Every Hindu family is legally presumed to be joint in food worship and estate as per settled principle of Hindu law – Supreme Court
ABCAUS Case Law Citation:
ABCAUS 2062 (2017) (09) SC
The sole dispute was between the members of one Hindu family, i.e., uncle, aunt and nephews which pertained to ownership and partition of agricultural lands. The present appeal was filed by the plaintiffs against the judgment passed by the High Court of Karnataka affirming the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court. The appellants and the respondents in the present appeal were the plaintiffs and the defendants respectively in the related civil suit.
Brief Facts of the Case:
The head of a Hindu family owned several acres of agricultural land. He died intestate. The dispute began between the grand sons and their uncle and aunt. The disputes were regarding ownership and extent of the shares held by each of them in the agricultural lands.
A civil suit was filed by the grand sons seeking declaration in relation to the suit properties that those be declared as plaintiffs’ self-acquired properties. Also with respect to other properties, it was alleged that those were ancestral and hence the plaintiffs had 4/9th share in them as members of the family. Partition was sought on the ground that no partition had taken place by meets and bound amongst the family members.
The respondents (defendants) denied the plaintiffs’ claim and averred inter alia that the entire suit properties were ancestral properties. It was alleged that oral partition had taken place amongst the family members in relation to the entire suit properties (Schedule ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’), pursuant to which all family members and all were placed in possession of their respective shares. It was alleged that the partition was acted upon by all the family members including the plaintiffs’ father without any objection from any member.
The Trial Court dismissed the suit. With respect to properties claimed as self-acquired, it was held that the plaintiffs failed to prove them to be their. So far as the other properties, it was held that though they were ancestral but were partitioned long back pursuant to which, the plaintiffs through their father got their respective shares including other members.
The High Court also dismissed the appeal and affirmed the judgment/decree of the Trial Court.
Observations made by the Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court stated that it is a settled principle of law that the initial burden is always on the plaintiff to prove his case by proper pleading and adequate evidence (oral and documentary) in support thereof.
It was observed that the plaintiffs could not prove with any documentary evidence that said properties were their self-acquired properties and that the partition did not take place in respect of other properties and it continued to remain ancestral in the hands of family members. On the other hand, the defendants were able to prove that the partition took place and was acted upon.
The Supreme Court opined that in order to prove that the said properties were their self-acquired properties, the plaintiffs could have adduced the best evidence in the form of a sale-deed showing their names as purchasers of the said properties and also could have adduced evidence of payment of sale consideration made by them to the vendee. It was, however, not done. Not only that, the plaintiffs also failed to adduce any other kind of documentary evidence to prove their self-acquisition of the properties nor they were able to prove the source of its acquisition.
The Supreme Court observed that it is a settled principle of Hindu law that there lies a legal presumption that every Hindu family is joint in food, worship and estate and in the absence of any proof of division, such legal presumption continues to operate in the family. The burden, therefore, lies upon the member who after admitting the existence of jointness in the family properties asserts his claim that some properties out of entire lot of ancestral properties are his self-acquired property.
The Supreme Court opined that it was obligatory upon the plaintiffs to have proved that despite existence of jointness in the family, the claimed properties were not part of ancestral properties but were their self-acquired properties. But the plaintiffs failed to prove this material fact for want of any evidence.
The Supreme Court upheld the concurrent findings of the High Court and the Trial Court as based on proper appreciation of oral evidence. The appeal was dismissed.