of the document. The contention of the learned counsel is that when the registering authority has made the endorsement to the effect that the sale deed was executed by Koramat Ali and Mahmud Ali, there has to be a presumption as regards the execution of the sale deed.
28. Though, both Mahmud Ali and Koramat Ali were shown as co-vendors, the purported signature of Koramat Ali and thumb impression of Mahmud Ali on the back side of the deed as indicated above were suspicious, as the same person Mahmud Ali in the main part of the deed put his signature and the back side of the first page contained his thumb impression whereas, Koramat Ali was shown to have put his signature. Thus, all these facts and circumstances coupled with rejection of Ext. A with perverse finding, shows that learned first appellate court did not exercise its discretion in a judicious manner. Though, Ext. 1 was a document of 30 years old, because of the suspicious circumstances apparent on the face of it, learned first appellate court ought to have asked the party relying on Ext. 1 to prove the contents and execution of same as per law. Substantial question No. 1 is answered accordingly.
29. Since the learned first appellate court did not consider Ext. A and rejected the same with a perverse finding against the weight of evidence and also failed to exercise discretion under section 90 of the Evidence Act properly, it will be in the fitness of the matter to remit back the matter to the first appellate court to decide the appeal afresh, more particularly, to decide the question of title taking into account the effect of both Ext. 1 and Ext. A, if felt necessary, giving the parties opportunity to adduce further evidence. Accordingly, the impugned judgment is set aside.
30. Send down the LCR.