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Sheomurat Ram Vs. Smt. Savitri and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContract;Property
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 1196 of 1965
Judge
Reported inAIR1977All322
ActsSpecific Relief Act, 1963 - Sections 15; Registration Act, 1908 - Sections 17; Transfer of Property Act, 1882 - Sections 54
AppellantSheomurat Ram
RespondentSmt. Savitri and ors.
Appellant AdvocateShambhu Prasad and ;Krishna Murari Sinha, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateSiddheshwari Prasad, Adv.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Excerpt:
.....the case of a contract where the promisee is one and on his death the suit is filed by some of his legal representatives, it is not possible to implead the remaining legal representatives as defendants (in case the latter refuse to join as co-plaintiffs). in my opinion, there seems to be no rationality in this approach and there is a failure to appreciate that what is material is that all the parties should be before the court so that it may be in a position to grant the necessary relief. this aspect of the matter has been clearly emphasised in where it was observed: ' i should like to emphasise here that though it is true that in the reported cases the emphasis is that in such a situation in case of refusal to join as co-plaintiffs, the parties concerned may be im-pleaded as..........it was in the nature of a personal right in his favour. in other words, it was contended that the legal representatives of madho halwai could not claim any right on the basis of the aforesaid agreement to reconvey the property in his favour. it was next pleaded that the promise to reconvey the property was without consideration and, therefore, could not be enforced. the further plea was that the plaintiff alone could not get back the property which belonged to her and the defendants 2 to 10. it was also claimed that the contesting defendant had spent a sum of rs. 2,000/- on the repairs of the property and that he had been paying house tax in respect of the same. the contesting defendant claimed to be entitled lo the said amounts also. certain other pleas were also taken but it is not.....
Judgment:

M.P. Mehrotra, J.

1. This is the defendant's second appeal. He has substantially lost in the courts below. The brief facts are these:

One Madho Halwai executed a sale deed in favour of Sheomurat Ram, the defendant-appellant, on 26th August, 1958 for Rs. 4,000/-. On the same day Sheomurat Ram executed a deed of agreement in favour of Madho Halwai promising to reconvey the said property to the latter if the sum of Rs. 4,000/- was paid within five years. The vendor, Madho Halwai, died on 27th November, 1958. His son, Purshottam, had predeceased him leaving sons and one daughter, Smt. Savitri Devi. Smt. Savitri Devi instituted the suit from which the instant appeal has arisen against Sheomurat Ram who was im-pleaded as defendant No. 1. She implea-ded her brothers and nephews and nieces as pro forma defendants alleging that they were not in a position to deposit the sum of Rs. 4,000/- and, therefore, they had agreed that she might deposit the amount and get back the property from the vendee in accordance with the aforesaid deed of agreement which was executed on the same day as the sale deed. She offered to deposit the sum and prayed that the defendant No. 1, Sheomurat Ram, be asked to execute a sale deed in her favour alone or in her favour and in favour of any pro forma defendants who might desire the sale deed to be executed in their favour. Sheomurat Ram, defendant No. 1 alone contested the suit. The other defendants did not contest the same. The contesting defendants pleas were that on the death of Madho Halwai the cause of action based on the agreement to reconvey the property came to an end as it was in the nature of a personal right in his favour. In other words, it was contended that the legal representatives of Madho Halwai could not claim any right on the basis of the aforesaid agreement to reconvey the property in his favour. It was next pleaded that the promise to reconvey the property was without consideration and, therefore, could not be enforced. The further plea was that the plaintiff alone could not get back the property which belonged to her and the defendants 2 to 10. It was also claimed that the contesting defendant had spent a sum of Rs. 2,000/- on the repairs of the property and that he had been paying house tax in respect of the same. The contesting defendant claimed to be entitled lo the said amounts also. Certain other pleas were also taken but it is not necessary to notice the same as they were not canvassed in the instant appeal.

2. The trial court framed the necessary issues and decreed the suit with costs against the contesting defendant No. 1 who was directed to execute a deed of reconveyance on payment of Rs. 4,000/-by the plaintiff. One month's time was given for this purpose failing which it was ordered that the plaintiff could get the sale deed executed through the court. Sheomurat Ram appealed to the lower appellate court and the appeal was partly allowed. The decree of the trial court was modified to the extent that the costs throughout were made easy. Sheomurat Ram has now come in the instant second appeal and in support thereof I have heard his learned counsel, Shri Shambhu Prasad. In opposition. Shri Siddheswari Prasad had made his submissions. Counsel for the appellant relied on Section 23 (b) of the old Specific Relief Act of which the counter-part is Section 15(b) of the new Specific Relief Act. He also placed reliance on (1) Smt. Katip Bibi v Fakir Chandra, : AIR1960Cal187 Mohd. Yamin v. Abdul Majid : AIR1962All476 and (3) Amina Bibi v. Abdul Kader Saheb ((1902) ILR 25 Mad 26). It was next contended that the courts below were wrong in holding that on the basis of the alleged agreement amongst the legal representatives of the deceased, Madho Halwai, the plaintiff alone was entitled to sue for the reconveyance of the property. It was contended that the alleged agreement amounted to a relinquishment of rights in immoveable property valued at more than Rs. 100/- and that could be brought about only by a registered document. In the instant case there was no document at all and. therefore, in law there could be no relinquish-ment of their rights by the other legal representatives of Madho Halwai in favour of the plaintiff. Reference was made to Section 54 of the Transfer of Property Act in support of the aforesaid contention. Lastly, counsel also claimed that in the instant case Section 62 of the Contract Act was applicable. Learned counsel for the plaintiff-respondent. Shri Siddheshwari Prasad, replied that Section 62 of the Contract Act was not applicable. There was no alteration or novation of the original contract which remained unaltered. The cause of action instead of vesting in all the legal representatives of the deceased, Madho Halwai. came to vest in the plaintiff alone as a result of the agreementamongst themselves. Counsel referred to the pleadings of the parties to submit that the contentions which Shri Shambhu Prasad raised did not find place in the pleadings. Referring to : AIR1960Cal187 counsel contended that it was distinguishable on its own facts and, in any case, did not lay down good law. In this connection he invited attention to : AIR1962All476 was distinguished on the ground that in the said case the plaintiff had sued for the specific performance of her share. It was next contended that the learned counsel for the appellant had not correctly interpreted (1902) ILR 25 Mad 26, Shri Sidheswari Prasad placed reliance on (1) Jagdeo Singh v. Bisambhar (AIR 1937 Nag 186); (2) Radhabai v. Parwatibai : AIR1970Bom275 Abdul Shaker Sahib v. Abdul Rahiman Sahib (AIR 1923 Mad 284). (4) Umar Noor v. Dayal Saran : AIR1967All253 Ram Saran v. Ram Mohit : [1967]1SCR293 Mongbibai v. Cooverji Umersey was also referred to. It was contended that there was no contract to the contrary under Section 15(b) of the new Specific Relief Act which would apply to the facts of the case. Section 40 of the Contract Act was referred to. It was next contended that in view of the statement under Order 10 Rule 1 C.P.C. made by Sheomurat Ram, it was not open to him to contend that the agreement was personally in favour of the deceased, Madho Halwai. I think the courts below have rightly held that the right which the vendor. Madho Halwai, was entitled to on the basis of the agreement to reconvey the property (Ex. 2) was not merely a personal right but was heritable and transferable. It is well known that ordinarily the benefits and obligations under a contract are claimable by and enforceable against not only the parties to the contract but also by or against the representatives of such parties in case of their death. Of course, there can be an intention to the contrary in the contract itself or the same can be inferred from the nature of the contract. Section 37 of the Contract Act lays down as under:

'The parties to a contract must either perform or offer to perform their respective promises, unless such performance is dispensed with or excused under the provisions of this Act, or of any other law.

Promises bind the representatives of the promisors in case of the death ofsuch of promisors before performance, unless a contrary intention appears from the contract.'

3. Section 15(a) and (b) of the new Specific Relief Act. 1963. lays down as under:

'15. Who may obtain specific performance.-- Except as otherwise provided by this Chapter, the specific performance of a contract may be obtained by--

(a) any party thereto ;

(b) the representative-in-interest or the principal, of any party thereto;

Provided that where the learning, skill, solvency or any personal quality of such party is a material ingredient in the contract, or where the contract provides that his interest shall not be assigned, his representative-in-interest or his principal shall not be entitled to specific performance of the contract, unless such party has already performed his part of the contract, or the performance thereof by his representative-in-interest, or his principal, has been accepted by the other party; ........................'

It is obvious that in the instant case the application of the proviso to Clause (b) of Section 15 is not attracted. Therefore, the legal representatives of the deceased, Madho Halwai, could undoubtedly sue for the specific performance of the agreement by the defendant, Sheomurat Ram.

4. Similarly, in my opinion, the courts below have rightly not accepted the contention raised on behalf of the defendant that the promise to reconvey the property was without consideration. The consideration was mentioned in the agreement itself the vendor was to pay the sum of Rs. 4,000/- within five years to get back the property.

5. The question, however, still, remains whether the plaintiff alone could sue the defendant on the basis of the agreement to reconvey, when she was only one of f he several legal representatives of the deceased. Madho Halwai, AIR I960 Cal 187 is a single Judge pronouncement of the said Court and in my opinion, with respect, does not lay down the correct law. The head note of the case is as follows:-

'One or more of the several heirs of the original promisee, a single individual, could not by himself or themselves institute a suit for specific performance of the contract of reconveyance by making the remaining heirs as parties defendants to the suit. On the death of the original promisee, his heirs do not become themselves several joint promisees.'

The learned, single Judge sought to distinguish and AIR 1937 Nag 186 on the ground that in those cases there were several joint promisees from the very inception of the contract but in the case which was decided by the learned Single Judge, at the inception there was only one promisee and on his death before the institution of the suit, he left several legal representatives to survive. Even if there be some distinction in the legal incidents which attach to the two situations, I cannot see how it can be held that while in the case of joint promisees at the inception of the contract it is possible to implead some as defendants (i. e. those who refuse to join as co-plaintiffs), in the case of a contract where the promisee is one and on his death the suit is filed by some of his legal representatives, it is not possible to implead the remaining legal representatives as defendants (in case the latter refuse to join as co-plaintiffs). In my opinion, there seems to be no rationality in this approach and there is a failure to appreciate that what is material is that all the parties should be before the court so that it may be in a position to grant the necessary relief. It is not necessary that the parties should be arrayed on the side of the plaintiff. Some of them can be put in the array of the defendants if they refuse to join as co-plaintiffs. If this were not the correct legal position it would be open to one or the other of several legal representatives to defeat the claims of the remaining legal representatives to seek relief against the promisor. This aspect of the matter has been clearly emphasised in where it was observed:

'Once all the parties are before the court the court can make appropriate order and should give judgment in favour of all the persons interested whether they should be joined as plaintiffs or defendants.'

In the Privy Council case the observation which was made related to several persons jointly interested. In fact, the relevant passage has been extracted in the judgment of the learned single Judge of the Calcutta High Court.

It is as follows:

'It has long been recognized that one or more of several persons jointly interested can bring an action in respect of joint property, and if their right to sue is challenged can amend by joining their co-contractors as plaintiffs, if they will consent, or as co-defendants if they will not.'

Joint interest can arise in various circumstances. For example, there can be joint promisees at the inception of the contract; joint interest can also arise on account of the death of a sole promisee who leaves behind several legal representatives to survive him and they can be described as jointly interested in the claim to which their predecessor-in-interest as the sole promisee was entitled to. In my view, therefore, the kind of distinction which Justice Banerji sought to draw in the aforesaid Calcutta case with a view to distinguish the cases cited before him is not valid. The learned Judge sought to draw support from (1902) ILR 25 Mad. 26 and certain observations of Bhashyam Ayyangar, J. made in the said case, were pressed into service. The nature of the controversy in the Madras case would be clear from the head note itself which is reproduced below :

'In 1885, five persons commenced to carry on business in partnership. In 1890, P (one of them) died. No accounts were taken, nor were the heirs of P introduced as partners into the partnership. The four surviving partners continued to carry on the business. In 1891, C (one of them) died. No accounts were taken, nor were the heirs of C introduced as partners into the partnership. The three surviving partners continued to carry on the business. In 1898, the legal representatives of C instituted this suit against the surviving partners and the representatives of the deceased partners for an account and for a share of the profits of the partnership which was formed in 1890, on the death of P, and dissolved in 1891, on the death of C. The third plaintiff was a minor at the date of C's death, and was still in her minority at the date of suit. On its being contended that the suit was barred by limitation: Held that the starting point of computing the period of limitation was the date of C's death. The present suit could not be regarded 'within the meaning of Article 106 of schedule II to the Limitation Act' as a suit in part for an account and a share of the profits of the original partnership. When a partnership is determined by death and the surviving partners continue to carry on the business the Limitation Act is no bar to taking the accounts of the new partnership by going into the accounts of the old partnership which have been carried on intothe new partnership without interruption or settlement.

Held also, that though the new partnership was dissolved by the death of C in 1891 and the suit would be barred, prima facie, by Article 106 of Schedule II to the Limitation Act, the bar was saved by Sections 7 and 8 of that Act, in as mush as the third plaintiff was and still continued a minor. The effect of Section 8 was to save the bar in the case of all the plaintiffs, as they were joint claimants with the third plaintiff and none of them could give or could at any time have given the partners of C a discharge from liability to C's representatives without the concurrence of the third plaintiff.'

Unfortunately, the passage which has been extracted from the Madras judgment in the aforesaid Calcutta case stops short of reproducing the very next sentence in the Madras judgment which would have revealed to the learned Judge of the Calcutta Court that he was not correctly interpreting the Madras decision. The said sentence of the Madras decision which was not reproduced in the Calcutta case is as follows.-

'If one or more of joint claimants do not join as plaintiffs, the course to be pursued in India, according to long established course of decisions, is for the claimants bringing the suit to join as party defendants, those who do not join as plaintiffs.''

In the Madras case itself some of the legal representatives of the deceased predecessor-in-interest had not joined as plaintiffs but had been put in the array of the defendants. Such defendants were Nos. 12 to 18. This is clear from the following sentences of the judgment delivered by Bhashyam Ayyangar, J.

'The plaintiffs and defendants Nos. 12 to 18 are the legal representatives of the deceased Chanda Mean Saheb, including the legal representatives of a deceased heir of Chanda Mean............If, as in this case, some of the representatives are unwilling to sue they may be joined as defendants so that all may be bound by the decree and save the debtors from the liability to a series of action on the same cause of action.'

I should like to emphasise here that though it is true that in the reported cases the emphasis is that in such a situation in case of refusal to join as co-plaintiffs, the parties concerned may be im-pleaded as co-defendants, still, it should not be construed that it is only in case of positive evidence to substantiate suchrefusal that the plaintiff's suit should be held to be maintainable otherwise it should be thrown out. I can conceive of various circumstances where even though some of the parties might not have refused to join as co-plaintiffs still due to their absence from the spot or due to other reasons they may not be in a position to join as co-plaintiff and therefore, have to be arrayed as co-defendants. Under Order 1 Rule 10 C.P.C, the court can always transpose the parties. Those who are in the array of the defendants can be transposed to be co-plaintiffs and similarly some of the co-plaintiffs can be put in the array of the defendants. Therefore. I do not think that it is necessary that the court should very strictly insist on evidence being produced to substantiate that those who have been joined as co-defendants had categorically refused to join as co-plaintiffs. This aspect is being emphasised because Mr. Justice Banerji in the Calcutta case made a point that there was nothing before him 'to show that the other heirs of Rostam Ali who were made party defendants, at all refused to join with the plaintiff in her suit.' In my view, therefore, the learned counsel's contention based on : AIR1960Cal187 is not tenable. The view of the Calcutta Court is directly opposed to the law laid down in (1902) ILR 25 Mad 26, AIR 1937 Nag 186, AIR 1923 Mad 284 and . The suit cannot be held to be bad on the ground that all the legal representatives of the deceased, Madho Halwai, did not join as co-plaintiffs. It has not been disputed before me that all the legal representatives of the said deceased were arrayed in the suit whether as plaintiffs of as defendants and this was sufficient in law. Section 15(b) of the new Specific Relief Act corresponding to Section 23 (b) of the old Act does not lay down that all the legal representatives must sue as plaintiffs. In fact, the said provision has no bearing on the question of the frame of the suit.

6. I do not think that the learned counsel for the appellant can receive any support from : AIR1962All476 which seems to have no application to the facts of the instant case. In the said case the contract had got split in two portions which could independently and separately be performed and stood on different footings and the case was held to be covered by Section 16 of the old Specific Relief Act and the plaintiffs were held to be entitled to enforce the contract in part. It was observed:

'The plaintiffs could not be non suited simply because some of the other heirs of A were not prepared to join them in enforcing the contract of re-sale.'

In my opinion, this observation, if at all helps the plaintiff-respondent and not the defendant-appellant.

7. The second contention of the learned counsel i'or the appellant is also not correct. It will be recalled that the plaintiff sued on the allegation that there was an agreement amongst the legal representatives of the deceased, Madho Halwai, which entitled her to use alone for the reconveyance of the property. Shri Shambhu Prasad's contention is that the alleged agreement would amount to a relinquishment of right in immoveable property valued at more than Rs. 100/-and that the same could be brought about only by a registered document. Admittedly, there was no such document in the instant case and, therefore, the alleged agreement would be ineffective and the plaintiff could not alone sue on the basis of such agreement. It is well settled that a mere agreement to purchase the property does not create any interest in the property itself, Section 54 of the T. P, Act, inter alia, provides that

'........................

A contract for the sale of immoveable property is a contract that a sale of such property shall take place on terms settled between the parties.

It does not, of itself, create any interest in or charge on such property.'

In : [1967]1SCR293 this proposition of law has been emphasised on an interpretation of Section 54 of the Transfer of Property Act. The right which Madho Halwai claimed on the basis of the agreement to reconvey property to him did not in law, amount to the creation of any interest in the immoveable property itself. Therefore, the legal representatives of Madho Halwai also could not be said to have any interest in the immoveable property itself. In this view of the matter Section 17 of the Indian Registration Act or the second para of Section 54 of the Transfer of Property Act will have no application to the agreement which was set up by the plaintiff entitling her to file the suit in her sole name, impleading the other legal representatives as defendants to the action.

8. The question, however, still, remains whether the alleged agreement set up by the plaintiff to which the defendant was admittedly not a consentingparty would entitle the plaintiff to get a decree in her favour against the defendant. From the facts found by the Courts below it is clear that the suit was contested by the defendant-appellant alone and not by other defendants. This circumstance was relied on by the courts below to come to the conclusion that the agreement set up by the plaintiff was correct. The plaintiff had further examined one of such defendants who deposed in her favour. In my view, it is almost equivalent to a situation where these defendants might have categorically stated that the suit should be decreed in favour of the plaintiff alone instead of its being decreed in favour of the plaintiff and the other defendants and the non-contesting defendants jointly. I think, in law, there is nothing to prevent parties to a suit stating before the court that even though they are, in law. entitled to a decree being passed in their favour, still, in view of some arrangement or agreement between them the decree should be passed in favour of one of them. Of course, the real point is that the contesting defendant should not be worse off on account of the adoption of such a course. I fail to see how, for example, in the instant case it should be open to the contesting defendant appellant to take ex-ception to the fact that the decree has been passed in favour of the plaintiff alone and not jointly in favour of the plaintiff and the defendants 2 to 10. No greater burden has been placed on him by the fact that the decree for specific performance is in favour of the plaintiff alone and not in favour of the plaintiff and the defendants 2 to 10. I have already stated above that in the instant case, looking to the nature of the agreement to reconvey the property, its benefit could undoubtedly be assigned and there would be no necessity for the consent or concurrence of the promisor for such assignment. In other words, the assignee would be entitled to sue for the specific performance on the basis of the agreement. I fail to see how when a third party assignee can enforce the agreement against the promisor why there can be no, inter se, arrangement amongst the legal representatives of the deceased promisee that the benefit of the agreement should be had by one of them with the consent and concurrence of the rest of the legal representatives. The two cases on which reliance has been placed by Shri Siddheshwari Prasad, undoubtedly support this position. In AIR 1967 All 253Justice Gangeshwar Prasad laid down as under:

'Except in some special circumstances a contract to sell a property is not dependent upon any personal qualifications of the individual who agrees to purchase and it is a matter of no consequence to the vendor that the person who is going to be the vendee is not the same person with whom he had entered into a contract for sale. Such a contract is therefore, enforceable not only by the person to whom the property was agreed to be sold but also by his representatives in interest and assignees, unless of course the contract itself prohibits assignment either expressly or by clear implication.

Under Section 40, except in very special circumstances, a person agreeing to purchase a property is not bound to purchase it himself and he may arrange for the purchase of the property by some other person as his nominee on the terms of the agreement entered into by him.'

9. In : [1967]1SCR293 , after alluding to Section 23 (b) and Section 27 (b) of the old Specific Relief Act and Sections 37 and 40 of the Contract Act it was laid down as under:

'In substance these statutory provisions lay down that, subject to certain exceptions which are not material in this case, a contract in the absence of a contrary intention express or implied will be enforceable by and against the parties and their legal heirs and legal representatives including assignees and transferees.'

I may also refer to Section 50 of the Indian Contract Act which lays down as under:

'The performance of any promise may be made in any manner, or at any time which the promisee prescribes or sanctions.'

It is not very clear if in using the expression 'manner' this provision will enable the joint promisees to ask the promisor to perform the promise in favour of one of them. If a broad interpretation is brought to bear on the said provision then one can plausibly suggest that the joint promisees can jointly ask the promisor to perform the promise in favour of one of them. Section 45 of the Contract Act will strictly not be applicable to the instant case because the promise was made by the defendant-appellant not in favour of two or more persons but in favour of one promisee alone, namely, Madho Halwai, deceased. Section 62 of the Contract Act also, in my opinion, is not applicable to the facts of the instant case because there was no novation of contract substituting a new contract in the place of the old one. The arrangement which the plaintiff has relied on enabling her alone to sue the defendant appellant cannot be construed as a novation of the contract for the simple reason that the contesting defendant was not a party to the same. It was an inter se arrangement among the legal representatives of the deceased promisee.

10. In the result, the appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.


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