Read Order: Murti Devi and Others v. Sajjan Pal Singh and Another

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, May 12, 2022: While dealing with a regular second appeal, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that plaintiffs cannot be allowed to improve their case by producing documents in additional evidence without any plausible explanation as to why they were not produced at the time of trial. 

The brief facts of the case are that the plaintiffs filed a suit for declaration and permanent injunction averring in the plaint that one Lakhi Ram was owner to the extent of half share and Kishna and Risalo, son and daughter respectively, of Hari Ram were owners to the extent of other half share of the suit property. 

It was set out by the plaintiffs that in 1975, Kishna and Risalo mortgaged with possession their half share in favour of Surat Singh and Sher Singh sons of Lakhi Ram for a consideration and it was stated that the property would be redeemed within a period of one year and in default, the property would be considered as sold and the mortgagees would automatically become owners of the said property.

It was further claimed that since the property was not redeemed, Sher Singh and Surat Singh became owners of the mortgaged property and  that Lakhi Ram, in order to give equal shares to his sons, made a family settlement in June 1977 wherein it was orally settled that the property situated at Sonepat would be given to Sher Singh i.e. predecessor-in-interest of defendant-respondents and the property situated in the village Hasanpur would be given to Surat Singh, predecessor-in-interest of the plaintiff-appellants. 

It was further the case that in July 1977, the family arrangement made earlier was reduced into writing and the share of Sher Singh in the suit property came to the share of predecessor-in-interest of the plaintiff-appellants i.e. Surat Singh. 

In their written statement, the defendant-respondents stated that the suit property was jointly owned and possessed by the parties along with other co-sharers who were not impleaded as a party. The factum of any family settlement was denied. It was further stated that Sher Singh, the predecessor-in-interest of the defendant-respondents, purchased half share of the property at Sonepat from Surat Singh, predecessor-in-interest of the plaintiff-appellants, for a valuable consideration vide registered sale deed of August 1977. 

The Trial Court, by a judgment dismissed the suit of the plaintiff-appellants on the ground that the entire case was based on oral settlements and oral partition. Aggrieved, an appeal was preferred by the plaintiff-appellants, which also met with the same fate. Hence, the present regular second appeal.

The counsel for the plaintiff-appellants contended that there was an oral family settlement whereafter it was reduced into writing and on the basis of the said agreement the predecessor-in-interest of the plaintiff-appellants (Surat Singh) became an owner of the suit property. It was further contended that the predecessor-in-interest of the defendant-respondents (Sher Singh) was given an equal share in the property at Sonepat which Surat Singh transferred in the name of Sher Singh. Lastly, the Counsel argued that the family settlements stood proved and it was for the defendant-respondents to prove that no family settlements took place.

The Bench of Justice Alka Sarin observed that the plaintiff-appellants approached the Court placing the reliance on an oral family settlement of 1977 which was reduced into writing in 1977 to state that Sher Singh relinquished his right, title and interest in the suit property in favour of Surat Singh and Surat Singh in return relinquished his share in the property situated at Sonepat in favour of Sher Singh.

However, the Court was of the opinion that the counsel for the plaintiff-appellants was unable to explain as to why Surat Singh had to execute a sale deed qua his share in the Sonepat property in favour of his brother Sher Singh if he already relinquished this very share in favour of Sher Singh in a family settlement which was reduced into writing before the execution of the sale deed. 

Additionally, the Court noted that it was unexplained as to why, if Sher Singh got the Sonepat property from his brother Surat Singh by a sale deed, no document was executed by him (Sher Singh) in favour of his brother Surat Singh qua the suit property.

Also, it was observed that Lakhi Ram remained alive for almost five years post execution of the alleged family settlement, yet there was no explanation forthcoming as to why from 1977, when the alleged settlement took place, no action was taken by the plaintiff-appellants to get the suit property mutated in their names. 

Further, it came to light, that in the suit, a declaration was sought that the plaintiff-appellants and LRs of Jai Chand (son of Surat Singh) were co-owners, yet the said LRs of Jai Chand were not parties to the suit. The daughters of Surat Singh were also not parties to the suit. 

Justice Sarin also asserted that the counsel for the plaintiff-appellants was unable to explain as to why the application for production of additional evidence was filed at a very belated stage at the time of appeal before the lower Appellate Court. 
In this background, the Court held that the plaintiff-appellants cannot be allowed to improve their case by producing documents in additional evidence without any plausible explanation as to why they were not produced at the time of trial.  Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. 

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