Civil Appeal No. 5641 of 2021
[@ Special Leave Petition (C) No.26441 of 2014]
Date of Judgement:
17 September 2021
Justice Hemant Gupta
Justice V. Ramasubramanian
Appellants – Salim D Agboatwala and Ors.
Respondents – Shamalji Oddhavji Thakkar and Ors.
When a Plaintiff claims that he gained knowledge of the essential facts giving rise to the cause of action only at particular point of time, the same has to be accepted at the stage of considering the application under Rule 11 of Order VII of the Code of Civil Procedure.
- Rule 11 in Order VII of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 -Rejection of Plaint.
- Section 85 of the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act - Bar of jurisdiction.
- Section 3 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 Explanation II - Any person acquiring any immoveable property or any share or interest in any such property shall be deemed to have notice of the title, if any, of any person who is for the time being in actual possession thereof.
- The Appellants herein claimed to be the legal successors of an estate. They filed a suit for administration of the remaining estate before the High Court of Bombay. The Bombay High Court appointed an Administrator for the estate. The Apellants stated that certain sales were done by mutation of land records through the ALT (Agricultural Land Tribunal) without their knowledge. Therefore, a suit was filed to set aside the sale certificate issued by an order passed by the ALT.
- Since the order was passed during the year 1963, and the suit was filed during 1987, the respondents took out a notice of motion for rejection of plaint under Rule 11 Order VI of the CPC.
- The respondent’s main contention were, firstly, the suit was barred by limitation as the ALT’s order was from 1963 and the set aside petition was filed in 1987. Secondly, Section 85 of the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act bars the jurisdiction of the City Civil Court. The City Civil Court rejected the Plaint and accepted the respondent’s contention. Aggrieved, an appeal before the High Court was preferred which was dismissed.
- Whether the suit is barred by limitation?
- Whether Section 85 of the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act bars the jurisdiction of the City Civil Court?
- The Court observed that limitation is a combination of law and fact. The Court noted the Appellant’s contention that only after they came to know about the fraudulent transaction, they filed a petition. If this is true, a limitation period cannot be imposed upon the appellant. Therefore, the date on which the knowledge of fraudulent transactions came to light is important to assess the situation. It then becomes a triable issue and cannot be rejected at the entry point itself.
- The respondent contended that the Appellant had constructive notice of the proceedings before the ALT. Examining Section 3 of the Transfer of Property Act, a person is said to have a notice of fact if he is aware of the fact or is wilfully abstaining himself from search or inquiry or is grossly negligent. Explanation II to this Section provides that a person holding an immovable property is deemed to have the notice of title of a person in possession. The Court pointed out that it was the Court Administrator who was in possession of the estate, and hence Explanation II cannot come to the rescue of the respondents.
- Regarding Section 85 of the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Land Act which provides a bar on jurisdiction of City Civil Courts, the court observed that there exists a ‘strange’ provision under Section 85A of the Act. Although Section 85 provides that the Tribunal or Collector’s order cannot be questioned by a City Civil Court, Section 85A dilutes this bar. It provides that when these cases are presented before the City Civil Court, it shall stay the proceeding and refer the issue to competent authorities and once the same has been clarified by the competent authority, the City Civil Court can dispose the case. The Court observed that if Section 85 is absolute, the power of the City Civil Court to refer the issues to competent authority would not arise. Hence, the jurisdiction of the City Civil Court is not barred entirely.
If any party is unaware of the proceedings, he can approach the Court upon receiving the knowledge of the same. It is important to note the date at which this facts or knowledge came to light because, if it is proved by the party regarding the proceedings, it becomes a triable issue. For claiming a constructive notice, the two essential conditions under Section 3 of the Transfer of Property Act must be indulged.
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Questions to Analyse:
- What are the two essential conditions under Section 3 of the Transfer of property act regarding Constructive Notice?