IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.4661/2012
STRIPS INDIA LTD. Appellant(s)
V.L.S. PRASAD Respondent(s)
O R D E R
- The dispute over the date of demise of late R. Laxmikantham
(Late Ranoji) the father of the vendors of the respondent, is a
fundamental fact over which these disputes have dragged on from
2006 with the two parties before us equally claiming their right as
bona fide purchasers of the property which stood in the name of
Late Ranoji. The manner of obtaining title by the two parties is
- The appellant claims that Late Ranoji executed a Power of
Attorney dated 14.3.1984 in favour of one R.R. Madhusudhan Reddy.
On 24.12.2002, R. R. Madhusudhan Reddy, power of attorney of Late
Ranoji executed a sale deed in favour of M/s Nadella Estates Ltd.
The said entity, in turn, executed a sale deed dated 28.3.2006 in
favour of the appellant and another sale deed almost
contemporaneously was executed between the same parties on
22.05.2006 for adjoining land. On the other hand, the respondent
traces his title through the three sons of late Ranoji who executed
the sale deeds in respect of their stated 1/3rd share each vide
three sale deeds dated 29.08.2003, 18.9.2003 and 14.10.2003. It is
the say of the respondents that Late Rano ji died on 03.4.1997 and
thus the alleged power of Attorney dated 14.3.1984 ceases to have
any legal effect and thus could not have been utilised to execute
any further sale deeds in favour of M/s Nadella Estates Ltd. who in
turn transferred the title to the appellant. On the other hand,
the contention of the appellant is that Late Ranoji actually died
only sometime in the year 2004.
- Some other aspects may also be noticed i.e. the three vendors
of the respondent are stated to have executed another sale deed
dated 16.9.2004 in favour of one B. Prabhakar. This sale deed in
turn is stated to have resulted in a dispute between the M/s
Nadella Estate Ltd and B. Prabhkar which was decreed as settled and
even B. Prabhakar became a party to the sale deed in favour of the
appellant who thus perfected the title.
The respondents filed a suit seeking the following reliefs:
a) To pass a decree of declaration, declaring the
plaintiff as absolute owner and possessor of the suit
schedule property i.e. Agricultural Land bearing Sy.
No.188 (188/A admeasuring an area of Ac.1.10 guntas,
Ac.1.10 Guntas and Ac.1.12 guntas) total Ac.3.32 guntas,
situated at Kollur village Ramachandrapuram Mandal, Medak
b) To grant perpetual injunction, restraining the
defendant, his men, or any other person of persons, on his
behalf, from interfering with the possession and enjoyment
of the plaintiff in respect of the suit schedule property
i.e. Agricultural Land bearing Sy. No.188(188/A
admeasuring an area of Ac.1.10 guntas, Ac 1.10 Guntas and
Ac.1.12 Guntas) total Ac.3.32 guntas, situated at Kollur
village, Ramachandrapuram Mandal, Medak District.�
- The apparent sale consideration for the sale deeds in the year
2003 deeds was 1.52 lakh. As per appellant as per sale deed of
2006, it is Rs.14 .25 lakhs.
- The suit was tried by the District and Sessions Judge, Medak
at Sangareddy and was dismissed by the order dated 8.02.2010. The
respondents aggrieved by the same preferred an appeal before the
then High Court of Andhra Pradesh and at the stage of final
hearing, moved an application to lead additional evidence. This was
so as the trial Court, on appreciation of evidence, found that the
date of death certificate (which is a proforma to issue date of
death certificate) was marked through PW-1, i.e. the original
plaintiff and the respondent before us and he was not the person to
prove the contents of Exhibit A-5. The correct course would have
been to examine the Panchayat Secretary, who issued Exhibit A-5 but
had not been examined. Moreover, Exhibit A-5 was issued under
Section 12/17 and G.O.M. No.276 dated 18.07.2002 which meant that
the Gram Panchayat became authorized to issue the date of death
certificate only after 18.07.2002 under the said G.O. while the
date of death certificate in question recorded the date of death as
3.4.1997. In the year 1997 or at any time prior to 18.07.2002, it
was the Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO) who could have issued the date
of death certificate and not any other authority. Exhibit A-5 was,
thus, held as not admissible in evidence.
- In order to get over this aspect, the application came to be
filed which was allowed with consent and thus additional evidence
was led at the appellate stage before the High Court. The register
of the Panchayat was brought on record and proved as Exhibit C-1.
- In the course of this evidence Exhibit C-1a, C-2 and C-2a were
also marked. The testimony of Panchayat Secretary was recorded as
PW-3 who was also cross-examined.
- The High Court, after examining the trial Court judgment and
the additional evidence produced came to the conclusion that the
respondent has been able to establish the date of death of late
Ranoji as 3.4.1997 and thus decreed the suit.
- The appellant thus filed the present Special Leave Petition in
which leave was granted on 11.5.2012.
- We have heard four learned senior counsels for the appellant
and two learned senior counsels for the respondent.
- On hearing the submissions, we are of the view that really the
only aspect which needs to be considered is the worthiness of the
additional evidence led before the appellate Court i.e. whether
that evidence clearly prove that Late Ranoji died on 3.4.1997 and
thus, valid title was given to the respondent by sons of Late
Ranoji or whether he died sometime in the year 2004 thus, giving
valid title to the appellant through attorney of Late Ranoji . We
may notice that since the respondent is plaintiff, the burden lay
on him to prove his case.
- Learned counsel for the parties have taken us through the
discussion both in the trial Court and the appellate Court. We may
notice the observations of the trial Court that Exhibit A-5 was
inadmissible as the respondent/plaintiff had not examined the
Panchayat Secretary who had issued the certificate (allegedly
without being authorised to do so) and the certificate issued on
the basis of the register maintained by the Panchayat, as noticed
above, gave rise to the additional evidence being led.
- We may also notice the observations made by the trial Court,
as pointed out by the learned counsel for the appellant, qua the
conduct of the vendors of the respondent to contend that even the
trial Court found that they had executed the document twice over in
respect of the sale of land i.e. one set of sale deeds in favour of
the respondent while another sale deed in favour of B. Prabhkar on
16.9.2004 subsequent to the sale deeds executed in favour of the
respondent and were thus stated to be misusing their position being
the legal representatives of Late Ranoji. Learned counsel for both
the parties have also taken us through the documents led in
additional evidence as well as the testimony of the Panchayat
witness. Learned counsel for the appellant has drawn our attention
to the register Exhibit C-1 to contend that the date of death of
Late Rano Ji set out as 3.4.1997 is clearly an interpolation,
apparent on the face of the reading of the document.
- In this behalf it is found that the first two pages show that
different columns are maintained in respect of serial number, name
of the deceased, name of the father/husband, age, date of death and
nature of death. This was how the register was maintained prior to
the entry in question and post entry. In respect of entry in
question, setting out the date of death of late Ranoji, there are
two entries on that page alone which bear two different seals, one
seal being common to other pages. There are no columns. The name
is written in English qua the date of death. The other pages are
all maintained in Telugu Language and all entries are made in that
language. It is this aspect which is sought to be emphasized by
learned counsel for the appellant more so since the evidence led is
in the form of additional evidence before the appellate Court.
- Our attention has also been drawn to the testimony of PW-3 P.
Satyanarayana, who was the Panchayat Secretary, on the date he
appeared as witness i.e. 27.12.2010. He had joined the post on
1.1.2007 and thus could only produce the relevant record for that
period of time in question. Logically, he did not have personal
knowledge. However, as per learned counsel for the appellant this
fact was to be proved by the respondent.
- The testimony shows that the practice followed was that a Gram
Sewak would conduct enquiry and inform about the death orally to
the Panchayat Secretary who would then make an entry. There was a
register which contained the provisions for incorporating the name
of Gram Sewak and also their signatures. It is conceded that there
was no signature of then Panchayat Secretary on any of the pages of
Exhibit C-1 register which is normally maintained in a serial form.
- The entry at page 65, which is occurring after 2005, is stated
to be pertaining to the year 1997 which he claimed he had not
written as he was not an officer at the relevant time. The witness
admits that while page 63-64 disclose details such as cause of
death date of death and age at the time when the villager died,
such details were not contained in the entry at page 65 and was
unaware why such a variance existed. He could also not explain why
that particular entry on that page was recorded in English while
all other entries were recorded in Telugu. The Gram Panchayat was
stated not to be having the register for the year 1996 or earlier
years and records are stated to have been handed over to him only
from 1997. He further admits � it is true at page no.65 there is a
vast blank space regarding the years 1997 and 1998. It is true
that Ex.C-1 does not disclose closing of the relevant year after
the expiry of the year. � He, however, denied the allegation of
- We may also notice another fact that Exhibit A-5, the date of
death certificate was issued only in 2007 and no certificate was
obtained contemporaneously after the alleged demise of Late Ranoji
- Learned counsel for the respondent endeavoured to persuade us
not to interfere with the findings of the High court which,
accordingly to their submissions, are cogent and reasonable and
cannot be called perverse and thus, no interference would be called
for by this Court even if leave has been granted under Article 136
of the Constitution of India.
- We did point out to learned counsel for the appellant that the
present case is not one of either affirmation or reversal based on
the findings of the trial Court but a reversal based on the
additional documents led at the appellate stage which in turn has
formed the basis of the reversal. Thus, a little closer scrutiny
would be required as this Court is effectively acting as first
Court of appeal over the findings of the High Court qua the
- It emerges from the impugned order that the argument of the
respondent was based on an oral partition carried out after the
death of Late Ranoji between the vendors of the respondent, though
a perusal of the sale deed shows that there is no mention of either
oral or written partition. In this behalf in the cross-examination
questions were posed by the appellant to PW-2 where it is admitted
that there was no written partition. Thus, it could not be said,
as opined in the impugned order, that this aspect was not cross-
examined qua there being a partition inter se the vendors of the
- We have also perused the impugned order insofar as it deals
with the crucial question of the additional evidence led. The High
Court appears to have been swayed by the fact that exhibit C-1 is a
public document, no direct suggestion was given about the date of
death of Late Ranoji, General Power of Attorney holder was not
produced and the documents as produced were sufficient by
themselves, and the testimony of PW-3 satisfactorily explains the
death certificate of Late Ranoji as alleged by the respondent.
- It is also recorded that no suggestion was put as to the
correctness of Exhibit A-5 filed which was marked by PW-1 but then
we may note at this stage itself that the such Exhibit was issued
on the basis of the records of the Panchayat and was not an
independent document by itself.
- We have given our thoughtful consideration to the controversy
in question and the submissions advanced by learned counsel for he
- We are unable to persuade ourselves to uphold the impugned
judgment of the High Court. The facts we have set out leave us with
great doubt about the authenticity of the entries made stating the
date of death of Late Ranoji. We can find no worthy reason why a
register maintained in normal course by the Panchayat in Telugu
language with separate columns should acquire a different character
of two entries made in English language only giving the date of
death. The methodology of recording before and after is the same.
- We may also note that the date of death certificate stated to
have been obtained on the basis of these entries was only in the
year 2007 i.e. after a gap of almost a decade from the alleged date
of death and after the suit proceedings were filed by the
respondent. There is something to be said also about the
observations of the trial Court on both aspects � firstly, the
respondent not leading the evidence required and the date of death
certificate being not duly authorised and secondly the conduct of
the vendors of the respondent in executing one set of sale deeds in
favour of the respondent while subsequently executing another sale
deed in favour of B. Prabhakar.
- As far as the first aspect is concerned, the respondent sought
to cure the problem in the midst of arguments before appellate
Court by adducing additional evidence. However, the evidence so
produced despite being public record, becomes highly doubtful by
reason of the manner in which entry has been made qua the death of
Late Ranoji. In any case, in view of this the contents also were
required to be proved.
- On the second aspect also the observations of the trial Court
that sons of Late Ranoji seem to be utilizing his demise to sell
the property more than once is an aspect casting doubt on the
manner in which the vendors of the respondent executed the sale
deed. It is trite to say that the respondent being the plaintiff
had to state and prove his case in turn depending on the ability to
prove that Late Ranoji actually died on 3.4.1997. We do not
believe that the respondent has been able to discharge this burden.
We are recording this aspect as, the fact whether Ranoji did die on
3.4.1997 or died some time in the year 2004, in a sense is conceded
by the parties as the issue which determines whether the appellant
would fail or succeed in the appeal.
- We are conscious of the fact that possibly the respondent has
also been led up the garden path by the vendors but then when we
balance the legal position on the two sides we are not able to hold
that the title of the respondent can be said to be superior to that
of the appellant. The respondent would be well within its right to
pursue such remedy as may be available against the vendors, in view
of what we have opined aforesaid.
- We note with some regret that we did endeavour in the
interlude of lunch break, to persuade the parties to utilize the
period to arrive at a mutual settlement of the suit pending for
such a long period of time where one party would gain everything or
lose everything but that appears to have failed, hence we have
penned downed a judgment even if the result deprives one party of
the fruits of the land. The impugned order is set aside and the
decree passed by the trial Court is restored even taking into
account additional evidence produced before the appellate Court.
- The appeal is allowed leaving parties to bear their own costs.
[SANJAY KISHAN KAUL]
SEPTEMBER 26, 2019.
ITEM NO.105 COURT NO.10 SECTION XII-A
S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A
RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
Civil Appeal No(s). 4661/2012
STRIPS INDIA LTD. Appellant(s)
V.L.S. PRASAD Respondent(s)
([ RETAIN ITS POSITION ] )
Date : 26-09-2019 This appeal was called on for hearing today.
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SANJAY KISHAN KAUL
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE M.R. SHAH
For Appellant(s) Mr. Parag Tripathi, Sr. Adv.
Mr. Arvind Nayar, Sr. Adv.
Mr. Rana Mukherjee, Sr. Adv.
Mr. Anupam Lal Das, Sr. Adv.
Mr. Arjun Kant, Adv.
Ms. Upasana Chandrashekaran, Adv.
Mr. Lalltaksh Joshi, Adv.
Mr. Ugra Shankar Prasad, AOR
For Respondent(s) Mr. Raju Ramchandran, Sr. Adv.
Mrs. V. Mohana, Sr. Adv.
Mr. D. Mahesh Babu, AOR
Ms. Suchitra Hrangkhawl, Adv.
Mr. Ganesan Subbian, Adv.
Mr. T.V. Bhaskar Reddy, Adv.
Mr. Shaurya Sahay, Adv.
Ms. Rekha Bakshi, Adv.
Mr. Chetan Joshi, Adv.
UPON hearing the counsel the Court made the following
O R D E R
The appeal is allowed in terms of the signed order.
Pending application, if any, stands disposed of.
(ASHA SUNDRIYAL) (ANITA RANI AHUJA)
COURT MASTER COURT MASTER
[Signed order is placed on the file]