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A. Batcha Saheb Vs. Nariman K. Irani and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberA.A.O. Nos. 501, 502, 552 and 553 of 1954
Judge
Reported inAIR1955Mad491; (1953)2MLJ152b
ActsTransfer of Property Act, 1882 - Sections 69; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908 - Order 39, Rule 1; Madras Agriculturists Relief Act, 1938 - Sections 13A
AppellantA. Batcha Saheb
RespondentNariman K. Irani and anr.
Appellant AdvocateK. Venkateswaran, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateT.C.A. Anandalwar, ;P.R. Varadarajan, ;T.T. Srinivasan and ;A.N. Rangaswami, Advs.
Cases ReferredGovindaswami Naicker v. Javanmul Sowcur
Excerpt:
.....and imposition of terms--powers of court.; pending a suit for a declaration that the sale of properties belonging to the plaintiffs by the mortgagees, without the intervention of court, would be wrongful, illegal and void, the plaintiffs applied for a temporary injunction restraining the mortgagee from bringing the properties to sale, under section 69 of the transfer of property act (iv of 1882) stating that they were agriculturists and were liable to pay only about rupees four lakhs and three thousand and not eight lakhs as claimed by the mortgagees. the lower court granted a temporary injunction but on condition that the plaintiff should deposit, rupees one lakh and sixty thousand, within one month from the date of the order.; held, the imposition of the said terms for..........cannot be impeached. the grounds which are ordinarily available to a judgment debtor in a sale of mortgaged property in execution of a mortgage decree to have the sale set asicie under the provisions of order 21, c. p. c., will not be available, however much the sale is vitiated by any material irregularity in the conduct of the sale and even if the sale is for an amount which is not actually due. the mortgagor is really helpless and the properties, however valuable they may be will be lost to him, his right against the mortgagee being only for recovery of damages.while section 69, t. p. act as is seen from its application being restricted to important towns, was en-acted for the purpose of facilitating recovery of money advanced on immoveable properties situated in towns of.....
Judgment:
1. I have read with great interest the order of my learned brother, with which I am in substantial agreement. In C. Rule P. Nos, 1663 and 1666 of 1954, in which we dealt with the court-lee payable on the suits, we expressed the view that they were limited in scope and that the City Civil Court had no jurisdiction to determine the scaled-down amounts, if the mortgagors were found to be "agriculturists" entitled to relief under Section 13-A, Madras Agriculturists' Relief Act as amended by Act 23 of 1948. Within this limited scope of granting an injunction restraining exercise of powers of sale under Section 69, T. P. Act until the scaled-down amount is determined in a competent court by appropriate proceedings, the City Civil Court has no jurisdiction, in my view, to lay down any terms under which the powers of sale under Section 69 can be exercised; nor can the mortgagee exercise these powers except for the scaled-down amount.

It is regrettable that in the earlier injunction suit filed, the right of the mortgagee to substantial relief under Section 13-A was not even mentioned, and it would appear that this aspect of the matter was completely overlooked by the learned advocates for the mortgagor and the mortgagees throughout that previous litigation. In this view of the matter, I agree that C. M. A. Nos. 501 and 502 of 1954 filed by the puisne mortgagee and mortgagor respectively should be allowed with costs. L. P. A. Nos. 221 and 222 of 1954 which arise out of them, we are also separately allowing, hut without any order as to costs. C. M. A. Nos. 552 and 553 of 1954 by the mortgagees are dismissed without any order as to costs. In C. R. P. Nos. 1663 and 1666 of 1954, we have directed the parties to bear their own costs.

2. My learned brother has made some interesting observations on the powers of private sales by mortgagees under Sections 69 and 69-A, T. P. Act as amended by Act 20 of 1929, being abused by mortgagees in conditions prevailing in India which are rather different from those in the United Kingdom at the time of the English Conveyancing and the English Property Act of 1925, in the light of which Act 20 of 1929 was enacted. This is unfortunately true and not the only instance in which advanced English legislation has been made applicable to India without regard to Indian conditions and the machinery available here, with unfortunate results. The abuse has not however been one-way traffic, and mortgagors also show sometimes reciprocal resourcefulness in suits for injunctions, paying practically no court-fee in the lowest court of civil jurisdiction to restrain bona fide' honest mortgagees from exercising their powers of sale on some ground or other.

I am in substantial agreement with my learned brother on the desirability for amended legislation to minimise, if not, avoid, abuse by a statutory provision for a right to a mortgagor, when served with notice of sale under Section 69(2), to apply to the court having jurisdiction to have the sale held through a commissioner appointed by the Court, acting under the court's control and instructions, on a reasonable fixed court-fee, the resulting sale, of course, paying the full stamp duty as in a private sale. It also appears necessary for the Court-fees Act to be radically amended so as to make it impossible for mortgagors to file injunction suits valued by them at will in any but the court having jurisdiction to try suits arising out of the mortgage itself.

Krishnaswami Nayudu, J.

3. These appeals arise out of the two applica-tions filed by the plaintiffs before the II Additional City Civil Judge, Madras, in O. S. Nos. 980 and 996 of 1954, for an order of temporary injunction restraining the mortgagees, defendants 1 and 2, from bringing certain properties to sale in pursuance of a power of sale under Section 69, T. P. Act.

4. The properties sought to be brought to sale consist of two Cinema houses, pne in the City and another at Pallavaram, and extensive lands in Adyar and other places, all of which have been subjected to several mortgages. Defendants 1 and 2 claim as assignee-mortgagees in respect of some of the mortgages and as direct mortgagees in the remaining. There are ten such mortgages and the mortgagees claim a total sum of Rs. 8,52,021-2-4 for the recovery of which amount they have proposed to sell the properties, There is a subsequent mortgage. The plaintiff in O. S. No. 980 of 1954 is the mortgagor and the plaintiff in O. S. No. 996 of 1954 is the puisne mortgagee of the properties.

5. The contention of the plaintiffs is that they are agriculturists within the meaning of the Agriculturists Relief Act 4 of 1938 and also under Act 5 of 1954. Under Act 4 of 1938 being agriculturists they will not be liable to pay a large sum of 8 lakhs and odd as claimed by the mortgagees but to a sum less than Rs. 4,03,000, having become entitled by reason of the Amending Act, 1948, to the benefit conferred by Section 13-A, Madras Agriculturists Relief Act 4 of 1938 and that the claims under many of the mortgage deeds will become wholly wiped out. Further, by reason of the passing of Act 5 of 1954, which granted temporary relief to agriculturists by staying all proceedings against agriculturists for a period of one year from the date of the passing of the Act, any sale without the intervention of court would be wrongful, illegal and void and the plaintiffs in both the suits prayed for a declaration that any sale of the properties before 7-2-1955 without intervention of court would be wrongful, illegal and void, and for an injunction restraining the mortgagees from exercising the right of sale, without intervention of court, of the plaintiffs' properties and in any event till 6-2-1955.

The mortgagees denied that the plaintiffs were agriculturists either within the meaning of Act 4 of 1938 or Act 5 of 1954 and stated that they were not entitled to any injunction.

6. On the applications for temporary injunctions, out of which these appeals arise, the learned City Civil Judge granted a temporary injunction but put the plaintiffs on terms by directing them to deposit a sum of Us. 1,60,000, within one month from the date of his order. Both the plaintiffs and the mortgagees, defendants 1 and 2 have filed these appeals against the said order of the City Civil Court.

7. Though the question as to whether the plaintiffs are agriculturists has not been, quite properly, elaborately gone into by the learned Judge, we agree with his conclusion that the plaintiffs have established that they are agriculturists owning agricultural lands and have not been shown to have paid any income-tax, they having produced a certificate from the Income-tax department to that effect, and it is therefore correct to say, as the learned Judge pointed out, that there is a 'prima facie' case requiring investigation as to the question of the applicability of the Agriculturists Relief Act and the right to have the debts scaled down. We are also in agreement with the view taken by the learned Judge that if the proposed sale is to be allowed to be proceeded with, irreparable injury will be caused to the plaintiffs.

8. We have no hesitation in observing that Section 69, T. P. Act is a drastic provision and places 'bona fide' mortgagors who have a real defence to any action on the mortgage, in a very disadvantageous and helpless position. Section 69 empowers the mortgagee, in whom the power of sale without the intervention of the court is expressly conferred by the terms of the mortgage deed and where the properties are situated in certain important towns including the City of Madras, to sell after giving three months' time in writing and calling upon the mortgagors to pay the principal sum; and when once the sale has been effected in exercise of such a power, Section 69(3) provides that the title of the purchaser shall- not be impeached on the ground that no case had arisen to authorise the sale or that due notice was not given, or that the power was otherwise improperly or irregularly exercised, and the only remedy of a person who is damnified by an unauthorised or improper or irregular exercise of the power is to sue the mortgagee for damages.

While therefore in a suit for a sale or foreclosure instituted on a mortgage, the defences open to the mortgagor can be raised and considered, no such opportunity is however available to the mortgagor, where the mortgagee purports to exercise the power of sale under Section 69 without intervention of court. Even bona fide and substantial defences open to the mortgagor as to any pre-maturity of the sale and as to the correctness of the amount claimed by the mortgagee in pursuance of which he purports to sell and such other defences, as would disentitle the mortgagee from recovering the mortgage amount, cannot prevent the sale being proceeded with, unless by an order of court in a suit instituted by the mortgagors. The present suits have therefore become necessary in order to prevent the mortgagees from seeking to sell the properties for the recovery of the amount which, according to the plaintiffs will not he the amount to which they will be legally liable.

9. Further, if one examines the legal effect of such a sale, by reason of Section 69(3), the title of the purchaser cannot be impeached. The grounds which are ordinarily available to a judgment debtor in a sale of mortgaged property in execution of a mortgage decree to have the sale set asicie under the provisions of Order 21, C. P. C., will not be available, however much the sale is vitiated by any material irregularity in the conduct of the sale and even if the sale is for an amount which is not actually due. The mortgagor is really helpless and the properties, however valuable they may be will be lost to him, his right against the mortgagee being only for recovery of damages.

While Section 69, T. P. Act as is seen from its application being restricted to important towns, was en-acted for the purpose of facilitating recovery of money advanced on immoveable properties situated in towns of commercial importance and to encourage the growth of trade and commerce -- the idea being to enable the lender to recover the amount speedily rather than by pursuing the ordinary remedy of instituting a mortgage suit and going through the fonnalities of a suit and execution proceedings -- in actual practice, the benefit conferred by the section on the mortgagee to sell mortgaged properties without intervention of'court has been more often misused to the detriment of the mortgagors, taking advantage of the immunity of the purchaser from his title being questioned provided by the statute.

There is great scope afforded by the language of Section 69(3) for mortgagees to circumvent the law and notwithstanding that they may not have a real right to recover the amount and may not succeed in getting a decree for the amount claimed by them in a suit on a mortgage, the properties might be sold causing irreparable injury to the mortgagor, who is disentitled from recovering his properties, which sometimes are very valuable. Once the safe is held, ordinarily it is not liable to be set aside except on the ground of fraud or that the sale was a benami transaction, the mortgagee himself being the purchaser. In view of the language of Section 69(3), it is generally a herculcan task for one to have a sale held under Section 69 set aside and it is seldom that one succeeds in such a suit to set aside a sale.

10. Section 69, T. P. Act of 1882 was modelled on the English Conveyancing Act of 1881 (41 and 42 Vict. Ch. 41) and the English Property Act of 1925. Prior to the enactment of the Transfer of Property Act of 1882, the powers of a mortgagee to sell the properties mortgaged were dealt with under Sections 6 to 9, Trustees' and Mortgagees' Powers' Act (Act 28 of 1866), which was modelled on Lord Cranwotth's Act (23 and 21 Vict. C. 145). It was found, as pointed out by Fisher on Mortgage, Para. 975, 6th Edn. that the purchaser's title was protected where no case had arisen to authorise the exercise of the power, and where no notice had been given and that Lord Cranworth's Act was silent as to improper exercise of the power after it had arisen, and which was irregular otherwise than by the absence of notice; nor did it protect the purchaser where he was aware of the absence of notice, or of other irregularities; and it gave the person damnified an express remedy in damages only where the exercise of the power was unauthorised, but none where, being authorised it was improperly exercised cither for want of notice or otherwise.

Section 8, Trustees' and Mortgagees' Powers Act, 28 of 1866, was in similar terms and the only grounds on which the title of the purchaser could not be impeached were that no case had arisen to authorise the exercise of such a power and that no notice had been given. The additional protection given to the purchaser in respect of the non-impeachability of the sale was that even if the power was otherwise irregularly and improperly exercised, the right of the mortgagor, who had suffered by such unauthorised or improper or irregular exorcise of the power, was only in damages and not have the sale set aside. The defect pointed out by Fisher as existing in Lord Cranworth's Act was subsequently removed by Conveyancing Act of 1881 reproduced in the English Property Act of 1925:

11. The anxiety of the Indian draftsmen in incorporating into Section 69(3) the language, of the provisions of the Conveyancing Act of 18S1 and the English Property Act of 1925 was therefore to bring it in line with the law in England to protect the purchaser's right in respect ot properties sold in pursuance of the power of sale conferred on the mortgagee. By virtue of Section 69(1) the provisions of the Trustees' and Mortgagees' Powers Act of 1888 were no longer applied to mortgages and it is Section 69, T. P. Act, as amended by Act 20 of 1929, that now governs the mortgages, where a power of sale without the intervention of court is conferred on the mortgagee. In the statement of objects and reasons of the Amending Act of 1929 with particular reference to Section 69, it is stated that it was the intention of the provisions of Section 69 to bring it in accordance with the English Statute, viz., the English Conveyancing Act and the English Property Act of 1925, as the procedure of the Indian Act 28 of 1886 based on the earlier Lord Cranworth's Act, which has been repealed could no longer exist and required to be revised.

The incorporation into the Indian statute of the provisions of the English enactment places the mortgagor in a mortgage, where a power of gale is conferred without the intervention of court at a great disadvantage.

In view of the language of Section 69(3), as it stands, no sale held in pursuance of the power of sale can be successfully challenged in a court of law, however much the mortgagor may have a just and real grievance as to the circumstances under which and the manner in which the sale is held, apart from the question as to whether any case had arisen for the sale at all. Except that it was thought necessary to bring Section 69(3), T. P. Act in line with the English statutory provisions, there was no other ground shown for such wholesale incorporation of the provisions of the English statute in the Indian enactment. But experience has shown that far from advancing the object with which Section 69 was included in the Indian Act, which was mainly on grounds of commercial policy to facilitate lending and borrowing on security of immoveable properties in towns of commercial importance and to make recovery of amounts advanced on security of immoveable properties easier and quicker the protection Section 69(3) has been working havoc to the great detriment of honest mortgagors.

12. While the power of sale without the intervention of court may be supported and justified in the conditions prevailing in a commercially advanced country like England, where the machinery employed for selling the properties can be said to be perfect and reliable, its introduction in India, though it is confined to towns of commercial importance, with all the implications of the English statute, does not seem to be necessary or justified since from the results of its working, it has been found that there is scope for its abuse resulting in great injustice to 'bona fide' mortgagors, who are likely to be deprived of their properties by an improper and irregular exercise of the power of sale. Section 69(3) affords greater sanctity to a private sale than to a sale held by court in pursuance of the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, where, after notice and settlement of sale proclamation, a sale is ordinarily held and such sale may be set aside for any material irregularity in the conduct of the sale.

However much a provision in a mortgage for a power of sale may lie supported, it docs not appear that such a power of sale requires to be conferred on the mortgagee enabling him to sell the property without the intervention of Court, especially in the conditions prevailing in our country and taking into account the manner in which this power is liable to be misused. A power of sale may no doubt be conferred not without the intervention of court, but without the necessity of instituting a mortgage suit and selling the property only after the final decree through the elaborate process provided in the Civil Procedure Code for sale of immoveable property. A power of sale may be conferred in the mortgage deed, but such a power of sale may be exercised without the necessity of the mortgagee instituting a suit for sale and obtaining a decree, and he may be directed to apply to the court to exercise the power of sale asking the court to appoint a Commissioner to sell the property.

Such a provision might greatly help the furtherance of the object with which the provision came to be included in England and incorporated in Indian statute and at the same time protect the interests of the mortgagor, since the court, before appointing a commissioner, will have an opportunity to go into the question as to whether a case had arisen for the sale and since the sale would then, be in the hands of the Commissioner, an officer of Government, the property may be expeditiously sold without the elaborate procedure of settling a sale proclamation and other formalities required for sale under the Civil Procedure Code. I consider that no power of sale without the intervention of court should be conferred on mortgagee and any sale of mortgaged property in order to ensure the interest of the parties must be through a civil court.

In enacting this provision one of the objects must have been to enable the mortgagees to realise their monies without instituting a suit on the mortgage paying the necessary court-fee. But in actual practice, This object of dispensing with the court-fee is rarely achieved, since a purchaser at a private sale has necessarily to seek the assistance of court to recover possession of the properties purchased and a suit for possession would be necessary for the purpose with the consequential heavy court-fee to be paid calculated on the market value of the property. Payment of court-fee therefore at some stage or other could not be avoided. Further, the purchaser at such a sale is not likely to pay the full value of the property as he has to make provision for expenses of the litigation for recovery of possession, which invariably is inevitable, as no mortgagor in possession would ordinarily deliver possession to a purchaser at a sale held in pursuance of the power of sale under Section 69.

13. Section 69(3), which protects the purchaser at a private sale against all possible and reasonable objections as to the sale on grounds, which would otherwise entitle the mortgagor, if he were a judgment debtor, to question the sale successfully if one is held in pursuance of a mortgage decree for sale, is a provision resulting in considerable injustice, which requires to be suitably amended so as to protect the interests of the owner of the property as well. Section 69 therefore requires in the light of the experience of its working consideration by the legislature. In any event, suitable and substantial amendments appear to be necessary by bringing the conduct of sale under supervision of courts, removing the restrictions imposed on the mortgagor from questioning the sale, and making provisions for the sale being questioned in appropriate cases on grounds similar to that provided in the Civil Procedure Code for setting aside a sale held through court, and such other amendments as may be necessary to avoid the abuse to which the provisions might furnish an easy handle.

14. I have considered it necessary to deal with this aspect of the case at some length with a view to impress upon the courts the disastrous effects of allowing such a sale to be proceeded with, and the principles that should therefore guide a court in considering a relief for injunction, restraining the mortgagees from selling the properties without intervention of court. The learned City Civil Judge, while appreciating the effect of such a sale and observing that Section 69 is very drastic and penal and that irreparable injury would be caused to the plaintiffs in case the sale is held, however, erred in putting the plaintiffs on terms by directing them to pay a large sum of Rs. 1,60,000 within a month.

15. The court in granting a temporary injunction has undoubtedly powers to impose terms as a condition to the granting of the injunction, but the imposition of such terms must be reasonable and such as not to make it impossible for the plaintiff to comply with the terms thereby virtually denying the relief which he would otherwise be ordinarily entitled to. There is one important fact which does not appear to have been taken into consideration by the lower court before directing the plaintiffs to pay that large sum as a condition attaching to the granting of injunction. The income yielding, viz. Cinemas which have been mortgaged including the income yielding theatres had already been put in possession of the mortgagees as Receivers and they have been realising the income and it is not as if the mortgagor has retained possession, of the properties depriving the mortgagees the benefit of the income.

Ordinarily, therefore, where it is found that there are real and 'bona fide' objections to the sale, the plaintiffs would be entitled to an injunction, and unless the court is of opinion that the suit for injunction is filed purely with a view to delay and put off the recovery of the mortgage amount and is not 'bona fide', injunction should be granted and in appropriate cases the income of the properties may be secured to the mortgagee, in case there is a large arrears of interest or there is any apprehension that the properties may not, if sold, be sufficient to discharge the mortgage, so that the mortgagee's interest may not be prejudiced.

16. The learned City Civil Judge, in putting the plaintiffs on terms, was apparently influenced by the proceedings in a previous suit instituted by the mortgagor, O. S. No. 1490 of 1953, with reference to the sale of these identical properties at an earlier occasion when his application for a temporary injunction for staying the sale was dismissed. An appeal was preferred to the High Court in C. M. A. No. 698 of 1953. When the appeal came up for hearing, it was withdrawn as a result of memo of consent dated 7-4-1954 and dismissed in consequence. The plaintiff then agreed to pay a sum of Rs. 1,60,000, to the mortgagees on or before 15-5-1954, when the mortgagees should release one of the Cinema houses and 1 acre and 41 cents of land in Kalikundram village. It was agreed that on such payment the sale of the remaining properties were to be postponed till 15-8-1954 within which time the mortgagor agreed to pay the balance of the amount due, and on failure to do so, the mortgagees were at liberty to exercise the power of sale in respect of the remaining properties as well. The mortgagor did not comply with that order passed by consent.

The learned City Civil Judge, relying on the said consent order, has found it necessary to direct that sum to be paid. The fact, however, was that in the earlier suit, O. S. No. 1490 of 1953, no question arose as to the liability of the mortgagor for the full amount of 8 lakhs and odd claimed by the mortgagees and his right to have the amount scaled down under the Agriculturists Relief Act, 4 of 1938, and the Moratorium Act, 5 of 1954. As such it was quite possible that finding that a large sum of 8 lakhs was due, the plaintiff agreed to pay the sum of Rs. 1,60,000 by sale of one of the Cinema houses but apparently was not able to do so. But, in the present suit a substantial contention is raised as to his right to have the amount alleged to be due, reduced by the application of the provisions of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act to a sum of Rs. 4 lakhs and odd with the result that the mortgage claims under some of the mortgage deeds will be wholly wiped out,

In these changed circumstances it was for the lower court to have considered whether it would be still necessary to insist on the compliance of the order passed by consent in the previous proceedings. It is urged on behalf of the plaintiff that he made 'bona fide' attempts to find a sale for one of the properties, but was not able to succeed. We are inclined to agree that the mortgagor made 'bona fide' attempts to sell, but was not successful. If a mortgagor is satisfied 'prima facie' that he is an agriculturist entitled to the benefits of the Agriculturists Relief Act, 4 of 1938, the result of it would be that he will not be liable for the entire amount claimed by the mortgagee and for the recovery of which the property is to be sold privately, and in such cases courts have to interfere by staying the sale until the ascertainment of the amount really due by the mortgagor after being scaled down, unless the mortgagee agrees to bring the properties to sale ior any reduced amount. Sales have been stayed under similar circumstances by the learned Judges of this court in - 'Govindaswami Naicker v. Javan-mul Sowear', AIR 1939 Mad 4 (A) and -- 'Govindaswami Naicker v. Javanmul Sowcur', AIR 1939 Mad 56 (B).

It may be pointed out that in so far as C. M. A. No. 501 of 1954 is concerned, which arises out of O. S. No. 996 of 1954 in which the puisne mortgagee is the plaintiff, the question of any undertaking to pay any sum in the previous proceedings does not arise, as he was not a party to those proceedings, lie is coming up for the first time with the suit and he is as much entitled to relief under the Act 4 of 1938, if he establishes ho is an agri-culturist entitled to the benefit of the provisions of the Act. In his case therefore the imposition of any terms to the grant of injunction can in no view be justified.

17. We are therefore of opinion that the imposition of terms for the granting of injunction by the learned City Civil Judge cannot be supported, and we grant a temporary injunction restraining the mortgagees defendants 1 and 2 from selling the properties without the intervention of court till the disposal of O. S. Nos. 980 and 996 of 1954. The C. M. A. Nos. 501 and 502 are allowed with costs, and C. M. A. Nos. 552 and 553 are dismissed. No order as to costs.


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