Delhi High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts


Delhi High Court: In a case where a detenue filed for quashing of his detention order on the grounds of violation of constitutional mandate as laid down in Article 22 (5), a Division Bench of Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar JJ., set aside the detention order as detenue is illiterate and the detention order must have been explained to him either in Hindi or any vernacular language, if he speaks or understands. Thus, the fact that he signed in English is not sufficient to form an opinion that he has full understanding of the language.

The present writ petition was filed under Article 226 read with Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) seeking quashing of the impugned detention order passed by the Joint Secretary, Govt. of India u/s 3 (1) of Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988 (PITNDPS) and anorder passed by the Deputy Secretary, Govt. of India u/s 9(f) of the PITNDPS confirming the detention order for a period of one year.

Counsel for detenue submitted that there was no need to detain the detenue under PITNDPS as he is already in custody in a case under the stringent provisions of NDPS Act and there is no likelihood of his release from custody in the near future.

He further submitted that the detenue being an illiterate person, the order of detention was not properly communicated to detenue as the same is in English language.

The State opposed the petition contending that the detenuestated that “CD and CDR would be seen by his advocate” which goes to show that he understood everything, having the assistance of his advocate. It was further submitted that all the documents were signed by the detenue in “English” which clearly shows that the detenue understood the contents of the documents supplied and made the representation signed by his advocate.

Placing reliance on Chaju Ram v. State of Jammu & Kashmir, (1970) 1 SCC 536, Nainmal Partap Mal Shah v. Union of India, (1980) 4 SCC 427, Haribandhu Dass v. District Magistrate, Cuttack, (1969) 1 SCR 227, the Court noted that simply because the detenue has put his signatures in English does not by any stretch of imagination shows that he understands English and as a consequence understood the grounds of detention.

The Court further noted that the manner in which the signatures of the detenue were obtained on the documents, leaves no shadow of doubt that the contents of any of the documents/detention order were explained to the detenue in vernacular or the language that the detenue understands, i.e., Hindi. The detaining authority was under an obligation to communicate to the detenue the grounds of detention effectively and fully in a language in the present case “Hindi”, which the detenue understood even if that entailstranslation of the grounds to the language known to the detenue.

Thus, the Court held that where a detenue is illiterate, the mandate of Article 22(5) would be served only if the grounds of detention are explained to the detenue in a language that he understands, so as to enable him to avail the fundamental right of making an effective representation.

[Sharafat Sheikh v. UOI, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 2725, decided on 02-09-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

Mr. Tanmaya Mehta, Ms. Shreya Gupta, Mr. Anurag Sahay and Ms. Mallika Bhatia, Advocates, for the Petitioner;

Mr. Chetan Sharma, ASG with Mr. Ajay Digpaul, CGSC with Mr. Soumava Karmakar, Mr. Kamal Digpaul with Mr. Rakesh Duhan, Inspector, Narcotics Cell, Crime Branch, Advocates, for the defendant.

*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: Teekaa Raman, J., observed that there is no mandatory provision under the Negotiable Instruments Act that both the signature and thumb impression has to be obtained for a pro-note and the lower Appellate Judge has totally misguided and misused the provision of the Negotiable Instruments Act, regarding the burden of proof and not even followed basic rudimentary of Section 20 of the Negotiable instruments Act.

Plaintiff filed a suit against the respondent for recovery of money of Rs 1,00,000 each, borrowed by him and executed promissory notes in favour of the plaintiff for consideration.

Resisting the suit, the defendant filed a written statement admitting the execution of the suit promissory notes. However, the defendant raised the plea that the promissory notes had been executed towards security for the loan borrowed and that the loan due was settled by way of execution of a sale deed in the name of the plaintiff’s wife.

Further, it was alleged that the suit promissory notes were not supported by consideration and the blank promissory notes were filled up for the purpose of filing the suit.

Trial Court considered the statutory presumption under Section 118 of the Negotiable Instruments Act and the authority of the holder in due course to fill up the promissory notes under Section 20 of the Act, decreed the suit by the judgment and decree.

First Appellate Authority had erroneously allowed the appeal and observed that the thumb impression of the defendant was not obtained and that the signature in each promissory note was different from each other on comparison by a naked eye. Accordingly, the trial Court’s decision was reversed.

On being aggrieved with the above, the plaintiff approached this, Court.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Questions for Consideration:

  1. Whether the first Appellate Court erred in law in not considering the scope of Section 118 of the NI Act and the legal presumptions arising under it before dismissing the suit by reversing the well-considered reasonings of the trial Court?
  2. Whether the first Appellate Court erred in law in rejecting the plaintiff’s right to fill up the suit promissory notes under Section 20 of the Negotiable Instruments Act whereupon the holder is authorized to fill up the blanks and to negotiate the instrument for a certain amount?
  3. Whether the first Appellate Court is correct in dismissing the suit on the basis of a comparison by naked eye particularly when the defendant has categorically admitted the “execution” and “issuance” in his written statement and in evidence before the Court?

High Court observed that the trial Court had rightly invoked the presumption under the Negotiable Instruments Act and called upon the defendant to rebut the presumption. However, in Court’s opinion, the Appellate Court had not even considered the presumption under the NI Act and not followed even the burden of proof or onus of proof as stated in the Indian Evidence Act.

The Bench stated that once the signature found in the suit documents has been admitted, there is no need or necessity for the plaintiff to give an explanation for not obtaining the thumb impression in the suit promissory note.

Additionally, the High Court noted that it is trite law that in the case of mandatory presumption, the burden of proof on the defendant in such a case would not be as light.

When there is a statutory presumption in favour of the plaintiff, it has to be rebutted by proof and not by a bare explanation. Unless the explanation is supported by proof, the presumption created by the provision cannot be said to be rebutted.

Once statutory presumption is raised, onus of proving absence of consideration is on the executant.

The Bench added that the lower Appellate Court could not understand the facts of the case and had applied wrong preposition of the burden of the proof forgetting the presumption under NI Act and it was the onus of the proof by the defendant to discharge the burden.

Therefore, lower Appellate Court erred in law on rejecting the plaintiff’s right to fill up the suit promissory notes under Section 20 of the NI Act, whereupon the holder is authorized to fill up the blanks and to negotiate the instrument for a certain amount and the “execution” of cheque and “issuance” of cheque in his written statement and in his evidence before the Court, the lower Appellate Court is not right in raising suspicion with regard to the execution merely on the ground that the thumb impression was not obtained.

In view of the above discussion, the second appeal was allowed. [R. Barathbran v. R. Nallathambi, SA Nos. 142 of 2012, decided on 2-3-2022]

Advocates before the Court:

For Appellants: Mr. N. Manokaran

 For Respondent: Mr. C. Prakasam

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court: Ninala Surya, J., decided to not interfere with the impugned order and dismissed the civil writ petition.

The facts of the case are such that the respondent/plaintiff filed the suit for recovery of a sum of Rs 1, 71,600/- with future interest and costs. The petitioner/defendant filed written statement contending that the suit promissory note is a forged document and his signatures were forged. At the evidence stage, the petitioner filed an interim application under Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to send a promissory note to the handwriting expert by receiving specimen writings in the four promissory notes which are annexed to the said application and to receive his specimen signatures in the open Court along with the vakalatnama and written statement for comparison. The respondent/plaintiff filed counter and opposed the said application. After considering the matter, the Trial Court dismissed the said application. Hence, the present Civil Revision Petition was filed.

The Court relied on judgment Bande Siva Shankara Srinivasa Prasad v. Ravi Surya Prakash Babu, 2015 SCC OnLine Hyd 467  wherein it was observed “No time limit could be fixed for filing applications under Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act for sending the disputed signature or writings to the handwriting expert for comparison and opinion and same shall be left open to the discretion of the Court; for exercising such discretion when exigencies so demand, depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case”.

Thus the view of the Trial Court that he has not taken steps seeking to refer the suit promissory note for expert opinion before commencement of Trial or prior thereto, but, after closure of the evidence on the plaintiff’s side and as such the application is liable to be dismissed is not tenable in law.

The Court further relied on judgment P.Padmanabhaiah v. G.Srinivasa Rao, 2016 SCC OnLine Hyd 517 wherein it was observed “In the well considered view of this Court, the defendants signatures on the Vakalat and the Written Statement cannot be considered as signatures of comparable and assured standard as according to the plaintiff even by the date of the filing of the vakalat the defendant is clear in his mind about his stand in regard to the denial of his signatures on the suit promissory note and the endorsement thereon and as the contention of the plaintiff that the defendant might have designedly disguised his signatures on the Vakalat and the Written Statement cannot be ruled out prima facie.”

 “………There is no point in sending to an expert the documents of doubtful nature and character and add one more piece of unreliable evidence and burden the record by wasting the time and money of the parties. When there are no signatures of comparable and assured standard on the material record before the trial Court, it is unsafe to obtain the signatures of the defendant in open Court and send the said signatures and also his vakalat and written statement to an expert for obtaining his opinion after comparison of the signatures thereon with the disputed signatures on the suit promissory note, as any such opinion obtained from a handwriting expert on such material is not going to be of any help to the trial Court in effectively adjudicating the lis more particularly in the light of the admitted legal position that expert’s opinion evidence as to handwriting or signatures can rarely, if ever, take the place of substantive evidence.”

In light of the above discussion the Court held Civil Revision Petition fails and the same is liable to be dismissed. [Byalla Devadas v. Sivapuram Rama Yogeswara Rao, Civil Revision Petition No. 67 of 2022, decided on 16-03-2022]


For petitioner- Mr.Nagaraju Naguru

For respondent- Mr.Turaga Sai Surya

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Patiala House Courts, Delhi
Case BriefsDistrict Court

Patiala House Courts, New Delhi: Shreya Arora Mehta, Metropolitan Magistrate, while addressing a matter with regard to Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act stressed the liability of a Director for such offences.

Accused Company through accused 2 – Chairman cum Managing Director along with accused 3 its Managing Director and accused 4 Deputy Managing Director approached the complainant in the year 2006 to engage their services for releasing advertisement of the accused company in various newspapers and publications.

The complainant agreed to extend a credit period of 60 days for payment of the bills with statutory taxes and services charges/commission. The accused persons sent a release order to the complainant for advertisement in various print media. Bills were raised on monthly basis for service provided.

It was stated that till the second quarter of 2008 the complainant received most of the payment but thereafter there was a default by the accused persons in making the time-bound scheduled payment. Later bills of 6 months were kept pending due to which the complainant was forced to ask the Indian Newspaper Society to issue a caution notice to its members regarding the accused company.

The accused company issued 84 cheques with the assurance that on presentation the same would be encashed, but all the cheques were dishonoured and returned unpaid for the reasons either “funds insufficient” and or exceeding arrangement.

Accused persons did not reply to the legal notice under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. Hence the present complaint was filed.

Accused 3 admitted his signatures on all the cheques but stated that the same was done under the pretext of accused 2 who was the chairman cum director of the accused 1. The accused 4 submitted that he had no dealings whatsoever with the complainant company.

Section 141 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, does not say that a Director of a company shall automatically be vicariously liable for commission of an offence on behalf of the company.

“…the complainant has to make specific averments in the complaint that the accused persons were incharge or were responsible to the company or conduct of the business of the company. And prosecution could be launched not only against the company on behalf of which the cheque issued has been dishonoured, but it could also be initiated against every person who at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of and was responsible for the conduct of the business of the company.”

In the present case, specific averments were made against accused 3 and 4 that they are in charge of and responsible to the accused 1 company for the conduct of the business of the company and were looking after the business of the company and the offence under Section 138 NI Act had been committed with the knowledge, consent and connivance of the accused 3 and 4 besides other and was attributable to neglect on their part.

“…under Section 139 of the Negotiable Instrument Act, 1881 there is a presumption in favour of the complainant that the cheques in question were issued by the accused in discharge of his lawful liability. It is mandatory for the court to draw a presumption against the drawer/accused. However, the said presumption is rebuttable.” 

Accused persons raised arguments that no work order, release order or publication bill was placed on record nor the complainant produce the details of the newspapers etc. To substantiate the same, the accused person had failed to prove on record any admissible and reliable evidence to discharge their onus of rebutting the initial presumption in favour of the complainant as enshrined under Section 139 NI Act.

In view of the above, the essentials of Section 138 NI Act stand duly established and accused persons failed to rebut the same.[Prominent Advertising Services v. Koutons Retail India Ltd., 2022 SCC OnLine Dis Crt (Del) 12, decided on 22-3-2022]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a suit where the Karta of a Joint Hindu Family, consisting of himself, his wife and his son, had alienated a property due to legal necessity without the signature of his son, the bench of MR Shah and Sanjiv Khanna*, JJ that the Karta was entitled to execute the agreement to sell and even alienate the suit property and the absence of signature of a coparcener would not nullify the rights and liabilities arising from the agreement to sell.

Factual Background

In the case at hand, one K. Veluswamy, as a Karta of the joint Hindu family, executed the agreement to sell of the suit property for Rs.29 lakhs and had received Rs.4 lakhs in advance from the appellant. His son, V. Manjunath, challenged the alienation and the Karnataka High Court gave him a favourable verdict.

While accepting that K. Veluswamy did execute the agreement to sell for the suit property for Rs.29 lakhs and had received Rs.4 lakhs as advance, the Karnataka High Court held that the agreement to sell is unenforceable as the suit property belongs to the joint Hindu family consisting of three persons, K. Veluswamy, his wife V. Manimegala and his son V. Manjunath and, therefore, could not have been executed without the signatures of V. Manjunath.


The Supreme Court took note of the agreement to sell which stated that the subject property is a joint Hindu family property, enjoyed jointly and that the Katha is in the joint names. The executants were in need of funds to meet the domestic necessities and, consequently, had agreed to sell the suit property. As per the agreement, if any dispute arose with regard to the sale transaction, it would be solved by the executants personally at their own risk and cost. Furthery, if there was any loan, mortgage, revenue arrears, etc. over the property, the same shall be cleared by the executants so as to execute and register the sale deed in favour of the appellant. However, the agreement to sell does mention that it would be also executed by V. Manjunath.

Important rulings on right of the Karta to execute agreement to sell or sale deed of a joint Hindu family property

Sri Narayan Bal v. Sridhar Sutar, (1996) 8 SCC 54

A joint Hindu family is capable of acting through its Karta or adult member of the family in management of the joint Hindu family property. A coparcener who has right to claim a share in the joint Hindu family estate cannot seek injunction against the Karta restraining him from dealing with or entering into a transaction from sale of the joint Hindu family property, albeit post alienation has a right to challenge the alienation if the same is not for legal necessity or for betterment of the estate. Where a Karta has alienated a joint Hindu family property for value either for legal necessity or benefit of the estate it would bind the interest of all undivided members of the family even when they are minors or widows. There are no specific grounds that establish the existence of legal necessity and the existence of legal necessity depends upon facts of each case. The Karta enjoys wide discretion in his decision over existence of legal necessity and as to in what way such necessity can be fulfilled. The exercise of powers given the rights of the Karta on fulfilling the requirement of legal necessity or betterment of the estate is valid and binding on other coparceners.

Kehar Singh (D) v. Nachittar Kaur, (2018) 14 SCC 445

Once the factum of existence of legal necessity stood proved, then, in our view, no co-coparcener (son) has a right to challenge the sale made by the karta of his family. The plaintiff being a son was one of the co-coparceners along with his father Pritam Singh. He had no right to challenge such sale in the light of findings of legal necessity being recorded against him. It was more so when the plaintiff failed to prove by any evidence that there was no legal necessity for sale of the suit land or that the evidence adduced by the defendants to prove the factum of existence of legal necessity was either insufficient or irrelevant or no evidence at all.

Ruling on facts

Considering the settled legal position, the Court held that signatures of V. Manjunath, son of Karta – K. Veluswamy, on the agreement to sell were not required. K. Veluswamy being the Karta was entitled to execute the agreement to sell and even alienate the suit property. Absence of signatures of V. Manjunath would not matter and is inconsequential. 

[Beereddy Dasaratharami Reddy v. V. Manjunath, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1236, decided on 13.12.2021]

*Judgment by: Justice Sanjiv Khanna

Know Thy Judge | Justice Sanjiv Khanna

Patiala House Courts, Delhi
Case BriefsDistrict Court

Patiala House Courts, New Delhi: Prayank Nayak, MM-01 acquitted the accused of offence under Section 138 (dishonour of cheque) of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1885, holding that the accused successfully dislodged the statutory presumption.

In the present matter, complaint was filed under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 for the dishonour of cheque for an amount of Rs 6,82,000 and failure to pay the said amount despite legal demand notice.

Path Paving to this Matter

Complainant had given a loan of Rs 6,82,000 to the accused in cash and later the accused had issued a cheque for the repayment of the loan. Though the same was dishonored upon its presentation and no payment was made despite the receipt of legal demand notice.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act consists of the following ingredients:

  1. The cheque was drawn by drawer on an account maintained by him with the banker for payment of any amount of money out of that account.
  2. The said payment was made for discharge of any debt for other liability in whole or in part.
  3. The said cheque was returned unpaid by the bank.
  4. The cheque was presented to the bank within a period of 3 months from the date on which it was drawn or within the period of its validity whichever is earlier.
  5. The payee or the Holder in due course of the cheque as the case may be makes a demand for the payment of the said amount of money by giving the notice in writing to the drawer of the cheque within 30 days of the receipt of information by him from the bank regarding the return of the cheque as unpaid.
  6. The drawer of the cheque fails to make the payment of the said amount of money to the payee or as the case may be the Holder in due course of the cheque within 15 days of the receipt of the said notice.
  7. The payee or the Holder in due course of the cheque shall make a complaint in writing within one month of the date on which the Cause of Action arises i.e., 15 days from the receipt of the notice by the drawer.

In the present matter, it was noted that the receipt of legal notice was accepted and the duly replied and the dishonour memo issued by the bank was also placed on record.

Court stated that by virtue of Section 146 of NI Act, the dishonour of cheque in question had to be presumed.

Onus to prove

As per Section 118 (g) of NI Act, the holder of the cheque is presumed to be holder in due course, hence the accused has to prove that the cheque was not issued to the complainant.

Accused had admitted the signature on the cheque, thus presumption under Section 118(a) of the NI Act and Section 139 of NI Act will be drawn.

Delhi High Court’s decision in Devender Kumar v. Khem Chand,2015 SCC OnLine Del 12578, it was held that:

“However, in Rangappa v. Sri Mohan, (2010) 11 SCC 441, a three judges’ bench of the Supreme Court held that Section 138 of the N.I. Act includes the presumption enforceable debt or liability and that the holder of the cheque is presumed to have received the same in discharge of such debt or liability……. without doubt, the initial presumption is in favour of the complainant.” (Para 20).

Whether the accused has been able to dislodge the presumption of liability as well as issuance on the basis of cross-examination of complainant and the evidence led by him?

In the instant matter, it is very pertinent to note that there is no written/documentary proof of loan and the complainant has also not mentioned any date of giving loan amount.

Due to the above-stated observation, Bench stated that as there was absence of documentary proof as well as the date of giving loan, the whole case seems to be doubtful.

What all makes this case doubtful?

Court noted that complainant despite having friendly relations and extending friendly loan of large amount to the accused is not even aware about the name of wife of the accused nor could tell whether accused is having kids or not. Though it has been claimed by him that he knows the accused of around 5 years, but he has never gone inside the house of the accused.

The above stated makes it doubtful for the Court to believe that the relations between the parties were such that the complainant would lend the stated sum to the accused that too without any documentary evidence.

Discrepancy in complainant’s oral testimony and bank statement was found along with discrepancy in photocopy of his Balance-Sheet and certified copy of the same.

The above-stated discrepancies strike the root of the complainant’s case.

Complainant in his cross-examination admitted that he had to pay loans to various persons and institutions, this fact leads the Bench to the question of why a person himself being liable to pay loan to various persons would advance loan of more than Rs 6 lakhs to some other person.

Therefore, accused dislodged the presumption in favour of the complainant by impeaching his credit during cross-examination and due to the absence of documentary proof.

Complainant did not examine any witnesses to prove the loan transaction and the above discussion cast doubt over the complainant’s version that he had given loan to the accused.

In Delhi High Court’s decision, Kulvinder Singh v. Kafeel Ahmad, 2014 (2) JCC (NI) 100 it was observed that,

“The basis principle in Criminal law is that the guilt of respondent/accused must be proved beyond reasonable doubt and if there is slightest doubt about commission of an offence then the benefit has to accrue to him”.

 “…Benefit of doubt has to accrue to the accused.”

 Court acquitted the accused for the offence under Section 138 NI Act. [Balwant Singh v. Angad Makol, R. No. 55576 of 2016, decided on 5-10-2021]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ., expressed that,

Key characteristic of thumb impression is that every person has a unique thumb impression. Forgery of thumb impressions is nearly impossible. 

Merely because the testator chose to append his thumb impression, adverse presumption on genuineness of the cancellation deed cannot be drawn.

Instant appeal arose out of the decision of the Patna High Court whereby the appeal filed by the probate applicant was allowed in his favour by concluding that the Will favouring Sarjug Singh was not cancelled. Hence the appellate Court reversed the trial court’s decision which held that the applicant was disentitled to get the Will probated as the same was revoked.

High Court disbelieved the registered deed of cancellation dated 2-2-196 (Exbt C) whereby, the Exbt 2 Will, was revoked by the testator. 

Factual Matrix

Rajendra Singh (since deceased) executed a Will on 14-09-1960 in favour of the applicant Sarjung Singh.

The executant died issueless leaving behind his sister Duler Kuer, wife of Thakur Prasad Singh and nephew Yugal Kishore Singh and also the probate applicant Sarjug Singh.

Applicant’s case was that the testator’s wife died long ago and therefore Rajendra Singh who was issueless bequeathed his property in village Pojhi Bujurg and Pojhi Kapoor, District Saran, Bihar by executing the Will favouring respondent Sarjug Singh (since deceased).

It is relevant to state that the validity of the Will in favour of the applicant Sarjug Singh was never seriously challenged but the objectors pleaded that the concerned Will was cancelled by a registered deed on 02-02-1963 (Exbt. C) by the testator himself. The applicant however claims that the testator was in very poor health, paralytic and was not in a position to attend the Sub­Registrar’s office on 02-02-1963 to execute the registered cancellation deed (Ext. ‘C’). The applicant also challenged the genuineness of the testator’s thumb impression on the cancellation deed of the Will.

High Court addressed the core issue of whether the testator had cancelled the Will. High Court granted the probate and reversed the finding of the Trial Court. Subsequent purchasers of the assets who supported the objector’s case in the probate proceedings, have then filed the present appeal.

Analysis, Law and Discussion

Bench stated that the merit of claim of either party in the present matter will hinge around the core issue as to Whether Rajendra Singh had actually revoked the Will in favour of Sarjung Singh and his physical and mental capacity to execute the Cancellation Deed and also whether thumb impression of Rajendra Singh on the registered document is genuine or not.

 Further, it was noted that in allowing the appeal of the probate applicant, the High Court referred to the health condition of Rajendra Singh who suffered from paralysis before his death and had opined that it would not be possible for the testator to visit the sub-registrar’s office, to cancel the Will.

Bench stated that the High Court failed to give due weightage to the evidence that led to the genuineness of the cancellation deed. Instead, erroneous presumption was drawn on impersonation and incapability of the testator, to visit the office of the sub-registrar to register the cancellation deed.

Testator’s thumb impression on the cancellation deed

On the stated issue, all the four deeds executed by Rajendra Singh in his lifetime, contained his thumb impression and not his signature. Therefore, adverse presumption on genuineness of the cancellation deed cannot be drawn merely because the testator chose to append his thumb impression.

Further, the handwriting report clearly indicated that the thumb impression on all the documents placed before the expert’s opinion were of the same person i.e. of Rajendra Singh. Since the said Ext. B was marked in Court, without objection from the applicant, the genuineness of the same cannot be allowed to be questioned before the appellate Court.

In Court’s opinion, a contrary inference was erroneously drawn by the High Court by referring to the health condition of the testator, when the revocation deed was registered.

Supreme Court held that genuineness of the Cancellation deed cannot be doubted only due to the fact that same was not signed and Rajendra as a literate person, affixed his thumb impression.

Implication of the conduct of the objectors, who did not produce the original deed of cancellation

Bench analysed and stated that objectors failed to take any steps to produce the original deed of cancellation. On the said, probate applicant neither objected to production of certified copy nor insisted on production of the original cancellation deed.

In view of the above scenario, where no protest was registered by the probate applicant against production of certified copy of the Cancellation Deed, he cannot later be allowed to take up the plea of non-production of original cancellation deed in course of the appellate proceeding.

Mode of Proof

Supreme Court made it clear that plea regarding mode of proof cannot be permitted to be taken at the appellate stage for the first time, if not raised before the trial Court at the appropriate stage.

Reasoning for the above was to avoid prejudice to the party who produced the certified copy of an original document without protest by the other side.

Hence, allowing objection as stated above to be raised during the appellate stage would put the party (who placed certified copy on record instead of original copy) in a jeopardy and would seriously prejudice the interests of that party.

Adding to the above, it was emphasized that it would also be inconsistent with the rule of fair play as propounded by Justice Ashok Bhan in the case of R.V.E Venkatachala

While reaching the conclusion, Court opined that the High Court had erred by ignoring the material evidence in disbelieving the cancellation deed and on that score declaring that the applicant was entitled to grant of probate of the Will.

Given the fact that Probate applicant never raised any objection regarding the mode of proof before the trial court, there was no occasion for the High Court to say that it was the duty of defendant to produce original deed of cancellation.

Lastly, the Bench expressed that Trial Court was right in holding that Rajendra was medically fit and had cancelled the Will himself. It was also seen that the evidences of the relevant OWs withstood the scrutiny of the trial court and those remained unshaken and should be trusted.

Considering the omission of the probate applicants to raise objection regarding mode of proof before the trial court, merit was found in the case of the objectors.

In view of the above discussion, present appeal was allowed., while setting aside the impugned order of the Delhi High Court. [Lacchmi Narain Singh (D) v. Sarjug Singh (Dead), 2021 SCC OnLine SC 606, decided on 17-08-2021]

Chhattisgarh High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K Agrawal J., dismissed the second appeal being devoid of merits.

The facts of the case are such that the suit property was held by Jhulan Rajwar, who acquired patta of suit land in his favour in Surguja Settlement and remained in possession during his lifetime and died issueless leaving behind his wife Sonmet. Since Jhulan Rajwar was issueless, he adopted his nephew Ramcharan’s son namley Budhu Rajwar (plaintiffs’ father) and also executed a Will dated 05-03-1942 and after the death of Jhulan Rajwar, Budhu Rajwar came into possession of the said suit land by way of the Will. It is the case of the plaintiffs (sons of Budhu Rajwar) that after the death of Jhulan Rajwar his wife Sonmet executed a gift deed in favour of Rangu i.e. defendants’ predecessor in interest registered on 22-05-1962, as such; plaintiffs’ suit deserves to be dismissed. The Trial Court held that plaintiffs have failed to prove the Will in accordance with Section 63(c) of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 read with Section of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Agrreived by this, first appeal was filed which upheld that Trial Courts verdict. Aggrieved by the same, instant second appeal has been filed under Section 100 of the CPC.

Counsel for the appellants submitted that the Will has been duly proved as per the provision contained in Section 69 of the Evidence Act, 1872. the Will dated 05-०३-1942 (Ex. P/4) is a more than 30 years old document which has been produced from proper custody, therefore, presumption of valid execution of the Will would be made and even if the attesting witnesses have not been examined, presumption of due execution and attestation of the Will (Ex. P/4) will be raised by virtue of the provision contained under Section 90 of the Evidence Act.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that plaintiffs utterly failed to prove the will prescribed by Section 69 of the Evidence Act. It was further submitted that Section 90 of the Evidence Act which states about the presumption of validity of a 30 years old document is not applicable in this case and the Will has to proved in accordance with Section 63(c) of the Indian Succession Act read with Section 68-69 Of the Indian Evidence Act.

Issue 1: Section 69 of Evidence Act, 1872

The Court relied on judgments Babu Singh v. Ram Sahai, (2008) 14 SCC 754, K. Laxamanan v. Thekkayil Padmini, (2009) 1 SCC 354, Kalyanswami. v. L. Bakthavatsalam,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 584 wherein it was observed that Section 69 of the Evidence Act provides that if execution of Will could not be proved by examining the attestor or in absence of non-availability of attestor, to prove the Will, secondary evidence could be adduced by proving the handwriting of one of the attesting witnesses and signature of the executant of the document to be in the handwriting of that person. Two conditions are required to be proved for valid proof of the Will, the person who has acquaintance of the signature of one of the attesting witnesses and also the person executing the document should identify both the signatures before the Court.

Issue 2: Section 90 of the Evidence Act, 1872

The Court relied on judgments Laxmi Barvah v. Padma Kanta Lalita, (1996) 8 SCC 357; Bharpur Singh v. Shamsher Singh, (2009) 3 SCC 687 wherein it was held that Section 90 of the Evidence Act is founded on necessity and convenience because it is extremely difficult and sometimes not possible to lead evidence to prove handwriting, signature or execution of old documents after lapse of thirty years. In order to obviate such difficulties or improbabilities, to prove the execution of an old document, Section 90 has been incorporated in the Evidence Act, 1872, which does away with the strict rule of proof of private documents. Presumption of genuineness may be raised, if the document in question is raised 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.

The Court observed that it is quite vivid that both the attesting witnesses of the Will namely Bhullu Rajwar and Gangaram had already died at the time of institution of the suit and they were not available to prove the Will. In these circumstances, duty is cast upon the plaintiffs to prove the Will as per Section 69 of the Evidence Act that the signature of the executant on the Will that it is of his own and at least the signature of one of the attesting witnesses have to be identified in the manner known to law. Merely saying that the signature of the attesting witness is of him may not be sufficient unless he produces the signature of the attesting witness on some admissible document and makes both the signatures available for comparison by the Court to find out whether the person acted as a real witness, which has admittedly not been done in the instant case.

The Court thus held that given the observations in light of the facts stated above, it cannot be held that the Will has been proved in accordance with Section 69 of the Evidence Act. It was further held that Section 90 of the Evidence Act would have no application in case of Will in view of the strict requirement contained in Section 63(c) of the Indian Succession Act read with Section 68 of the Indian Evidence Act,

In view of the above, impugned order upheld and the second appeal was dismissed.[Choudhari v. Ramkaran, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 1015, decided on 29-09-2020]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant ahs put this story together