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Annammal and ors. Vs. Chellakutti - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberL.P. Appeal No. 59 of 1960
Judge
Reported inAIR1963Mad300; (1963)IMLJ154
ActsTransfer of Property Act, 1882 - Sections 52
AppellantAnnammal and ors.
RespondentChellakutti
Appellant AdvocateN. Suryanarayana, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateM.S. Venkatarama Aiyar, Adv.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredKrishnabai Pandurang v. Sawalram Gangaram
Excerpt:
.....from the operation of the rule of lis pendens. but, learned counsel urges that a dismissal of suit or abandonment is only a procedural matter, and, as it has been well settled that the rule enacted in section 52 will apply not merely to rights created, but also to rules of procedure, the termination of the suit in question in the manner aforesaid would still attract the provisions of that section. , held that the word 'rights' in section 52 would have reference not merely to the substantive rights, but to matters of procedure as well. but the decision in that case did not turn upon any question like the one before us......the result of the suit will not operate as lis pendens against any purchaser pendente lite of the suit property. but the same rule will not apply to the case where the defendant abandons his defence, for, in such a case, there will be ex parte evidence on the side of the plaintiff to support any decree that might ultimately be passed in the case. the disposal of the suit in such a case will not therefore be the result of withdrawing the question for decision from the court, but of obtaining one from it. it follows from what we have stated above that the respondent would not be bound by the termination of o. s. no. 436 of 1952, and, in view of the fact that his title to the entirety of the property has been concurrently accepted by the courts below, the suit instituted by him will have.....
Judgment:

Ramachandra Iyer, C.J.

1. This appeal, which is filed against the judgment of Subrahmanyam, J., raises a question under Section 52, Transfer of Property Act. The property which forms the subject-matter in this litigation is half a share in what was purchased by one Peter Jagannathan, a Hindu convert to Christianity. His father, who remained a Hindu, had taken a second wife after Jagannathan's mother's death. She and the two sons born of her are the appellants. Jagannathan died sometime in 1950, leaving behind him his widow and a son. A creditor of his instituted a suit, S. C. 524 of 1952, in the District Munsif Court, Kancheepuram, against the widow and son of Jagannathan, to recover the moneys due to him, and, after obtaining a decree, brought the property that stood in the name of Jagannathan for sale in execution. The respondent, Chellakutti, was the purchaser at the Court sale. He obtained delivery of possession in due course.

2. The Court auction took place during the pendency of another suit, O. S. 436 of 1952, in the same Court. That suit was instituted by Jagannathan's widow and son, who were the judgment-debtors under the decree in S. C. 524 of 1952, complaining that the appellants herein had unlawfully trespassed on half a share of the property and praying for recovery of possession of the same. The appellants resisted the suit, stating that the moneys which went in for the purchase of the property by Jagannathan belonged to him and his father, and that therefore they would be entitled to half a share which the latter possessed. But, before the suit came up for trial, the execution sale referred to above in favour of the respondent took place. After such sale, the heirs of Jagannathan were not interested in fighting the battle against the appellants for the benefit of the purchaser. It mattered little to them whether the purchaser got the entire property or only half a share therein. When therefore the suit came up for trial, they made an endorsement on the plaint: 'In view of the Court sale of the subject-matter of the suit, this suit becomes unnecessary and may be dismissed without costs.' The District Munsif, accordingly, dismissed the suit. The appellants then applied to the Court, which executed the decree in S. C. No. 524 of 1952, for delivery back of their property, which they claimed they were entitled to be in possession of. That petition was successful. The respondent thereupon instituted the suit out of which this appeal arises under Order 21 Rule 103 C. P. C. for a declaration of his right to possession. The appellants pleaded title in themselves and also that the respondent's purchase was affected by lis pendens, it having been made during the pendency of O. S. No. 436 of 1952, which terminated in their favour.

It has now been held by both the Courts below that the property purchased by Jagannathan was his own and the appellants had no title to any part of the same. But there has been divergent views on the other question. The District Munsif who dismissed the suit upheld the plea that the respondent's purchase could only be subject to the result of O. S. No. 436 of 1952, which, in effect, affirmed the title to half a share in the property. On appeal, that decree was reversed, the learned District Judge holding that Section 52 of the Transfer of Property Act would not apply, as in his opinion, the result of the suit was brought about by collusion. The respondent thereupon filed a second appeal to this Court. Subrahmanyam, J., who heard the appeal, did not agree that there was any collusion between the heirs of Jagannathan and the appellants at the time when O. S. No. 436 of 1952 was allowed to be dismissed. But the learned Judge held that, as there was an abandonment of that suit by the heirs of Jagannathan, the rule as tolis pendeus would not apply to the case. The decree of the lower appellate Court was therefore affirmed.

3. In this appeal against the judgment of Subrahmanyam, J., Mr. N. Suryanarayana appearing for the appellants, has contested the correctness of the view referred to above. Learned counsel has submitted that the true principle underlying the rule of lis pendens was the finality of litigation, viz., that, when the parties, who had made claims to a property, have once litigated the matter, it would be in the interests of the estate that the litigation should come to an end and the result of it should be binding not merely on the actual parties to the litigation, but also on all those who derived title under them by virtue of an alienation pendente lite. It was then urged that, that being the reason of the rule it would make little difference as to how the litigation terminated, whether it be by consent, default or on a judicial determination after the case had been fought out to the bitter end. As illustrative of the principle and in support of the contention urged, Mr. Suryanarayana referred to cases where decree obtained by compromise were held binding on persons wbo purchased the subject-matter of litigation from one of the parties to the litigation, as showing that a formal adjudication by Court was not always necessary for the application of Section 52 of the Transfer of Property Act. The case most relied on in this connection is the decision of the Privy Council in Gowri Dutt Maharaj v. Sukur Mohamed where it was observed.

'The broad purpose of Section 52 is to maintain the status quo unaffected by the act of any party to the litigation pending its determination. The applicability of the section cannot depend on matters of proof or strength or weakness of the case on one side or the other in bona fide proceedings.'

There is, however, a fallacy in the argument. It is one thing to say that a bona fide termination of the suit consistent with ordinary judicial procedure will operate to bind the estate and affect purchases pendente lite. But it will be quite a different thing, and, indeed, an unwarranted extension of the principle to say that such finality would exist even if the suit were to be withdrawn or abandoned. In the latter case, there is no scope for any adjudication at all, whether it be on consent, confession or after trial. A compromise decree is nonetheless a decree of Court for certain purposes, and, so long as it is the result of bona fide proceedings, there is no reason why a purchaser pendente lite should not be affected by it. But the case before us is not one of compromise. The plaintiffs in the suit, viz., the respondent's predecessor-in-title abandoned their claim, as they were no longer interested in the property. It may be that the abandonment was not the result of any collusion between them and the opposite party. But it is plain that the suit did not terminate in any of the recognised modes. The suit was taken out of the hands of the Court on the ground that the plaintiff therein was no longer interested in it, There was, therefore, no outstanding question about the title to the property.

For Section 52 to apply, the right to immoveable property should be directly and specifically in question. Once there is a dispute, Section 52 will apply, so long as the litigation is terminated in one of the modes known to law; that is, there will be no distinction between a decision based on contest and that based on a compromise bona fide brought about between the parties. In either case it will be a decree of the Court. The section in terms contemplates rights having been secured by a party to the suit under a decree or order therein. The words 'under a decree or order therein' imply that the right to the property must be the outcome of the decree. In other words, it should be the result of an affirmation of adjudication by the decree. The true principle underlying the rule has been laid down in Annamalai v. Malayandi, ILR 29 Mad 426 in the following passage :

'The essence of the doctrine of 'lis pendens' undoubtedly is that where a proceeding before a Court exercising contentious jurisdiction is honestly brought to a 'termination in one of the modes which the law permits' it to be terminated by and a decision of the Court is obtained, such decision is binding upon all persons who claim title by virtue of a transfer pending the litigation. With reference to the underlying principle, there is no conceivable reason for attaching greater efficacy to a decision arrived at after actual contest than 'to decisions arrived at otherwise' (italics (here into ' ') ours).

4. The foregoing observation makes it clear that unless the termination of the suit is honestly brought about in one of the visual modes, the doctrine will have no application. An abandonment of a suit cannot be said to be the normal way of its termination or one honestly brought about, even though it may not be the result of collusion. The circumstance that, on such abandonment, the Court superadds its own order and proceeds to dismiss the suit, cannot alter the essential character of the whole proceeding, namely, as one where the suit was voluntarily taken away from the Court's adjudication. The true effect of an abandonment will be that the question regarding the right to the subject-matter of the suit had ceased to exist, and, essentially speaking, the suit also should be deemed to be not existing from the date of such abandonment. This will not be so in the case of a compromise decree or one which is obtained ex parte. In all those cases, right upto the time of final determination, the question regarding the title to the property would subsist. In the case of an abandonment, the question is withdrawn from adjudication. In effect, an abandoned suit should be deemed to be non-existent, at any rate, from the date of abandonment. In this respect, an abandoned suit is very much like a collusive one which is statutorily excepted from the operation of the rule of lis pendens. A collusive suit is not regarded under the provisions of the section as a suit at all, but a mere sham fight between two parties ranged on the opposite sides.

5. Mr. N. Suryanarayanan however, contends that what is material for the application of the rule of lis pendens is whether, in origin, there wasa question about the title, and not how the suit was subsequently conducted, and that, once a suit is brought honestly, any alienation of its subject matter pendente lite would be subservient to the result of the suit, if the termination of the suit had not been brought about by any collusion between the parties. The provisions of Section 52, however, do not support this contention. The rule enacted in the section will apply only if 'any right' to immoveable property is directly and specifically in question and the alienation made by one party pending it will be subject to the rights of any other party under any decree or order that may be passed therein; that is to say, the suit should be active and alive right upto the time of its termination. There was, however, nothing active about the suit in this case at the time of and immediately before the Courts dismissal of it for even before the Court took it up it had been abandoned by the party. But, learned counsel urges that a dismissal of suit or abandonment is only a procedural matter, and, as it has been well settled that the rule enacted in Section 52 will apply not merely to rights created, but also to rules of procedure, the termination of the suit in question in the manner aforesaid would still attract the provisions of that section.

In support of that contention, learned counsel relied on the decision of the Bombay High Court in Krishnabai Pandurang v. Sawalram Gangaram, ILR 51 Bom 37 : AIR 1927 Bom 93 where Shah, J., held that the word 'rights' in Section 52 would have reference not merely to the substantive rights, but to matters of procedure as well. But the decision in that case did not turn upon any question like the one before us. In that case, a question arose at the stage of the execution of a decree for injunction obtained by owner of propertv against his neighbour, there having been a breach of the injunction. The decree-holder filed an execution petition against the legal representatives of the judgment-debtor who had by then died. Pending execution, the latter sold their property to a third party. It was held that the decree for injunction which was with respect to the property though personal in form, would avail against the Durchaser pendente lite. We do not see how the principle of that decision would have any bearing on the question that we have got to decide in the. case. We are of opinion that the dismissal of a suit brought about by the abandonment of the same by the plaintiff will not operate to affect the title secured by a purchaser pendente lite. A contrary conclusion will undoubtedly lead to very unjust and inconvenient results. Subrahmanyam, J., has given a telling example of how harshly such a conclusion would operate. Suppose a, plaintiff having an indubitable title to the property in dispute conveys the property to a stranger and without actually colluding with the defendant reports to the Court, abandoning his claim, and the Court follows it up with a decree of dismissal of the suit. It will indeed be very hard upon the unfortunate purchaser that the dismissal of the suit under those circumstances should deprive him of his title.

It mnst be remembered that a purchaser pendente lite cannot as of right come on record in thesuit and then protect his title. Order 22 Rule 10 C. P. C. only confers on the Court a discretionary jurisdiction to implead a purchaser pendente lite. When the purchaser cannot therefore come and protect his interests as of right, it is but just that the rule enacted in Section 52 should be strictly interpreted. From what we have stated above, it will be clear that, where a plaintiff in a suit abandons his claim, the result of the suit will not operate as lis pendens against any purchaser pendente lite of the suit property. But the same rule will not apply to the case where the defendant abandons his defence, for, in such a case, there will be ex parte evidence on the side of the plaintiff to support any decree that might ultimately be passed in the case. The disposal of the suit in such a case will not therefore be the result of withdrawing the question for decision from the Court, but of obtaining one from it. It follows from what we have stated above that the respondent would not be bound by the termination of O. S. No. 436 of 1952, and, in view of the fact that his title to the entirety of the property has been concurrently accepted by the Courts below, the suit instituted by him will have to be decreed.

6. The appeal fails and is dismissed withcosts.


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