As to a general fact, an appellate court is the final court of facts. The judgment of the appellate court must, therefore, reflect the court’s application of mind and record its findings supported by reasons. The law relating to powers and duties of the first appellate court is well fortified by the legal provisions and judicial pronouncements.
[Case Brief]: Laliteshwar Prasad Singh & Ors. V/s. S.P. Srivastava (D) Tr. Lr
Case Name- Laliteshwar Prasad Singh & Ors vsS.P.Srivastava(D) Tr.Lr
Case number- Civil Appeal No. 4426 of 2011
Court- Supreme Court of India
Bench- R. BANUMATHI, J. R.K. AGRAWAL
Decided on- 15 December 2016
Relevant Act/ Sections- The Specific Relief Act, 1963; The Hindu Succession Act, 1956
Ø PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND BRIEF FACTS:
1. The first respondent-Plaintiff Shailendra Prasad Srivastava filed a suit praying for declaration of his title with respect to suit property in Khasra No. 123, 124, 269, 274, 997 and 959 of Khata No. 31 of village Bairiya and village Koloha Pagambarpur(Schedule I and Schedule II) properties respectively against the second respondent-Defendant BaidyaNath Prasad Verma alleging that the suit property detailed in Schedule I and II belonged to Girish Chandra Prasad.
2. The case of the plaintiff is that in the Revisional Survey of Records, Tarawati Devi, the widow of Girish Chandra Prasad got the property recorded in the name of her grandson Umashanker Prasad. The said Umashanker Prasad died during the lifetime of Tarawati Devi in the year 1965.
3. The first respondent-Plaintiff alleged that he, being the only male member of the family, used to stay with Tarawati Devi and did all the ceremonies after her death. Further case of the first respondent-Plaintiff is that when he was working at Bhilai, he learnt that the second respondent-Defendant is trying to obtain revenue receipt in collusion with Anchal Karmachari.
4. The first respondent-Plaintiff went to the office of the Circle Office Kanti and got the cancellation of the revenue receipt in the name of the defendant. The second respondent-Defendant BaidyaNath Prasad filed a mutation appeal. When the first respondent-Plaintiff came to know that the second respondent-Defendant is trying to claim title over the suit property through Tarawati Devi alleging that the suit property belonged to Tarawati Devi, the first respondent-Plaintiff being the agnate of Tarawati Devi filed a suit for declaration of his title.
5. Resisting the suit, the second respondent-Defendant filed a written statement refuting all claims of the first respondent-Plaintiff and contending that the disputed property belonged to one Mr. Dhanukdhari Sahay.
6. The said Dhanukdhari Sahay had one son named Mr. Vasudev Prasad, who further had a son and three daughters, namely, Ms. Tarawati Devi, Ms. Lakshmi Devi and Ms. Ranjan Devi. Ms. Ranjan Devi died during the lifetime of her father. The second respondent-Defendant further pleaded that the suit property has been sold to various parties and the suit filed by the first respondent-Plaintiff against the second respondent-Defendant is liable to be dismissed.
7. After the death of son Vasudev Prasad and others, the disputed property came to be vested in Ms. Tarawati Devi’s name. The second respondent-Defendant was the closest legal heir of Dhanukdhari Sahay and after the death of Ms. Tarawati Devi in 1985, as per Section 15(2) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 the property devolved upon the second respondent- Defendant by succession and mutation was effected in his name and he started paying revenue in respect of the suit property which was mutated in his name.
8. The trial court held that the first respondent-Plaintiff has not produced any documents to show that the property belonged to the family of TejPratapNarayan. The trial court held that after the death of her father DhanukdhariSahay, Tarawati Devi became the sole legal heir of the disputed property and as per Section 15(1)(b) of Hindu Succession Act, if the deceased woman has acquired the property from her parents, it will be inherited by the successors of the parents of the deceased. It was further held that there is no record to show that Tarawati Devi got the disputed property from her husband or father-in-law. The trial court dismissed the suit holding that the first respondent-Plaintiff has not produced the necessary documents to prove his title to the suit property.
9. On appeal, the High Court reversed the findings of the trial court and held that as per the Revisional Survey Record of Right, the property was recorded in the name of Umashanker Prasad, grandson of Girish Chandra Prasad and on the death of Girish Chandra Prasad, his widow Tarawati Devi became the absolute owner of the property and on her death in 1985, the property devolved on her agnate-the first respondent-Plaintiff, it was held that the first respondent- Plaintiff’s case about his agnate relationship with Girish Chandra Prasad stood proved and thus the Plaintiff proved his title to the suit property.
10. Hence this appeal.
Ø ISSUES BEFORE THE HON’BLE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA:
1. Whether the property belonged to Girish Chandra Prasad and after his death, his wife-Tarawati Devi succeeded to the property of her husband and after her death devolves upon her agnate first respondent-Plaintiff; or whether it belonged to DhanukdhariSahay, father of Tarawati Devi from whom Tarawati Devi inherited and as per Section 15(2) of the Hindu Succession Act whether the second respondent-Defendant is entitled to succeed to the same?
2. Whether the High Court had failed in considering all the evidences put forward by the appellants being the final court of facts and therefore erred in determining the merits of the case?
Ø RATIO OF THE COURT:
1. Learned counsel for the appellants submitted that though the suit filed by the first respondent-Plaintiff was for a declaration of title, no documents of title pertaining to the suit property had been produced before the court and the documents produced were merely rent receipts and mutation record and on these documents.
2. The main contention of the appellants here was that while the High Court impleaded the appellants as parties in the first appeal, the High Court being the first appellate court, ought to have afforded an opportunity to the appellants to file their documents and submissions and the judgment of the High Court is in violation of principles of natural justice in not giving an opportunity to the appellants who are bona fide purchasers for consideration.
3. In reply, the learned senior counsel for the first respondent-Plaintiff submitted that the record of rights stood in the name of Umashanker Prasad, the grandson of Girish Chandra Prasad and this record of right was corroborated by the rent receipts which were in the name of Girish Chandra Prasad as well as the first respondent-Plaintiff himself. It was further submitted that apart from the documentary evidence, the oral evidence of PW-3, PW-4, PW-10, PW-13, and PW-14 established that the suit property belonged to Girish Chandra Prasad.
4. It was further contended that in spite of opportunities afforded, the second respondent- Defendant did not produce the sale deeds executed by him in favor of the appellants which clearly shows that the appellants are not bona fide purchasers for value and the High Court rightly held that the appellants cannot have a better title than that of the second respondent-Defendant.
5. The court observed that as per Order XLI Rule 31 CPC, the judgment of the first appellate court must explicitly set out the points for determination, record its reasons thereon and give its reasoning based on evidence. However, it is equally well settled that mere omission to frame point/points for determination does not vitiate the judgment of the first appellate court provided that the first appellate court records its reasons based on evidence adduced by both the parties.
6. An appellate court is the final court of facts. The judgment of the appellate court must, therefore, reflect the court’s application of mind and record its findings supported by reasons. The law relating to powers and duties of the first appellate court is well fortified by the legal provisions and judicial pronouncements.
7. In H.K.N. Swami v. Irshad Basith, this Court stated that “the first appeal has to be decided on facts as well as on law. In the first appeal, parties have the right to be heard both on questions of law as also on facts and the first appellate court is required to address itself to all issues and decide the case by giving reasons.”
8. The court observed that the points which arise for determination by a court of the first appeal must cover all important questions involved in the case and they should not be general and vague. Even though the appellate court would be justified in taking a different view on the question of fact that should be done after adverting to the reasons given by the trial judge in arriving at the finding in question.
9. The Court observed that in terms of Order XLI Rule 31 CPC, the High Court has neither framed the points for determination nor discussed the evidence adduced by the defendants. The High Court seemed to have only considered two aspects:- (i) genealogical table produced by the first respondent-Plaintiff; (ii) documentary evidence adduced by the first respondent-Plaintiff that is Exhibit 13 series-entry in Survey Record of Rights and Rent receipts (Ex. 1/J and Ex. 1/K to 1/M) filed by the first respondent-Plaintiff.
10. The Hon’ble Court found substance in the contention of the appellants that having been impleaded as parties in the High Court, they ought to have been given an opportunity to adduce additional evidence and make their submission to substantiate their claim that they are bona fide purchasers for value. In our view, having impleaded the appellants, in terms of Order XLI Rule 27 CPC, the High Court ought to have given an opportunity to the appellants to adduce additional evidence and make their submission.
Ø DECISION HELD BY THE COURT:
1. The Apex Court held that High Court had not considered the evidence adduced by the defendants. Having impleaded the appellants as parties in the first appeal, in terms of Order XLI Rule 27, the High Court ought to have afforded an opportunity to the appellants to adduce oral and documentary evidence and make their submissions.
2. In the result, the impugned judgment of the High Court in First Appeal No. 230 of 2007 dated 30.07.2007 is set aside and the matter is remitted back to the High Court for consideration of the matter afresh. The High Court shall afford sufficient opportunity to both the parties to adduce additional evidence, both oral and documentary and further afford sufficient opportunity of hearing to both the parties.