If a person is in possession of property, he cannot be disowned by its owner without due process of law.
Date of Judgment:
- HON'BLE JUSTICE K. N. SINGH
- HON'BLE JUSTICE M. H. KANIA
- Appellant: Krishna Ram Mahale (dead) by Lrs
- Respondent: Mrs. Shobha Venkat Rao
This judgment involves unlawful deprivation of the possession of a business and the premises wherein it was conducted by the true owner from the party with whom the agreement is made. It is a suit filed under Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act,1963 which enumerated suits by person dispossessed of immovable property without consent or due course of law.
- On December 25, 1956, Mrs. Shobha Venkat Rao (Plaintiff) entered into an agreement with Krishna Ram Mahale (Defendant 3) for conducting business of a restaurant of his known as Meenakshi Bhuvan (later Central Cafe Udipi). The agreement was for 5 years with the option of renewal of the same.
- The agreement referred to the defendant 3 as the owner of the property while the plaintiff is referred to as the conductor. The term "conductor" was inclusive of the heirs, administrators, executors assigned by the plaintiff. The agreement also stated that all furniture, posts, and utensils mentioned in this list would remain the property of defendant 3.
- In exchange for the business, the plaintiff agreed to pay defendant 3 a certain royalty payment. On January 11, 1958, an agreement allowed defendant 1 to conduct the restaurant's operations for the unexpired term of the agreement and he was to pay Rs 700 per month to the plaintiff.
- On January 10, 1959, a notice was sent to the plaintiff instructing him to resume possession of the restaurant to the defendant or else the defendant may proceed in the court of law. The plaintiffs denied receiving any such notices, and filed a suit under Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act.
- After the trial, on February 15, 1959, the court ruled that defendant 3 had unlawfully acquired the restaurant and its premises behind the plaintiff’s back. The Trial Court ordered a decree in favor of the plaintiffs and asked the defendant to pay profits at the rate of Rs.310 per month till the plaintiff is put in possession.
- The Defendant approached the High Court where the appeal was dismissed and hence, defendant 3 appealed before the Supreme Court.
- Section 6 of Specific Relief Act,1963- Suit by person dispossessed of immovable property. —If any person is dispossessed without his consent of immovable property otherwise than in due course of law, he or any person claiming through him may, by suit, recover possession thereof, notwithstanding any other title that may be set up in such suit.
Was the possession of the restaurant by the defendant unlawful?
- On February 12, 1959, another notice was sent to the plaintiff stating that defendant 3 would approach her for taking possession of the restaurant due to no reply. The plaintiff, however, did not receive the same notices and that claimed notices were intentionally sent to the restaurant knowing she would not be present there.
- Defendant 3 stated that he was given the possession of a restaurant by the plaintiff. However, he later stated that it was the defendants 2 and 3 who gave him the possession on plaintiff's behalf. Various versions of how he got the restaurant and the service of the notice were presented by defendant 3. His peon's testimony was also found to be very unsatisfactory by the court.
- The Trial Court and the High Court noted that the defendant 3 had failed to provide a consistent and accurate account of how and from whom he got the restaurant. He was also unwilling to reveal the truth about the incident. The evidence on record supported the plaintiff's contention that she was not aware that defendant 3 obtained the restaurant's possession.
- It was also argued by defendant's side that the possession of the restaurant should not be returned to the plaintiff since the period of license had already passed. The High Court rejected this contention. It was held that even though the agreements were sub-leases, the possession of the plaintiff after the period of license was not illegal or without authority of law.
- The SC held that it is a well-settled law in this country that if a person is in possession of property, he cannot be disowned by its owner without due process of law.
- The conduct of the 3rd defendant also caused the court to decline to entertain his appeal under Article 136 of the Constitution as he has illegally taken possession of the premises and the business by collusion and without the consent of the plaintiff. Therefore, the appeal was dismissed with costs throughout. The plaintiff was also entitled to withdraw the deposited amount.
In India, persons are not permitted to take forcible possession of a property without obtaining the necessary possession from a Court. The true owner has the right to dispossess a trespasser if he or she has been successful to take possession without knowledge of true owner. The plaintiff was not a trespasser as she had entered the premises as a licensed restaurant operator. Thus, defendant 3 was not entitled to dispossess the plaintiff unlawfully and behind her back as had been done by him in the present case.
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