Reddy & Ors. Vs. H. Ramaiah Reddy & Ors.  INSC 134 (17 February
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION
(CIVIL) NO.6286/2009 R. Ravindra Reddy & Ors. .. Petitioners H. Ramaiah
Reddy & Ors. .. Respondents
One Dodda Appanna Reddy owned vast properties in Halasahalli
Thippasandra Village, Sarjapura Hobli, Anekal Taluk, Bangalore Urban District.
He died in 1968 leaving behind his only son, Pilla Reddy, and grandson, H.
Ramaiah Reddy, the Respondent No.1 herein, to succeed to his estate.
petitioners herein are the sons of H. Ramaiah Reddy.
After Appanna Reddy's death Pilla Reddy and H. Ramaiah Reddy
constituted a joint family in respect of the ancestral properties and were in
joint possession and enjoyment of the various properties, including the suit
In 1972, there was a partition of the properties between Pilla
Reddy and his son, H. Ramaiah Reddy, in respect of the joint family and ancestral
properties. One Annaiah Reddy, a professional document writer at the
Sub-Registrar's office at Anekal Taluk, was an attesting witness to the
registered partition deed. Pilla Reddy executed two Wills, both scribed by
Annaiah Reddy, in 1972 and in 1979. The said Annaiah Reddy filed an application
on 30th December, 1974, for grant of tenancy rights in respect of the suit
schedule lands under Section 48 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961,
hereinafter referred to as "the 1961 Act", claiming occupancy rights
on the ground that he had been cultivating the suit lands. Only Pilla Reddy was
impleaded as a party to the proceedings, although, the properties were said to
be ancestral properties. It appears that on 11th December, 1975, the tenancy
rights of the lands in question were recorded in the name of Annaiah Reddy.
In 1986, one Sunkamma claiming to be the second wife of Pilla
Reddy, filed a partition suit after the death of Pilla Reddy, seeking partition
and separate possession of his various properties. In 1996, Annaiah Reddy sold
some of the lands in favour of Respondent Nos.2 to 5 herein and as contended by
the petitioners, they had no knowledge of the grant of occupancy rights in
favour of Annaiah Reddy. The said matter ultimately reached this Court by way
of Civil Appeal No.1348 of 2001 preferred by H. Ramaiah Reddy. During the
pendency of the said appeal, H. Ramaiah Reddy and Sunkamma entered into a
compromise which was recorded and the appeal was disposed of by an order dated
26th October, 2004. Inasmuch as, the Respondent Nos.2 to 5 tried to disturb the
possession of the petitioners on the strength of their purported purchase of
the suit lands from Annaiah Reddy, the petitioners filed the above-mentioned
suit, being No.1457/2005, in the Court of the Principal Civil Judge (Senior
Division), Bangalore Rural District at Bangalore, inter alia, for a declaration
that they were coparceners of the undivided Hindu Joint Family of late Dodda
Appanna Reddy and for partition of the scheduled properties by metes and bounds
and to put the plaintiffs in separate possession of their legitimate 1/4th
share each in the schedule properties. They also prayed for a declaration that
the order dated 11th December, 1975, passed by the Land Tribunal, Anekal Taluk,
was illegal and not binding on the plaintiffs and their inheritance right and
title to the schedule properties. A further declaration was sought for that the
sale deeds executed by Annaiah Reddy in favour of the Defendant Nos.2 to 4 were
illegal and not binding on the petitioners. Along with the said relief, the
petitioners also prayed for a mandatory injunction to direct the Tahsildar,
Anekal Taluk, to effect the mutation and revenue entries in respect of the
schedule properties in the joint names of the petitioners and the first
reliefs were also prayed for.
In the said suit, the petitioners prayed for granting ad-interim
injunction against the respondents, for the purpose of deciding the suit. The
Trial Court formulated 11 issues and one additional issue. Of the said 12
issues, the 6th issue was `Whether the suit was barred by limitation?' and the
additional issue was `Whether the suit was maintainable in view of Section
132(2) of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act?'.
The Trial Court decided to hear the said two issues as preliminary
issues. After hearing the parties, the Trial Court answered issue No.6 in the
affirmative and additional issue No.1 in the negative and held that the suit
was barred by limitation and was also not maintainable in view of the bar of
Section 132(2) of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961. In view of its said
findings, the Trial Court dismissed the plaintiff's suit.
by the said judgment and decree of the Trial Court, the petitioners preferred
the Regular First Appeal No.845 of 2006 (PAR) before the Karnataka High Court
at Bangalore. The High Court also dismissed the appeal endorsing the view taken
by the Trial Court that the petitioners' suit was clearly barred by limitation
and also by virtue of 7 Section 132(2) of the 1961 Act and that Civil Court had
no jurisdiction to entertain and try the same.
It is against the said judgment and order of the Karnataka High
Court in RFA No.845/2006 (PAR) that the instant appeal has been filed.
On behalf of the petitioners it was urged by Mr. Raju Ramchandran,
learned Senior Advocate, that since the petitioners were third parties to the
proceedings before the Land Tribunal, the order passed therein did not bind
them and they were separately entitled to file the suit for partition
notwithstanding the orders of the Land Tribunal.
also submitted that since the proceedings before the Land Tribunal were
vitiated by fraud and collusion, the bar under Section 132(2) of the 1961 Act
would not apply to the facts of the instant case and as such the Trial Court
was not justified in holding that the suit was barred under the said
provisions. According to the petitioners, since the suit had been brought
within a period of 3 years from the date of knowledge of the order of the Land
Tribunal and the sale transaction, it was not barred by limitation and the
Trial Court erred in dismissing the same on the ground of limitation.
Elaborating on his submissions, Mr. Ramchandran submitted that in
order to be recognized and recorded as an occupant under Section 45 of the 1961
Act, the person concerned would be entitled to make an application to the
Tribunal constituted under Section 48 of the Act and every such application
would have to be made before the expiry of the period of 6 months from the date
of commencement of Section (1) of the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Act,
1978. Mr. Ramchandran contended that the inquiry by the Tribunal contemplated
under Section 48-A(5) had necessarily to be confined to the determination of
the claim of tenancy of the applicant and in the event such a question arose
during the pendency of a civil or criminal proceeding, no civil or criminal
Court or officer would be entitled to decide the question whether such land was
agricultural land or not and whether the person claiming to be in possession is
or is not the tenant of the suit land from prior to 1st March, 1974, in view of
Section 133(1)(i) of the aforesaid Act.
Reference was also made to Rule 17 of the Karnataka Land Reforms
Rules, 1977 (hereinafter referred to as the `1974 Rules') which prescribes the
procedure to be followed by the Tribunal in respect of a summary inquiry under
Section 34 of the 1961 Act. It was urged that since the procedure was summary in
nature, questions relating to fraud or the validity of a concession made by the
petitioners' grand-father could only be gone into by a Civil Court and not in
the summary proceedings before the Tribunal. Mr. Ramchandran submitted that it
would be evident from the frame of the suit that no such question, as
contemplated under Section 48-A, was involved in the suit which was essentially
one for declaration that the petitioners were coparceners of the undivided
Hindu Joint Family of late Dodda Appanna Reddy and partition of the scheduled
property by metes and bounds and to put the plaintiff in separate possession of
their legitimate 1/4th share each in the scheduled properties. A further prayer
was made to declare that the order dated 11th December, 1975, passed by the
Land Tribunal, Anekal Taluk, in Case No.LRF/A.T.C./154/75-76, was illegal and
not binding on the petitioners and did not affect their inheritance rights and
title to the scheduled properties. A further declaration was sought that the
sale deeds executed by Late Annaiah Reddy in favour of the defendant Nos.2 to 4
was a sham transaction and not binding on the petitioners. Mr. Ramchandran
submitted that the Tribunal was not competent to determine the said questions
which could only be decided by the Civil Court.
In support of his aforesaid submissions, Mr. Ramchandran firstly
referred to the decision of this Court in Saraswati & Ors. vs. Lachanna
[(1994) 1 SCC 611], in which a similar provision in the A.P. (Telangana Area)
Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1950, where the Civil Court's jurisdiction
had been barred, fell for consideration and it was held that a suit relating to
redemption of usufructuary mortgage filed in the Civil Court was not barred and
was maintainable, having regard to the provisions of Section 9 of the Code of
Civil Procedure. This Court held that bar on the power of the Civil Court to
entertain a suit could not be inferred with, where the statute did not create a
right or after creating a right did not provide a forum for adjudication of any
dispute arising out of such right.
Mr. Ramchandran also referred to the decision of this Court in the
case of Shiv Kumar Chadha vs.Municipal Corporation of Delhi & Ors. [(1993)
3 SCC 161], where the same principle was reiterated and it was held that the
Court's jurisdiction to go into the question as to whether the order was a
nullity being vitiated by jurisdictional error was not barred.
Reference was also made to the decision of this Court in the case
of Swamy Atmananda & Ors. vs. Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam & Ors. [(2005)
10 SCC 51], where a dispute over title under the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private
Schools (Regulation) Act, 1973, was claimed to be barred under Section 53 of
the Act. This Court held that such a dispute was not one that was required to
be decided under the provisions of the aforesaid Act, and, accordingly, the
jurisdiction of the Civil Court in terms of Section 9 of the Civil Procedure
was not excluded.
emphasized that the ouster of the Civil Court's jurisdiction was not to be
Mr. Ramchandran lastly referred to the decision of this Court in
Sudhir G. Angur & Ors. vs. M. Sanjeev & Ors. [2006 (1) SCC 141],
wherein, while considering the provisions of the Mysore Religious and
Charitable Institutions Act, 1927, this Court held that the jurisdiction of the
Civil Court in regard to matters containing serious allegations of forgery,
fraud and diversion of trust properties, could not be inquired into in a
summary manner and could only be gone into by a Court.
On the question of limitation, Mr. Ramchandran submitted that the
High Court erred in deciding the question of limitation without considering the
fraudulent nature of the consent said to have been given by Pilla Reddy,
although, he had no independent right or title over the property to give
consent for granting occupancy rights in favour of Annaiah Reddy. Mr.
Ramchandran submitted that the High Court erred in holding that the suit was
barred by limitation without taking evidence in that regard. In support of his
aforesaid submission, Mr. Ramchandran referred to the decision of this Court in
Jatinder Singh & Anr. vs.Mehar Singh & Ors. [AIR 2009 SC 354], in which
this Court set aside the decision of the High Court for having failed to take
notice of an application filed by the Appellant therein under Order 41 Rule 27
CPC while deciding the second appeal. This Court held that when such an
application was pending, it was the duty of the High Court to deal with the
same on merits and not having been done so, there was no other alternative, but
to set aside the judgment of the High Court and to remit the appeal for a fresh
decision in the second appeal after taking into consideration the application
under Order 41 Rule 27 CPC.
In the same context, reference was also made to a subsequent
decision of this Court in Balawwa & Anr. vs. Hasanabi & Ors. [(2000) 9
SCC 272], in which the question of ouster of the Civil Court's jurisdiction
fell for consideration in view of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961. This
Court held that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court is ousted only in respect
of such reliefs as could be granted by the Special Tribunal under the Special
Statute but in other respects the jurisdiction of the Civil Court was not
Mr. Ramchandran submitted that the preliminary issue relating to
the bar of jurisdiction of the Civil Court, as envisaged under Section 133 (2)
of the 1961 Act, could not have been decided without taking evidence as to the
character of the lands in question. Mr. Ramchandran submitted that the order of
the High Court was not capable of being entertained and was liable to be set
On the other hand, appearing for the Respondent No.1, Mr. Kailash
Vasudev, learned Senior Advocate, pointed out from the plaint of OS No.1457 of
2005, filed by R. Ravindra Reddy in the Court of Principal Civil Judge (Senior
Division), Bangalore Rural District, Bangalore, that a fraud had been
perpetrated by the said Annaiah Reddy only to deprive the plaintiffs of their
right and share in the scheduled properties. Mr. Vasudev pointed out that in
the same breath it had also been admitted that Pilla Reddy had conceded grant
of tenancy rights in favour of late Annaiah Reddy, though without knowledge and
consent of the plaintiffs.
Vasudev submitted that the question of obtaining the consent of the plaintiffs
by their grandfather, Pilla Reddy, for grant of tenancy rights in favour of
Annaiah Reddy, did not arise since he was holding the tenancy rights in respect
of the said land.
Mr. Vasudev also referred to paragraph 16 of the plaint where it
was stated that the cause of action for the suit arose in January 2005 as the
plaintiffs/respondents were continuously demanding partition and separate
possession of their share in the scheduled properties and the petitioners
herein failed to effect partition, but the other respondents were continuing to
make attempts to trespass/interfere with and to disturb the Respondent No.1's
possession and enjoyment of the scheduled properties.
Mr. Vasudev then brought to our notice the proceedings before the
Land Tribunal, Bangalore District, Anekal Taluk, in Case No.LRF/A.T.C./154/
75-76 dated 11th December, 1975, in which the Petitioner was shown as M. Annaiah
Reddy and H. Pilla Reddy was shown as the Respondent. In the proceedings under
Section 48-A of the 1961 Act, the application filed by M. Annaiah Reddy was
disposed of by the following order :- "All the above mentioned Sy. Nos.
lands are situated at Halasahalli Thippasasndra Village, Sarjapura Hobli. The
petitioner claims occupancy right in the above mentioned Sy. Nos.and produced
the order copy dated 30.12.74.
for enquiry was fixed on 11.12.75 and on the same day the enquiry was conducted
and the respondent agreed that occupancy rights claimed by the petitioner in
the above said Sy.Nos. Therefore all the members of the Tribunal have
unanimously accepted the contention of the petitioner and the respondent and
resolved to grant occupancy rights in favour of petitioner to the extent of
lands in the above-said Sy.Nos. as per possession."
Mr. Vasudev submitted that it would be amply clear from the said
order that Pilla Reddy had agreed to the claim of occupancy rights by M. Annaiah
Reddy. Furthermore, such order had never been questioned by H. Pilla Reddy as
being fraudulent or having been obtained by fraudulent means.
Mr. Vasudev referred to the decision of this Court in K.D. Sharma
vs. Steel Authority of India Ltd. [(2008) 12 SCC 481], in which the issue
relating to fraud perpetrated on Court was considered in detail and it was held
that fraud practised on the Court would vitiate all judicial acts, since fraud
is an act of deliberate deception with the design of securing something by
taking unfair advantage of another.
Mr. Vasudev also referred to the decision of this Court in
Mudakappa vs. Rudrappa [AIR 1994 SC 1190], in which this Court held that the
Tribunal under the Karnataka Land Reforms Act was entitled to decide the question
as to whether the joint family or one of its members was a tenant in respect of
the land in question and that such decision was subject to review under
Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution.
Mr. Vasudev submitted that since the preliminary objections made
on behalf of the Respondent No.1 herein had been duly accepted relating to the
maintainability of the suit, on account of the bar imposed under Section
133(1)(i) and (2) of the 1961 Act and the bar of limitation, no interference
was called for with the impugned judgment of the High Court.
As has been mentioned hereinbefore, out of 11 issues and the
additional issue formulated by the Trial Court, issue No.6 and the additional
issue relating to the bar of limitation and maintainability in view of Section
132(2) of the 1961 Act, were taken up for consideration as preliminary issues.
In fact, in view of the decision on the said two issues, no other issue was
either taken up for consideration or decided. Our inquiry in this petition is, therefore,
confined to the said two issues alone.
The Trial Court answered issue No.6 in the affirmative and
additional issue No.1 in the negative holding that the suit was barred by
limitation and was not maintainable in view of the bar of Section 132(2) of the
1961 Act. We have considered the submissions made on behalf of the respective
parties in respect of the two issues and we agree with the views expressed by
the Trial Court as also the High Court on the said two issues.
As far as the question of limitation is concerned, the order of
the Land Tribunal, Anekal, was passed on 11th December, 1975, whereas the suit
was filed by the Petitioners herein in 2005 seeking declaration, partition and
permanent injunction in respect of the properties which were the subject matter
of the order of the Tribunal. An attempt has been made to bring the said suit
within the period of limitation by indicating that the Respondent Nos.2 to 5
had tried to disturb the possession of the Petitioners during the year 2004- 05
on the ground of their alleged purchase of the suit lands from Annaiah Reddy.
It was sought to be urged that Pilla Reddy had admitted the claim of the
Respondents on having acquired occupancy rights before the Tribunal, without
the knowledge and consent of the Petitioners. Both the Trial Court, as well as
the High Court, have dealt with this aspect of the matter and have found that
it was on record that notice of the proceedings before the Land Tribunal had
been given in the village in respect of the application filed by Annaiah Reddy.
also on record that the father of the Petitioners was quite aware of the orders
of the Land Tribunal as in OS No.75 of 1986 he had taken a specific stand that
one of the suit properties, namely, Survey No.46, is a tenanted property, and
that the Land Tribunal, Anekal, had conferred occupancy rights in favour of M.
Annaiah Reddy.The High Court has observed that inspite of the same, the father
of the Petitioners did not question the correctness of the order of the
Tribunal. It is on that basis that the Courts below held that the Petitioners
had knowledge of the concession made by Pilla Reddy in favour of Annaiah Reddy
and negated their contention that they were not aware of the same till they
signed the compromise petition before this Court in the appeal arising out of
OS No.75 of 1986.
We are, therefore, unable to accept Mr. Ramchandran's submissions
that the cause of action for the suit arose only in 2004-05 when the Respondent
Nos.2 to 5 purportedly attempted to disturb the possession of the Petitioners.
As far as the second issue is concerned, although ouster of
jurisdiction of the Courts is not to be readily inferred, it is quite clear
from the provisions of Sections 132(2) and 133(1)(i) of 24 the 1961 Act that
the jurisdiction of the Civil Court in matters to be decided by the Tribunal,
and to question a decision of the Tribunal stands ousted by Section 132 of the
1961 Act which provides as follows :- "132. Bar of jurisdiction - (1) No
civil court shall have jurisdiction to settle, decide or deal with any question
which is by or under this Act required to be settled, decided or dealt with by
the Deputy Commissioner, an officer authorized under sub-section (1) of Section
77, the Assistant Commissioner, the prescribed authority under Section 83, the
Tribunal, the Tehsildar, the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal or the State
Government in exercise of their powers of control.
order of the Deputy Commissioner, an officer authorized under sub-section (1)
of Section 77, the Assistant Commissioner, the prescribed authority under
Section 83, the Tribunal, the Tehsildar, the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal or
the State Government made under this Act shall be questioned in any civil or
Section 133(1)(i) and (2) of the Act read as follows :- "133. Suits,
proceedings, etc., involving questions required to be decided by the Tribunal.-
(1) Notwithstanding anything in any law for the time being in force.- (i) no
civil or criminal court or officer or authority shall, in any suit, case or
proceedings concerning a land decide the question whether such land is or not
agricultural land and whether the person claiming to be in possession is or is
not a tenant of the said land from prior to 1st March, 1974;
(ii) x x
x (ii) x x x (iii) x x x (2) Nothing in sub-section (1) shall preclude the
civil or criminal court or the officer or authority from proceeding with the
suit, case or proceedings in respect of any matter other than that referred to
in that sub- section."
It is clear from the above that the jurisdiction of the Civil or
Criminal Court or Officer or Authority stood ousted in matters where a decision
had to be taken as to whether the land in question was agricultural land or not
and whether the person claiming to be in possession is or is not a tenant of
the said land from prior to 1st April, 1974. In the instant case, the question
as to whether Annaiah Reddy was an occupancy tenant or not and whether Pilla
Reddy had given his consent to such claim is in the domain of the Land Tribunal
and it has been correctly held by the Courts below that the Civil Court had no
jurisdiction to decide such a question.
As far as fraud is concerned, it is no doubt true, as submitted by
Mr. Ramchandran, that fraud vitiates all actions taken pursuant thereto and in
Lord Denning's words `fraud unravels everything'.
in the instant case, there is nothing on record to suggest that Annaiah Reddy
committed any fraud on Pilla Reddy, who willingly accepted the claim of Annaiah
Reddy to occupancy rights over the land in question.
In that view of the matter, we see no reason to interfere with the
judgment and order of the High Court impugned in these proceedings and the
Special Leave Petition is, accordingly, dismissed.
There will, however, be no order as to costs.