Supreme Court: The 2-judge bench of Indu Malhotra and L Nageswara Rao, JJ has held that even when the entire sale consideration has not been paid, it could not be a ground for cancellation of the Sale Deed.

On effect of non-payment of sale price on validity of sale deed

The Court relied on the it’s verdict in Vidyadhar v. Manikrao, (1999) 3 SCC 573, wherein it was held that non-payment of a part of the sale price would not affect the validity of the sale. Once the title in the property has already passed, even if the balance sale consideration is not paid, the sale could not be invalidated on this ground. In order to constitute a “sale”, the parties must intend to transfer the ownership of the property, on the agreement to pay the price either in praesenti, or in future. The intention is to be gathered from the recitals of the sale deed, the conduct of the parties, and the evidence on record.

On remedy under Order VII Rule 11

The remedy under Order VII Rule 11 is an independent and special remedy, wherein the Court is empowered to summarily dismiss a suit at the threshold, without proceeding to record evidence, and conducting a trial, on the basis of the evidence adduced, if it is satisfied that the action should be terminated on any of the grounds contained in this provision.

“The underlying object of Order VII Rule 11 (a) is that if in a suit, no cause of action is disclosed, or the suit is barred by limitation under Rule 11 (d), the Court would not permit the plaintiff to unnecessarily protract the proceedings in the suit. In such a case, it would be necessary to put an end to the sham litigation, so that further judicial time is not wasted.”

The Court further explained that under Order VII Rule 11, a duty is cast on the Court to determine whether the plaint discloses a cause of action by scrutinizing the averments in the plaint, read in conjunction with the documents relied upon, or whether the suit is barred by any law.

“The power conferred on the court to terminate a civil action is, however, a drastic one, and the conditions enumerated in Order VII Rule 11 are required to be strictly adhered to.”

The provision of Order VII Rule 11 is mandatory in nature. It states that the plaint “shall” be rejected if any of the grounds specified in clause (a) to (e) are made out. If the Court finds that the plaint does not disclose a cause of action, or that the suit is barred by any law, the Court has no option, but to reject the plaint.

“The Court must be vigilant against any camouflage or suppression, and determine whether the litigation is utterly vexatious, and an abuse of the process of the court.”

On the merits of the case

In the present case, the plaintiffs had filed the suit after a delay of 5 and ½ years and had sought for the relief of cancellation of the Sale Deed on the ground that even though they had executed the registered Sale Deed dated 02.07.2009 for a sale consideration of Rs.1,74,02,000, an amount of only Rs.40,000 was paid to them.

Considering the facts of the case, the Court said,

“If the case made out in the Plaint is to be believed, it would mean that almost 99% of the sale consideration i.e. Rs.1,73,62,000 allegedly remained unpaid throughout. It is, however inconceivable that if the payments had remained unpaid, the Plaintiffs would have remained completely silent for a period of over 5 and ½ years, without even issuing a legal notice for payment of the unpaid sale consideration, or instituting any proceeding for recovery of the amount, till the filing of the present suit in December 2014.”

The Court, hence, noticed that the delay of over 5 and ½ years after the alleged cause of action arose in 2009, shows that the suit was clearly barred by limitation as per Article 59 of the Limitation Act, 1963. The suit was instituted on 15.12.2014, even though the alleged cause of action arose in 2009, when the last cheque was delivered to the Plaintiffs.

Considering the facts of the case and law in place, the Court held, even if the averments of the Plaintiffs are taken to be true, that the entire sale consideration had not in fact been paid, it could not be a ground for cancellation of the Sale Deed. The Plaintiffs may have other remedies in law for recovery of the balance consideration, but could not be granted the relief of cancellation of the registered Sale Deed.

[Dahiben v. Arvindbhai Kalyanji Bhanusali, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 562 , decided on 09.07.2020]

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