Thursday, March 22, 2012

Maria Margarida Sequeria Fernandes and Others Versus Erasmo Jack de Sequeria(Dead) through L.Rs. CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2968 OF 2012 -March 21, 2012




(Arising out of SLP (C) No. 15382 of 2009)

Maria Margarida Sequeria Fernandes and Others ...Appellants


Erasmo Jack de Sequeria(Dead) through L.Rs. ...Respondents


Dalveer Bhandari, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. This appeal emanates from the judgment and order dated

5.5.2009 passed by the High Court of Bombay, Bench at Goa

in Civil Revision Application No.3 of 2009.

3. Appellant No.1 and respondent No.1, Erasmo Jack de

Sequeira (now dead) were sister and brother, hereinafter

referred to as appellant and respondent respectively.

4. According to the appellant, she is the sole owner and is

in exclusive possession of the suit property. Her title of the

said suit property was clearly admitted, and never disputed by

the respondent, Erasmo Jack de Sequeira. According to the

appellant, the suit property was given to her brother as a

caretaker. The respondent has kept appellant, his own sister,

out of her suit property for about two decades by suppressing

relevant material and pertinent information from the Court

and abusing the process of law.

5. Both the appellant and the respondent hail from the

State of Goa and belong to one of the leading and well known

families of Goa. The father of the appellant and the

respondent, Dr. Jack D. Sequeira was an affluent

businessman and a well-known politician of Goa. Dr.

Sequeira, during his lifetime, gave a number of properties

worth crores of rupees to the respondent and also gave some

properties to the appellant and her sisters. The respondent

was given a soft drink factory at Goa, mining leases of iron

ore, agricultural lands and residential plots including one

situated at Dona Paula, which is located next to the

Governor's House. Though the respondent was given

properties worth several crores of rupees, he still eyed on a

small property which the appellant purchased through Court

auction after paying full sale consideration. The respondent-

brother of the appellant was also a very influential and

important Member of Parliament. He was also very active in

the local politics in Goa.

6. The appellant urged that the suit property originally

belonged to her grandmother. Under the Portuguese Law, her

(grandmother's) children, i.e. two sons and a daughter (the

appellant's father, uncle and aunt) got 1/3rd share each in the

said suit property. The suit property of her grandmother was

put to auction and this suit property in question was

purchased in auction by the appellant. In the Inventory

Proceedings No. 1075/935 in the year 1968, she became the

exclusive owner of the suit property. Admittedly, the appellant

has placed a certified copy of the order of the Civil Judge,

Senior Division at Panaji dated 27th May, 1972 issued in

favour of the appellant. According to the appellant, the

possession and title of the suit property in favour of the

appellant is established from the judgment of the Inquiry

Officer of City Survey Tiswadi, Panjim, Goa. The said order

was not only passed in the presence of the respondent, but

also in the presence of his Attorney, Rodrigues who was also a

senior executive officer of the respondent. The relevant

portion of that judgment is as under:-

"The claim put forth by Shrimati Maria Teresa de

Sequeria from Panaji, in respect of Chalta No.14 of

P.T. Sheet 65 was inquired into and it was found

that the same belongs to the said Maria Teresa de

Sequeria in view of Inventory Proceedings No.9-

1968 [1075-935] - vide Certificate issued by the

Court of Civil Judge Senior Division, Panaji dated

27.5.72 and as such her title and possession to the

Chalta No.14 of P.T. Sheet No.65 is confirmed."

7. According to the appellant, she obtained the exclusive

title of the plot and the house in question.

8. It may be pertinent to mention that the respondent had

even participated in the said Court proceedings on behalf of

his handicapped aunt, Edna May Sequeria as a guardian and

received a cheque on her behalf. The appellant had deposited

Rs.40,000/-, the owelty money in the said Court proceedings

which became payable on account of the purchase of the said

house. The said suit property stood registered in Panaji

Municipal Council in the name of the appellant. House tax

was paid by the appellant to the Municipality on self-

occupation basis. Further, it is submitted that the possession

of the suit property always remained with the appellant.

9. The Panaji Municipal Council, Goa issued a certificate

showing that possession of the suit premises was with the

appellant and the house tax of the suit property was paid by

her and she was the recorded owner of the same. According to

the appellant, the respondent himself had acknowledged

possession and title of the suit property in favour of the


10. The appellant submitted that she got married on

8.9.1974 to an Officer of the Indian Navy who was posted from

time to time in different places in India. She also submitted

that the respondent - her brother requested her that as his

office is just adjacent to the suit property, therefore, it would

be convenient for him to run his office and to keep an eye on

the suit property of the appellant. Therefore, the suit property

was given to the respondent only as a caretaker.

11. The respondent executed a leave and licence agreement

in the name of his wife to shift with his family out of the suit

property completely on 1.4.1991 to Campo Verde Apartments

at Caranzalem in Goa. The leave and licence agreement

executed by the respondent's wife for the new house wherein

the respondent and his family shifted on 1.4.1991 and

thereafter got the agreement renewed on 7.3.1992. The

respondent also owned one flat in Goa and occupied on


12. According to the appellant, the respondent handed over

the suit property to his sister Maria in the first week of May,

1991 and requested her that some items which were already

lying in the suit property which the respondent did not

immediately require in his new place may be kept in the suit

property. According to the appellant, her brother before

shifting to the tenanted flat, handed over the keys of the house

to the appellant. The appellant did not take any receipt from

her brother or click a photograph to create evidence showing

handing over of the custodian possession of the suit property.

The respondent shifted to his new flat and the suit property

was lying almost vacant because the appellant along with her

husband was living outside Goa on his different official


13. According to the appellant, the details of electricity, water

and telephone bills clearly demonstrate that the house was

locked and the small amounts payable in the said months, i.e.,

August, September, October and November in the year 1991,

February 1992 also showed very nominal payments of

Rs.30/-, Rs.33/-, Rs.68/- which conclusively proved that a

house comprising of several rooms, drawing, dining,

bathrooms, verandah, lawns etc. was lying vacant.

14. On 20.5.1992, the appellant returned with her family to

Goa and occupied and enjoyed the said suit property. The

appellant submitted that she has a valid title/ownership and

was in possession of the suit property and she could not be

dispossessed by a Court in a suit for injunction. The

appellant submitted that under Section 6 of the Specific Relief

Act, the appellant could not have been legally compelled to

hand over the possession to the respondent. It may be

pertinent to mention that the respondent had filed a suit for

injunction before the Trial Court. The Trial Court granted

injunction in favour of the respondent and the same was

upheld by the High Court in the impugned judgment in Civil

Revision Application.

15. According to the appellant, the impugned judgment of

the High Court by which the judgment of the Trial Court was

affirmed is totally contrary to the law laid down by this Court

in Mahabir Prasad Jain v. Ganga Singh (1999) 8 SCC 274.

It was also asserted by the appellant that this Court in the

aforementioned case has laid down the parameters of Section

6 of the Special Relief Act, 1963. In the instant case, the

Courts below were oblivious of the principle under Section 6 of

the Specific Relief Act. The appellant urged that the

respondent's suit for injunction was not maintainable as he

could not claim to be in lawful and legal possession of the

premises at all. The appellant argued that the Courts below

have missed the main issue as the respondent was merely in

custody of the house on behalf of the appellant. According to

her, a caretaker can never sue a valid title-holder of the


16. The appellant further urged that a caretaker's possession

can never be a possession of individual's right and no such

suit for injunction under Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act

was maintainable. The appellant contended that the

respondent returned the keys of the suit property sometime in

May 1991. The appellant asserted that the respondent had

manipulated the system and collected false and fabricated

evidence in the form of Panchnama in collusion with the local

police and was designed to throw out the appellant from her

own house.

17. On 17.6.1992, the respondent filed a suit for permanent

and mandatory injunction in the Court of Civil Judge, Senior

Division at Panaji as a Special Civil Suit No.131/92/A. On

22.6.1992, an ex-parte order for depositing the keys was

passed while the appellant and her family members were living

in the suit premises. The Trial Court decreed the suit.

18. According to the appellant, the impugned judgment of

the High Court is contrary to the ratio of the judgment of this

Court in Rame Gowda (dead) by LRs. v. M. Varadappa

Naidu (dead) by LRs. and Another (2004) 1 SCC 769

wherein a three-Judge Bench of this Court has observed that

possession is no good against the rightful owner and that the

assumption that he is in peaceful possession will not work and

cannot operate against the true lawful owner.

19. Reliance has also been placed by the appellant on

Southern Roadways Ltd., Madurai v. S.M. Krishnan (1989)

4 SCC 603 wherein this Court has held that it is the settled

law that agent has no possession of his own and caretaker's

possession is the possession of the principal. This Court has

taken the view that possession of the agent is the possession

of the principal and in view of the fiduciary relationship, the

agent cannot be permitted to claim his own possession. Thus,

according to the appellant, the respondent had no right, title

and/or interest in the suit property and was not in lawful

possession. Therefore, the suit for injunction under Section 6

of the Specific Relief Act is totally misconceived. The appellant

contended that the High Court in the impugned judgment has

gravely erred in affirming the judgment of the Trial Court.

20. According to the case of the respondent, he was

permitted to live in the suit premises because of the family

arrangement. The respondent remained in possession of the

suit property for several years and hence he cannot be

dispossessed without following due process of law.

21. It is also submitted by the respondent that he was in

possession of the suit premises for 28 years and was forcibly

dispossessed on 15.6.1992. The respondent also submitted

that he never conceded that the title of the suit property was

with the appellant. He also submitted that it is contrary to the

records that the respondent was a caretaker.

22. The learned counsel for the parties reiterated the

submissions made before the Courts below. The appellant

submitted that she is a helpless and hapless sister of the

respondent who has been kept out from her own house for

more than two decades. The appellant is the owner of the suit

property which is evident from the Certificate of the Probate

Proceedings known as Inventory Proceeding No.1075/935.

She further submitted that the respondent, her brother, was a

party in the said Probate Proceedings where the appellant

acquired the title of the suit property on 27.5.1972. The

respondent collected the sale consideration amount on 17th

March, 1972 vide Cheque No.33559 drawn on Bank of India

on behalf of his aunt in the auction proceedings.

23. The appellant submitted that the City Civil Court held that

the appellant is the owner of the suit property and has the title

and possession of the same which was never challenged by the

respondent. The appellant also submitted that apart from the

title of the suit property, house tax records and wealth tax

records indicate that she was and continued to be the owner of

the suit property. She further submitted that the utility bills

of electricity, water and telephone were of minimal amount

which show that the respondent had never resided in the suit

premises. The appellant submitted that the finding of the

Trial Court that the appellant had no funds to purchase the

property was contrary to record. The High Court has also

erroneously affirmed the findings of the Trial Court.

24. The appellant urged that the suit filed by the respondent

is not based on title. The family arrangement, as alleged by

the respondent, is neither pleaded nor proved. The appellant

asserted that no suit under Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act

lies against the true owner. The appellant submitted that a

caretaker, agent, guardian etc. cannot file a suit under Section

6 of the Specific Relief Act.

25. According to law laid down by this Court in Rame

Gowda (dead) by LRs. (supra), it is the settled legal position

that a possessory suit is good against the whole world except

the rightful owner. It is not maintainable against the true


26. This Court in Anima Mallick v. Ajoy Kumar Roy and

Another (2000) 4 SCC 119 held that where the sister gave

possession as gratuitous to the brother, this Court restored

possession to the sister as it was purely gratuitous basis and

the sister could have reclaimed possession even without

knowledge of the brother.

27. According to the appellant, this Court in Sopan

Sukhdeo Sable and Others v. Assistant Charity

Commissioner and Others (2004) 3 SCC 137 has observed

that no injunction can be granted against the true owner and

Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act cannot be invoked to

protect the wrongdoer who suppressed the material facts from

the Courts.

28. The appellant submitted that Section 41 of the Specific

Relief Act debars any relief to be given to such an erring

person as the respondent who is guilty of suppression of

material facts.

29. The appellant relied on Automobile Products India

Limited v. Das John Peter and Others (2010) 12 SCC 593

and Ramrameshwari Devi and Others v. Nirmala Devi and

Others (2011) 8 SCC 249 where the Court has laid down that

dilatory tactics, misconceived injunction suits create only

incentives for wrongdoers.

30. The appellant submitted that for more than two decades

the appellant is without the possession of her own house

despite the fact that she has valid title to the suit property.

Truth as guiding star in judicial process

31. In this unfortunate litigation, the Court's serious

endeavour has to be to find out where in fact the truth lies.

The truth should be the guiding star in the entire judicial


32. Truth alone has to be the foundation of justice. The

entire judicial system has been created only to discern and

find out the real truth. Judges at all levels have to seriously

engage themselves in the journey of discovering the truth.

That is their mandate, obligation and bounden duty.

33. Justice system will acquire credibility only when people

will be convinced that justice is based on the foundation of the


34. In Mohanlal Shamji Soni v. Union of India 1991 Supp

(1) SCC 271, this Court observed that in such a situation a

question that arises for consideration is whether the presiding

officer of a Court should simply sit as a mere umpire at a

contest between two parties and declare at the end of the

combat who has won and who has lost or is there not any

legal duty of his own, independent of the parties, to take an

active role in the proceedings in finding the truth and

administering justice? It is a well accepted and settled

principle that a Court must discharge its statutory functions-

whether discretionary or obligatory-according to law in

dispensing justice because it is the duty of a Court not only to

do justice but also to ensure that justice is being done.

35. What people expect is that the Court should discharge its

obligation to find out where in fact the truth lies. Right from

inception of the judicial system it has been accepted that

discovery, vindication and establishment of truth are the main

purposes underlying the existence of the courts of justice.

36. In Ritesh Tewari and Another v. State of U.P. and

Others (2010) 10 SCC 677 this Court reproduced often quoted

quotation which reads as under:

"Every trial is voyage of discovery in which truth is

the quest"

37. This Court observed that the power is to be exercised

with an object to subserve the cause of justice and public

interest and for getting the evidence in aid of a just decision

and to uphold the truth.

38. Lord Denning, in the case of Jones v. National Coal

Board [1957] 2 QB 55 has observed that:

"In the system of trial that we evolved in this

country, the Judge sits to hear and determine the

issues raised by the parties, not to conduct an

investigation or examination on behalf of the society

at large, as happens, we believe, in some foreign


39. Certainly, the above, is not true of the Indian Judicial

system. A judge in the Indian System has to be regarded as

failing to exercise its jurisdiction and thereby discharging its

judicial duty, if in the guise of remaining neutral, he opts to

remain passive to the proceedings before him. He has to

always keep in mind that "every trial is a voyage of discovery

in which truth is the quest". In order to bring on record the

relevant fact, he has to play an active role; no doubt within the

bounds of the statutorily defined procedural law.

40. Lord Denning further observed in the said case of Jones

(supra) that "`It's all very well to paint justice blind, but she

does better without a bandage round her eyes. She should be

blind indeed to favour or prejudice, but clear to see which way

lies the truth..."

41. World over, modern procedural Codes are increasingly

relying on full disclosure by the parties. Managerial powers of

the Judge are being deployed to ensure that the scope of the

factual controversy is minimized.

42. In civil cases, adherence to Section 30 CPC would also

help in ascertaining the truth. It seems that this provision

which ought to be frequently used is rarely pressed in service

by our judicial officers and judges. Section 30 CPC reads as


30. Power to order discovery and the like. -

Subject to such conditions and limitations as may

be prescribed, the Court may, at any time either of

its own motion or on the application of any party, -

(a) make such orders as may be necessary or

reasonable in all matters relating to the

delivery and answering of interrogatories,

the admission of documents and facts,

and the discovery, inspection,

production, impounding and return of

documents or other material objects

producible as evidence;

(b) issue summons to persons whose

attendance is required either to give

evidence or to produce documents or

such other objects as aforesaid;

(c) order any fact to be proved by affidavit

43. "Satyameva Jayate" (Literally: "Truth Stands Invincible")

is a mantra from the ancient scripture Mundaka Upanishad.

Upon independence of India, it was adopted as the national motto

of India. It is inscribed in Devanagari script at the base of the

national emblem. The meaning of full mantra is as follows:

"Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood. Through truth

the divine path is spread out by which

the sages whose desires have been completely

fulfilled, reach where that supreme treasure of

Truth resides."

44. Malimath Committee on Judicial Reforms heavily relied

on the fact that in discovering truth, the judges of all Courts

need to play an active role. The Committee observed thus:

2.2.......... In the adversarial system truth is

supposed to emerge from the respective versions of

the facts presented by the prosecution and the

defence before a neutral judge. The judge acts like

an umpire to see whether the prosecution has been

able to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. The

State discharges the obligation to protect life, liberty

and property of the citizens by taking suitable

preventive and punitive measures which also serve

the object of preventing private retribution so

essential for maintenance of peace and law and

order in the society doubt and gives the benefit of

doubt to the accused. It is the parties that

determine the scope of dispute and decide largely,

autonomously and in a selective manner on the

evidence that they decide to present to the court.

The trial is oral, continuous and confrontational.

The parties use cross-examination of witnesses to

undermine the opposing case and to discover

information the other side has not brought out. The

judge in his anxiety to maintain his position of

neutrality never takes any initiative to discover

truth. He does not correct the aberrations in the

investigation or in the matter of production of

evidence before court........"

2.15 "The Adversarial System lacks dynamism

because it has no lofty ideal to inspire. It has not

been entrusted with a positive duty to discover

truth as in the Inquisitorial System. When the

investigation is perfunctory or ineffective, Judges

seldom take any initiative to remedy the situation.

During the trial, the Judges do not bother if

relevant evidence is not produced and plays a

passive role as he has no duty to search for


2.16.9. Truth being the cherished ideal and ethos of

India, pursuit of truth should be the guiding star of

the Criminal Justice System. For justice to be done

truth must prevail. It is truth that must protect the

innocent and it is truth that must be the basis to

punish the guilty. Truth is the very soul of justice.

Therefore truth should become the ideal to inspire

the courts to pursue. This can be achieved by

statutorily mandating the courts to become active

seekers of truth. It is of seminal importance to

inject vitality into our system if we have to regain

the lost confidence of the people. Concern for and

duty to seek truth should not become the limited

concern of the courts. It should become the

paramount duty of everyone to assist the court in

its quest for truth.

45. In Chandra Shashi v. Anil Kumar Verma (1995) 1 SCC

421 to enable the Courts to ward off unjustified interference in

their working, those who indulge in immoral acts like perjury,

pre-variation and motivated falsehoods have to be

appropriately dealt with, without which it would not be

possible for any Court to administer justice in the true sense

and to the satisfaction of those who approach it in the hope

that truth would ultimately prevail. People would have faith in

Courts when they would find that truth alone triumphs in


46. Truth has been foundation of other judicial systems,

such as, the United States of America, the United Kingdom

and other countries.

47. In James v. Giles et al. v. State of Maryland 386 U.S.

66, 87, S.Ct. 793), the US Supreme Court, in ruling on the

conduct of prosecution in suppressing evidence favourable to

the defendants and use of perjured testimony held that such

rules existed for a purpose as a necessary component of the

search for truth and justice that judges, like prosecutors must

undertake. It further held that the State's obligation under

the Due Process Clause "is not to convict, but to see that so

far as possible, truth emerges."

48. The obligation to pursue truth has been carried to

extremes. Thus, in United States v. J.Lee Havens 446 U.S.

620, 100 St.Ct.1912, it was held that the government may use

illegally obtained evidence to impeach a defendant's fraudulent

statements during cross-examination for the purpose of

seeking justice, for the purpose of "arriving at the truth, which

is a fundamental goal of our legal system".

49. Justice Cardozo in his widely read and appreciated book

"The Nature of the Judicial Process" discusses the role of the

judges. The relevant part is reproduced as under:-

"There has been a certain lack of candour," "in

much of the discussion of the theme [of judges'

humanity], or rather perhaps in the refusal to

discuss it, as if judges must lose respect and

confidence by the reminder that they are subject to

human limitations." I do not doubt the grandeur of

conception which lifts them into the realm of pure

reason, above and beyond the sweep of perturbing

and deflecting forces. None the less, if there is

anything of reality in my analysis of the judicial

process, they do not stand aloof on these chill and

distant heights; and we shall not help the cause of

truth by acting and speaking as if they do."

50. Aharon Barak, President of Israeli Supreme Court from

1995 to 2006 takes the position that:

"For issues in which stability is actually more

important than the substance of the solution - and

there are many such case - I will join the majority,

without restating my dissent each time. Only when

my dissenting opinion reflects an issue that is

central for me - that goes to the core of my role as a

judge - will I not capitulate, and will I continue to

restate my dissenting opinion: "Truth or stability -

truth is preferable".

"On the contrary, public confidence means

ruling according to the law and according to the

judge's conscience, whatever the attitude of the

public may be. Public confidence means giving

expression to history, not to hysteria. Public

confidence is ensured by the recognition that the

judge is doing justice within the framework of the

law and its provisions. Judges must act - inside

and outside the court - in a manner that preserves

public confidence in them. They must understand

that judging is not merely a job but a way of life. It

is a way of life that does not include the pursuit of

material wealth or publicity; it is a way of life based

on spiritual wealth; it is a way of life that includes

an objective and impartial search for truth."

51. In the administration of justice, judges and lawyers play

equal roles. Like judges, lawyers also must ensure that truth

triumphs in the administration of justice.

52. Truth is the foundation of justice. It must be the

endeavour of all the judicial officers and judges to ascertain

truth in every matter and no stone should be left unturned in

achieving this object. Courts must give greater emphasis on

the veracity of pleadings and documents in order to ascertain

the truth.


53. Pleadings are the foundation of litigation. In pleadings,

only the necessary and relevant material must be included

and unnecessary and irrelevant material must be excluded.

Pleadings are given utmost importance in similar systems of

adjudication, such as, the United Kingdom and the United

States of America.

54. In the United Kingdom, after the Woolf Report, Civil

Procedure Rules, 1998 were enacted. Rule 3.4(2) has some

relevance and the same is reproduced as under:

(2) The Court may strike out a statement of

case if it appears to the Court -

(a) that the statement of case discloses

no reasonable grounds for bringing or

defending the claim;

(b) that the statement of case is an

abuse of the Court's process or is

otherwise likely to obstruct the just

disposal of the proceedings; or

(c) that there has been a failure to

comply with a rule, practice direction

or Court order.

55. In so far as denials are concerned, Rule 16.5 provides

that where the defendant denies an allegation, he must state

his reasons for doing so, and if he intends to put forward a

different version of events from that given by the plaintiff, he

must state his own version.

56. The various practice directions and prescribed forms give

an indication of the particulars required. In fact, the 1998

Rules go further and provide for summary judgment. Rule

24.2 of the Civil Procedure Rules, 1998 reads as under:

24.2 The Court may give summary

judgment against a claimant or

defendant on the whole of a claim or

on a particular issue if-

(a) it considers that-

(i) that claimant has no real

prospect of succeeding on the

claim or issue; or

(ii) that defendant has no real

prospect of successfully

defending the claim or issue;


(b) there is no other compelling reason

why the case or issue should be disposed

of at a trial.

57. After enactment of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998, much

greater emphasis is given on pleadings in the United Kingdom.

Similarly, in the United States of America, much greater

emphasis is given on pleadings, particularly after two well

known decisions of the US Supreme Court, viz., Bell Atlantic

Corporation et al. v. William Twombly [550 U.S. 544, 127

S.Ct. 1955] and John. D. Ashcroft, Former Attorney

General, et al. v. Javaid Iqbal et al. [556 U.S. 662, 129


58. In Bell Atlantic (supra), the Court has observed that

factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief

above the speculative level. The pleadings must contain

something more than a statement of facts that merely creates

a suspicion of a legally cognizable right of action.

59. In Ashcroft (supra) the majority Judges of the U.S.

Supreme Court observed as under:

"Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of

action, supported by mere conclusory

statements, do not suffice. Although for the

purposes of a motion to dismiss we must take

all of the factual allegations in the complaint

as a true, we are not bound to accept as true a

legal conclusion couched as a factual

allegation ... ... ... only a complaint that states

a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to


60. The aforementioned two decisions of the U.S. Supreme

Court re-emphasized and reiterated the importance of


61. In civil cases, pleadings are extremely important for

ascertaining the title and possession of the property in


62. Possession is an incidence of ownership and can be

transferred by the owner of an immovable property to another

such as in a mortgage or lease. A licensee holds possession on

behalf of the owner.

63. Possession is important when there are no title

documents and other relevant records before the Court, but,

once the documents and records of title come before the

Court, it is the title which has to be looked at first and due

weightage be given to it. Possession cannot be considered in


64. There is a presumption that possession of a person, other

than the owner, if at all it is to be called possession, is

permissive on behalf of the title-holder. Further, possession of

the past is one thing, and the right to remain or continue in

future is another thing. It is the latter which is usually more

in controversy than the former, and it is the latter which has

seen much abuse and misuse before the Courts.

65. A suit can be filed by the title holder for recovery of

possession or it can be one for ejectment of an ex-lessee or for

mandatory injunction requiring a person to remove himself or

it can be a suit under Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act to

recover possession.

66. A title suit for possession has two parts - first,

adjudication of title, and second, adjudication of possession.

If the title dispute is removed and the title is established in

one or the other, then, in effect, it becomes a suit for ejectment

where the defendant must plead and prove why he must not

be ejected.

67. In an action for recovery of possession of immovable

property, or for protecting possession thereof, upon the legal

title to the property being established, the possession or

occupation of the property by a person other than the holder

of the legal title will be presumed to have been under and in

subordination to the legal title, and it will be for the person

resisting a claim for recovery of possession or claiming a right

to continue in possession, to establish that he has such a

right. To put it differently, wherever pleadings and documents

establish title to a particular property and possession is in

question, it will be for the person in possession to give

sufficiently detailed pleadings, particulars and documents to

support his claim in order to continue in possession.

68. In order to do justice, it is necessary to direct the parties

to give all details of pleadings with particulars. Once the title

is prima facie established, it is for the person who is resisting

the title holder's claim to possession to plead with sufficient

particularity on the basis of his claim to remain in possession

and place before the Court all such documents as in the

ordinary course of human affairs are expected to be there.

Only if the pleadings are sufficient, would an issue be struck

and the matter sent to trial, where the onus will be on him to

prove the averred facts and documents.

69. The person averring a right to continue in possession

shall, as far as possible, give a detailed particularized specific

pleading along with documents to support his claim and

details of subsequent conduct which establish his possession.

70. It would be imperative that one who claims possession

must give all such details as enumerated hereunder. They are

only illustrative and not exhaustive.

(a) who is or are the owner or owners of the


(b) title of the property;

(c) who is in possession of the title documents

(d) identity of the claimant or claimants to


(e) the date of entry into possession;

(f) how he came into possession - whether he

purchased the property or inherited or got the

same in gift or by any other method;

(g) in case he purchased the property, what is the

consideration; if he has taken it on rent, how

much is the rent, license fee or lease amount;

(h) If taken on rent, license fee or lease - then

insist on rent deed, license deed or lease deed;

(i) who are the persons in possession/occupation

or otherwise living with him, in what capacity;

as family members, friends or servants etc.;

(j) subsequent conduct, i.e., any event which

might have extinguished his entitlement to

possession or caused shift therein; and

(k) basis of his claim that not to deliver

possession but continue in possession.

71. Apart from these pleadings, the Court must insist on

documentary proof in support of the pleadings. All those

documents would be relevant which come into existence after

the transfer of title or possession or the encumbrance as is

claimed. While dealing with the civil suits, at the threshold,

the Court must carefully and critically examine pleadings and


72. The Court will examine the pleadings for specificity as

also the supporting material for sufficiency and then pass

appropriate orders.

73. Discovery and production of documents and answers to

interrogatories, together with an approach of considering what

in ordinary course of human affairs is more likely to have been

the probability, will prevent many a false claims or defences

from sailing beyond the stage for issues.

74. If the pleadings do not give sufficient details, they will not

raise an issue, and the Court can reject the claim or pass a

decree on admission.

75. On vague pleadings, no issue arises. Only when he so

establishes, does the question of framing an issue arise.

Framing of issues is an extremely important stage in a civil

trial. Judges are expected to carefully examine the pleadings

and documents before framing of issues in a given case.

76. In pleadings, whenever a person claims right to continue

in possession of another property, it becomes necessary for

him to plead with specificity about who was the owner, on

what date did he enter into possession, in what capacity and

in what manner did he conduct his relationship with the

owner over the years till the date of suit. He must also give

details on what basis he is claiming a right to continue in

possession. Until the pleadings raise a sufficient case, they

will not constitute sufficient claim of defence.

77. Dr. Arun Mohan in his classic treatise on "Justice,

Courts and Delays" has dealt with these fundamental

principles of law exhaustively.

78. The Court must ensure that pleadings of a case must

contain sufficient particulars. Insistence on details reduces

the ability to put forward a non-existent or false claim or


79. In dealing with a civil case, pleadings, title documents

and relevant records play a vital role and that would ordinarily

decide the fate of the case.

Suit for Mandatory Injunction

80. It is a settled principle of law that no one can take law in

his own hands. Even a trespasser in settled possession

cannot be dispossessed without recourse of law. It must be

the endeavour of the Court that if a suit for mandatory

injunction is filed, then it is its bounden duty and obligation to

critically examine the pleadings and documents and pass an

order of injunction while taking pragmatic realities including

prevalent market rent of similar premises in similar localities

in consideration. The Court's primary concern has to be to do

substantial justice. Even if the Court in an extraordinary case

decides to grant ex-parte ad interim injunction in favour of the

plaintiff who does not have a clear title, then at least the

plaintiff be directed to give an undertaking that in case the

suit is ultimately dismissed, then he would be required to pay

market rent of the property from the date when an ad interim

injunction was obtained by him. It is the duty and the

obligation of the Court to at least dispose off application of

grant of injunction as expeditiously as possible. It is the

demand of equity and justice.

Due process of Law

81. Due process of law means nobody ought to be

condemned unheard. The due process of law means a person

in settled possession will not be dispossessed except by due

process of law. Due process means an opportunity for the

defendant to file pleadings including written statement and

documents before the Court of law. It does not mean the

whole trial. Due process of law is satisfied the moment rights

of the parties are adjudicated by a competent Court.

82. The High Court of Delhi in a case Thomas Cook (India)

Limited v. Hotel Imperial 2006 (88) DRJ 545 held as under:

"28. The expressions `due process of law', `due

course of law' and `recourse to law' have been

interchangeably used in the decisions referred to

above which say that the settled possession of even

a person in unlawful possession cannot be

disturbed `forcibly' by the true owner taking law in

his own hands. All these expressions, however,

mean the same thing -- ejectment from settled

possession can only be had by recourse to a court of

law. Clearly, `due process of law' or `due course of

law', here, simply mean that a person in settled

possession cannot be ejected without a court of law

having adjudicated upon his rights qua the true


Now, this `due process' or `due course' condition is

satisfied the moment the rights of the parties are

adjudicated upon by a court of competent

jurisdiction. It does not matter who brought the

action to court. It could be the owner in an action

for enforcement of his right to eject the person in

unlawful possession. It could be the person who is

sought to be ejected, in an action preventing the

owner from ejecting him. Whether the action is for

enforcement of a right (recovery of possession) or

protection of a right (injunction against

dispossession), is not of much consequence. What is

important is that in either event it is an action

before the court and the court adjudicates upon it.

If that is done then, the `bare minimum'

requirement of `due process' or `due course' of law

would stand satisfied as recourse to law would have

been taken. In this context, when a party

approaches a court seeking a protective remedy

such as an injunction and it fails in setting up a

good case, can it then say that the other party must

now institute an action in a court of law for

enforcing his rights i.e., for taking back something

from the first party who holds it unlawfully, and, till

such time, the court hearing the injunction action

must grant an injunction anyway? I would think

not. In any event, the `recourse to law' stipulation

stands satisfied when a judicial determination is

made with regard to the first party's protective

action. Thus, in the present case, the plaintiff's

failure to make out a case for an injunction does not

mean that its consequent cessation of user of the

said two rooms would have been brought about

without recourse to law."

83. We approve the findings of the High Court of Delhi on

this issue in the aforesaid case.

False claims and false defences

84. False claims and defences are really serious problems

with real estate litigation, predominantly because of ever

escalating prices of the real estate. Litigation pertaining to

valuable real estate properties is dragged on by unscrupulous

litigants in the hope that the other party will tire out and

ultimately would settle with them by paying a huge amount.

This happens because of the enormous delay in adjudication

of cases in our Courts. If pragmatic approach is adopted, then

this problem can be minimized to a large extent.

85. This Court in a recent judgment in Ramrameshwari

Devi and Others (supra) aptly observed at page 266 that

unless wrongdoers are denied profit from frivolous litigation, it

would be difficult to prevent it. In order to curb uncalled for

and frivolous litigation, the Courts have to ensure that there is

no incentive or motive for uncalled for litigation. It is a matter

of common experience that Court's otherwise scarce time is

consumed or more appropriately, wasted in a large number of

uncalled for cases. In this very judgment, the Court provided

that this problem can be solved or at least be minimized if

exemplary cost is imposed for instituting frivolous litigation.

The Court observed at pages 267-268 that imposition of

actual, realistic or proper costs and/or ordering prosecution

in appropriate cases would go a long way in controlling the

tendency of introducing false pleadings and forged and

fabricated documents by the litigants. Imposition of heavy

costs would also control unnecessary adjournments by the

parties. In appropriate cases, the Courts may consider

ordering prosecution otherwise it may not be possible to

maintain purity and sanctity of judicial proceedings.

Grant or refusal of an injunction

86. Grant or refusal of an injunction in a civil suit is the

most important stage in the civil trial. Due care, caution,

diligence and attention must be bestowed by the judicial

officers and judges while granting or refusing injunction. In

most cases, the fate of the case is decided by grant or refusal

of an injunction. Experience has shown that once an

injunction is granted, getting it vacated would become a

nightmare for the defendant. In order to grant or refuse

injunction, the judicial officer or the judge must carefully

examine the entire pleadings and documents with utmost care

and seriousness.

87. The safe and better course is to give short notice on

injunction application and pass an appropriate order after

hearing both the sides. In case of grave urgency, if it becomes

imperative to grant an ex-parte ad interim injunction, it

should be granted for a specified period, such as, for two

weeks. In those cases, the plaintiff will have no inherent

interest in delaying disposal of injunction application after

obtaining an ex-parte ad interim injunction. The Court, in

order to avoid abuse of the process of law may also record in

the injunction order that if the suit is eventually dismissed,

the plaintiff undertakes to pay restitution, actual or realistic

costs. While passing the order, the Court must take into

consideration the pragmatic realities and pass proper order for

mesne profits. The Court must make serious endeavour to

ensure that even-handed justice is given to both the parties.

88. Ordinarily, three main principles govern the grant or

refusal of injunction.

a) prima facie case;

b) balance of convenience; and

c) irreparable injury, which guide the Court in

this regard.

89. In the broad category of prima facie case, it is imperative

for the Court to carefully analyse the pleadings and the

documents on record and only on that basis the Court must

be governed by the prima facie case. In grant and refusal of

injunction, pleadings and documents play vital role.

Mesne Profits

90. Experience has shown that all kinds of pleadings are

introduced and even false and fabricated documents are filed

in civil cases because there is an inherent profit in

continuation of possession. In a large number of cases,

honest litigants suffer and dishonest litigants get undue

benefit by grant or refusal of an injunction because the Courts

do not critically examine pleadings and documents on record.

In case while granting or refusing injunction, the Court

properly considers pleadings and documents and takes the

pragmatic view and grants appropriate mesne profit, then the

inherent interest to continue frivolous litigation by

unscrupulous litigants would be reduced to a large extent.

91. The Court while granting injunction should broadly take

into consideration the prevailing market rentals in the locality

for similar premises. Based on that, the Court should fix

adhoc amount which the person continuing in possession

must pay and on such payment, the plaintiff may withdraw

after furnishing an undertaking and also making it clear that

should the Court pass any order for reimbursement, it will be

a charge upon the property.

92. The Court can also direct payment of a particular

amount and for a differential, direct furnishing of a security by

the person who wishes to continue in possession. If such

amount, as may be fixed by the Court, is not paid as security,

the Court may remove the person and appoint a receiver of the

property or strike out the claim or defence. This is a very

important exercise for balancing equities. Courts must carry

out this exercise with extreme care and caution while keeping

pragmatic realities in mind and make a proper order of

granting mesne profit. This is the requirement of equity and


93. In the instant case, if the Courts below would have

carefully looked into the pleadings, documents and had

applied principle of the grant of mesne profit, then injustice

and illegality would not have perpetuated for more than two


94. We have heard the learned counsel for the parties at

length and perused the relevant judgments cited at the Bar. In

the instant case, admittedly, the respondent did not claim any

title to the suit property. Undoubtedly, the appellant has a

valid title to the property which is clearly proved from the

pleadings and documents on record.

95. The respondent has not been able to establish the

family arrangement by which this house was given to the

respondent for his residence. The Courts below have failed to

appreciate that the premises in question was given by the

appellant to her brother respondent herein as a caretaker.

The appellant was married to a Naval Officer who was

transferred from time to time outside Goa. Therefore, on the

request of her brother she gave possession of the premises to

him as a caretaker. The caretaker holds the property of the

principal only on behalf of the principal.

96. The respondent's suit for injunction against the true

owner - the appellant was not maintainable, particularly

when it was established beyond doubt that the respondent

was only a caretaker and he ought to have given possession

of the premises to the true owner of the suit property on

demand. Admittedly, the respondent does not claim any title

over the suit property and he had not filed any proceedings

disputing the title of the appellant.

97. This Court in Puran Singh v. The State of Punjab

(1975) 4 SCC 518 held that an occupation of the property by a

person as an agent or a servant at the instance of the owner

will not amount to actual physical possession.

98. This Court in Mahabir Prasad Jain (supra) has held

that the possession of a servant or agent is that of his master

or principal as the case may be for all purposes and the former

cannot maintain a suit against the latter on the basis of such


99. In Sham Lal v. Rajinder Kumar & Others 1994 (30)

DRJ 596, the High Court of Delhi held thus:

"On the basis of the material available on record, it

will be a misnomer to say that the plaintiff has been

in 'possession' of the suit property. The plaintiff is

neither a tenant, nor a licensee, nor a person even

in unlawful possession of the suit property.

Possession of servant is possession of the real

owner. A servant cannot be said to be having any

interest in the suit property. It cannot be said that a

servant or a chowkidar can exercise such a

possession or right to possession over the property

as to exclude the master and the real owner of the

property from his possession or exercising right to

possession over the property.

Possession is flexible term and is not necessarily

restricted to mere actual possession of the property.

The legal conception of possession may be in

various forms. The two elements of possession are

the corpus and the animus. A person though in

physical possession may not be in possession in the

eye of law, if the animus be lacking. On the

contrary, to be in possession, it is not necessary

that one must be in actual physical contact. To gain

the complete idea of possession, one must consider

(i) the person possessing, (ii) the things possessed

and, (iii) the persons excluded from possession. A

man may hold an object without claiming any

interest therein for himself. A servant though

holding an object, holds it for his master. He has,

therefore, merely custody of the thing and not the

possession which would always be with the master

though the master may not be in actual contact of

the thing. It is in this light in which the concept of

possession has to be understood in the context of a

servant and & master."

100. The ratio of this judgment in Sham Lal (supra) is that

merely because the plaintiff was employed as a servant or

chowkidar to look after the property, it cannot be said that he

had entered into such possession of the property as would

entitle him to exclude even the master from enjoying or

claiming possession of the property or as would entitle him to

compel the master from staying away from his own property.

101. Principles of law which emerge in this case are

crystallized as under:-

1. No one acquires title to the property if he or she was

allowed to stay in the premises gratuitously. Even by

long possession of years or decades such person would

not acquire any right or interest in the said property.

2. Caretaker, watchman or servant can never acquire

interest in the property irrespective of his long

possession. The caretaker or servant has to give

possession forthwith on demand.

3. The Courts are not justified in protecting the

possession of a caretaker, servant or any person who

was allowed to live in the premises for some time

either as a friend, relative, caretaker or as a servant.

4. The protection of the Court can only be granted or

extended to the person who has valid, subsisting rent

agreement, lease agreement or license agreement in

his favour.

5. The caretaker or agent holds property of the principal

only on behalf of the principal. He acquires no right or

interest whatsoever for himself in such property

irrespective of his long stay or possession.

102. In this view of the matter, the impugned judgment of the

High Court as also of the Trial Court deserve to be set aside

and we accordingly do so. Consequently, this Court directs

that the possession of the suit premises be handed over to the

appellant, who is admittedly the owner of the suit property.

103. In the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, the

legal representatives of the respondent are granted three

months time to vacate the suit premises. They are further

directed that after the expiry of the three months period, the

vacant and peaceful possession of the suit property be handed

over to the appellant. The usual undertaking to this effect be

filed by the legal representatives of the respondent in this

Court within two weeks.

104. The legal representatives of the respondent are also

directed to pay Rs.1,00,000/- (Rupees one Lakh) per month

towards the use and occupation of the premises for a period of

three months. The said amount for use and occupation be

given to the appellant on or before the 10th of every month. In

case the legal representatives of the respondent are not willing

to pay the amount for use and occupation as directed by this

Court, they must hand over the possession of the premises

within two weeks from the date of this judgment. Thereafter, if

the legal representatives of the respondent do not hand over

peaceful possession of the suit property, in that event, the

appellant would be at liberty to get the possession of the

premises by taking police help.

105. As a result, the appeal of the appellant is allowed. In the

facts and circumstances of the case, the respondents are

directed to pay a cost of Rs.50,000/- to the appellant within

four weeks. (We have imposed the moderate cost in view of

the fact that the original respondent has expired). Ordered



(Dalveer Bhandari)


(H.L. Dattu)


(Deepak Verma)

New Delhi;

March 21, 2012

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