HIGH COURT OF BOMBAI
The Petitioner is the Original Plaintiff in RAD Suit No.35 of 1998 which has been filed in the Court of Small Causes at Mumbai under Section 28 of the Bombay Rent Act, 1947. It is the case of the Plaintiff that he is the monthly tenant of the Defendant/ Landlord in respect of the flat admeasuring 2121 sq. feet on the ground floor of the building known as “Asmita” at Vile Parle (W), Bombay. The Plaintiff has pleaded that the suit premises were let out to him in the year 1969 and it is his further case that though the rent was agreed to be Rs.1,300/per month, the Defendant stated that if the rent is shown high, property tax would be charged at higher rate, that a Leave and License Agreement was kept ready by the Defendants which showed that a near relative of the Defendant – named Mr. Fulshankar L. Joshi was shown as Licensor and the Plaintiff was shown as a Licensee. It is the case of the Plaintiff that this document was created as camouflage.
Dinesh Vasantrai Bhuta .. Applicant/Petitioner. V/s. Mrs. Vasantben Harvilas Jani.. Respondent.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
WRIT PETITION NO.3190 OF 2011
CIVIL APPLICATION NO.956 OF 2011
Dinesh Vasantrai Bhuta ]
Aged 62 years, 49, Asmita Building , ]
Ground Floor, N. S. Road No.3 ]
Juhu Scheme Vile Parle, ]
Mumbai 400 049. ] .. Applicant/
Mrs. Vasantben Harvilas Jani ]
widow of Harvilas K. Jani @ Batukbhai ]
K. Jani, Aged years, 49, Asmita Building ]
Ground Floor, N. S. Road No.3, ]
Juhu Scheme Vile Parle, ]
Mumbai 400 049. ] .. Respondent.
Mr. Andhyarjuna along with Mr. Devrat Dharkar i/b. Mr. Parag Sharma, for
Mr. Kamal Katha along with Mr. A. K. S. Vani i/b. M.L.S. Vani & Associates,
for the Respondent.
CORAM : G.S.GODBOLE,J.
RESERVED ON : 29th AUGUST, 2011
PRONOUNCED ON : 14th NOVEMBER, 2011.
1 On 29th August, 2011, the hearing of the Petition was concluded and the judgment was reserved.
2 RULE. Rule made returnable forthwith and heard by consent of the parties. Mr. Vani, Advocate for the Respondent waives service.
3 The Petitioner is the Original Plaintiff in RAD Suit No.35 of 1998 which has been filed in the Court of Small Causes at Mumbai under Section 28 of the Bombay Rent Act, 1947. It is the case of the Plaintiff that he is the monthly tenant of the Defendant/ Landlord in respect of the flat admeasuring 2121 sq. feet on the ground floor of the building known as “Asmita” at Vile Parle (W), Bombay. The Plaintiff has pleaded that the suit premises were let out to him in the year 1969 and it is his further case that though the rent was agreed to be Rs.1,300/per month, the Defendant stated that if the rent is shown high, property tax would be charged at higher rate, that a Leave and License Agreement was kept ready by the Defendants which showed that a near relative of the Defendant – named Mr. Fulshankar L. Joshi was shown as Licensor and the Plaintiff was shown as a Licensee. It is the case of the Plaintiff that this document was created as camouflage.
4 The Defendant filed Written Statement in the said suit on 11th August, 1998 and in respect of the aforesaid Leave and License Agreement, the Defendant contended that there was no privity of contract between the Plaintiff and the Defendant that the Plaintiff is neither the tenant or subtenant nor a Licensee of the Defendant. In para 4 of the Written Statement, it was contended that Defendant is the owner of the building namely – “Asmita”, that a Leave and License Agreement dated 4th November, 1969 was executed between Plaintiff and Mr. Fulshankar Joshi, where the said Fulshankar Joshi was inducted as Licensee. In para 4 (c), the Defendant pleaded that Agreement was executed between the Plaintiff and Mr. Fulshankar Joshi, on 1st February, 1970 and it was further pleaded that a copy of the said Leave and License Agreement would be produced.
5 At the trial of the suit, the Plaintiff filed Affidavit of Examination In Chief and in para 5 thereon, it was stated that the Defendant had obtained the signature of the Plaintiff on the said document by misrepresentation, wherein the Plaintiff was shown as Licensee of Fulshankar Joshi.
6 During the course of cross examination of the Plaintiff, a notice to produce the original Leave and License Agreement dated 1st February, 1970 executed between Fulshankar Joshi and the Plaintiff was served on the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff was asked to produce the document. In reply, the Plaintiff replied that he had not brought the original Leave and License Agreement and thereafter the Plaintiff made a voluntarily statement that the original Leave and License Agreement was never given to him and he has never produced the same. At this stage, the Plaintiff was shown a carbon copy of the Leave and License agreement dated 1st February, 1970 and admitted his signature on the said document.
7 The Defendant, thereafter, filed his Affidavit of Examination In Chief and list of documents on 11th June, 2010. A question regarding admissibility of the document and particularly the document at serial no.5 which was a carbon copy of the Leave and License Agreement was taken up and the Learned Judge of the Trial Court passed order dated 19th July, 2010, whereby the learned Judge declined to exhibit the said copy of Leave and License Agreement. The carbon copy was marked as Article “Y” and the photo copy which was produced with the Affidavit was marked as Article “Y1”.
8 After passing of this order, the Defendant filed application below Exhibit 45 in the suit and prayed for exhibiting the carbon copy on which the signature had been admitted by the Plaintiff and further prayed for reading the carbon copy in evidence. This application was opposed by the Plaintiff. By the Judgment and Order dated 12th August, 2010 (Exhibit F), the learned Judge of the Small Causes presiding in Court Room No.37, dismissed the said application. The Defendant had relied upon the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Nawab Singh v/s. Inderjit Kaur, reported in AIR 1999, S.C. 16681. The learned Judge held that the Defendant was not entitled to lead the secondary evidence because in the cross examination, the Plaintiff has denied the the Original copy of Agreement is with the Plaintiff.
9 Aggrieved by this order, the Defendant/ Respondent herein filed Revision Application No.182 of 2010 and by impugned Judgment and Order dated 23rd February, 2011, the Division Bench of the Court of Small Causes allowed the said revision application and the Trial Court was directed to exhibit the carbon copy of the Agreement dated 1st February, 1970 which had been marked as “Y” and it was also directed that the said copy should be read in evidence.
10 Mr. Zal Andhyarujina, the learned Advocate appearing for the Petitioner advanced the following submissions:
(i) The order dated 19th June, 2010 about the admissibility of the document had attained finality and the same has not been challenged and, hence, the application at Exhibit 45 was not maintainable. Relying on Section 65 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, it was submitted that the original document was not produced by the Plaintiff and, hence, unless it was conclusively proved that the original is lost or destroyed or is in the custody of some other person, who was not ready to produce the document, secondary evidence could not have been permitted to be led.
(ii) Relying on the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Ashok Dulichand v/s. Madahavlal Dube and another (1975) 4 – SCC664 : AIR SC 17482 and particularly para 7 thereof, it was submitted that unless requirement of Section 65 are fulfilled in all respects, secondary evidence cannot be permitted. Relying on Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Gangamma and others v/s. Shivalingaiah, reported in (2005) 9 SCC3593 (paragraphs 7 & 8), it was contended that Section 90 only raises the presumption but it nowhere provided that in terms of that Section apart from the authenticity, the recital contained in the document is also presumed to be correct. Even if the formal execution of a document is proved, the same by itself cannot lead to a presumption that the recitals contained therein are also correct.
(iii) Relying on the Judgment of learned Single Judge of this Court (Coram: S. B. Deshmukh, J.) in the case of Ramdas Bhatu Chaudhary v/s. Anant Chunilal Kate, reported in 2006 (6), Mah.L. J. 5714 (paragraph 10), it was submitted that the party must produce primary evidence and only in certain circumstances, enumerated under Section 65, secondary evidence can be permitted.
(iv) Relying on the Judgment of another learned Single Judge ( Coram: V. C. Daga,J.) in the case of Bank of Baroda, Bombay v/s. Shree Moti Industries, Bombay and others, reported in (2009) (1), Mah. L. J.2825, on the observations in paragraphs 25 to 29, it was submitted that the secondary evidence of the contents of documents is not admissible until non production of the original is first accounted for.
(v) The Judgment in the case of Quamarul Islam v/s. S. K. Kanta and others, reported in 1994 Supp (3) SCC56 was also relied upon. However, prima facie, the ratio in the said Judgment is not applicable to the facts of the case. Relying upon the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of J. Yashoda v/s. K. obharani (2007)5 SCC7307 (paragraphs 7), it was submitted that secondary evidence is generally admissible only in the absence of the primary evidence and can be given only in the absence of the better evidence which may required to be given first.
(vi) Relying upon the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of State of H. P. and Others v/s. Akshara Nand (dead) by legal heirs and others, reported in (2000)3 SCC6618, it was contended that the revision could not have been allowed.
11 The learned Advocate for the Respondent on the other hand supported the Judgment and advanced the following submissions:(a) The Division Bench of the Court of Small Causes has properly exercised the jurisdiction vested in it by law and, since there is no perversity in the finding and no error of jurisdiction, no case for interference under Article 227 has been made out. (b) Relying on paragraph 5 of the Affidavit Of Examination In Chief of the Plaintiff, it was contended that the Plaintiff has specifically admitted the signature on the Leave and License Agreement and what was produced during cross examination was the carbon copy and the Plaintiff has admitted his signature thereon. Relying upon section 62 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, it was submitted that carbon copy was itself primary evidence and, hence, it has rightly been directed to be exhibited. It was submitted that in any case, the carbon copy would be admissible as Secondary Evidence in view of Section 63 (2) and since the Plaintiff failed to produce the original despite service of notice, the Plaintiff was not entitled to oppose the production of the carbon copy.(c) Relying upon the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Narbada Devi Gupta v/s. Birendra Kumar Jaiswal and another, reported in (2003)8 SCC7459 (paragraphs 16 and 17), it was submitted that execution of documents is to be proved by admissible evidence and in a case where the document is produced and signature on the document is admitted, the document has to be read in evidence. Reliance was also placed on the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of P. C. Purushothama Reddiar v/s. S. Perumal reported in (1972) 1SCC9 : AIR 1972SC608 It was submitted that the Plaintiff had admitted the signature on the carbon copy, hence, there was no further burden on the Defendant to lead any additional evidence for proof of the contents of the carbon copy. Relying on the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of T. Mohan v/. Kannammal and another reported in (2002) 10 SCC8211, it was submitted that foundation had been led to accept the secondary evidence. (d) Relying on the Judgment of the learned Single Judge of this Court (Coram: V. S. Sirpurkar J.) (as he was then), reported in 1998(1) Bom. C. R. 63112 and the observations in paragraphs 11 and 12, it was contended that once the signature on the document was proved to be that of the Plaintiff, there would be no reason to doubt the said document regarding the versity of the contents thereof. (e) Relying on the observations in the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Grasim Industries Limited v/s. Agarwal Steel, reported in (2010)1 SCC83 in paragraph 6 it was contended that once the person is shown to have singed the document, there is presumption that he has read the document properly. (f) Reliance was also placed on the observations made in the Division Bench Judgment of this Court (Coram: M. L. Pendse and A. A. Cazi JJ) in the case of Byramjee Jeejebhoy Private Ltd. v/s. Govindbhai A. Bhatte and Others, reported in 1994(1) Bom. C. R. 21114 in paragraph 14 it was submitted that once the factum of the execution is proved, the document stands proved and it is wholly irrelevant whether the contents are proved or not.
12 In rejoinder, Mr. Andhyarjuna relied upon paragraph 6 of the Affidavit of the Defendant in lieu of Examination In Chief and the Written Statement and contended that the statement made in paragraph 6 of the Affidavit was beyond the averments in the Written Statement. Relying on the written statement it was submitted that the Defendant has never claimed that the original Agreement was with the Plaintiff.
13 I have carefully considered the rival contentions. This is a peculiar case where in my opinion, the factum of execution of the disputed Leave and License Agreement dated 1st February, 1970 is not in dispute. This is clear from the averments in the Plaint, as also the averments contained in the Affidavit of Plaintiff in lieu of Examination In Chief. Perusal of the Plaint in RAD Suit No.35 of 1998 shows that according to the Plaintiff, allegedly by misrepresentation, the Agreement of Leave and License which was already kept ready and was made in the name of Fulshankar Joshi as Licensor and the Plaintiff as Licensee, was got signed. Plaintiff contended that the said Fulshankar Joshi had never occupied the suit premises and the suit premises were directly let out to the Plaintiff by the Defendant. In paragraph 4 of the Plaint,it is stated thus:
“........... The said purported Agreement of Leave and License between the said Fulshankar Labhshankar Joshi and the Plaintiff is a camouflage Agreement and it is not at all binding upon the Plaintiff and it could not have bound and can not bind the Plaintiff as the said Fulshankar Labhshankar Joshi never had any right of howsoever nature in the suit premises.”
14 The Plaintiff himself did not produce the disputed Agreement. The case of the Plaintiff as stated in his Affidavit of Examination In Chief is as under:
“................... The Defendant assured me that the Defendant would not act upon the said Agreement and represented that he obtained my signature on the said Agreement of Leave and licence only to keep it as an record that the monthly amount recoverable from me of the suit premises was Rs.1300/. I had not been read over the entire contents of the said purported Agreement of Leave and License, nor did I also read the contents of the same as I believed the representation and assurance of the Defendant and was i dire need of the accommodation. The Defendant did not give any copy of the said purported Agreement of Leave and License to me.”
When the Plaintiff was given notice to produce the document during the course of his cross examination on 12th March, 2010, he accepted service of notice to produce the document and thereafter stated thus:
“............. I have not brought the original Leave and License Agreement with me today. Witness volunteers that the said original Leave and License Agreement was never given to me due to which I am unable to produce it.”
“ I am now shown the carbon copy of Leave and License Agreement dated 01/02/1970 produced on record today. It is true that it bears my signature”. He has further admitted that:
“Ans: I admit that I have signed the copy produced today but I do not remember how many papers I had signed. I also do not know how many copies of the Agreement were got prepared. Any copy or original of said Agreement was never handed over to me.”
15 In this background, it is necessary to consider the provisions of Sections 62 to 66 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Section 62 indicates as to what is the primary evidence. Section 63 indicates as to what is secondary evidence. Section 65 provides for the cases in which secondary evidence may be given and evidence regarding existence, contents or conditions of the documents. It is now necessary to consider the submissions of the Petitioner and the alternate argument of the learned Advocate for the Respondent. Execution of original and copy is also admitted in view of the oral evidence of the Plaintiff. The second Judgment relied upon by the learned Advocate for the Petitioner in the case of Ashok Dulichand (supra), has no application to the facts of the case. In that case, there was no notice to produce served under Section 66. The circumstances under which the copy was prepared were not accepted and the High Court had recorded the finding of the fact that the Photostat copy was suspicious. In that context, the observations which have been relied upon by the Petitioner were made in paragraph 17. The facts of the present case are entirely different.
16 The third Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Gangamma (supra) deals with the presumption available under Section 90 of the Evidence Act. In the present case, the entire burden of showing that the document dated 1st February, 1970 allegedly is a camouflage is on the Plaintiff. The carbon copy is admittedly signed by the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff will have to prove that his case falls in one of the excepted categories provided by Section 92 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and that is the matter which has to be considered by the trial Court after completion of the evidence and hearing the submissions. In fact, Section 90 raises a rebutable presumption. Existence of the document is not denied by the Plaintiff but only correctness of the contents is disputed and that is the matter which will have to be considered in accordance with the law on the basis of the provisions of Sections 90 to 92 by the Trial Court.
17 The Judgment of the learned Single Judge of this Court in the case of Ramdas Bhatu Chaudhary (supra) is also of little assistance to the Plaintiff. In that case, a notice to produce the document was given to the Plaintiff. That was a suit for possession and mandatory injunction and the Defendant therein had pleaded Agreement for Sale dated 15th October, 1984. In that case, though the notice to produce the document was given in respect of the Agreement for Sale dated 15th October, 1984, the same was immediately replied by the Plaintiff by denying the execution of the Agreement and no foundation in the Written Statement has been laid by the Defendant showing execution of the said Agreement. In the present case, the Plaintiff has himself gone to the Court with a specific case of execution of the document and when the notice to produce the document was given, the same was not replied and the first answer of the Plaintiff was that he has not brought original to the Court. Thereafter, his voluntary statement seeks to disown the custody of the original. Be that as it may, the Plaintiff has himself pleaded about the execution of the document and the copy and has taken a stand that the document was in fact a camouflage. In my opinion, the existence and contents of the document as also the signature on the document clearly stand proved. The Judgment in the case of Quamarul Islam (supra) is on entirely different issue. Though the observations in paragraph 49 were sought to be relied upon, that was a case regarding the news paper and the news item and contents of speech and, hence, the ratio of that Judgment is also not applicable.
18 The Judgment in the case of J. Yashoda (supra) will also not advanced the case of the Petitioner for the simple reason that in the present case, the averments in the Plaint and Examination In Chief of the Plaintiff shows the execution and existence of the document and though the existence or the contents of the document are not denied; the correctness of the contents is denied by contending that real intention of the parties was to create a tenancy and that there was no privity of contract between the Plaintiff/ Petitioner and Fulshankar Joshi.
19 The last Judgment relied upon by the learned Advocate for the Petitioner in the case of State of H. P. and another (supra) is not applicable to the facts of this case.
20 In paragraph 7 of the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Ashok Dulichand (supra) it is observed thus:
“ After hearing the learned counsel for the parties, we are of the opinion that the order of the High Court in this respect calls for no interference. According to clause (a) of section 65 of the Indian Evidence Act, secondary - 17 - caw-956-2011 evidence may be given of the existence, condition or contents of a document when the original is shown or appears to be in the possession or power of the person against whom the document is sought to be proved, or of any person out of reach of, or not subject to, the process of the Court, or of any person legally bound to produce it, and when, after the notice mentioned in section 66, such person does not produce it. Clauses (b) to (g) of section 65 specify some other contingencies wherein secondary evidence relating to a document may be given, but we are not concerned with those clauses as it is the common case of the parties that the present case is not covered by those clauses. In order to bring his case within the purview of clause (a) of section 65, the appellant filed applications on July 4, 1973, before respondent No. 1 was examined as a witness, praying that the said respondent be ordered to produce the original manuscript of which, according to the appellant, he had filed photostat copy. Prayer was also made by the appellant that in case respondent No. 1 denied that the said manuscript had been written by him, the photostat copy might be got examined from a handwriting expert. The appellant also filed Affidavit in support of his applications. It was, however, nowhere stated in the Affidavit that the original document of which the photostat copy had been filed by the appellant was in the possession of respondent No. 1. There was also no other material on the record to indicate that the original document was in the possession of respondent No. 1. The appellant further failed to explain as to what were the circumstances under which the photostat copy was prepared and who was in possession of the original document at the time its photograph was taken. Respondent No. 1 in his Affidavit denied being in possession of or having anything to do with such a document. The photostat copy appeared to the High Court to be not above suspicion. In view of all the circumstances, the High Court came to the conclusion that no foundation had been laid by the appellant for leading secondary evidence in the shape of the photostat copy. We find no infirmity in the above order of the High Court as might justify interference by this Court.” - 18 - caw-956-2011
21 In the case of P. C. Purushothama Reddiar (supra), the Supreme Court has held that:“
Once a document is properly admitted, the contents of that document are also admitted in evidence though, those contents may not be conclusive evidence.”
22 In the case of Narbada Devi Gupta (supra), it is observed thus:
“ It is well settled that a case which has not been pleaded in the plaint cannot be made out by evidence. It is also well settled that signatures to the documents having been admitted
or proved, the contents thereof automatically go into evidence, when the documents were admitted into evidence without objection.”
23 In the case of Mrs. Cynthia Martin Wd/o A. V. Martin v/s. Prembehari s/o. Makhanlal Yadu & Another reported in 1998(1) Bom. C. R. 63115, it is observed in paragraph 12 that:
“ By the said letter, it was informed by the competent authority that the house was not situated in the slum area. Shri De submitted that the only witness, who has been examined, has not been able to give any details regarding the said letter and mere proof of the signature would not amount to the proof of the contents of the letter. It is true that mere proof of the signature could not prove the contents of the letter. However, that is not a case here. The letter is clear enough, and once the letter is proved by proving the signature of the maker thereof, there would hardly be any reason to doubt the same regarding the veracity of the contents therein.”
24 In the case of Grasim Industries Limited (supra), following observation made in paragraph 6:“
In our opinion, when a person signs a document, there is a presumption, unless there is proof of force or fraud, that he has read the document properly and understood it and only
then he has affixed his signatures thereon, otherwise no signature on a document can ever be accepted.
..................... Hence, it is difficult to accept the contention of the respondent while admitting that the document, Ext. D8 bears his signatures that it was signed under some mistake.”
25 In the case of Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Private Limited (supra), the following observation was made:
“ ..................... The learned trial Judge curiously declined to exhibit the document and marked it for identification s Ex. X/6 on the ground that even if the signature of the vendor on the document is proved, unless the contents are proved, the document cannot be admitted. We are afraid we cannot share the view of the learned trial Judge. The document stands proved as soon as the fact of execution is proved and it is wholly irrelevant whether the contents are proved. The proof of contents of the document may be necessary in a given case, but the proof of document and the evidentiary value are two distinct and different factors.”
26 In view of the aforesaid legal position and in the peculiar facts of this case, where the Plaintiff has himself pleaded that the document is a camouflage, once the Plaintiff has admitted his signature on the carbon copy, the document stands proved and has been rightly exhibited. Obviously, this will not preclude the Plaintiff from establishing his case as alleged that there was no privity of contract between himself and Fulshankar Joshi or that the real intention of the Petitioner and the Respondent thereto was to create tenancy nor will this preclude the Defendant from showing that there was no privity of contract between the Petitioner and the Respondent. All these questions will have to be and/are kept open for adjudication before the trial Court. In my opinion, the learned Judges of the Division Bench of Court of Small Causes, Bombay have not committed any error of jurisdiction or any error of law so as to warrant interference under Article 227 of the Constitution of India. The contention of the learned Advocate for the Petitioner that application at Exhibit 45 was not maintainable also does not have any merit. Since even the earlier order regarding admissibility of the document which was passed on 19th July, 2010 did not preclude the Defendant from filing an application, which exercise was done by the Defendant by filing his Affidavit of Examination In Chief and Exhibit 45 which was erroneously
rejected by the trial Court; that erroneous order has been rightly set aside by the Revisional Court. 27 Subject to the above clarification contained in paragraph nos. 16 and 26 above, Writ Petition is dismissed. Rule discharged. In view of dismissal of Writ Petition, Civil Application No.956 of 2011 does not survive and same is also disposed off.