By:- Lakshay Sharma
In the Supreme Court of India
|Name of the Case||Venigalla Koteswaramma vs Malempati Suryamba|
|Citation||2021 SCC OnLine SC 26; Appeal (Civil), 9546 of 2013|
|Date of the Case||19 January, 2021|
|Respondent(S)||Malampati Suryamba & Ors.|
|Bench/Judges||Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari, Hrishikesh Roy|
|Statutes/Constitution Involved||Transfer of Property Act, 1882|
|Important Sections/Articles||S. 54 of the Transfer of Property Act|
Venigalla Koteswaramma vs Malempati Suryamba is a civil appeal regarding a land dispute where a fabricated and forged will and a sale agreement led to the deprivation of the ownership of the property to the genuine heirs of the family after the demise of the stepmother. By the actions of stepmother’s brother, who by fabricating the will, distributed the property to various other parties for his benefit.
Four siblings of a family were deprived of their right to the property of their parents after the demise of their stepmother at the age of 45. The brother of the stepmother and the Maternal Uncle of the siblings fabricated a false sale agreement, transferring a major property to her mother who was 80 years old, and also a will that transferred most of the property to other persons like the servants and workers and caretakers of the family. Trail Court ruled in favour of the appellant but in further appeals, the high court reversed the findings of the trial court partially, and thus this appeal was filed in the supreme court to seek validation of the two documents in question i.e. the Will of the demised stepmother and the sale agreement executed by the mother of the stepmother.
Background of the Case
The appellant claimed equal partition and distribution of shares of the family property in the siblings i.e. herself and her 3 siblings. The property which was in dispute as to their Maternal Uncle, brother of their stepmother who expired on 17th June 1978 had falsely transferred a portion of the property to his mother who was around 80 years old and a will was forged which distributed the leftover property to other workers and servants working for the demised stepmother.
The Trial Court, in 1988 passed judgment and decree stating the will and sale agreement to be false and fabricated as per the investigation and circumstances as there was no way the demised stepmother would transfer the property to her 80 yrs old mother just for attending to her in troubled times(as per her brother).
Two appeals in question to the decree of the trial court were filed in the high court of judicature for Andhra Pradesh to seek the validity of the Will and the Sale agreement. The high court here reversed the findings of the trial court in the matter of the sale agreement but also declared the will to be invalid as it was suspicious and also they will in question was formed just 2 days before her demise which meant she was too ill to form a will and even though the contents of the will could have been summed up in just 2 pages, but still it was summed up in 3 pages leaving extra 1/3 of the page, moreover there was a gap between thumb impression and contents of each page.
Facts of the Case
- The brother of the stepmother is said to have fabricated the will of the stepmother and forged a sale agreement which was inhering a part of the will, selling the property to the mother of the stepmother.
- The trial court had previously declared both the documents in question as invalid, as the will was suspicious and the sale agreement was a part of the same will.
- The high court considering the appeal made against the decree of the trial court looked into the matter and reversed the findings of the trial court concerning the sale agreement but affirmed the invalidity of the said will.
- This appeal is meant to find the validity of the aforesaid documents and for the distribution of the property to the heirs of the family after partition.
- Whether the Will, mentioned here is true, valid, and binding on the siblings?
- Whether the agreement of sale, executed by the deceased stepmother is true, valid, and binding?
Arguments of the Plaintiff-Appellant
- It was contended by the learned counsel that the High Court has done a blunder in law as also on facts in reversing the findings of the Trial Court concerning the sale agreement in question without considering that the findings returned by the Trial Court were neither erroneous nor suffering from any contrariness.
- That there was no explanation from the side of the alleged purchaser as to why steps were not taken by him for getting the regular sale deed registered if the major part of sale consideration had already been paid.
- The learned counsel has focused on the fact that in all other transactions, the properties were sold by the demised stepmother of the appellant in way of regular and registered sale deeds and that there was no reason that the vendee would not have got the sale deed registered in his favor.
- The beneficiaries under the documents in question were none other but the close relatives of defendant 4 i.e. the maternal uncle/brother of the step-mother, who had also suggested the existence of Will of Annapurnamma, and such assertions about the will were rejected by the Trial Court; and those findings were affirmed by the High Court.
- According to the learned counsel, validity and genuineness of the Will equally extend to the question of the validity of the alleged sale agreement.
Arguments by the Respondents
- The suit for partition as filed by the plaintiff-appellant was not even maintainable for the reason that the plaintiff-appellant did not seek the relief of declaration concerning the agreement in question.
- When the plaintiff-appellant raised the plea that the sale of the property in question was not valid in law and an issue was framed in that regard, the plaintiff must have amended the plaint and have asked for a declaration that the sale agreement executed in favor of the defendant 15 was invalid and the property thereon was subject to partition.
- The suit for mere partition without seeking such declaration was not maintainable and this appeal deserves to be dismissed on this count alone.
- The agreement of sale was executed prior in time to the Will and the finding on the invalidity of the Will is of no effect concerning this agreement.
- Execution of this agreement of sale on stamp paper is duly proved by defendant 16 (wife of the vendee defendant 15), and payment of a sum of Rs. 40,000/- against sale consideration is duly established in the statement of these witnesses; delivery of possession to the vendee (defendant 15) is also established.
Section 54 of Transfer of Property Act:
“Sale” defined.—‘‘Sale” is a transfer of ownership in exchange for a price paid or promised or part-paid and part-promised. Sale how made.—3Such transfer, in the case of tangible immovable property of the value of one hundred rupees and upwards, or in the case of a reversion or other intangible thing, can be made only by a registered instrument. 1In the case of tangible immovable property of a value less than one hundred rupees, such transfer may be made either by a registered instrument or by delivery of the property. Delivery of tangible immoveable property takes place when the seller places the buyer, or such person as he directs, in possession of the property. Contract for sale.—A contract for the sale of immoveable property is a contract that a sale of such property shall take place on terms settled between the parties. It does not, of itself, create any interest in or charge on such property.
- The documents in question i.e. the will and the sale agreement to defendant 15 Malempati Satyanarayanavara Prasad Rao, were rejected.
- The sale agreement was a part of the will which is indeed fabricated and forged as declared by the trial court as well as the high court.
- Why would defendant 15, had thought of purchasing the land by the said sale agreement too far away from his settled adobe? Thus this gives rise to the suspicion more.
- The decree of the Trial Court stands restored.
- In addition to the costs awarded by the Trial Court, the plaintiff-appellant was also awarded the costs of the litigation in the High Court and the Supreme Court from the contesting respondents.
The decades-old case was finally settled after the decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled in the favour of the appellant, who seek partition and distribution of the property equally in the siblings they were entitled to. But the property was with the means of fabricated will and other sale agreements, distributed and sold to other parties.
Hon’ble Supreme Court declared the will and the sale agreement in question null and void and returned the said property to the rightful heirs of the family after the stepmother.
The Court also emphasized the S. 54 of the Transfer of Property Act, which defines sale and its important characteristics which are necessary for a sale to be completed.