While the Signing of an Instrument by both the Parties is Presumptive of the Fact that both of them have executed it, yet this is Rebuttable Presumption: Supreme Court

while the signing of an instrument by both the parties is presumptive of the fact that both of them have executed it, yet this is rebuttable presumption

The Supreme Court ruled that while the signing of an instrument by both the parties is presumptive of the fact that both of them have executed it, yet this is rebuttable presumption.

Background 

At the heart of the dispute is a certain piece of land, situated at 110-B, Civil Lines, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, which was owned by one C P Singh. During his lifetime, he had alienated approximately 415 square yards of the land to four distinct persons.

After his death, the appellant, who is his spouse, together with her two daughters, namely Nita Singh and Neelam Singh, and son, Pradeep Singh, became joint owners of the property. A power of attorney was executed on 17 April 2010 in favour of the appellant by her daughters and son, which is stated to have been cancelled on 27 September 2011.  

The appellant further claimed that the boundaries which were set out in the deed were erroneous and did not clearly reflect what was to be sold. Further, the second respondent had manipulated the actual land area by also including within it the appellant‘s house, where she was residing for over five decades, though it was not her intention to alienate it. The sale deed itself was incomplete, but the second respondent forcibly made her sign it on the pretext of a rush to file the sale deed within time for registration.

Arguments 

Senior Advocate Pradeep Kant, submitted that an appeal under Section 72 of the Registration Act lies to the Registrar against an order of the Sub-Registrar refusing to admit a document to registration except where the refusal is made on the ground of denial of execution. 

He contended that the execution of the sale deed had been denied by the appellant and the Sub-Registrar refused registration on that ground under Section 35(3)(a). Hence, no appeal would be maintainable under Section 72. 

Senior Advocate V K Shukla, appearing on behalf of the second respondent submitted that the appellant has admitted to the execution of the sale deed both in her objections before the Sub-Registrar and in the FIR, where the appellant admits that the sale deed was signed by her. If an instrument is signed by both the parties, it is presumptive of the fact that both of them have executed it, though the presumption is rebuttable. 

He argued that the sale deed having been signed by the parties and attested by the two witnesses, it has to be regarded as having been validly executed. 

Decision 

The three judge bench of Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Justice A S Bopanna and Justice Bela M Trivedi viewed that the Court in its earlier judgment held that when the defendant had not disputed in his written statement that the lease had been validly made, it was not be open to him to raise a contention subsequently that the instrument was void since it had not been executed both by the lessor and the lessee. The decree for eviction was thus upheld. However, as a general principle, the above extract from the decision of the Court, though in a different statutory context, emphasises that while the signing of an instrument by both the parties is presumptive of the fact that both of them have executed it, yet this is rebuttable presumption.  

The court held  that it cannot decide on the merits of the dispute at this stage, since the Registrar clearly exceeded his jurisdiction by adjudicating on the issue of fraud and undue influence.

The court said that the Registrar purported to exercise the powers conferred under Section 74 and arrived at a finding that the sale deed had been duly signed by the appellant and was therefore liable to be registered. However, the objections of the appellant raised serious issues of a triable nature which could only have been addressed before and adjudicated upon by a court of competent civil jurisdiction.

The court noted that a suit for specific performance has been instituted by the second respondent, resulting in a decree for specific performance and as regards the subject matter of the sale deed, the second respondent has instituted a suit for possession before the Civil Judge, Senior Division Fast Track Court, where certain proceedings are pending. 

The court in that matter opined that the Registrar in the present case acted contrary to law by directing the sale deed to be registered. 

The court further noted that the High Court held that having found in the course of the enquiry that the sale deed was duly prepared by a scribe, that the attesting witness had stated that the sale deed was signed by the appellant and she also placed her fingerprints in their presence, it was open to the Registrar to direct registration in spite of a denial of its execution by the appellant. 

The court stated that in doing so, the Single Judge of the High Court has, with respect, conflated the mere signing of the sale deed with its execution. For the reasons mentioned earlier in this judgment, such an approach is completely erroneous and cannot be upheld.

The court allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned judgment and order of the Single Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad in the appellant‘s writ petition. 

The court clarified that the present judgment shall not affect any of the civil/criminal proceedings that are pending in respect of the subject matter of the transaction. 

Case title: Veena Singh (Dead) Through LR v/s The District Registrar/Additional Collector (F/R) and Anr. 

Citation: Civil Appeal No. 2929 of 2022

Click here to read the Order/Judgment

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