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Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams Vs KM Krishnaiah (1998): The Suit For Possession Of Property Can Be Claimed As Relief Provided A Valid Title Exists By The Person Dispossessed

Ashwitaa Shetty ,
  23 October 2021       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
Civil Appeal No. 1484 of 1987 and IA No. 1 of 1991

Crux:
The suit for possession of property can be claimed as relief provided a valid title exists by the person dispossessed.

Date of Judgement:
2nd March, 1998

Bench:
S.P. Bharucha, M. Jagannadha Rao

Parties:
Appellant : Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam’s (TTD)
Respondent: K.M. Krishnaiah

Subject

In this case, the respondent stated that he was dispossessed from his property and thereby claimed relief under Section 6 of Specific Relief Act, 1963. The court in this case stated that suit for possession of property beyond the period of 1 year was maintainable on the basis of prior possession. In such a suit, the plaintiff must establish the fact that he held a valid title.

Legal Provisions

Section 6 of Specific Relief Act, 1963 – A person dispossessed from his property may file a suit under this section and claim relief.

Overview

  • The respondent filed the suit for grant of permanent injunction against the TTD’s land in Tirumala Hills.
  • The Trial Court dismissing the suit heldthat the plaintiff had proved neither title nor possession and that the plaintiff who had trespassed was not entitled to permanent injunction against the true owner, of the property, i.e., the TTD.
  • The plaintiff filed an appeal and during the pendency of the appeal, the plaintiff had temporary injunction instituted against TTD.
  • The plaintiff also filed CMP for converting the suit into one for possession.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed the judgement passed by the Trial Court and dismissed the suit. The trial court as well as Appellate Court had relied on the judgement passed by Chittoor, Sub- court wherein TTD’s title against Hathiramji was established based on title deeds.
  • The respondent preferred second appeal in the High Court and the court passed a decree of possessory title and stated that the dispossessed plaintiff could recover possession from the appellant. Further, the court rejected the oral evidences adduced by both the parties and stated that the TTD’s title stood extinguished.
  • The TTD filed a Civil Appeal for decreeing the suit for possession.
  • The counsel for TTD contended that the second Appellate Court was not open to reappreciate evidence and reject oral and documentary evidence which was accepted by the courts below and also to extinguish the title was not open to court in second appeal.
  • Further, it was contended by the counsel for TTD that the period had elapsed to convert the suit into one for possession and was therefore liable to be dismissed.
  • The counsel for the respondent – plaintiff contended that in a suit by TTD against Hathiramji Mutt, the present plaintiff was not a party to the suit and hence any declaration as to title in favour of TTD was not valid.
  • The counsel for the plaintiff further contended that the land was in possession of the plaintiff’s family till the time of filing of the present suit and the Judge had correctly extinguished the title of TTD.
  • The counsel for the plaintiff further submitted that the title in the property was based on possessory title as decreed by the second Appellate Court and therefore the time limit would not apply and he could recover possession based on possessory title.

Issues

  • Whether the judgement in Sub – court Chittoor declaring the title of TTD can be admissible as evidence in the present case?
  • Whether the Second Appellate Court could reappreciate evidence and declare oral evidences given by the parties as not acceptable?
  • Whether the second appellate court could declare the title of TTD as extinguished?
  • Can the decree for possession based on possessory title be sustained?

Judgement Analysis

  • The contention that the plaintiff was not party to the suit and hence the judgement passed by the sub-court of Chittoor regarding the title was not admissible, was rejected by the court. Emphasis was laid on the case of Srinivas Krishna Rao Kango v. Narayan Devji Kango & Others [AIR 1954 SC 379], held that the judgement is admissible as evidence under Section 13 of the Evidence Act as evidence of a right to property.
  • The Supreme Court rejecting the contention of the plaintiff held that the plaintiff had trespassed into the property and that the plaintiff had deliberately not mentioned the serial number of the suits to confuse the issue at the time of evidence that the land bore serial no. 592 and not serial number 669.
  • The court observed that the suit for injunction was initiated to ward off criminal proceedings initiated by the TTD against the plaintiff.
  • Further, the court on examining documents found that TTD had auction notices, lease hold rights establishing the fact that TTD did have documentary evidences supporting their oral claims. The Supreme Court thereby remarked that Judge had erred in stating that TTD did not produce any documentary evidence supporting their claims.
  • The Supreme Court observed that plaintiff could not prove that he and his predecessors were in possession of the land for more than 60 years. Further, there was no possibility by Learned Judge to establish that the plaintiff was in possession before or after 12.1.1946 so as to suggest adverse possession against TTD resulting in extinguishment of title of TTD. It was affirmed by the court that the title held by TTD was absolute and never extinguished.
  • Further, the Supreme Court observed that the plaintiff filed his first appeal after being dispossessed, the time period being beyond 6 months of dispossession, the plaintiff did not claim any relief within 6 months under Section 6 of Specific Relief Act, 1963, for amending the plaint and converting it into one for possession.
  • The court allowed the decree on possessory title but the plaintiff cannot obtain possession in the property as the appellant (TTD) held a valid title to the property
  • The Supreme Court while allowing the civil appeal and dismissing the IA directed the plaintiff to pay any mesne profits and deposit any money received by it to the appellant.

Conclusion

The Honourable Supreme Court held that the suit for possession of property under Section 6, 1963 filed by the plaintiff was not maintainable as the plaintiff could not prove valid title in the property. Further, the court observed that title of property held by the TTD was absolute and not extinguished, therefore no suit for possession could be claimed.

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