Shambhu Prasad Singh Vs. Mst. Phool
Kumari & Ors  INSC 93 (24 March 1971)
CITATION: 1971 AIR 1337 1971 SCR 181
Hindu Law--Family arrangement--Principles for
deciding whether a document is family arrangement.
Adverse possession--When established.
Raj Kumar, the common ancestor of the parties
had four sonsLalji Singh, Amar Singh, Ramji Singh and Raghunandan Singh.
Amar Singh had three sons, namely, Sonadhari,
Girwardhari and Nankhu father of present appellant. In 1898 Amar Singh
purchased the land on which the house in dispute stood from his own funds but
in the name of his brother Lalji Singh.
Nankhu was taken in adoption by Ramji Singh.
Shortly thereafter in 1915, a document Ex. I was executed between Raj Kumar's
descendants. In it the claim of Nankhu to a half share in the house in dispute
was recognised. In 1949, Nankhu and the appellant filed the instant suit for a
declaration of their half share in the house in dispute.
The defendants (present respondents) were the
branches of Sonadhari and Girwardhari. The suit was resisted inter alia on the
following grounds: (i) that Ex. 1 was not a family arrangement but only a deed
of relinquishment; and therefore Nankhu who had no anterior title to the house
in dispute did not acquire any interest in it by virtue of Ex. 1; (ii) that
even if he had an interest in the house he lost it by reason of adverse
possession by the respondent. The trial court decreed the suit. The decree was
upheld by the Single Judge of the High Court. The Division Bench however
decided both the points of dispute in favour of the respondents. It held that
there was no dispute or conflict of interest between the branches of Amar Singh
and Ramji Singh, and that Amar Singh and Nankhu had acted in concert in the
execution of Ex. I which was therefore not a family arrangement. It upheld the
claim of the respondents that Nankhu and the appellant had lost title to the
house by the adverse possession of the respondents. The visits of Nankhu and
his wife to the house were held by the Division Bench to be 'in the nature of
visits of guests of the defendants'. In appeal to this Court against the
judgment of the High Court.
HELD: (i) The arrangement under challenge has
to be considered as a whole for ascertaining whether it was made to allay
disputes, existing or apprehended, in the interest of harmony in the family or
the preservation of property.
It is not necessary that there must exist a
dispute actual or possible in the future, in respect of each and every item of
property among all members arraigned one against the other. It would be
sufficient if it is shown that there were actual or possible claims and
counterclaims by parties in settlement whereof the arrangement as a whole had
been arrived at, thereby acknowledging title in one to whom a particular
property falls on the assumption (not actual existence in law) that he had an
anterior title therein.
[191 F-G] Pullaiah v. Narasimham, A.I.R. 1966
S. C. 1837, Sahu Madho Das v. Mukund Ram,  2 S.C.R. 22 and Rani Mewa
Kuwar v. Rani Hulas Kuwar. (1873-74) L.R. I I.A. 157 at 166, applied.
182 Williams v. Williams, (1867) 2 Ch. A.
294, referred to.
An examination of the terms of Ex. I showed
that it was incorrect to assume, as the High Court did, that in the disputes
amongst the different branches of the family, Nankhu and Amar Singh were acting
in concert, or that there was no conflict of interest among them. The parties
to Ex.1 arrived at a settlement in view of claims and cross claims by some
against the others. Taken as a whole and in the light of the recitals and the
statements in the operative part of the document indicating conflict amongst
the members of the family, the document represented an arrangement bona fide entered
into, for settling existing or at any rate apprehended disputes, and therefore,
satisfied the tests of a family arrangement laid down in the decisions of this
Court. In this view Nankhu must be said to have acquired a half share in the
house in dispute under Ex. 1. [193 H, 194 E-G] (ii) Adverse possession has to
have characteristics of adequacy, continuity and exclusiveness. The onus to
establish these characteristics is on the adverse possessors. Accordingly, if a
holder of title proves that he too had been exercising during the currency of
his title various acts of possession, then, the quality of those acts, even
though they might not be sufficient to constitute adverse possession as against
another, may be abundantly sufficient to destroy that adequacy and interrupt
that exclusiveness and continuity which is demanded from a person challenging
by possession the title which he holds. As between co-sharers, the possession
of one cosharer is in law the possession of all co-sharers. Therefore to
constitute adverse possession, ouster of the non-possessing co-sharer has to be
made, out. As between them therefore, there must be evidence of open assertion
of a hostile title coupled with exclusive possession and enjoyment by one of
them to the knowledge of the other. But once the possession of a cosharer has
become adverse as a result of ouster, a mere assertion of a joint title by the
dispossessed co-sharer would not interrupt the running of adverse possession.
He must actually and effectively break up the exclusive possession of his
co-sharer by reentry upon the property or by resuming possession in such a
manner as it was possible to do. For this purpose the mere fact that a
dispossessed co-sharer comes and stays for a few days as a guest is not
sufficient. [194 H-195 E] Kuthali Moothavar v. Paringati Kunharankutcy, (1921)
395, 404, Lakshmi Reddy v. Lakshmi Reddy,
 S.C.R. 195, 202, Mohammad Bagar v. Naim-un-Nisa Bibi A.I.R. 1956 S.C. 548
and Wantakal Yalpi Chenabasavana Gowd v. Y. Mahabaleshwarappa,  1 S.C.R.
131, 138, followed.
Ammakannu Ammal v. Naravanaswami Mudaliar,
A.I.R. 1923 Mad.
in view of the evidence in the present case
the Division Bench was not justified in interfering with the finding of fact
concurrently given by the Trial Court and the learned Single Judge that the
adverse possession by Baijnath which commenced from 1933 was sufficiently
interrupted by acts of possession by Nankhu, and therefore his title was not
extinguished by adverse possession. [199 A-B] The appeal must accordingly be
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 1655 of 1966.
183 Appeal from the judgment and decree dated
August 25, 1964 of the Patna High Court in Letters Patent Appeal No. 119 of
D. Goburdhun and R. Goburdhun, for the
S. V. Gupte, D. P. Singh and N. Nettar, for
U. P. Singh for respondents Nos. 2 to 4.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Shelat, J.-Two questions arise in this appeal. The first is whether the
transaction evidenced by Ex. 1, dated March 20, 1915 was a family arrangement
so as to confer on the appellant an,, his father, Nanhku Prasad, since
deceased, title to a half share in the house in dispute. The second is that
even if it was so, whether such title became extinguished as a result of
adverse possession for the statutory period by Baijnath, the deceased husband
of respondent 1.
The parties are near relations. The following
genealogy explains the relationship amongst them Rajkumar Singh Lalji Singh
Amar Singh Ramji SinghRaghunandan Reshmi Kuer Patreja KuerSingh Nanhku Pd.
Suba Faujdar Balkeshwar Singh (Plff. No.1)
Decnath Singh (Plff. No. 2) Sonadhari
Girwardhari Kamaldhari Tarke shwar Pd. Baijnath Pd. alias alias Daljit Nanu
Babu Kamta Prasad (Deft. No. 2) died in 1948 Phul Kumari Devi (sons of Deft.
(widow) 2-Nos. 3 to 7) Deft. No. 1.
There is no dispute that Amar Singh purchased
from his own funds under a registered deed, dated January 20, 1898, the ,,land
on which the house in dispute stands. His son, Nankhu, the deceased father of
the present appellant, was taken in adoption sometime prior to March 20, 1915
by Ramji Singh and his wife Patreja Kuer as they had no issue, whereupon Nankhu
ceased 184 to have any interest in the properties owned by Amar Singh and his
branch. In 1933, Nankhu and the present appellant, then a minor, filed Suit No.
33 of 1933 against Sonadhari Tarkeshwar, Baijnath and Reshmi Kuer (the widow of
Amar Singh, wrongly described by the High Court as the wife of Rajkumar in the
genealogy set out in its judgment) in respect of certain properties which bad
nothing to do with the house in dispute. The written statement filed in that
suit was that Nankhu had been paid the price of his share in the house in
dispute and that the entire house, consequently, belonged to and was since then
in the exclusive possession of the defendants. That suit went upto the High
Court when in 1941 a compromise application was filed by the parties settling
that suit. But, as the suit had nothing, as aforesaid, to do with the house in
dispute, nothing was said about the allegation that Nankhu had been paid off in
respect of his interest in that house.
In 1949, Nankhu and the appellant filed the
instant suit for a declaration of their half share in the house in dispute.
In answer to the suit, the respondents raised
three defenses : (1) that Nankhu and the appellant derived no interest under
Ex. 1. (2) that assuming that they derived such interest, it was relinquished
by them on being paid the price thereof, and (3) that in any event they lost
their interest by reason of adverse possession by the respondents The Trial
Court rejected all the three defenses raised by the respondents and decreed the
suit, holding that Nankhu had acquired one half share in the said house under
Against that decree, two appeals were filed
in the High Court, one by respondent I and the other by some of the other
respondent. These appeals were heard first by a learned Single Judge of the
High Court. Before the learned Single Judge, the finding of the Trial Court
that Nankhu and the present appellant had not relinquished their interest in
the house on their being paid the price thereof was not disputed. The only
questions agitated before the learned Single Judge, therefore, were whether
Nankhu had a half share, that is to say, whether he derived his title to ,the
half share under and by virtue of Ex. 1, and if so, whether he lost it as a
result of adverse possession by the respondents.
In respect of the first question. the parties
urged two conflicting pleas. Nankhu and the appellant contended that Ex. I was
a family arrangement under which he got half share in the house and that that
family arrangement was valid and binding on the parties. The respondents, on
the other hand, contended that Ex. I was only a Ladavi deed, that is, a deed of
relinquishment. The argument on behalf of Nankhu and the appellant was that
there were outstanding disputes between the different branches of the family of
Rajkumar, and those disputes 185 were ultimately settled at the instance of and
with the aid of certain family friends resulting in Ex. I by way of a family
arrangement. Therefore, even if Nankhu and the appellant were not able to show
their anterior title to the house, they were entitled under Ex. I to a half
share therein. The learned Single Judge accepted the contention raised by
Nankhu and the appellant. His reasoning in this connection was that although
the land on which the suit house stood was purchased by Amar Singh out of his
own funds, it was purchased in the furzi name of Lalji, but there was no
evidence that Lalji ever admitted to be the furzidar of Amar Singh.
Consequently, though Nankhu, by his ,adoption, lost all interest in the
properties of Amar Singh, yet the fact that in Ex. I Amar Singh acknowledged
Nankhu having a half share in the house indicated that there was some
apprehension in the mind of Amar Singh of a future dispute and that it was such
an apprehended dispute which Ex. 1, while dealing with the house, settled. The
learned Single Judge added that ,even assuming that there was no existing or
apprehended dispute and the settlement was made out of consideration for the
peace of the family or preservation of its properties, the settlement would
have to be regarded as a family arrangement. Regarding the plea of adverse
possession, 'he upheld the finding of the Trial Court that Nankhu and the
appellant had established their acts of possession during the statutory Period,
and that consequently, the continuity and exclusiveness of the respondents'
adverse possession had been disrupted. On these findings, he dismissed the
appeals and confirmed the decree passed by the 'Trial Court.
Respondent I thereupon filed a letters patent
appeal which was heard by a Division Bench of the High Court. The same two
questions were reagitated, namely, as to the nature of Ex. 1, and as to the
adverse possession. On the first question, the reasoning adopted by the
Division Bench was on the following lines :
(1) that the executants of Ex. I formed three
conflicting groups, namely, (a) Suba, Faujdar and Balkeshwar, constituting one
group of members of Lalji's branch, being executants 1 to 3;
(b) Raghunandan and his son, Kamaldhari,
being executants 4 and 5 and constituting Raghunandan's branch; and (c) Amar
Singh for himself and as the guardian of Baijnath, then a minor, Sonadbari for
himself and as guardian of his minor son, Tarkeshwar, and Nankhu, who had, 186
as earlier stated, gone to the line of Ramji on his adoption, being executants
6,7 and 8;
(2) that the disputes, in settlement of which
Ex. I was executed by these three groups, were, as its recitals show :
(a) conflicting claims made by the said three
sets of executants as to whether they were joint or separate in status, the
claim of executants 1 to 3 being that all the members of Rajkumar's family were
still members of an undivided Hindu family, and that therefore, although the
properties stood in the names of and were in possession of individual members,
they continued to be joint family properties including properties standing in
the names of female members, namely, Reshmi and Patreja;
(b) the allegation by executants 4 and 5
(Raghunandan's branch) that all the four branches of Rajkumar's four sons were
separate and yet claiming share in the properties standing in the names of
members of Lalji's branch, and (c) the claim by executants 6, 7 and 8 (Amar
Singh, Sonadhari and Nankhu-by now in the line of Ramji) that the parties were
separate in status, and therefore, the properties in the names of the two said
females belonged exclusively to them and the members of the other branches had
no interest whatsoever in them-, (3) that the Trial Court and the learned
Single Judge were in error in holding that what Ex. I did was to evidence
relinquishment by the rest of the members of the family of their claims in
properties standing in the names of or in possession of particular members, and
thereby acknowledging their anterior title in such properties. In fact Nankhu
had no such anterior title, nor could be in law have any such title in the
house in dispute in view of his having got out of Amar Singh's branch as a
result of his adoption by Ramji;
(4) that there was no subsisting or
apprehended dispute between Amar Singh and his family, on the one hand, and
Nankhu on the other, the latter not having made any claim for a share in the
house in dispute, and that therefore, there was no question of preservation of
peace or family property, there being nothing on record to show that Nankhu had
held out any threat to the family peace or property; therefore, there was a
total want of mutuality as in consideration of Nankhu getting a half share, 187
Amar Singh got nothing in return and cases of the type of Williams v.
Williams(1) had no application;
(5) that the recitals in Ex. I showed that
the only dispute which prevailed at the time was "branchwise" and in
that dispute Nankhu did not set up any contest against Amar Singh and his
branch and indeed, both of them acted in concert, both claiming that the
members of Rajkumar's family were separate and the properties standing in the
names of Reshmi and Patreja were their exclusive properties;
(6) that acknowledgement of exclusive title
of Amar Singh and Sonadhari (executants 6 and 7) to certain properties, and
likewise acknowledgement of exclusive title of Nanhku (executant No. 8) to
certain other properties set out in paras 3 and 4 of Ex. I were not by way of
settlement of any existing or apprehended dispute between them, and therefore,
that part of Ex. I could not be regarded as providing any consideration for
conferring the half share in the disputed house on Nanhku.
On this reasoning the Division Bench declined
to treat Ex.I as a family arrangement. The conclusion of the Bench clearly
signified that it had relied on two fundamental premises: (1) that there were
only three sets of executants, the third set consisting ;of executants 6, 7 and
8, and (2) that Amar Singh and Nanhku had acted in concert as there were no
conflicting claims by and between them.
In view of this conclusion there was no need
for the Division Bench to go into the question of adverse possession.
However, it decided to do so for the reason
that although the finding on the question of adverse possession was concurrent,
it had bee,-, seriously challenged before it.
On this question, the Division Bench firstly
relied on the Municipal Assessment Register for 1900-1901, (Ex. D), and the
extract from the Demand Register of a Patna Municipality for 1915-16, (Ex. E).
Ex. D showed the name of Amar Singh as the sole owner of the property. Ex. E
mentioned Sonadhari and Baijnath only as the owners of the house as Amar Singh
had died soon after Ex. I was brought into existence. The Division Bench was
impressed by the fact that though only recently, in March 1915, Nanbku's half
share in the house had been acknowledged in Ex. 1, his name was deliberately
omitted in Ex. E, which meant that Sonadhari and Baijnath had openly asserted
their title to the whole of the house and yet anhku took no steps to assert his
title. Nor did he at any time (1)  2 Cb. A. 294.
188 pay his share of the municipal taxes and
the costs of repairs carried out later on by Baijnath. The Division Bench was
also impressed with the fact that even when Baijnath, in his written statement
in suit No. 33 of 1933, claimed that Nanhku's share had been paid off and be
had since then been in exclusive possession of the entire house, Nankhu took no
steps to vindicate his title until he and his son filed the present suit in
1949. The Division Bench came to the conclusion that there was not only an
assertion of a hostile claim by Baijnath but that that assertion was
accompanied by an ouster which remained open and continuous throughout the
statutory period. As regards the evidence khat Nanhku and sometimes his wife
came and stayed in the house, the Division Bench took the view that these were
casual visits "in the nature of visits of guests of the defendants",
and therefore, did not have the effect of interrupting the continuity and the
exclusiveness of possession by the respondents. The Bench even observed that
the respondents had completed their title by adverse possession long before
Baijnath claimed exclusive possession in his said written statement in 1933. In
this view, the Division Bench held that Nanhku's title in the house was
extinguished by adverse possession. The Division Bench accordingly allowed the
respondents' appeal with costs all throughout. Both the conclusions of the
Division Bench have been challenged before us as incorrect.
On the question as to the nature of Ex. I a
large number of decisions were cited at the bar to show when a transaction can
be said to be a family arrangement. It is not necessary to advert to them as
most of them have been considered by this Court in its previous decisions,
wherein principles as to when an agreement can properly be regarded as a family
arrangement have been set out, Thus, in Pullaiah v.
Narasimham(1) after setting out how courts in
England view family arrangements, Subba Rao, J. (as he then was) observed that
the concept of such a family arrangement has also been accepted by courts in
India, adapting the concept to suit the family set up in this country which is
different in many respects from that obtaining in England. After examining some
earlier decisions which be characterized as illustrations of how family
arrangements were viewed, he summarized the law as to a family arrangement as
follows: ,,Briefly stated, though conflict of legal claims in praesenti or in
future is generally a condition for the validity of a family arrangement, it is
not necessarily so. Even bona fide disputes, present or possible, which may (1)
A. I. R. 1966 S. C. 1837.
189 not involve legal claims will suffice.
Members of a joint Hindu family may, to
maintain peace or to bring about harmony in the family, enter into such a
family arrangement. If such an arrangement is entered into bona fide and the
terms thereof are fair in the circumstances of a particular case, Courts will
more readily give assent to such arrangement than to avoid it".
Even in England, family arrangements are
viewed as arrangements governed by principles which are not applicable to
dealings between strangers. The courts, when deciding the rights of parties
under family arrangements, consider what is most for the interest of families
and have regard to considerations which in dealings between persons not members
of the same family would not be taken into account. Matters which would be
fatal to the validity of similar transactions between strangers are not objections
to the binding effect of family arrangements. (see Halsbury's Laws of England,
(3rd Ed.), Vol. 17, 215). Thus, in Williams v. Williams(1) the Court held that
a family arrangement might be such as the court would uphold although there
were no rights in dispute, and if sufficient motive for the arrangement was
proved, the Court would not consider the adequacy of consideration. But the
question of consideration or mutuality would arise, as Williams' case(1) shows,
when other considerations, such as existing or an apprehended dispute or the
question of preservation of property or honour of the family, are absent, so
that it is not necessary for a valid family arrangement that there must exist
actual competitive claims or disputes or that the arrangements must be backed
by proper consideration. Even disputes likely to arise in future or
preservation of family property and honour would be sufficient to uphold an
arrangement bona fide made between the members of a family.
What actually happens when such a family
arrangement is made is explained by Bose, J., in Sahu Madho Das v. Mukund
Ram(1) in the following words :
"It is well settled that a compromise or
family arrangement is based on the assumption that there is an antecedent title
of some sort in the parties and the agreement acknowledges and defines what
that title is, each party relinquishing all claims to property other than they
had previously asserted, to the portions allotted to them respectively. That
explains why no conveyance is required in these cases to pass the title from
the one in whom it resides to the person receiving it under the (1)  2
Ch. A. 294.
(2)  2 S. C. R. 22.
190 family arrangement. It is assumed that
the title claimed by the person receiving the property under the arrangement
had always resided in him or her so far as the property falling to his or her
share is concerned and therefore no conveyance is necessary." He went on
to say that this was not the only kind of arrangement which the courts would
uphold, and that they would take the next step of upholding "an
arrangement under which one set of persons abandons all claims to all title and
interest in all the properties in dispute and acknowledges that the sole and
absolute title to all the properties resides in only one of their number
(provided he or she had claimed the whole and made such an assertion of title)
and are content to take such properties as are assigned to them as gifts pure
and simple from him or her or as a conveyance for consideration when consideration
is present". In such a kind of arrangement where title in the ,(entire
property is acknowledged to reside in only one of them and thereupon that
person assigns parts of it to others there would be a transfer by that
agreement itself which obviously in such a case would need a registered
This decision lays down the assumption
underlying a family arrangement, namely, of an anterior title and its
acknowledgement in one to whom a property or part of it falls under the
arrangement. (see also Rani Mewa Kuwar v.Rani Hulas Kuwar(1). Therefore, it is
not necessary that there must exist an anterior title sustainable in law in
such a person which the others acknowledge.
The arrangement under challenge has to be
considered as a whole for ascertaining whether it was made to allay disputes,
existing or apprehended, in the interest of harmony in the family or the
preservation of property. It is not necessary that there must exist a dispute,
actual or possible in the future, in respect of each and every item of property
and amongst all members arrayed one against the other. It would be sufficient
if it is shown that there were actual or possible claims and counterclaims by
parties in settlement whereof the arrangement as a whole had been arrived at,
thereby acknowledging title in one to whom a particular property falls on the
assumption (not actual existence in law) that he had an anterior title therein.
In the light of these decisions we must now
examine Ex. I to see if the contention of the appellant that it was a family
arrangement is correct or not.
The document Ex. 1, after reciting the death
of the common ancestor, Rajkumar, his leaving him surviving four sons and the
(1) (1873-1874) L. R. 1 I. A. 157. at 166.
191 deaths of certain other family members
thereafter, reads as follows :
"Signs of ill feeling developed among
us, the executants Nos. 1 to 8, and at the time of survey and settlement
operations, dispute in connection with the properties arose. On account of
dispute, wrong statements and claim were made. On account of which the names of
some of us, the executants were recorded in a wrong manner on the record of
rights and in the office of the land Registration Department, in respect of
some of the properties having regard to the real state of affairs and title. At
the time of the survey and settlement operations ,etc. the claims and
allegations of us, the executants Nos. 1 to 3, were that we, the executants,
are all members of the joint family and the properties standing in the names
,of a certain member of the family as well as those in the name of certain
female member of the family, belong to the joint family. Contrary to this, the
claims and allegations of us executants Nos. 4 to 5 were that all the four sons
of Raj Kumar Singh became separate and that executants Nos. 1 to 3 always
continued to remain separate from the (other) executants and executants Nos. 4
and 5 separate from the (other) executants and executants Nos. 6 to 8 separate
from the other executants, but in spite of this allegation of separation,
executants Nos. 4 and 5, on account of dispute, made contrary to the real state
of affairs with respect to certain properties owned and possessed by executants
Nos. 1 to 3, and executants Nos. 6 to 8 also made allegations and claims of
separation and it was alleged that executants Nos. 1 to 5 (?) neither had nor
have any connection and concern with the properties, which were and are in the
names of Mosst.
Patriga Kuer and Mosst. Reshmi Kuer, although
no party was member of a joint family, nor was any property joint. As the
dispute among us, the executants is contrary to the real state of affairs, and
in case they said dispute continues there is apprehension ,of consideration
loss and damage to us, the executants, therefore, on the advice of the well wishers
of the parties ,and of the respectable persons and on the advice of the legal
advisers of the parties, as also with a view to set at rest all kinds of
dispute, it was settled that all the disputes should be put to an end by
executing a deed of agreement by way of a deed of relinquishment of claims
(ladavi) and the property, which is actually ,owned and possessed by a certain
party should be declared to belong to that party exclusively, and as a 192
matter of fact, the family of us, the executants, is separate and the property,
which stands in the name of a certain person, has been purchased from his or
her funds, and in respect of his or her name should continue to remain entered
in the land Registration Department etc. and the name should be entered if the
same is not entered and the other parties totally gave up their claim with
respect thereto." Then follow parts 1 to 4 in each of which certain
properties are set out, and in respect of which, title of each of the four sets
of the executants is acknowledged by the rest.
Para 4, which relates to properties falling
to the share of Nanhku, executant 8, commences with the declaration by the rest
of the executants, including Amar Singh and Sonadhari, that Nanhku was the
adopted son of Ramji and Patreja Kuer, that certain properties set out therein
were exclusively acquired by Patreja Kuerand that Nanhku, as the adopted son of
Ramji and Patreja Kuer, was exclusively entitled to them on the death of
Patreja, and' 'that "we, the executants Nos.
1 to 5, 6 and 7, and the heirs of executant
No. 6 neither have nor shall have any claim, title or possession and connection
in respect thereof in any manner and on any allegation". Following up the
arrangement made in Paras I to 4, four schedules giving particulars of properties
which were acknowledged to be belonging to the four sets of' executants were
appended to Ex. 1. As regards two houses,.
;one at Rajipur and the other in dispute,
Schs. 3 and 4 both set out a half share in them as belonging to executants 6
and 7 and the other half as belonging to executant 8, i.e. Nanhku, in each of
As already stated, the fundamental premise on
which the Division Bench proceeded to consider Ex. I was that there were three
sets of executants, namely, those belonging to Lalji's branch, i.e., executants
1 to 3, those belonging to Raghunandan's branch i.e., executants 4 and 5, and
the third set consisting of Amar Singh and Sonadhari executants 6 and 7, and
Nanhku, executant 8. The second premise on which the Division Bench rested its
entire reasoning was that whereas there were disputes between the three sets of
executants, there were no disputes between Amar Singh, Sonadhari and Nankhu,
that in fact the three of them acted in concert, and that therefore, one half
share given to Nanhku in the house in dispute was altogether voluntarily given
without any anterior title and without any claim or dispute raised by Nanhku
in, respect thereof. In our view, both the premises were incorrect rendering
the conclusion drawn there from untenable.
it is true that Amar Singh had in 1898
purchased out of his own moneys the land on which the, suit house stands. It is
193 also true that Nanhku was adopted sometime before the execution of Ex. 1,
and therefore, on the date of its execution he could not have any valid claim
enforceable in law any property belonging to Amar Singh and his branch.
But, as stated earlier, a dispute or a
contention, the settlement of which can constitute a family arrangement, need
not be one which is actually sustainable in law. The harmony in a family can be
unsettled even by competitive and rival claims which cannot be upheld in law.
Therefore, if Amar Singh and the other executants or some of them were to
challenge, for instance, the factum or the validity of Nanhku's adoption, or if
notwithstanding his adoption, Nanhku were to make a claim in properties held by
Amar Singh and his branch or if some of the executants were to claim that the
'family of Rajkumar was still a joint and undivided family or that though the
members of the family were separate, the properties held in the individual
names of some of them including Reshmi Kuer and Patreja Kuer were joint, there
would be sufficient disputes to constitute a settlement of them a family
arrangement. A claim, made by executants 1 to 5 that the properties held by
Reshmi Kuer and Patreja Kuer were not their separate properties but-were joint
family properties, liable to be partitioned amongst all, was bound to affect
both Amar Singh and Nanhku, If such a claim were to be persisted and dragged to
a court of law there is no gainsaying that it would put into jeopardy not only
the interests of Amar Singh and Nanhku but also the harmony of the family.
The recitals in Ex. I clearly show that
whereas members of Lalji's branch were claiming that the family was still joint
and undivided, and therefore, they had interest in all the properties
irrespective of their standing in the names of particular individuals,
Raghunandan and his son claimed that the members of the family were not joint and
yet claimed share in all the properties including those standing in the names
of Reshmi Kuer and Patreja Kuer. Thus the claims by executants '1 to 5 were
definitely hostile to the interests of Amar Singh to ':the extent of the
properties standing in the name of Reshmi Kuer and of Nanhku to the extent of
the properties standing in the name of Patreja Kuer. The claims made by the
branches of Lalji and Raghunandan sought to bring all the properties into hotch
potch including those held by Resbmi Kuer and Patreja Kuer, thus, affecting the
rights of Amar Singh and Nanhku in the different properties and not the same
properties. Their interests, therefore, were not identical and there was thus
no reason for them to act jointly. Indeed, there was no evidence whatsoever and
nothing in Ex. I itself to show that they were acting in concert as assumed by
the Division Bench.
13-1 S. C. India/71 194 It is true that the
recitals in Ex. I do not expressly set out any conflict of claims between Amar
Singh and Nanhku.
Nevertheless, it is significant that in para
4 of Ex. I the executants found it necessary to insert therein a declaration
not only by executants 1 to 5, but also executants 6 and 7 that Nanhku was the
adopted son of Ramji and Patreja Kuer, that on the death of Patreja Kuer he, as
such adopted son, was absolutely entitled to the properties set out therein in
addition to those which stood in the name of Patreja Kuer. If the adoption of
Nankhu was accepted by all and was not made the subject matter of any doubt or
dispute, there was no necessity of including such a declaration and in
particular joining executants 6 and 7 in such a declaration. If Amar Singh and
Nanhku were acting in concert why had Amar Singh and his son, Sonadhari as
executants 6 and 7, to be joined as declarants to the adoption of Nanhku. Para
4 of Ex. I also shows that there were certain bonds and mortgage deeds standing
in the name of Patreja Kuer which were acquired from out of the personal funds
of Ramji. Such a statement had to be acknowledged in paragraph 4 presumably
,because rights in those bonds and deeds were not admitted to be the exclusive
rights of Patreja. If those rights were to be treated as joint family property,
as claimed by executants 1 to 5, Amar Singh would get a share in them and to
that extent his interest must be said to be in conflict with that of Nanhku. A
similar result would follow if properties standing in the name of Rashmi Kuer
were to be treated as joint family properties.
It would not, therefore, be correct to assume
that in the disputes amongst the different branches of the family.
Nanhku and Amar Singh were acting in concert
or that there' was no conflict of interest between them. In our judgment, the
parties to Ex. I arrived at a settlement in view of claims and cross claims by
some against the others. Taken as a whole and in the light of the recitals and
the statements in the operative part of the document indicating conflicts
amongst the members of the family, the document represented an arrangement bona
fide entered into, for settling existing or at any rate apprehended disputes,
and therefore, satisfied the tests of a family arrangement laid down in the
decisions earlier referred to. In this view Nanhku must be said to have
acquired a half share in the house in dispute under Ex. 1.
On the question of adverse possession by a
co-sharer against another co-sharer, the law is fairly well settled. Adverse
possession has to have the characteristics of adequacy, continuity and
exclusiveness. The onus to establish these characteristics is on the adverse
possessor. Accordingly, if a holder of title proves 195 that he too had been
exercising during the currency of his title various acts of possession, then,
the quality of those acts, even though they might not be sufficient to
constitute adverse possession as against another, may be abundantly sufficient
to destroy that adequacy and interrupt that exclusiveness and continuity which
is demanded from a person challenging by possession the title which he holds.
(see Kuthali Moothavar v. Paringati Kunharankutty(1). As between co-sharers,
the possession of one cosharer is in law the possession of all co-sharers.
Therefore, to constitute adverse possession, ouster of the non-possessing
cosharer has to be made out. As between them, therefore, there must be evidence
of open assertion of a hostile title coupled with exclusive possession and
enjoyment by one of them to the knowledge of the other. (see Lakshmi Reddy v.
Lakshmi Reddy(1) and also Mohammad Baqar v. Naim-un-Nisa Bibi.(3)) But, once
the possession of a co-sharer has become adverse as a result of ouster, a mere
assertion of a joint title by the dispossessed co-sharer would not interrupt
the running of adverse possession. He must actually and effectively break up
the exclusive possession of his co-sharer by reentry upon the property or by
resuming possession in such a manner as it was possible to do. (see Wuntakal
Yalpi Chanabasavana Gowd v. Y. Mahabaleshwarappa(4)). The mere fact that a
dispossessed co-sharer comes and stays for a few days as a guest is not
sufficient to interrupt the exclusiveness or the continuity of adverse
possession so as not to extinguish the rights of the dispossessed co-sharer.
(see Ammakannu Ammal v. Naravanaswami
On this issue, the parties led considerable
evidence, oral and documentary. On examination of that evidence, both the Trial
Court and the learned Single Judge gave a concurrent finding that even if the
possession by the respondents was adverse the appellant and his father had done
acts of possession at various intervals which were sufficient to interrupt both
the continuity and the exclusiveness of possession by the respondents. The
Division Bench, however, did not agree with the concurrent finding on a
reappraisal of the evidence. by it. It is not necessary for us to go into the
details of that evidence once again as certain facts clearly emerge out of the
evidence to prevent the extinguishment of Nanhku's and the appellant's title in
the property as a result of adverse possession by the respondents.
The principal facts which impressed the
Division Bench were (i) that though in the Demand Register of Patna
Municipality for 1915-16 (Ex. E) Sonadhari and Baijnath were the only (1)
 48 I. A. 395, 404.
(3) A. I. R. 1956 S. C. 548.
(5) A. I. R. 1923 Mad. 633.
(2)  S.C.R. 195, 202.
(4)  1 S. C. R. 131, 138.
196 persons named as occupiers, Nanhku had
not taken steps to include his name, (2) that all throughout it was Sonadhari
and Baijnath who paid the municipal taxes and Nanhku at no time paid his share
of the taxes or his share in the cost of repairs and laying of a water pipe in
the house, and (3) that though in his written statement in suit No. 33 of 1933
Baijnath claimed that he was in exclusive possession of the house as he had
paid Nanhku the proportionate price of his share, Nanhku did not take any steps
to vindicate his title until he and his son filed the present suit in 1949 by
which time the statutory period for adverse possession had already been
There was, however, evidence (if Nanhku and
his wife having stayed on different occasions in the house. But the Division
Bench was of the view that such acts of possession were only casual and did not
have the effect of interrupting the adverse possession of the respondents.
It needs to mention in this connection that
Nanhku was all along residing in a village and not in Patna, Therefore, his
acts of possession could only be when he came down from his village for some
work to Patna. In 1915-1916, when Sonadhari got his name and that of Baijnath
entered in the Demand Register (Ex. E) it might be that Nanhku did not know
that they had omitted his name. His half share in the house had been
acknowledged in Ex. I only recently by Amar Singh and Sonadhari as well. Relations
between the parties had not yet become unfriendly so as to make Nanbku suspect
that his name would be deliberately omitted in the municipal records or that
possession by Sonadhari and later on by Baijnath would be treated by them as
adverse. Baijnath, no doubt, was using the whole house, but so long as his
possession did not amount to ouster his possession would be that of both the
co-sharers. If Baijnath used the entire house, except when Nanhku stayed in it
during his occasional visits, Nanhku would naturally think that Baijnath should
pay the taxes. It was not the case of the respondents that Baijnath ever
demanded a share in the taxes or a share in the cost of repair and that such a
demand was refused by Nanhku. The High Court on these facts was not right in
observing that the title of Baijnath was already completed by adverse
possession long before Baijnath filed his written statement in 1933, as mere
use and enjoyment by him of the house, in the absence of such use amounting to
ouster, would not make it adverse possession.
It was for the first time that in the written
statement filed in 1933 Baijnath openly asserted his title to the whole of the
house. Since that assertion was accompanied by the fact that he was in
enjoyment of the whole house that act would amount 197 to ouster and adverse
possession would commence as from that date. Obviously, the earlier possession
could not be tacked on to the subsequent possession because the plea in that
very written statement was that Baijnath had paid off the price of Nanhku's
share thereby implied admitting Nankhu's title to a half share in the house.
Suit No. 33 of 1933, in which Baijnath filed the said written statement, was
settled in 1941. In the compromise application filed by Nankhu and Baijnath,
both of them stated that they were residing in that house. That assertion by
Nanhku was never disputed by Baijnath.
But apart from that assertion there was the
fact that Nanhku had no other place to reside in Patna. His case was that
whenever he visited Patna he used to stay in the house in dispute. Apart from
that assertion being natural, his evidence in that connection was corroborated
by Prabhu Narain, P.W. 4, an Advocate residing in the neighbourhood.
The Division Bench brushed aside his evidence
without giving any adequate reason although it bad been accepted by both the
Trial Court and the learned Single Judge. In the light of this evidence it is
not possible to say that all throughout the period from 1933 till the statutory
period for adverse possession was completed Nanhku had not stayed in the house
at any time. Respondent herself admitted that on suit No. 33 of 1933 being
settled, relations between Nanhku and Baijnath became friendly. If that be so,
it was natural that Nankhu would stay in the house whenever be visited Patna in
1941 and thereafter.
The Municipal Survey Khasra (Ex. 2), dated
December 19, 1933 mentions Nanhku along with Sonadhari and Baijnath as owners
of the house. Since this entry was made after Baijnath had made a hostile claim
to the entire house in the written statement filed in suit No. 33 of 1933 on
September 16, 1933, the entry must presumably have been made at the instance of
Nanhku. Such an act on his Part would be a clear assertion of his title in the
house. Under the Bihar and Orissa Municipal Survey Act, 1 of 1920, before such
khasra was finalised it had to be published and objections to it, if any, had
to be invited and disposed of. No objection was ever raised by Baijnath to the
It is surprising that Baijnath did not resist
the entry in the khasra although he had made a claim to the whole of the
property only three months before the date of the khasra.
That indicates that his claim *as merely a
counterblast against Nanhku's suit.
The view of the Division Bench that the
occasional putting up by Nanhku and his wife in the disputed house was merely
casual and was. in the nature of visits as guests of the respondents 198 cannot
be accepted. Such stay, however occasional, would. not be casual as it was
accompanied by an open assertion of his title as evidenced by the khasra (Ex.
It could not also be that he stayed in the
house as the guest of the respondents because after he filed the suit in 1933
and until it was settled, his relations with Baijnath could not have been
friendly. These acts on the part of Nanhku Were ample enough to interrupt the
continuity and the exclusiveness of possession by Baijnath.
The Division Bench also relied on a sale deed
(Ex. C) dated October 12, 1933, executed by Baijnath and Tarkeshwar in favour
of one Kamalnain Pandey. The High Court appears to have taken the view that,
the land sold under Ex. C appertained to for was part of the land on which Amar
Singh had put up the disputed house, and that although Baijnath and Tarkeshwar
sold part of that land, no objection was taken at any time to such a sale by
Nanhku. The recitals in Ex. C show that the land, sold under Ex. C. was jointly
purchased on January 20, 1898 by. Amar Singh and one Gajadhar Singh for
construction of a house thereon. Amar Singh had a share in the said land to the
extent of I katha 15 dhurs while his c0-purchaser had a share of 2 kathas 15
dhurs. The recitals further show that Amar Singh's original intention in
purchasing the land was to build a house thereon. He appears to have given up
that idea as till this sale took place the land was lying waste and unutilised.
It is important to note that this sale was for I katha 10 dhurs, out of 1 katha
15 dhurs which was the share of Amar Singh. This land obviously could not be
the land on which the house in dispute was built, for, if that was so, Baijnath
could not have ,sold away I katha 10 dhurs out of the total extent of katha 15
dhurs to which Amar Singh was entitled. The house could not have stood on 5
Therefore, the land sold under Ex. C was a
land different from the one on which the disputed house was situate. This
conclusion is also borne out by the description of the sold land in the
schedule to Ex. C where its northern boundary is described as follows:
"North : Parti (waste) land thereafter
the house of us, the executants." This description shows that between the
disputed house and the land sold under Ex. C there was to the north of it some
waste .land. The land sold under Ex. C being different land, the High Court was
not right in relying on that sale deed to prove adverse possession on the
ground at Nanhku never took objection to the said sale. He could not, as this
land had nothing to do with the house in dispute.
Besides the evidence discussed above, there
was other evidence. But the incidents therein described were irrelevant on the
question of adverse possession as they took 199 place in 1948 and thereafter,
that is to say, a long time after title by adverse possession would have been
completed if such adverse possession were to be accepted as established. In
view of the evidence discussed above the Division Beach was not justified in
interfering with the finding of fact concurrently given by the Trial Court and
the learned Single Judge that the adverse, possession by Baijnath which
commenced from 1933 was sufficiently interrupted by acts of possession by
Nanhku, and therefore, his title was not extinguished by adverse possession.
In the view we take on both the questions,
the appeal must be allowed and the judgment and decree of the Division Bench
must be set aside and the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court and
upheld by the learned Single Judge must be restored. The respondents will pay
to the appellant his costs all throughout.
G.C. Appeal allowed.