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Sale agreement does not remain a stand-alone agreement if it is mentioned in a dispute will: SC

Venigalla Koteshwaramma v. Malampati Suryamba & Ors.

Civil Appeal No. 2013.

19th January, 2020.

Counsel for the petitioner- Learned senior counsel G. Ramakrishna Prasad.

Counsel for the respondents- Learned Senior Counsel Anil Kumar Tandale.

The honourable Supreme Court consisting of judges Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Dinesh Maheswari, Justice Hrishikesh Roy held that sale agreement does not remain a stand-alone document if it is mentioned in a disputed will, and obligations thereunder are purportedly passed on to the legatee. It also held that the relief of declaration is only required when all the disputed parties have an interest in it. It further held that abatement of appeal also depends on whether the decrees are contradictory in nature or not, it is contradictory or not can be gauged if one is enforced, if it would be contradictory, then the enforcement of the other would become impossible or would turn out to be destructive for the other decree.

In the present case, the property of plaintiff’s step-mother (Annapurnamma) is disputed, because after her death, being his step-son claims her property and other reliefs for him and his siblings whereas defendant 4 claimed that plaintiff’s step-mother had already executed the disputed will in favour of defendant 13 and 14 on 15.06.1978 and had entered into a sale agreement on 05.11.1976 by which transferred her sale to defendant 15.

All the issues of this case including that of validity of will and sale deed agreement were decided by the common judgement of Supreme Court dated 19.01.2021 by considering the following submissions of the counsels

Learned Counsel for the Appellant submitted that (i) The high court’s judgement dated 20.03.2009 is erroneus and stands no legal ground (ii) The sale agreement that was made between annapurnamma and defendant 15 was not made in accordance or under sale of goods act, 1930 and moreover, no genine legal reason or justification was given by defendant 15 that could be accepted as to why the agreement was not made under the abovementioned act (iii) The will and sale agreement seem dubious and shall be vitiated under section 16 of Indian contracts act, 1872 because all the beneficiaries of the will and sale agreement were close relatives of annapurnamma. (iv) The trial court in its decision and reasoning did not leave any legal lacuna that high court had to fill i.e. trial court judgement was delivered without any legal errs and facual errors, which means that unless high court find any grave travesty of justice happening, which in this case is not happening, it cannot overturn the judgement. (v) that thrust of findings and genuineness of will equally extend to sale agreement because there is no legal reason to give a decision that will is not legally valid and sale deed agreement is legally valid, given that it has stemmed from the same person i.e. annapurnamma.

Learned Counsel of Respondents submits that (i) The will may be false and vexatious, but the sale deed or sale agreement is legally valid dated 15.06.1978, which was affirmed by the high court’s order dated 20.03.2007 (ii) The appellant to prove that the sale agreement is invalid even after the order of high court which stated that sale agreement is valid, must have at least added their contention through a rejoinder i.e. amended the plaint via declaration that the sale agreement is invalid, which they could have done under order 8 rule 9 of CPC,1908, but the plaintiff did not do that, hence sale deed agreement is valid (iii) The will was executed prior to the sale deed agreement, henceforth, there is no relation between, so if will is held to be invalid, then that does not mean sale agreement would also be invalid (iv) the sale agreement was legally valid, as all the legal formalities were completed to effectuate the agreement, such as it was duly signed on a stamp paper, statement of witnesses were also recorded, etc, which were the prerequisites under sale of goods act, 1930 (v) The argument of plaintiff-appellant which was based on undue influence was erroneus, to prove that they stated that late annapurnamma had dire need of money to pay off her medical dues, that’s the reason she sold her property to her close relatives. So, the sale agreement was valid according to the counsel of the respondent.

After hearing both the parties at length, the court brought out the scope of what will and sale agreement are false and vexatious and also what suit of partition need relief of declaration. The court also referred to State of Punjab v. Nathu Ram: AIR 1962 SC 89 and observed the following,

“The abatement of an appeal means not only that the decree between the appellant and the deceased respondent has become final, but also, as a necessary corollary, that the appellate court cannot, in any way, modify that decree directly or indirectly. The reason is plain. It is that in the absence of the legal representatives of the deceased respondent, the appellate court cannot determine anything between the appellant and the legal representatives which may affect the rights of the legal representatives under the decree. It is immaterial that the modification which the Court will do is one to which exception can or cannot be taken.” (Para No. 43).

In the above regard, the court held that,

In the facts of the present case, bringing in record about the demise and accordingly getting legally represented by legal representatives is not necessary, so it was not necessary for respondents to bring on record that after the demise of defendant 2, his legal representatives would be representing him in the suit.

The court referred to the judgement Sardar Amarjit 48 Singh Kalra (dead) by LRs. and Ors. v. Pramod Gupta (Smt) (dead) by LRs. and Ors.: (2003) 3 SCC 272 and observed the following:

“The question as to whether in a given case the decree is joint and inseverable or joint and severable or separable has to be decided, for the purposes of abatement or dismissal of the entire appeal as not being properly and duly constituted or rendered incompetent for being further proceeded with, requires to be determined only with reference to the fact as to whether the judgment/decree passed in the proceedings vis-à-vis the remaining parties would suffer the vice of contradictory or inconsistent decrees. For that reason, a decree can be said to be contradictory or inconsistent with another decree only when the two decrees are incapable of enforcement or would be mutually self-destructive and that the enforcement of one would negate or render impossible the enforcement of the other.”(Para No. 34(4))

In the above regard, this court held that the appeals from the respondent(s) side were not valid as the enforcement of sale agreement would make the other agreement of annapuranamma with plaintiff invalid.

Then the court also held that, order 22 of CPC interpretation is of significant importance to determine the state whether or not legal representation after the demise of a party by his legal representatives shall be brought on record.

Concluding the court held that Sale agreement does not remain a stand-alone agreement if it is mentioned in a dispute will. The partition can only be effectuated between parties if all of them have a share or interest in that property and if there is no interest, then relief of declaration is not required. It was also concluded that abatement of appeal or suit when a defendant dies and legal representatives are not brought in record, also depends on whether the decrees are contradictory in nature or not, it is contradictory or not can be gauged if one is enforced, if it would be contradictory, then the enforcement of the other would become impossible or would turn out to be destructive for the other decree.

It was finally concluded that the High Court was erroneous in its judgement and therefore was overturned.

After taken into consideration all the facts and circumstances, the Honourable Supreme Court held,

“The result is, the appeal filed by defendants 16 to 18 in the High Court (AS No. 1887 of 1988) is dismissed as incompetent; and the impugned decree of the High Court in relation to that appeal is reversed. Consequently, the decree of the Trial Court stands restored. In addition to the costs awarded by the Trial Court, the plaintiff-appellant shall also be entitled to the costs of this litigation in the High Court and in this Court from the contesting respondents.” (Para 60)

Yajush Tripathi



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