Raja Ram Vs. Jai Prakash Singh and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (11 Sep 2019)
‘Undue influence’ in execution of a contract cannot be inferred merely because a family member was looking after his family elder
In present matter, the Plaintiff and Defendant No. 2 are brothers. Defendant No. 1 was the wife of Defendant No. 2. Respondents Nos. 1 to 3 are sons of deceased Defendant No. 1. The Plaintiffs alleged that, the original Defendants obtained the sale deed dated 2nd March, 1970 from their father in favour of Defendant No. 1, fraudulently, by deceit and undue influence because of old age and infirmity of the deceased and who was living with the Defendants. The suit was dismissed. The appellate court allowed the appeal holding that, the Defendants had failed to discharge their burden of being in a position to dominate the will of the deceased by undue influence. The High Court reversed the order of the first appellate Court and restored the dismissal of the suit.
The deceased on account of his advanced age may have been old and infirm with a deteriorating eye sight, and unable to move freely. There is no credible evidence that, he was bed ridden. Hardness of hearing by old age cannot be equated with deafness. The Plaintiff, despite being the son of the deceased, except for bald statement in the plaint, has not led any evidence in support of his averments. It is an undisputed fact that, the deceased appeared before the sub-registrar for registration. It demolishes the entire case of the Plaintiff that the deceased was bed ridden.
The sale deed being a registered instrument, there shall be a presumption in favour of the Defendants. The onus for rebuttal lay on the Plaintiff which he failed to discharge. Notwithstanding the finding of enmity between PW-2 and PW-3 with original Defendant No. 2, the First Appellate Court erred in relying upon these two witnesses by holding that, they were independent witnesses. DW-1, though related was a witness to the sale deed. His evidence in support of the events before the sub-registrar therefore has to be accepted. The Plaintiff could have led evidence in rebuttal of the sub-registrar but he did not do so.
The pleadings in the plaint are completely bereft of any details or circumstances with regard to the nature, manner or kind of undue influence exercised by the original Defendants over the deceased. A mere bald statement has been made attributed to the infirmity of the deceased. The deceased was not completely physically and mentally incapacitated. There can be no doubt that, the original Defendants were in a fiduciary relationship with the deceased. Their conduct in looking after the deceased and his wife in old age may have influenced the thinking of the deceased. But that per se cannot lead to the only irresistible conclusion that, the original Defendants were therefore in a position to dominate the will of the deceased or that the sale deed executed was unconscionable. The onus would shift upon the original Defendants under Section 16 of the Contract Act, 1872 read with Section 111 of the Evidence Act, 1872 as held in Anil Rishi v. Gurbaksh Singh, only after the Plaintiff would have established a prima facie case.
In Subhas Chandra Das Mushib v. Ganga Prosad Das Mushib and Ors. , it was further observed that there was no presumption of imposition merely because a donor was old and weak. Mere close relation also was insufficient to presume undue influence.
The first appellate Court completely erred in appreciation of the facts and evidence in the case. The primary ingredients of the law need to be first established by proper pleading supported by relevant evidence. Cases cannot be decided on assumptions or presumptions. On a consideration of the entirety of the matter, there is no reason to interfere with the concurrent findings arrived at by two Courts. The appeal is dismissed.
Relevant : Anil Rishi v. Gurbaksh Singh MANU/SC/8133/2006; Subhas Chandra Das Mushib v. Ganga Prosad Das Mushib and Ors. MANU/SC/0069/1966
Tags : SALE DEED EXECUTION UNDUE INFLUENCE