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Haria Vs. Gaon Sabha of Villages Dera Mandi - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberRegular Second Appeal No. 193 of 1968
Judge
Reported in5(1969)DLT624
ActsEvidence Act, 1872 - Sections 44
AppellantHaria
RespondentGaon Sabha of Villages Dera Mandi
Advocates: B.S. Grewal and; O.P. Tyagi, Advs
Excerpt:
.....declaring himself to be 'bhoomidar' of land - decree obtained - new pradhan of respondent (gaon sabha) filed suit for declaration that decree obtained by collusion with previous pradhan - suit decided in favor of new pradhan - appeal filed - previous pradhan unilaterally decided nto to defend suit - pradhan deliberately wanted to defend appellant - ulterior motive to get undeserved benefit at cost of respondent - previous pradhan played false with his responsibilities and committed breach of faith with respondent - appeal dismissed. - - if such a resolution was passed in good faith at the most gaon sabha could have said to be negligent. this is why it is important to know precisely the grounds on which the claim for declaration by haria was based in civil suit no. if such a..........this second appeal is whether the decree obtained by the appellant, haria, against the respondent gaon sabha, in civil suit no. 810 of 1962 was collusive and, thereforee, liable to be set aside at the instance of the gaon sabha. (2) the civil suit no. 810 of 1962 was filed by haria for a declaration that he was the bhoomidar of the land in suit under section ii of the delhi land reforms act, 1954. according to haria, the suit land measuring 40 bighas out of 270 bighas and 10 biswas, bearing khasra no. 1675/18 recorded as banjar qadim in the record of right of the village deramandi, was in his possession as his khudkashat during the year 1953/54, that is before and after the commencement of the delhi land reforms act, 1954. the actual entries in the khasra girdawari and other revenue.....
Judgment:

V.S. Deshpande, J.

(1) The sole question for decision in this second appeal is whether the decree obtained by the appellant, Haria, against the respondent Gaon Sabha, in civil Suit No. 810 of 1962 was collusive and, thereforee, liable to be set aside at the instance of the Gaon Sabha.

(2) The civil suit No. 810 of 1962 was filed by Haria for a declaration that he was the Bhoomidar of the land in suit under Section Ii of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954. According to Haria, the suit land measuring 40 bighas out of 270 bighas and 10 biswas, bearing Khasra No. 1675/18 recorded as banjar qadim in the record of right of the village Deramandi, was in his possession as his khudkashat during the year 1953/54, that is before and after the commencement of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954. The actual entries in the Khasra Girdawari and other revenue records were alleged to be wrong and against true facts.

(3) According to Rule 84(h) of the Delhi Panchayat Raj Rules, 1959, the then Pradhan of the Gaon Sabha,

(4) The new Pradhan of the Gaon Sabha, Sant Ram, filed civil Suit No. 350 of 1965 on 9-6-1965 for declaration, inter alia, that the decree obtained by Haria in civil suit No. 810 of 1962 dated 28-11-1962 was void as it was obtained by Haria in collusion with then Pradhan, Bhondu Ram. The defense, inter alia, was that the decree was nto obtained by collusion. The trial Court dismissed the suit on the ground that the collusion was nto proved, but the lower appellate Court disagreed with the trial Court and held that the decree was collusive and thereupon decreed the suit. Hence this second appeal by the defendant, Haria.

(5) Under section 150 of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, the Gaon Sabha has been constituted with perpetual succession as a body corporate with the capacity of suing and being used in its corporate name. The defense of the suit No. 810 of 1962 by the then Pradhan, Bhondu Ram, was, thereforee,in his capacity as a representative for the Gaon Sabha. The decree in the said suit would be res-judicata between Haria and Gaon Sabha under Explanationn Vi to Section Ii of the Code of Civil Procedure, if the litigation in the said suit was bona fide. If however, the Gaon Sabha in the present litigation succeeds in showing that the litigation in suit No. 810 of 1962 was nto bona fide and that the decree by Haria was obtained by collusion within the meaning of Section 44 of the Evidence Act, then the said decree would nto be res-judicata between the parties and the Gaon Sabha would be entitled to set it aside. As the present suit for setting aside the decree was filed by the Gaon Sabha within three years of the said decree, the suit is within limitation under Article 59 of the Limitation Act, 1963.

(6) The question whether there was collusion between Haria and the then Pradhan of the Gaon Sabha, Bhondu Ram, is nto capable of being decided in the light of any direct evidence, in as much as the minds of these two persons cannto be read by any one. The collusion has, thereforee to be inferred, if at all, from the circumstantial evidence. The deciding factor on which the inference either way would have to be rested is the merits of the claim made by Haria. If Haria had even a prima facie case, then perhaps, the Gaon Sabha could have resolved nto to contest the suit. If such a resolution was passed in good faith at the most Gaon Sabha could have said to be negligent. But negligence is different from collusion. The decree cannto be set aside merely because the defense was negligent. The only way in which the Gaon Sabha can succeed before me is by showing that the decree was passed by collusion. This is why it is important to know precisely the grounds on which the claim for declaration by Haria was based in civil suit No. 810 of 1962. Haria had alleged that the land in suit, though a part of the land which was recorded as banjar qadim in the record of rights, was nevertheless khudkashat, inasmuch as he was in cultivating possession thereof in 1953-54 before and after the commencement of the Delhi Land Reforms Act. The learned counsel for the appellant argued before me that under Section 7(1) of the Act only the waste lands specified therein could vest in the Gaon Sabha. He pointed out that the Explanationn to Section 7(1) excluded the in cultivated areas included in the holdings of proprietor or proprietors from the definition of 'waste land.' In the unamended Section 3(24) of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 as it stood immediately at the commencement of the Act, the word 'holding' was to be construed in the same sense in which it was used in the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887, which in its turn refers to the definition of the said word in the Punjab Land Revenue Act. Section 3(3) of the Punjab Land Revenue Act defines a 'holding' as a share or portion of an estate held by one land owner or jointly by two or more land owners. Section 3(1) defines 'estate' to mean any area for which a separate record of rights has been made. The term 'land owner' is defined by Section 3(2) as a person who is nto a tenant or an assignee of land revenue, but is in possession of an estate or any share or portion thereof or in the enjoyment of any part of the profits of an estate. The learned counsel for the appellant argued that Khasra No. 1675/ 18 was a holding of the proprietors of the village in which Haria as a co-proprietor, had a share. It did not, thereforee, vest as a waste land in the Gaon Sabha under Section 7(1). The learned counsel for respondent No. 1 pointed out that under Section 4 of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, there is only one class of tenure-holder-Bhumidar, and one class of sub-tenure-holder-Asami, so that the banjar qadim land recorded in the name of the proprietors of the village could nto the inference either way would have to be rested is the merits of the claim made by Haria. If Haria had even a prima fade case, then perhaps, the Gaon Sabha could have resolved nto to contest the suit. If such a resolution was passed in good faith at the most Gaon Sabha could have said to be negligent. But negligence is different from collusion. The decree cannto be set aside merely because the defense was negligent. The only way in which the Gaon Sabha can succeed before me is by showing that the decree was passed by collusion. This is why it is important to know precisely the grounds on which the claim for declaration by Haria was based in civil suit No. 810 of 1962. Haria had alleged that the land in suit, though a part of the land which was recorded as banjar qadim in the record of rights, was nevertheless khudkashat, inasmuch as he was in cultivating possession thereof in 1953-54 before and after the commencement of the Delhi Land Reforms Act. The learned counsel for the appellant argued before me that under Section 7(1) of the Act only the waste lands specified therein could vest in the Gaon Sabha. He pointed out that the Explanationn to Section 7(1) excluded the in cultivated areas included in the holdings of proprietor or proprietors from the definition of 'waste land.' In the unamended Section 3(24) of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 as it stood immediately at the commencement of the Act, the word 'holding' was to be construed in the same sense in which it was used in the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887, which in its turn refers to the definition of the said word in the Punjab Land Revenue Act. Section 3(3) of the Punjab Land Revenue Act defines a 'holding' as a share or portion of an estate held by one land owner or jointly by two or more land owners. Section 3(1) defines 'estate' to mean any area for which a separate record of rights has been made. The term 'land owner' is defined by Section 3(2) as a person who is nto a tenant or an assignee of land revenue, but is in possession of an estate or any share or portion thereof or in the enjoyment of any part of the profits of an estate. The learned counsel for the appellant argued that Khasra No. 1675/ 18 was a holding of the proprietors of the village in which Haria as a co-proprietor, had a share. It did not, thereforee, vest as a waste land in the Gaon Sabha under Section 7(1). The learned counsel for respondent No. 1 pointed out that under Section 4 of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, there is only one class of tenure-holder-Bhumidar, and one class of sub-tenure-holder-Asami, so that the banjar qadim land recorded in the name of the proprietors of the village could nto be said to be a holding, inasmuch as it was nto included in either of these categories. Whatever the correct position may be, one thing seems to be clear, that is that Haria did nto make any prima fade case in the plaint in suit No. 810 of 1962 to show that the suit land was khudkashat. The definition of the word 'khudkashat' in Section 3(12A), which is inserted by Section 3 of Central Act 4 of 1959 therein, operates retrospectively from the commencement of the Act. Khudkashat as defined therein means land (other than Sir) cultivated by proprietor either by himself or by servants or by hired labour. On the admission of Haria himself made in the plaint of suit No. 810 of 1962, the revenue records did nto show that Haria was in cultivating possession of the suit land. His name never appeared as the holder of the suit land at any time from 1948 till 1961. It was clear, thereforee, that he was nto shown to be in cultivating possession of the suit land either at the commencement of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 or at any time during the period of five years immediately preceding the commencement of the Act, as was required by the definition of khudkashat in Section 3(12A) of the Act. Haria as the plaintiff in suit No. 810 of 1962 had to succeed on the merits of his own case. Since there was nothing to show that the suit land was a khudkashat at the commencement of the Act, the plaint filed by him in suit No. 810 of 1962 did nto make out any prima fade case at all. The suit filed by him was for a declaration that he was the bhumidhar of the suit land under Section 11(1) of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954. Sub-Section (2) of Section Ii states that for the purposes of sub-section (1) thereof, the Deputy Commissioner shall take into consideration the entries in the revenue records which shall be presumed to be correct unless the contrary is proved. The burden of proof was, thereforee, heavy on Haria to show that all the entries in the revenue records from 1948 to 1961 were wrong and he was nevertheless in cultivating possession of the suit land. The then Pradhan of the Gaon Sabha, Bhondu Ram, had, thereforee absolutely no reason to think that Haria had a prima fade case. There was, thus, no justification at all why the Pradhan refused to defend the suit and allowed it to be decreed ex parte against the Gaon Sabha. I Bhondu Ram stated in his evidence in the present litigation before me that he told the other members of the Gaon Panchayat of the suit filed by Haria and the members said that suit should nto be defended. But the Gaon Sabha is a statutory body corporate, the management of which is entrusted to the Gaon Pan be said to be a holding, inasmuch as it was nto included in either of these categories. Whatever the correct position may be, one thing seems to be clear, that is that Haria did nto make any prima fade case in the plaint in suit No. 810 of 1962 to show that the suit land was khudkashat. The definition of the word 'khudkashat' in Section 3(12A), which is inserted by Section 3 of Central Act 4 of 1959 therein, operates retrospectively from the commencement of the Act. Khudkashat as defined therein means land (other than Sir) cultivated by proprietor either by himself or by servants or by hired labour. On the admission of Haria himself made in the plaint of suit No. 810 of 1962, the revenue records did nto show that Haria was in cultivating possession of the suit land. His name never appeared as the holder of the suit land at any time from 1948 till 1961. It was clear, thereforee, that he was nto shown to be in cultivating possession of the suit land either at the commencement of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 or at any time during the period of five years immediately preceding the commencement of the Act, as was required by the definition of khudkashat in Section 3(12A) of the Act. Haria as the plaintiff in suit No. 810 of 1962 had to succeed on the merits of his own case. Since there was nothing to show that the suit land was a khudkashat at the commencement of the Act, the plaint filed by him in suit No. 810 of 1962 did nto make out any prima fade case at all. The suit filed by him was for a declaration that he was the bhumidhar of the suit land under Section 11(1) of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954. Sub-Section (2) of Section Ii states that for the purposes of sub-section (1) thereof, the Deputy Commissioner shall take into consideration the entries in the revenue records which shall be presumed to be correct unless the contrary is proved. The burden of proof was, thereforee, heavy on Haria to show that all the entries in the revenue records from 1948 to 1961 were wrong and he was nevertheless in cultivating possession of the suit land. The then Pradhan of the Gaon Sabha, Bhondu Ram, had, thereforee absolutely no reason to think that Haria had a prima fade case. There was, thus, no justification at all why the Pradhan refused to defend the suit and allowed it to be decreed ex parte against the Gaon Sabha. Bhondu Ram stated in his evidence in the present litigation before me that he told the other members of the Gaon Panchayat of the suit filed by Haria and the members said that suit should nto be defended. But the Gaon Sabha is a statutory body corporate, the management of which is entrusted to the Gaon Pan- chayat. The Gaon Panchayat is the executive body managing A the Gaon Sabha. It is also a statutory body composed of members. The only convincing way in which such a statutory body can act was by passing a resolution. The resolution can be the only proof of the decision taken by such a statutory body. Admittedly, there was never any proposal to pass a resolution nor was any resolution passed by the Gaon Panchayat that the suit filed by Haria should nto be defended. The only conclusion from the absence of such a resolution is that no decision in this matter was taken by the Gaon Panchayat. The then Pradhan Bhondu Ram, whose duty was to defend the suit seems to have unilaterally decided that the suit should nto be defended. As the plaint had nto made any prima fade case, the only inference from the decision of the Pradhan nto to defend the suit can be that the Pradhan deliberately wanted to benefit Haria. That is to say he and Haria were both of the same mind that Haria should get undeserved benefit at the cost of the Gaon Sabha and that the action of the Pradhan was against the interest of the Gaon Sabha. This is precisely what is called 'collusion'.

(7) This inference is strengthened by the fact that the Government had already become aware of a scandal prevailing in the Union Territory of Delhi by which the several Pradhans and Goan Panchayats were found to favor their friends in making successful claims against the lands vested in the Gaon Sabhas by colluding with their friends and enabling the friends to obtain such collusive decrees against the Gaon Sabhas. The Government, thereforee, issued a notification on 5-4-1960 as per Exhibit P-l, specifically enjoining upon the Pradhans to attend to suits filed against the Gaon Sabhas and to place the plaints therein before the Gaon Panchayats in a meeting. They were further enjoined that resolutions of the Panchayat should be gto passed well before the date of hearing of the suit and should be taken to the office of the Director of Panchayat for further scrutiny. These instructions were followed later by a notification dated 17-2-1962 at exhibit P-2 issued by the Chief Commissioner under sub-section (1) of Section 160 of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954. Section 160(1) authorises the Chief Commissioner to issue such orders and directions to the Gaon Sabha or to the Gaon Panchayat as may appear to be necessary for the purposes of this Act. Sub-section (2) thereof makes it the duty of the Gaon Sabha and Gaon Panchayat and their office bearers to forthwith carry out such orders and comply chayat. The Gaon Panchayat is the executive body managing the Gaon Sabha. It is also a statutory body composed of members. The only convincing way in which such a statutory body can act was by passing a resolution. The resolution can be the only proof of the decision taken by such a statutory body. Admittedly, there was never any proposal to pass a resolution nor was any resolution passed by the Gaon Panchayat that the suit filed by Haria should nto be defended. The only conclusion from the absence of such a resolution is that no decision in this matter was taken by the Gaon Panchayat. The then Pradhan Bhondu Ram, whose duty was to defend the suit seems to have unilaterally decided that the suit should nto be defended. As the plaint had nto made any prima fade case, the only inference from the decision of the Pradhan nto to defend the suit can be that the Pradhan deliberately wanted to benefit Haria. That is to say he and Haria were both of the same mind that Haria should get undeserved benefit at the cost of the Gaon Sabha and that the action of the Pradhan was against the interest of the Gaon Sabha and Gaon Panchayat and their office bearers to forthwith carry out such orders and comply with such directions. The directions by the Chief Commissioner are explicit. They required that all matters regarding the institution of defenses to suit filed against the Gaon Sabha under the provisions of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 shall be decided by the Gaon Panchayat by a resolution passed in a properly convened meeting. They expressly prohibited the Pradhan or any other representative of the Panchayat conducting the case in a Court of law from making directly or indirectly any admission likely to prejudice the rights or interest of the Gaon Sabha without the prior resolution of the Panchayat to that effect. The Pradhan was bound to consult the penal lawyer appointed by the Director of Panchayat in defending the suit. If, in any case, the Panchayat were to refuse to file a defense in any suit or proceeding as advised by the Director of Panchayat or the penal lawyer, the Panchayat Secretary was to act for the Panchayat under the orders of the Panchayat.

(8) The above directions were binding on the Pradhan. The fact that he ignored the directions and refused to defend the suit is a complete proof of his collusion with Haria. The Departmental instructions and the statutory directions were both disregarded by him without any justification whatever. The instructions and the directions had also specifically required that a duly convened meeting of the Gaon Panchayat should be held so that a proper decision in the matter should be taken. In spite of this no meeting was convened and no resolution was passed by the Goan Sabha. The defendant, Haria, in the present litigation has examined some members of the Gaon Panchayat and the then Pradhan, Bhondu Ram, also went into the witness box to say that Gaon Panchayat did nto want to defend the suit. The lower appellate Court has nto behaved this evidence on the ground that only a resolution passed by a properly convened meeting of the Gaon Panchayat could have shown that the Gaon Panchayat had decided nto to defend the suit. I would go further and say that even if the Gaon Panchayat had decided nto to defend the suit, even such a resolution could have been challenged as collusive. Even the Gaon Panchayat did nto have the power to collude with Haria and to allow him to obtain a decree. The essence of the matter is nto whether collusion with Haria was by the then Pradhan alone or by the whole Gaon Panchayat. The essence is that whoever was interested in the defense of the suit had colluded with Haria. If Haria had made out a prima fade case in the plaint, then it would have been arguable that either the Pradhan or the Gaon Panchayat could have taken the view that a prima facie case A having been made out in the plaint, it was nto worthwhile to defend the suit. In that event, even the Director of Panchayat or the panel Lawyer would have perhaps agreed with the decision nto to defend the suit. What we have to find out is whether the decision nto to defend the suit could be said to be in good faith. Unless the decision nto to defend could be said to be taken in good faith, the litigation could nto be said to have been carried out by the Pradhan on behalf of the Gaon Sabha 'bona fide' within the meaning of Explanationn Vi to Section Ii of the Civil Procedure Code. The present Pradhan, Sant Ram, who initiated this litigation to set aside the decree in suit No. 810 of 1962 on the ground of collusion, could be said to be litigating under the same title as the then Pradhan, Bhondu Ram was doing only if the litigation between Haria and Bhondu Ram could be said to be bona fide. The conduct of Bhondu Ram being expressly contrary to both the Departmental instructions and the statutory directions could nto be said to be in good faith, particularly because Haria had admitted in the plaint itself that the revenue entries did nto support his claim and under Section Ii (2) of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, these revenue entries were conclusive unless proved to be wrong by Haria. I, thereforee, find that the decree in suit No. 810 of 1962 was obtained by Haria in collusion with the then Pradhan, Bhondu Ram. This finding is sufficient for the decision of this appeal and the learned lower Court also should have concentrated their attention on the question of collusion.

(9) Reference has been made to 'fraud' in the pleadings of the parties and also in the judgment of the learned lower Court. The word 'fraud' used in Section 44 of the Evidence Act is used in a special sense. It means therein that the party against whom the decree is obtained is deliberately kept out of knowledge of the suit or by some means disabled from defending the same. The Pradhan, who was interested in the defense of the suit, certainly knew about it as he had been served with the summons. It could nto be said, thereforee, that the Pradhan was kept out knowledge of the suit by 'fraud'. Whether Gaon Panchayat was kept out of knowledge of the suit or nto could be decided only if a resolution of the Panchayat taking a decision about the suit was passed. The knowledge or otherwise of the Panchayat could be inferred only from the resolution. The Panchayat cannto act to defend the suit or nto to defend it except by way of resolution. The fact that no resolution of the Panchayat could have taken the view that a prima fade case having been made out in the plaint, it was nto worthwhile to defend the suit. In that event, even the Director of Panchayat or the panel Lawyer would have perhaps agreed with the decision nto to defend the suit. What we have to find out is whether the decision nto to defend the suit could be said to be in good faith. Unless the decision nto to defend could be said to be taken in good faith, the litigation could nto be said to have been carried out by the Pradhan on behalf of the Gaon Sabha 'bona fide' within the meaning of Explanationn Vi to Section Ii of the Civil Procedure Code. The present Pradhan, Sant Ram, who initiated this litigation to set aside the decree in suit No. 810 of 1962 on the ground of collusion, could be said to be litigating under the same title as the then Pradhan, Bhondu Ram was doing only if the litigation between Haria and Bhondu Ram could be said to be bona fide. The conduct of Bhondu Ram being expressly contrary to both the Departmental instructions and the statutory directions could nto be said to be in good faith, particularly because Haria had admitted in the plaint itself that the revenue entries did nto support his claim and under Section Ii (2) of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, these revenue entries were conclusive unless proved to be wrong by Haria. I, thereforee, find that the decree in suit No. 810 of 1962 was obtained by Haria in collusion with the then Pradhan, Bhondu Ram. This finding is sufficient for the decision of this appeal and the learned lower Court also should have concentrated their attention on the question of collusion. Panchayat was passed would show that in the statutory sense the Panchayat was nto aware of the suit. Even if the individual members of the Panchayat had come to know of it, the whole of the Gaon Panchayat as a statutory body could nto be said to have known of it, inasmuch as no resolution by the Panchayat was passed at all. The responsibility of defending the suit, thereforee, continued to be of the Pradhan. We have seen that the Pradhan has played false with his responsibility and committed a complete breach of faith with the Gaon Sabha and the Gaon Panchayat.

(10) As a result, the appeal is dismissed, but it is ordered that the parties shall be placed in the same position as they were when the plaint in suit No. 810 of 1962 was presented to the Court by Haria. The decree in suit No. 810 of 1962 is set aside. The suit is revived in the trial Court, who is directed to entertain the plaint as if it was instituted on 21-10-1962, if Haria appears in the trial Court and informs the Court that he wishes to pursue the suit. In that event, the plaint would have to be amended by striking off of the unnecessary party and adding the necessary parties in the light of the existing legal position. The trial Court will, thereafter, proceed to decide the matter on merits. The Costs of this appeal shall be borne by the appellant Haria unless he informs the trial Court within one month from today of his desire to pursue the suit. In the latter event, the costs shall abide the result of the said suit No. 810 of 1962.


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