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S. Ramaswami Iyer Vs. Komalavalli Ammal - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1941Mad277
AppellantS. Ramaswami Iyer
RespondentKomalavalli Ammal
Cases Referred and Govinda Padayachi v. Murugayya Chettiar
Excerpt:
- .....saleable interest left in the property, as it must be deemed to have passed under the sale to the auction-purchaser. it was pointed out that confirmation by court is a mere ministerial act as the court is bound to confirm the sale in such circumstances under order 21, rule 22. there are no doubt indications in the provisions of the civil procedure code that an auction-purchaser at a court-sale does not obtain title to the property immediately on his purchase. order 21, rule 22(1) provides:where no application is made under rule 89, rule 90 or rule 91, or where such application is made and disallowed, the court shall make an order confirming the sale, and thereupon the sale shall become absolute.5. under section 316 of the old civil procedure code of 1882, the title to the property.....
Judgment:

Patanjali Sastri, J.

1. This is a petition to revise an order of the subordinate Judge of Mayavaram whereby the sale held on 17th March 1938 in execution of the decree in O.S. No. 5 of 1933 on the file of that Court was set aside under Section 23, Madras Agriculturists' Relief Act, on the application of the respondent. The petitioner obtained the decree on foot of a mortgage executed in his favour by the respondent's brothers. The mortgage comprised in addition to certain other properties the six items of immovable property here in question to which the respondent claimed title under a will of her deceased father which is marked Ex. A in these proceedings. The respondent was impleaded as defendant 4 in the suit and her claim to have these properties exonerated from liability failed as she was held estopped from setting up her own title to them by reason of having attested the mortgage, thereby leading the mortgagee to believe that the mortgagors had the right to mortgage the properties. Three objections to the maintainability of the respondent's application under Section 23, Madras Act 4, of 1938, were raised by learned Counsel for the petitioner. The first was that out of the six items of property now in question, four were situated within the limits of Mayavaram Municipality and that therefore the respondent was not an agriculturist within the meaning of the definition in Section 3(ii) of the Act. The other two items are admittedly agricultural lands situated outside the municipality. The definition so far as it is material here says:

'Agriculturist' means a person who (a) has a saleable interest in any agricultural or horticultural land in the province of Madras not being land situated within a municipality.

2. This provision, it was said, means that any person who owns an agricultural land situated within a municipality is not an agriculturist although he has such land outside the municipal limits. This construction is clearly wrong. All that the definition requires is that the person who claims to be an agriculturist should have a saleable interest in an agricultural land situated outside a municipality, and if he has such land, it is wholly immaterial whether or not he also owns agricultural lands within a municipality. Indeed, learned Counsel for the petitioner did not seriously press this contention. It was next argued that all that the respondent obtained under this will (Ex. A) was a mere right to enjoy the properties during her lifetime without any power of alienation, and that she had no saleable interest in them such as would bring her within the definition. Learned Counsel laid stress on the words 'hold and enjoy during her lifetime' used in connexion with the disposition in favour of the respondent while the word 'get' was used in the grant to the respondent's male issue, and argued that this indicated that the testator's intention was to confer upon the respondent nothing more than a right of enjoyment. It was also urged that this construction should be adopted as it would give effect to the restraint imposed on the respondent's powers of alienation which otherwise would be defeated as being void for repugnancy. We are unable to construe the will in the manner suggested. We do not consider that the testator used the words 'hold and enjoy' in deliberate contradistinction to the word 'get' with a view to make clear that he was not conveying an estate in these properties to his daughter. The latter word is used in the disposition in favour of the respondent's daughter which is also made subject to the same condition restraining alienation. We are of opinion that the testator intended to confer the same kind of estate on the respondent as he conferred upon her daughter, namely a life estate in the properties, and that the condition absolutely restraining the disponees from alienating their interest in the properties is void as being repugnant to the nature of the estate granted. It follows that the respondent derived a saleable interest in these properties under her father's will Exhibit A.

3. The last contention, which was also the main contention before us, was that inasmuch as the properties were sold on 17th March 1938, i.e., a few days before the commencement of the Act, the respondent ceased to have any saleable interest in these lands at the commencement of the Act or at the time of her application under Section 23, and was therefore disentitled to claim the benefit of that provision. This contention was not raised in the Court below and the respondent had no opportunity to show that, apart from the properties sold in court-auction, she owned other agricultural lands and was thus entitled to apply under the section. The point was however allowed to be raised as petitioner's learned Counsel agreed that if his contention was accepted, the case might be remitted to the lower Court for ascertaining whether the respondent owns other agricultural lands.

4. It has to be observed that though the respondent's properties were sold in court-auction before the commencement of the Act, the sale had not been confirmed when the respondent applied on 20th June 1938, under Section 23 of the Act, though the period of MO days prescribed for an application under the Civil Procedure Code to set aside a sale in execution of a decree had expired, and no such application, it was said, had been made. The question for consideration, therefore, is whether in these circumstances the respondent can be held to have a saleable interest in the properties at the time when she instituted the proceedings out of which this revision petition has arisen. It was argued for the petitioner that when a judgment-debtor's property is sold in court-auction and no application to set aside the sale has been made within 80 days under Order 21, Rules 89, 90 and 91, he has no saleable interest left in the property, as it must be deemed to have passed under the sale to the auction-purchaser. It was pointed out that confirmation by Court is a mere ministerial act as the Court is bound to confirm the sale in such circumstances under Order 21, Rule 22. There are no doubt indications in the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code that an auction-purchaser at a court-sale does not obtain title to the property immediately on his purchase. Order 21, Rule 22(1) provides:

Where no application is made under Rule 89, Rule 90 or Rule 91, or where such application is made and disallowed, the Court shall make an order confirming the sale, and thereupon the sale shall become absolute.

5. Under Section 316 of the old Civil Procedure Code of 1882, the title to the property vested in the purchaser only from the date of the sale certificate while under Section 65 of the present Code, when the sale has become absolute, the property shall be deemed to have vested in the purchaser from the time when the property is sold and not from the time when the sale becomes absolute. Again, under Order 21, Rule 89, a judgment-debtor whose property has been sold has been held entitled to apply to set aside the sale as the person 'owning such property' in spite of the sale. In Pandurang Laxman v. Govind Dada ('16) 3 : AIR1916Bom57 , the judgment-debtor effected a private sale of the property sold in court-auction before such sale was confirmed, and the position was held to be not essentially 'different from a case where there is nothing more than an agreement for sale between the parties, as the conveyance, in such circumstances, could not operate unless the auction sale was set aside. In Suudaram v. Mamsa Mavuthar ('21) 8 A.I.R. 1921 Mad. 157, a Full Bench of this Court had to consider the question whether a judgment-debtor who after the sale of his property in court-auction sold it privately to a third party was entitled to apply under Order 21, Rule 89. All the learned Judges proceeded on the view that after a court-sale, the judgment-debtor continues to be the owner of the property, though they ex-pressed somewhat different opinions as to his position when he effects also a private sale of such property after the court-sale. Wallis C.J., was of opinion that the private sale being valid as between the parties though it would operate only subject to the auction sale being set aside, the judgment-debtor could no longer be regarded as the owner of the property but was entitled to apply as a person holding an interest in the property by virtue of a title acquired before the court-sale. Oldfield and Kumaraswami Sastri, JJ. took the view that the judgment-debtor, in such circumstances, continued to be the owner notwithstanding '?the court-sale and the private sale.

6. It is thus clear that a judgment-debtor whose property is sold does not cease to be its owner capable of selling it effectively under certain conditions, so long as he can apply to have the sale set aside, that is to say, till the expiration of thirty days from the date of sale. But what is the position after that period? Can he still dispose of the property so as to pass an effective title to the transferee against the auction-purchaser? In other words, has he a 'saleable interest' in the property? Whatever could be said In support of an affirmative answer to this question if the matter were res integra, we consider that the decision of the Privy Council in Zamindar of Polavaram v. Maharajah of Pittapur requires that it should be answered in the negative. In that case a decree-holder having purchased certain properties of his judgment-debtor at a court-sale in execution of a mortgage decree entered into a compromise with the judgment-debtor's guardian under which one of the properties purchased was to be left to the judgment-debtor in consideration of the latter agreeing to pay a certain sum and to abstain from raising objections to the sale of the properties. The compromise was sanctioned by the Court which confirmed the auction sale with the exception of the property which was agreed to be left to the judgment-debtor, and issued a sale certificate covering the other properties. A mortgage of that property subsequently executed for the sum agreed to be paid under the compromise having turned out to be inoperative for want of due attestation, the question arose whether the compromise amounted to a sale by the decree-holder purchaser in respect of which a vendor's lien for unpaid purchase money could be claimed. In upholding the claim and overruling the objections that there could be no sale by the auction-purchaser to the judgment-debtor as the title to the property in question never passed to the former under the auction sale which was not confirmed in respect of that property, their Lordships observed:

That village, along with other mortgaged property, was, as stated, sold to the plaintiff on 28th October 1920; and the period within which the judgment-debtor could apply to the Court for setting aside the sale was 30 days from the date of the sale. During that period no such application was made by him, and the title of the auction-purchaser became unimpeachable.... It is obvious that after the expiry of the statutory period for setting aside the sale, there was no person who could question, the title of the auction-purchaser, and a certificate of sale granted by the Court would in such case be a formal document of title. In the absence of an order setting aside the sale the Court is bound to confirm it, and the law does not prescribe any special period for an application for an order of confirmation.

7. These observations are, in our view, decisive of the point now under consideration. They show that after the expiry of the period for an application to set aside an auction sale, the auction-purchaser can effectively sell the property purchased even in the absence of a confirmation of the auction sale by the Court or in other words, that he has a 'saleable interest' in the property. If he has acquired such interest it is difficult to see how the judgment-debtor can also be said to have a saleable interest in the same property, there being no question here of subordinate interests carved out of the property being owned by different persons. It was urged by Mr. Seshagiri Sastri for the respondent that the abovementioned decision must be taken to have been based upon the rules made by the Local Government for the administration of the Agency tracts of the Madras Presidency as the property there in question lay within those tracts, and it was pointed out that those rules do not provide for confirmation by the Court of an auction sale or for issue of a sale certificate and that, on the other hand title to the property vested under the rules in the purchaser immediately on his purchase. Our attention was drawn to the argument of the learned Counsel for the appellant before this Court where this aspect was emphasized : see Zamindar of Polavaram v. Maharaja of Pittapur ('31) 18 A.I.R. 1931 Mad. 140 . The decision could, no doubt, have been based on the provisions of those rules, but it is plain that the case was throughout dealt with on the footing that the Civil Procedure Code was applicable. The original auction sale was in fact confirmed and a sale certificate was also issued, though in respect of the other properties, and the discussion relevant to the present issue, both in the judgment of this Court see Zamindar of Polavaram v. Maharaja of Pittapur ('31) 18 A.I.R. 1931 Mad. 140 and in that of the Privy Council, proceeded having the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code in view, as the reference to confirmation by Court and sale certificate clearly shows. Indeed in the arguments of counsel before the Board as reported, no reference was made to the Agency Rules, while the relevant provisions of the Code were cited. We cannot therefore regard the decision of their Lordships as inapplicable here.

8. Mr. Seshagiri Sastri placed reliance on Raghu Nandan Prasad Singh v. Commissioner of Income-tax B. & C. as showing that the title of a purchaser in court-auction becomes complete only on confirmation by Court. The case related to an income-tax assessment and the question was when the assessee, a moneylender who had purchased certain properties of his judgment-debtor in execution for the amount payable to him under a decree, could be said to have realized his debt. It was held that the interest on the debt could be deemed to have been realized only when the sale was confirmed. Their Lordships did not have to consider the position of a judgment-debtor in relation to the property sold in court-auction after the expiry of the period prescribed for setting aside the sale where no confirmation follows, and the decision is no authority for the view that he has, in such circumstances, a saleable interest in the property.

9. It was said that apart from Order 21, Rules 89, 90 and 91, the Court can set aside auction sales under Section 47 on other grounds (see the cases collected in Mulla's Civil Procedure Code, Edn. 10, p. 185) and can also refuse to confirm such sales under its inherent powers, Raghavachariar v. Murugesa Mudali ('23) 10 A.I.R. 1923 Mad. 635 and Govinda Padayachi v. Murugayya Chettiar ('33) 20 A.I.R. 1933 Mad. 399 and that therefore it cannot be said that the auction-purchaser acquires an indefeasible title before confirmation. These cases proceed on the ground that the sale was either a nullity or was tainted by fraud on Court to which the purchaser was-privy, and have not, in our opinion, much bearing upon the narrow point arising for consideration before us. In the result, the order of the Court below is set aside and the case is remitted to that Court for disposal, after enquiry as to whether the respondent had a saleable interest in other agricultural lands apart from the properties sold in court-auction, and also whether in fact no application for setting aside the sale had been made before the proceeding under Section 23 of the Act was instituted, no finding having been recorded on these points. Both parties will be at liberty to adduce fresh evidence. Costs in this Court will abide and follow the result.


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