1. The second appeal arises out of a suit filed by the respondent to obtain possession of western half share out of house No. 611 situated at Vadgaon in Ichalkaranji Taluka. According to the plaintiff, the house originally belonged to one Tatoba Laxman Pies. On March 14, 1958, Tatoba sold his undivided half share in the house to defendant No. 1. The defendants were, however, in possession of the entire house as tenants, since 1953. On March 8, 1960, Tatoba sold the remaining half to the plaintiff under a registered sale deed. The defendants were not willing to make an actual petition of the house. The plaintiff, therefore prayed in the suit for an equitable partition of the house and possession of the western half of the house. The defendants resisted the suit contending that on March 8, 1960, Tatoba had no saleable interest in the suit property; hence, the plaintiff could not maintain the suit. They further alleged that on January 24, 1958, Tatoba had entered into an agreement with the defendants to sell the entire house to them and they were in possession of the house since then in pursuance of that agreement. As it transpired later that one Nivritti Haval had half share in the entire house, they entered into an agreement with Haval on October 18, 1958 to purchase the remaining half share in the house. They had, in the meanwhile, got a registered sale deed executed by Pies in respect of his half share on March 14, 1958, as stated by the plaintiff. Thus the defendants claimed to be in possession of the half share under the agreement dated January 24, 1958 entered into with Tatoba and the agreement dated October 18, 1958 entered into with Haval and claimed equity of part performance against any transferee with notice of their possession. They further stated that Haval entered into an agreement with the defendants and thereafter transferred his share to Tatoba Pies and hence Haval had lost all interest in the property and Tatoba was bound to convey the property to the defendants under the original agreement dated January 24, 1958. They submitted that the plaintiff was not a bona fide purchaser without notice of the above transactions between the defendants and the said Tatoba and Haval and hence, the plaintiff was not entitled to recover possession of the house from the defendants. The learned Civil Judge framed the necessary issues and on considering carefully the documentary and oral evidence in the case found
(1) that the plaintiff proved the sale deed executed by Tatoba in his favour on March 8, 1960.
(2) that Tatoba had only half share in the suit property at the time of the said sale deed dated March 8, 1960.
(3) but that defendant No. 1 (though the findings in this behalf have been recorded by the learned Judge in a confused way by referring to both the defendants it appears he meant defendant No.1) was entitled to protect his possession of the whole house under Section 53-A of the Transfer of Property Act, and
(4) that the plaintiff was estopped from bringing his suit in view of the contracts entered into by his predecessor-in-title with defendant No. 1.
He, therefore, dismissed the plaintiff's suit with costs by his judgment and decree dated July 25, 1961. Feeling aggrieved by the said decision, the plaintiff carried on appeal in the Court of the District Judge at Kolhapur and the learned District Judge reversed the decree on the ground that although the defendants were entitled to the equity of part performance under Section 53-A against Tatoba and Haval, that equity was not available against the plaintiff because the plaintiff was a bona fide purchaser for value without notice of the contracts or of the part performance thereof. In view of this finding, the learned District Judge decreed the plaintiff's suit.
2. The said decree is challenged in the above second appeal by the defendants and it is urged by Mr. Hombalkar, the learned Counsel for the defendants, that the learned District Judge erred in law in holding that the plaintiff had no notice of the equity of part performance in favour of the defendants. The finding of the learned District Judge that the defendants fulfilled all the requirements of Section 53-A of the Transfer of Property Act and were entitled to protection of their possession under the said Section 53-A is a finding which cannot be assailed by the plaintiff. The finding is recorded by the learned District Judge after carefully considering all the relevant agreements and the requirements of Section 53-A and Mr. Joshi, the learned Counsel for the plaintiff-respondent, has not been able to point out any error in that finding.
3. Mr. Joshi, however, submitted that the learned District Judge was quite right in further holding that the facts of the case attracted the operation of the proviso to Section 53-A which runs as follows :-
'Provided that nothing in this section shall affect the rights of a transferee for consideration who has no notice of the contract or of the part performance thereof.'
The learned District Judge reversed the finding recorded by the learned Civil Judge on this point observing as follows :
'Here again, if we remember the facts that the Defendants were occupying the house since 1953 as tenants, the fact that they continued in possession in part performance of the contract can hardly be known to a third person. After all, it was a change in character of possession. And therefore, unless there is something more on the part of the Defendants to show this change in character or possession, it would be extremely difficult to hold that the third person could have knowledge of the fact that the Defts, were continuing in part performance of their contract with Nivritti Haval. It is true that admittedly the Defendants have taken tap-water connection and have also constructed a bath-room. But even assuming that these improvements were made by the Defendants in part performance of the contract, the question is whether the plaintiff would be said to have had the notice of it. The notice contemplated under the proviso to Section 53-A, is not of improvements, but of the part performance of the contract. But there is nothing on the record to show that at the time the plaintiff purchased this house from Tatoba Pies he knew that the Defendants had made these improvements, much less can it be said that he had the knowledge that the Defendants had made these improvements in part performance of the contract. I am, therefore, inclined to think that the Defendants have failed to prove that the plaintiff had the notice either of the contract between them and Nivritti Haval or of the part performance thereof.'
It may also be noticed that the defendants relied on a notice published in a daily newspaper known as 'Pudhari' dated March 4, 1960 and contended that the publication must have come to the knowledge of the plaintiff. The learned District Judge rejected this contention on the ground that there was nothing on the record to show that Pudhari was in circulation in Vadgaon and there was also nothing on the record to suggest that the plaintiff had any opportunity to know about this notice.
4. However, it appears that the attention of the learned District Judge was not drawn to the definition contained in Section 3 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, the material portion of which runs as follows :-
'A person is said to have notice' of a fact when he actually knows that fact, or when, but for wilful abstention from an enquiry or search which he ought to have made, or gross negligence, he would have known it.
Explanation I. - x x x x
Explanation II - Any person acquiring any immovable property or any share or interest in any such property shall be deemed to have notice of the title, if any, of any person who is for the time being in actual possession thereof.
Explanation III - x x x x'
Reliance is placed by Mr. Hombalkar for the appellant on the terms of Explanation II. He contended that the defendants being admittedly in possession of the entire suit house in view of the said Explanation II, the plaintiff should be deemed to have notice of the contracts between defendant No. 1 and Tatoba and Haval; and in any event, it was his duty to make a proper enquiry about the rights of the defendants who were in possession of the property before purchasing the property; and he having failed to do so, he must be said to have had notice of the equities in favour of the defendants within the meaning of that definition.
5. It is not the case of the plaintiff that he made any enquiry with the defendants about the rights, if any, which they had in the property. But Mr. Joshi tried to repel this argument by contending that the constructive notice imputed to the purchaser under Explanation II is only in respect of 'title' and not in respect of any equity such as a contract to purchase the property or part performance referred to in the proviso to Section 53-A. Mr. Joshis's contention is, however, contrary to well established principles of law regarding constructive notice. The principle stated by Rankin, J. in Tiloke Chand Surana v. J. B. Beattle & Co. AIR 1926 Cal 204 which of course, was a case decided prior to the amendment of the definition of the notice in Section 3 - will apply to the facts of this case; and that principle is as follows :-
'In this case there was a tenant upon the property and his open possession is notice not only of the immediate terms of his tenancy but of collateral agreements as well, in the absence of all enquiry by the transferee.'
The principle was also adopted in illustration 3 to Section 27(b) of the Specific Relief Act, 1877; and the section is reenacted in Section 19(b) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 , though the illustration has been omitted. In Mohammad Aslam Khan v. Feroze Shah AIR 1932 PC 228, while dealing with the said S. 27(b) of the Specific Relief Act, 1877, the Privy Council laid down:
'Whether a transferee has knowledge of such facts which would put him on inquiry which if prosecuted would have disclosed a previous agreement, such transferee is not a transferee without notice of the original contract within the meaning of the exception in S. 27(b).'
6. In my judgment, the use of the word 'title' in Explanation II does not mean that the general principles with regard to constructive notice embodied therein will not be applicable to the notice referred to in the proviso to Section 53-A. From the illustration to Section 27(b) of the Specific Relief Act, 1877 referred to above and from the above decision of the Calcutta High Court, it is clear that the word 'title' as used in the Explanation II means not only a completed title in accordance with law but also includes an equitable interest which a transferee may acquire in any property by virtue of , and under the contract of transfer. A subsequent purchaser of an immovable property would be affected with notice of the interest of a tenant who is in possession of the property in part performance of an unregistered agreement with the lessor and consequently with notice of such agreement and would not succeed in defeating the tenant's claim to retain possession under the protection given to him by Section 53-A of the Act. Reference in this connection may be made to Ramkrishna v. Mahadei : AIR1965Pat467 .
7. In the aforesaid Calcutta decision also there was a tenant in possession. During the pendency of the lease, the tenant advanced Rs. 7800/- to the landlord on a verbal agreement that the money was to be spent on repairs and repaid by the landlord by giving credit to the tenant for monthly rents as they became due. Some time later, the mortgagee of the property obtained a decree against the landlord for sale on the mortgage, purchased the house at the court sale and gave notice to the tenant to quit. It was held by Sanderson, C. J. and Rankin, J. that the mortgagee was not entitled to evict the tenant on that notice because the possession of the tenant was constructive notice to the mortgagee not only of his tenancy but also of the agreement under which he was entitled to remain in possession until the end of August 1923 as the landlord had agreed to allow the tenant to remain in possession of the premises till that time when he borrowed from the tenant Rs. 7800/-.
8. As stated by Sir Lawrence Jenkins in Baburam v. Madhab Chandra ILR (1913) 40 Cal 565, 'the occupation of property by a tenant ordinarily affects one who would take a transfer of that property with notice of that tenant's rights and if he chooses to make no inquiry of the tenant, he cannot claim to be a transferee without notice.' In view of these principles, it was the duty of the plaintiff to make an enquiry with the defendants as to what their rights were. As the plaintiff admittedly failed to make any enquiry in respect of the rights of the defendants in the said house, it must be held that he had notice of the contract or part performance thereof; and hence, in my opinion, the learned District Judge erred in law in holding that the proviso to Section 53-A was attracted in this case. In the facts and circumstances of the case, it cannot be said that the plaintiff was a transferee for consideration, who had no notice of the contract or of the part performance thereof within the meaning of that proviso, because the defendants were in possession of the house and it was incumbent into their rights before getting a sale of the half share in the property in his favour.
9. For these reasons, the defendants must succeed because under Section 53-A, defendant No. 1 having contracted with Tatoba and Haval to purchase the property, must be continued in possession of the suit house in part performance of the contract; and defendant No. 1 being ready and willing to perform his part of the contract, neither Tatoba nor Haval or the plaintiff, who claims under Tatoba, can deprive the defendants of the possession of the suit house.
10. In the result, the decree passed by the learned District Judge is set aside and the decree passed by the Civil Judge is restored. Appeal allowed with costs throughout.
11. Appeal allowed.