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Supreme Court: Establish Continuous Usage Of The Road For More Than 20 Years, A Crucial Prerequisite For Obtaining Easement Rights By Prescription

Raya Banerjee ,
  24 April 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
Civil Appeal No. 9642 of 2010 Civil Appeal No. 9643 of 2010

CASE TITLE:

Manisha Mahendra Gala & Ors. Vs. Shalini Bhagwan Avatramani & Ors.

DATE OF ORDER:

10th April, 2024

BENCH:

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Pankaj Mithal

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra 

PARTIES:

Appellant: Manisha Mahendra Gala & Ors.

Respondent: Shalini Bhagwan Avatramani & Ors.

SUBJECT:

Disagreements over easement rights over a 20-foot-wide road that runs through Ramani family property. The Gala family filed a case, alleging they had an easement over this road, and they wanted a declaration and permanent injunction. They claimed to be the defendants of Mahendra Gala. In addition to interpreting pertinent statutes and case laws, the case addresses legal considerations surrounding the acquisition of easement rights by prescription, need, and under a Sale Deed.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

The Indian Easements Act, 1882:

  • Section 4:

It deals with the definition of easement as a land-related right.

  • Section 13:

It guarantees the easement holder’s rights even if the property with the easement is divided.

  • Section 15:

It permits owners of the dominant heritage to take necessary steps to use easement effectively.

The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908:

  • Section 107:

Deals with powers of courts to order the payment of costs in civil cases.

OVERVIEW:

  • A disagreement between the Ramani and Gala families regarding easement rights to a 20-foot-wide road on their property.
  • The Gala family pleaded a declaration of their easement rights over the road in Suit No. 14 of 1994.
  • In order to establish that the Gala family lacked a right of way across the property, the Ramani family filed Suit No. 7 of 1996.
  • By means of the  Sale Deed, prescription, and necessity, the Gala family had asserted easement rights.
  • Both suits had undergone appeals and rulings from lower courts. Numerous witnesses, including neighbours and the Power of Attorney Holder, had testified.
  • Both side’s attorneys had presented their cases to the court. The important legal ideas including easement under the Indian Easements Act.
  • The court also looked at the appellate court’s authority to reverse judgements from lower courts.

ISSUE RAISED:

  • Did the Gala family have an easement over the road owned by the Ramani family, and had they been using it uninterruptedly for over 20 years?
  • Was the Sale Deed dated 17.09.1994 valid and legally binding, effectively transferring easement rights over the road to the Gala family, and did it bind third parties like the Ramani family?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT:

  • The Gala family, proprietors of Survey No. 48, Hissa No. 15, had alternate access to their land except through the contested road, necessitating easementary rights.
  • The appellant claimed to have obtained easementary rights through prescription and necessity, backed up by an agreement in a Sale Deed dated 17.09.1994.
  • The appellant argued that once the trial court ruled in their favour, the appellate court should not have reversed the findings.
  • Appellant’s side argued that the word “last many years “ in their fillings should be interpreted broadly to mean continuous usage for more than 20 years, as according to requirements by law.
  • Witnesses and documentary evidence were used to back up their claim of easement rights over the disputed road.
  • The appellant argued that the sale deed conferring easementary rights should be valid even if the need for the rights had gone, citing legal precedence.
  • They claimed that another landowner, Dharmadhikari, had easement rights over the road, thus the Gala family should be granted the same advantage.
  • They questioned the appellate court’s authority to disrupt the trial court’s results, invoking section 107 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT:

  • The respondent argued that the Galas had not produced adequate proof to establish their easementary rights over the contested road.
  • The Gala’s arguments failed to meet the legal standards for acquiring easementary rights through prescription.
  • The respondent argued that the Galas submitted inadequate evidence, including the testimony of their Power of Attorney Holder, to demonstrate their easementary rights.
  • The Gala’s Sale Deed was inadmissible as evidence, and there was no adequate proof that their predecessor-in-interest had obtained any easement rights over the disputed road.
  • The rights granted to another party (Dharmadhikari) in a separate Sale Deed did not apply to the Galas because they were not explicitly transferred or assigned to them.
  •  It was stated that the appellate court could evaluate factual and legal conclusions and, if necessary, reverse the lower court’s rulings.

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS:

  • The Supreme Court held that the Gala family had not complied with the legal standards to establish rights over the road, the court found after thoroughly reviewing the evidence submitted by both parties.
  • According to Section 15 of the Indian Easement Act, 1882, the Gala family’s inability to prove continuous usage of the road for more than 20 years was a crucial prerequisite for obtaining easementary rights by prescription.
  • Despite the fact that there was a little longer alternate access path to their land, the Gala family was unable to establish easementary rights by necessity.
  • The Sale Deed dated 17.09.1994 was examined by the court. The Court determined that the Sale Deed had not given the Gala family easement rights over the disputed road and that the document’s validity was doubtful as only a photocopy of the original had been provided as evidence.
  • The argument that the Gala family should have been granted the same rights as Dharmadhikari, another landowner, was dismissed by the court. Since there was no comparable clause in their Sale Deed, the Gala family was unable to assert the same rights as Dharmadhikari.
  • After taking into account all the factors, the court decided that the Gala family had not proven their entitlement to easement rights over the road, and as a result, the appeals were dismissed.

CONCLUSION:

The legal battle for easementary rights over the disputed road came to an end when Gala’s appeals were dismissed. Despite early favourable decisions, additional examination revealed insufficient evidence to sustain their allegations. The courts supported the Ramani’s ownership rights, emphasising the Gala’s lack of proof of easementary rights. As a result, the appeals were ruled without merit, confirming Ramani’s win in the case.
 

 
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