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The Name Of A Beneficiary Can Be Mutated Only Based On A Duly Proven Will And Revenue Authorities Can Not Decide The Genuineness Of A Will: High Court Of Madhya Pradesh

Varsha Rajesh ,
  02 April 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
High Court Of Madhya Pradesh
Brief :

Citation :
W.P. No. 2301/2024.

CASE TITLE: -

W.P. No. 2301/2024.

DATE OF ORDER:

23rd OF FEBRUARY 2024

JUDGE:

HON’BLE JUSTICE G.S. AHLUWALIA

PARTIES:

NOT SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED

SUBJECT -

The subject of the case with case number W.P. No. 2301/2024, pertains to issues related to mutation of names in revenue records based on a Will, the legal requirements for proving a Will, and the burden of proof on the party propounding a Will. The case involves a dispute regarding the mutation of names in revenue records based on a Will and the legal principles surrounding the proof of Wills in court.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

CONSTITUTION OF INDIA

  • Article 226 of the Indian Constitution: This article gives Indian High Courts the authority to issue writs, orders, or instructions to any government, person, or authority that falls under their jurisdiction for the purpose of enforcing basic rights, among other things. This clause gives the High Courts the authority to use their jurisdiction to uphold justice and provide a remedy for any unlawful acts or omissions.

EVIDENCE ACT 1872

  • Section 67: This section addresses the handwriting and signature verification of the individual who is purported to have signed a document. It says that if someone's signature or handwriting is needed or is in question, those methods can be used to prove that person's signature or handwriting: (a) calling witnesses who have observed the person write, (b) comparing the signature or handwriting with other documents that are known to be authentic; or (c) obtaining an expert opinion on the subject.
  • Section 68: The proof of execution of documents that need to be attested by law is covered in this section. It says that if a document needs to be certified due to legal requirements, it must be demonstrated that the attesting witness observed the executant (the person carrying out the document's execution) sign it or attach their mark to it. The witness must have signed the paperwork in front of the executant as well.

THE HINDU SUCCESSION ACT, 1956

  • Section 59: Will execution be covered in this section. It specifies that each testator (person drafting a will) may carry out the terms of the Will by signing it, attaching his mark to it, or acknowledging the signature or mark in front of two or more witnesses who must attest to the Will in the testator's presence.
  • Section 63: This section details how wills are to be executed. It stipulates that the testator must sign the Will himself, or that someone else must sign it on his behalf and in his presence. The testator must affix his mark, which must be verified by two or more witnesses, to the will if he is unable to sign. The Will must also be signed in the testator's presence by the attestation witnesses.

BRIEF FACTS

  • A petition under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution is at issue in this case. In this case, the petitioners are requesting relief over name changes made in revenue records according to a will.
  •  Initially, there was an execution of a Will by a testator, presumably detailing the distribution of their property or assets after their demise. The petitioners requested that their names be changed as beneficiaries under the Will in the revenue records after the testator passed away. However, it appeared that other interested parties or the deceased's legal representatives disagreed or objected to this modification.
  • The revenue authorities took up the subject to review the request for a mutation. Based on the Will, the revenue authorities issued specific directives pertaining to name changes. The petition under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution was filed because of the petitioners' apparent challenge to these orders.
  • The major question in the dispute was whether the revenue authorities could approve the mutation based only on the Will, without verifying that it was valid and complied with legal criteria.
  •  The M.P. Bhu-Rajaswa Sanhita (Bhu-Abhilekhon main Namantaran) Niyam, 2018, the Evidence Act, and other legal principles governing the proving and acceptance of wills were among the laws that had to be interpreted in this instance.
  •  The court ultimately adjudicated on the matter, considering the arguments presented by both parties and interpreting the applicable laws to arrive at a decision regarding the mutation of names in the revenue records based on the Will.

QUESTIONS RAISED

  •  Is it within the authority of the revenue authorities to alter beneficiary names in accordance with a will?
  •  Is it possible for revenue officials to act upon a will without proper proof?
  •   What is the effect of the M.P. Bhu-Rajaswa Sanhita (Bhu-Abhilekhon main Namantaran) Niyam, 2018 on the Evidence Act's provisions concerning the proving of a will?
  • Does the civil court have jurisdiction over the authenticity, accuracy, and genuineness of a Will, or can tax authorities make such determination?
  •   What duties fall on the person presenting a will, and what documentation is needed to support the will's validity?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT

  •   The petitioners contended that names in revenue records may be changed in accordance with a Will under the M.P. Bhu-Rajaswa Sanhita Niyam, 2018. According to their argument, revenue officials have the authority to order name changes based on a will. 
  •   The petitioners argued that a person must bring a civil lawsuit contesting a will if they feel wronged by it. They contended that to prove the Will's validity and compliance with legal criteria, the party making the Will has the burden of evidence. 
  •   According to the petitioners, a title can be obtained through a will, and once it is, the name in the revenue records can be changed. They contended that the Niyam, 2018 permitted such changes even in the absence of a specific regulation pertaining to mutations based on wills. 
  •     The petitioners argued that revenue officials were not qualified to determine whether a document, including a Will, is authentic. They made it clear that the revenue authorities lack the authority to judge whether a will is legitimate. 
  •  The petitioners emphasized the legal precept that the person presenting a will has a duty to substantiate the document. They contended that a will speaks from the testator's death, who is unable to present to testify regarding its execution, in contrast to other papers. Consequently, it is the proponent's responsibility to provide evidence that the Will is legitimate.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

  •  The respondent stated that the Evidence Act's requirements must be met for a will to be valid before it may be implemented. They underlined that even under the M.P. Bhu-Rajaswa Sanhita (Bhu-Abhilekhon main Namantaran) Niyam, 2018, a Will cannot be regarded as reliable without proper proof.
  • Revenue authorities cannot determine the legitimacy of a Will; only a Civil Court may make such a claim, according to the respondent. They contended that only through appropriate legal procedures could revenue authorities determine whether a will is authentic; they do not have the authority to do so.
  • The respondent argued that the Evidence Act's provisions are not superseded by the term "Will" as used in the Niyam, 2018. They contended that the Niyam, 2018's definition of "Will" refers to a legitimate and authentic Will that needs to be substantiated in line with legal standards.
  • The respondent stressed that revenue officials are not qualified to judge a will's validity, accuracy, or sincerity. They contended that rather than making significant legal rulings, tax authorities' authority is restricted to administrative issues and procedural activities. 
  • The respondent took issue with the Naib Tahsildar's handling of the case, especially with the fact that not all of the testator's attorneys received notices. They maintained that the Naib Tahsildar's failure to follow the correct legal processes demonstrated a basic ignorance of the law.

ANALYSIS BY THE COURT

  • The Evidence Act's Sections 67 and 68, the Succession Act's Sections 59 and 63, and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution were among the pertinent legal provisions that the court reviewed. It made clear that the Evidence Act establishes the standards for proving a will, even though Article 226 permits the filing of petitions requesting relief.
  • The court stressed the need for formal Will proof in accordance with the Evidence Act's guidelines. It was reaffirmed that before a will may be carried out, it must be properly demonstrated, and any questionable circumstances related to it must be resolved.
  •   The court confirmed that a Civil Court had jurisdiction over a will's legitimacy. It was reaffirmed that only appropriate legal procedures can ascertain whether a will is authentic and that revenue authorities are not authorized to make this determination.
  •  The court clarified that the term "Will" in the M.P. Bhu-Rajaswa Sanhita (Bhu-Abhilekhon main Namantaran) Niyam, 2018, refers to a valid and authentic Will, which must be proved in compliance with legal requirements, by interpreting the terms of the Niyam. 
  •  The court emphasized that revenue officials have limited authority and cannot determine whether a will is valid or proper. It was underlined that the duty of revenue authorities is limited to paperwork and formalities.

CASE JUDGMENTS REFERRED 

  • In H. Venkatachala Iyengar v. B.N. Thimmajamma, the standards for demonstrating a will's execution are discussed.
  • The case of Surendra Pal and others v. Dr. (Mrs.) Saraswati Arora and others address the necessity of proving the testator's sound mind and free will, as well as the burden of proof placed on the proponent of a will.
  •  The ruling in Gorantla Thataiah v. Thotakura Venkata Subbaiah and others confirms that the burden of proof is with the people who propose a will.
  •   Murthy and others v. C. Saradambal and others: This case emphasizes the necessity of demonstrating the testator's desire to create a will and the pronouncer’s obligation to question witnesses who attest to it.
  •   Legal representation of Dhanpat v. Sheo Ram and V. Kalyanaswamy and anr. v. L. Bakthavatsalam and others: Strengthen the requirements for proving a will in accordance with the Indian Evidence Act.
  •   The case of Bharpur Singh and others v. Shamsher Singh highlights the need for even registered wills to adhere to the legal standards of proof.
  •  The case of Niranjan Umesh Chandra Joshi v. Mrudula Jyoti Rao and ors. emphasizes the necessity of the testator signing the will voluntarily and with mental capacity.

CONCLUSION

The case, which was brought under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution and sought several reliefs including name changes in revenue records based on a will, was dismissed by the court. The Naib Tahsildar's ruling was struck aside by the court, which upheld the directives issued by other agencies. It ordered those names be changed in revenue records, pending the resolution of any pending civil lawsuits.

The Evidence Act's Sections 67 and 68, the Succession Act's Sections 59 and 63, and Article 226 of the Constitution were all carefully examined before the court reached its verdict. It made clear that formal verification of a will was required and highlighted the Civil Courts' authority to judge whether a will is valid. In addition, the court pointed out procedural flaws in the Naib Tahsildar's handling of the matter. The case served as a reminder of how crucial it is to follow the law in situations involving name changes in income records that are dependent on a will.

Reviewed by Adv. Nishtha Wadhwa, Content Writer and Reviewer, LCI


 


 

 
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