December 06, 2017
The Supreme Court in its recent ruling substantiated on the cogent evidence, oral as well as documentary required while proving that a property in HUF (Hindu Undivided Family) is self- acquired property and not an ancestral property. In the case the core issue pertained to the entitlement to coparcenary property in HUF.
Other crucial observation made by the Apex Court in the instant case is that in HUF a property is presumed to be a joint property unless proved otherwise.
The suit properties involved in the case are: Suit properties in schedule B and C and suit property in schedule D. The Plaintiffs and Defendants in the case belong to HUF (Hindu Undivided Family) and the present case revolves around family dispute with respect to suit properties in the case in Schedule B,C and D. The Plaintiffs in the case have prayed for the partition of the suit properties and also claimed that suit properties specified in Schedules B and C were their self-acquired properties. However, the Defendants in the case averred that the entire suit properties comprising in Schedules ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ were ancestral properties. The Defendant also alleged that during the lifetime of their ancestor namely, Hanamappa, oral partition had taken place amongst the family members in relation to the entire suit properties, pursuant to which all family members were placed in possession of their respective shares.
When the case came up before the Trial Court it dismissed the suit and held that Plaintiffs failed to prove the suit properties specified in Schedule ‘B’ and ‘C’ to be their self-acquired properties. It was also held that so far as the properties specified in schedule ‘D’ were concerned, though they were ancestral but were partitioned long back pursuant to which, the Plaintiffs through their father got their respective shares .
Aggrieved by Trial court’s order, the Appellant approached the High Court. The High Court also dismissed the Plaintiffs’ appeal and affirmed Trial Court’s judgment giving rise to filing of appeal before Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court on hearing the parties and in view of Trial Court’s and High Court’s order in the case held that there was no merit in the Appeal.
Lower Court’s order binding on Appellate Court- The Court stated that the findings of the Trial Court and the Karnataka High Court in the case were neither against the pleadings nor against the evidence and nor contrary to any provision of law. Hence, unless the findings of facts, though concurrent, are found to be extremely perverse so as to affect the judicial conscious of a judge, they would be binding on the Appellate Court.
Burden on the Plaintiff to prove his case- It is a settled principle of law that the initial burden is always on the Plaintiff to prove his case by proper pleading and adequate evidence. With reference to the present case, the Court stated that the Plaintiffs failed to prove with any documentary evidence that the suit properties described in Schedules ‘B’ and ‘C’ were their self-acquired properties and that the partition did not take place in respect of Schedule ‘D’ properties and continued to remain ancestral in the hands of family members.
The Court stated that to prove suit properties as self-acquired properties evidence in the form of sale- deed and evidence of payment of sale consideration shall be adduced.
Presumption as to coparcenary and self-acquired property- The Supreme Court opined that it is a settled principle of Hindu law that there lies a legal presumption that every Hindu family is joint in food, worship and estate and in the absence of any proof of division, such legal presumption continues to operate in the family. The burden, therefore, lies upon the member who after admitting the existence of jointness in the family properties asserts his claim that some properties out of entire lot of ancestral properties are his self-acquired property.
Hence, it was obligatory upon the Plaintiffs to have proved that despite existence of jointness in the family, properties described in Schedule ‘B’ and ‘C’ were not part of ancestral properties but were their self-acquired properties and the Plaintiffs failed to prove this material fact for want of any evidence.
From the Supreme Court’s order and observation in the instant case it can be inferred that strong and cogent evidence is required to prove that joint property is not ancestral but self-acquired property. Otherwise, there would be a presumption that the property owned by HUF is ancestral property.