S. KULDEEP SINGH & ANR. VERSUS S. PRITHPAL SINGH

S. KULDEEP SINGH & ANR. VERSUS S. PRITHPAL SINGH

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



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[REPORTABLE]
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 81_OF 2011
S. KULDEEP SINGH & ANR. APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
S. PRITHPAL SINGH RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
Hrishikesh Roy, J.
1. The present appeal is against the judgment and
order dated 28.10.2009 in LPA No.174/2008 where under
the Division Bench of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir
at Srinagar upheld the decree in favour of the
respondent-plaintiff rendered on 31.07.2003 by the
learned District Judge, Anantnag. The suit was filed
seeking declaration and possession in respect of the
land measuring 11 Kanals and 15 marlas falling within
the survey nos.1829 and 1838 situated at Ranbirpora,
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Anantnag. The appellants are the natural son and
daughter of late S. Sucha Singh whereas the
respondent/plaintiff S. Prithpal Singh claimed to be
the adopted son of Sucha Singh.
2. In the suit, Prithpal Singh as the plaintiff
claimed that he received gifts of land in his favour
from Sucha Singh. But although the suit schedule
properties were more, the plaintiff confined his relief
to the land measuring 11 kanals and 15 marlas mentioned
above and not any other lands of his adoptive father
Sucha Singh. In the plaint, Prithpal Singh enclosed
certified copy of a compromise deed in between himself
and one Abdul Jalil Khan and the claim of the plaintiff
centers around the said compromise deed dated
18.12.1975. The terms of the compromise being relevant
are extracted hereinbelow:
“COMPROMISE PARTIES
Sir, compromise is submitted as under:-
1. That in the case entitiled above the
parties have amicably compromised as under;
out of Survey No. 1829 = Four kanals and
five marlas and out of Survey No. 1835 Min
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one Kanal fifteen marlas in total six kanals
including trees and houses situated at
Ranbirpora Tehsil Anantnag will remain under
the ownership of the Appellant in
consideration of the Appellant under Survey
No. 1829 = 3 Kanals 15 marlas, 1838 min 8
Kanals in total = 11 kanals 15 marlas
including trees situated at village
Ranbirpora Tehsil Anantnag gives up his
tenancy rights and hands over its possession
to the Respondent who will be considered its
owner, no dispute remains in future.
2. That the parties will bear their own
costs of litigation, in light of compromise
the land be recorded in the name of parties
in the Revenue Registers.
3. It is prayed the compromise be accepted
and the appeal decided on the condition
mentioned that will do justice.
Respondent The Parties
Accepted the compromise Appellant
Left Thumb impression of Abdul jalil
Pritpal Singh Thumb Impression
 I also accept the
Compromise Sardar Sacha
Singh S/o Amar Singh
 Ranibirpora Anantnag
Father of Respondent
 Thumb Impression.”

3. As can be seen Sardar Sucha Singh appended his
thumb impression to the above compromise deed with the
expression “I also accept the compromise”. The Deputy
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Commissioner, Anantnag (“D.C” for short) thereafter
passed an order on 24.12.1975 on the File No.168/06
recording the presence of both parties and the
settlement made amongst them whereunder the tenant
Abdul Jalil Khan gave up his tenancy rights over
certain parcels of land and for the earlier noted 11
kanals and 15 marlas including the trees situated on
the said parcel at village Ranbirpora, the respondent
was accepted to be the owner by the tenant.
Consequential directions were accordingly issued by the
D.C for entering the compromise in the revenue records
and as such the order dated 24.08.1974 by the Circle
Officer regarding correction of tenancy was disposed of
in light of the compromise amongst both parties.
4. Parallelly, during the aforesaid proceedings, on
1.5.1972 the Jammu & Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act, 1972
(hereinafter referred to as, “the 1972 Act”) came into
force under which new rights and obligations were
created and jurisdiction was conferred on the competent
authority for the purpose of correcting the revenue
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records. Section 2 (6) of this Act gave a wide
interpretation to the term “owner” for the purposes of
revenue records and included “inferior owners”, and
those claiming through the proprietor. Similarly,
under Section 2(7), “personal cultivation” by a person
also included cultivation by owner and his adopted son.
5. On the strength of Section 50 of 1972 Act, the
Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Rules, 1973 (for
short, “the 1973 Rules”) were notified. Rule 5 provided
that the Khasra Girdwari Register for Kharif 1971 upon
due verification and authentication, was to be the
record of personal cultivation of lands as on 1.9.1971
(cutoff date). The Circle Officers under Rule 7 were
required to visit each village within their
jurisdiction to verify, amend, and authenticate entries
for Kharif Register Girdwari 1971. Rule 15 provided
the procedure for amendment of “return” or for
collecting information for filing revenue entries under
Rule 11. This shows that after the cutoff date of
1.9.1971, the Circle Officers were given new
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responsibility for verifying and compiling land revenue
entries and the procedure for amending entries in case
of errors or disputes, were also prescribed.
6. At that stage, Abdul Jalil Khan claiming tenancy
rights on the subject land applied for correction of
tenancy to the Circle Officer and exercising the power
for correction of tenancy, the Circle Officer on
24.8.1974 ordered the application made by the tenant
Abdul Jalil Khan. The tenant Abdul Jalil Khan being
aggrieved preferred appeal before the DC under the 1972
Act but in the meantime on 25.3.1975, the Jammu &
Kashmir Agrarian Reforms (Suspension of Operations
Act), 1975 (hereinafter “the Suspension Act, 1975”) was
notified. The suspension was to be in effect initially
till 19.12.1975 but was extended later to 30.3.1976.
These dates are significant because the compromise
dated 18.12.1975 was entered while certain provisions
of 1972 Act remained inoperative because of the
Suspension Act, 1975.
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7. On 1.6.1978 the new Jammu & Kashmir Agrarian
Reforms Act, 1976 (hereinafter referred to as, “the
1976 Act”) came into force with effect from 13.07.1978,
replacing the suspended Act of 1972.
8. In course of verifying and correcting the entries
in terms of the order passed by the Collector on
24.12.1975 (during the period while the Act of 1972 was
under suspension) inquiries were conducted and the
competent officer attested mutation no.4133 whereby the
land with trees to the extent of 11 Kanals and 15
Marlas, were re-recorded in the name of late S. Sucha
Singh. The appellants, who are the natural son and
daughter of the land owner, claimed that since that
date till today, they are in possession of the land
although in the interregnum, their father S. Sucha
Singh died.
9. The civil Suit by the respondent no.1 was initially
instituted before the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, for
declaration and possession of land and it was claimed
in the Suit by the adopted son that the appellants have
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forcibly dispossessed him from the land claimed in the
Suit. The respondent has founded his claim over Sucha
Singh’s land on the basis of the compromise dated
18.12.1975 and the subsequent order recording the
compromise passed by the DC on 24.12.1975. Although the
respondent claimed to be adopted son of Sucha Singh
(appellants’ father), similar assertion was not made on
such basis for other properties of Sucha Singh. The
Suit filed before the High Court was transferred in
1995 to the Court of the District Judge, Anantnag where
the appellants as the defendant nos.1 and 2 filed their
written statement stating, inter alia, that the
compromise and the order passed thereon by the D.C on
24.12.1975, was without jurisdiction and the same do
not confer any right on the plaintiff. On the given-up
claim based on the gift executed by late Sucha Singh,
the stand of the appellants/defendants was that the
documents were revoked by their father during his life
time and the revocation deed executed in September,
1975 was registered on 22.1.1976. Notably the
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amendments sought by the plaintiff to the plaint was
not pressed/rejected and the relief in the suit was
confined to 11 Kanals and 15 Marlas of land based on
the compromise dated 18.12.1975 and the Deputy
Commissioner’s order dated 24.12.1975.
10. The learned District Judge took note of the
following pedigree table of the parties:
S. Sucha Singh
 Mrs. Raj Kaur (Dfdt. 2) Mrs. Isher Kaur
 (2nd wife) (1st
 wife)
 Mrs. Shant Kaur (Dfdt.5)
Prethipal Krishna Kaur Nasib Kuar Kuldeeps Singh
Singh (Plntf.) Dfdt. 3 Dfdt. 4 Contesting Dfdt. 1
(Adopted Son)
 (1) (2) (3) (4)

11. Framing several issues on the basis of the
pleadings of the parties, the learned Judge after
considering the materials on record found in favour of
the plaintiff that he is the owner of 11 Kanals and 15
Marlas in Survey Nos. 1829 and 1838. This finding was
based primarily on the compromise dated 18.12.1975
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between the plaintiff and Abdul Jalil Khan and
accordingly a decree for possession of land was passed
in favour of the plaintiff-respondent and against the
defendants-appellants.
12. The Civil First Appeal No.117 of 2003 was then
filed by the appellants and likewise Cross Appeal No.72
of 2004 was filed by the respondent assailing the
District Judge order dated 31.7.2003 but the learned
Single Judge under his 24.9.2008 common order,
dismissed both appeals and thereby the decree/order
dated 31.7.2003 came to be upheld.
13. Thereafter the appellants preferred the LPA No.174
of 2008 and specifically questioned the jurisdiction of
the DC to pass the 24.12.1975 order by contending that
the compromise dated 18.12.1975 was a nullity.
According to the appellants, their father late Sucha
Singh through whom the plaintiff claims, was the owner
of the subject land and unless the land owner
transferred the land in favour of the plaintiff,
through a valid registered instrument, the plaintiff
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can have no claim over the subject land. It was
specifically contended that under Section 49 of the
Registration Act, 1908 and Section 138 of the Jammu &
Kashmir Transfer of Property Act, 1920 which are
applicable to the State, claim for title or of
possession of immoveable property without a registered
instrument, cannot be entertained. Their say was that
there is nothing on record that Sucha Singh had
transferred any land to the plaintiff through a valid
instrument. On the compromise, which was the basis for
plaintiff’s claim, the appellants projected that in
terms of Section 3 of the Suspension Act, 1975, the
operation of the concerned provisions of the 1972 Act
and all proceedings thereunder, remained in suspension
until 30.3.1976 and therefore the 18.12.1975 compromise
and the DC’s order dated 24.12.1975 for correction of
revenue records based on the compromise are non-est as
the same was passed while the 1972 Act was under
suspension.
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14. Having considered the rival projections, the High
Court observed that the only question which requires
determination in the appeal is, what is the effect of
the compromise. To give the answer, the Court noted
that the certified copy of the compromise does not
disclose that the same was in connection with a
proceeding initiated for resumption of land but noted
that the same related to correction of revenue records.
According to the Court the plaintiff being an Army
personnel, was in a better position to resume the land
which was under the tenancy of Abdul Jalil Khan and
therefore the plaintiff was authorized to launch the
proceeding and enter into compromise with the tenant
Abdul Jalil Khan. The Division Bench also noted that
the owner of the land Sucha Singh had acknowledged the
compromise deed which recorded the respective ownership
of the tenant Abdul Jalil Khan and the plaintiff, for
the concerned portions of the land of Sucha Singh. On
the issue of the transfer of land being without a
registered document, the Court observed that the
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instrument of compromise where a tenant accepts that
his landlord is in possession of certain land over
which the tenant makes no claim and surrenders his
tenancy, would not require registration. The
plaintiff’s right on the concerned land is also
recognized by the Sucha Singh through his endorsement.
Moreover, since the appellants had not taken steps to
appropriately challenge the 18.12.1975 compromise
within the period of limitation, the title of the
plaintiff stood perfected. The appeal accordingly was
dismissed under the impugned judgment.
15. We have heard Mr. Huzefa A. Ahmadi, learned Senior
Counsel appearing for the appellants. Mr. S.N.Bhat,
learned Senior Counsel appears for the respondent
(plaintiff).
16.1 Explaining the implications of the thumb
impression of late Sucha Singh on the compromise deed,
Mr. Ahmadi, learned Senior Counsel submits that the
same related only to the internal arrangement regarding
the tenancy of Jalil Khan and does not in any way
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transfer any right of ownership to the plaintiff.
According to the counsel the endorsement “I accept the
compromise” does not in any manner suggest that Sucha
Singh had intended to confer title of his land to the
plaintiff.
16.2 Focusing on the appellants’ challenge to the
compromise, Mr. Ahmadi, learned Senior Counsel submits
that the compromise was entered in a proceeding for
correction of revenue records and the same must
therefore be understood in that context. Adverting to
the wide definition of “owner” and “personal
cultivation” under Section 2 (6) and Section 2 (7)
respectively under the 1972 Act, it is argued that the
definition is wide and includes persons claiming
through the legal owner and also “adopted sons” of the
owner. Accordingly, it is argued that acceptance of the
plaintiff as an owner, does not imply that Sucha Singh
had intended to transfer his ownership right in favour
of the plaintiff. Projecting the limited power of the
Circle Officer which was confined to compiling and
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correcting revenue records as they existed on the
cutoff date 1.9.1971, it is submitted that the
compromise in the revenue correction proceedings under
Chapter III of the Rules, can only relate to revenue
records and to possession of land in capacity as
personal cultivator. It is therefore argued that the
compromise cannot and does not confer title on the
plaintiff.
16.3 Highlighting the requirement of mandatory
registration under Section 17 of the Registration Act,
1977, it is next argued that the compromise does not
comply with the mandate of law and since title is
claimed by the plaintiff only on the strength of
compromise, the same could not have been granted. The
learned senior counsel has relied on Bhoop Singh v. Ram
Singh Major1 to argue that the law requires registration
of compromise order which creates rights, title or
interest in immovable property. The ratio in K.
Raghunandan & Ors. v. Ali Hussain Sabir & Ors.2 is also
1 (1995) 5 SCC 709
2 (2008) 13 SCC 102
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cited by the counsel to point out that the Court has
held that since the plaintiff claims title from the
compromise deed, as distinguished from recognition of
pre-existing rights, the same would necessarily require
registration. The judgment in Phool Patti v. Ram Singh3
is also pressed home by the counsel to buttress his
argument. Appellants question how legal title can be
secured on the strength of the compromise arrived at in
the proceedings initiated by the tenant Jalil Khan
which arose from a change in the entry in the records,
during the process of verification under the 1972 Act.
The document in question in any case is required to be
registered, in terms of Section 49 of the Registration
Act and Section 138 of the Jammu & Kashmir Transfer of
Property Act and the submission of Mr. Ahmadi is that
without such registration, the title rights for the
plaintiff do not get crystalized.
16.4 Adverting to the provisions of Section 17 (2)
(vi) of the Registration Act,1977 as applicable to the
3 (2015) 3 SCC 465
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State of Jammu & Kashmir, it is next argued that the
DC’s order dated 24.12.1975 was required to be
registered as the compromise was in consequence of
revenue proceeding and not by a competent Court. Since
the DC’s order was based on the compromise which also
dealt with 6 Kanals land forming part of Survey
Nos.1829 and 1838 which was declared in favour of the
tenant Jalil Khan, it is argued by Mr. Ahmadi that
since the suit of the plaintiff is not restricted only
to the 11 Kanals and 15 Marlas claimed by him, the DC’s
order endorsing the compromise would require
registration, in order to legally recognize plaintiff’s
title, on the strength of these two documents.
16.5 According to the appellants, the DC’s order is of
no legal effect as the same was passed while the 1972
Act was under suspension and during that period the
authority lacked jurisdiction to exercise powers under
the 1972 Act. The 1972 Act remained under suspension
during 25.3.1975 to 30.3.1976 and it is during this
phase, the 18.12.1975 compromise was re-recorded. As
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such the compromise and the DC’s 24.12.1975 order were
at a time when the suspended Act was operating.
Therefore, it is argued that the DC/Collector lacked
jurisdiction and authority to entertain the appeal. In
such a situation, the consent of the parties to the lis
can have no implication as the Authority lacked
jurisdiction by virtue of suspension of the 1972 Act.
In support of his contention Mr. Ahmadi, learned Senior
Counsel relied on Ajudh Raj v. Moti4,
“5. The principle for deciding the question
of limitation in a suit filed after an adverse
order under a Special Act is well settled. If
the order impugned in the suit is such that it
has to be set aside before any relief can be
granted to the plaintiff the provisions of
Article 100 will be attracted and if no
particular article of the Limitation Act is
applicable the suit must be governed by the
residuary Article 113, prescribing a period of
three years. Therefore, in a suit for title to
an immovable property which has been the
subject matter of a proceeding under a Special
Act if an adverse order comes in the way of
the success of the plaintiff, he must get it
cleared before proceeding further. On the
other hand if the order has been passed
without jurisdiction, the same can be ignored
as nullity, that is, non-existent in the eye
of law and it is not necessary to set it
4 (1991) 3 SCC 136
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aside; and such a suit will be covered by
Article 65. In the present case the
controversial facts have been decided in
favour of the plaintiff-appellant and the
findings were not challenged before the High
Court. The position, thus, is that the
plaintiff was the owner in cultivating
possession of the land and the defendant Moti
was merely a labourer without any right of a
tenant or a sub-tenant. The question is as to
whether in this background it is necessary to
set aside the order passed in favour of the
respondent under Section 27(4) of the Act
before the suit can be decreed or whether the
plaintiff can get a decree ignoring the said
order as void, in which case the suit
undoubtedly will be governed by Article 65.”
The learned senior counsel further relied on
Mohammad Ansari v. Union of India & Ors5.,
“35. At this stage, it is necessary to
recapitulate that during the pendency of the
matter before the High Court, the Central
Administrative Tribunal had passed the final
order on 5-11-2012 in favour of the appellant.
Be that as it may, the Tribunal does not have
the jurisdiction to deal with an issue of
upgradation or the nature of lis raised by the
appellant before it. In the absence of lack of
inherent jurisdiction to deal with the issue,
the said judgment is a nullity. It has no
existence in law. It is well settled in law
that the judgment passed is a nullity if it is
passed by a court having no inherent
jurisdiction. The decree to be called a
5 (2017) 3 SCC 740
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nullity is to be understood in the sense that
it is ultra vires the powers of the court
passing the decree and not merely voidable
decree. (See Hiralal Moolchand Doshi v. Barot
Raman Lal Ranchhoddas [Hiralal Moolchand
Doshi v. Barot Raman Lal Ranchhoddas, (1993) 2
SCC 458].”
16.6 The appellants next contend that the subject
matter of the compromise is Orchard land which, under
Section 2(4) of the 1972 Act, stood excluded from the
definition of land and therefore neither the tenant
Jalil Khan nor the plaintiff, could claim any title
over such Orchard land. It is therefore argued that
the 1972 Act did not allow for any private agreements
in furtherance of which, any compromise could be
entered.
16.7 On the finding against the defendants that they
had not challenged the compromise and therefore the
rights over the land for the plaintiff stood
crystalized is contended to be an untenable position of
law. The decree according to the appellants is a
legal nullity as the authority lacked jurisdiction to
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pass any such order. It is therefore argued that the
same can be set aside even in collateral proceedings
and the compromise would not obliterate any lawful
right of the landowner Sucha Singh, over his own land.
17.1 Per contra, Mr. S.N. Bhat, the learned Senior
Counsel for the respondent (plaintiff) would firstly
submit that since the appeal arises out of the
concurrent findings of three courts which decreed the
suit declaring title and possession in favour of the
plaintiff, this Court in exercising power under Article
136, should not upset those findings. Furthermore, in
the facts of the present case, this Court should not
interfere. It is submitted that the respondent as
adopted son would get only 11 Kanals & 15 Marlas. (The
appellant has a case that respondent had other
properties). This in turn is disputed by the
respondent.
17.2 According to the respondent, the right over the
land in question is declared on the basis of the
18.12.1975 compromise and the DC’s endorsement and
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since Sucha Singh the landowner had appended his thumb
impression on the compromise, the ownership of the
plaintiff is acknowledged. Thus, plaintiff’s title was
rightly protected by the courts. According to Mr.
Bhat, the parties to the transaction clearly understood
the purport of the compromise and as such confusion
must not be created on the issue by adverting to the
definition of “owner” under the 1972 Act. It is
further submitted that the Sucha Singh by making his
endorsement on the compromise obviously intended to
give and recognize the right of the plaintiff over the
subject land and his act cannot be seen through the
definition of “owner” under the 1972 Act.
17.3 On the issue of DC’s order dated 24.12.1975 being
non est and void for having been passed during the
operation of Suspension Act, 1975, the respondent
argues that such a contention was raised for the first
time in the LPA before the Division Bench of the High
Court and since that issue was not raised by the
defendants either before the Trial Court or the First
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Appellate Court, the Division Bench rightly held that
the appellants are disentitled to raise such
contention. It is further pointed out that the
Suspension Act, 1975 did not suspend all proceedings
under the 1972 Act in its entirety and certain
proceedings were kept alive under Section 4 of the
Suspension Act, 1975. Therefore, unless the exact
nature of the proceedings initiated before the Circle
Officer is brought forth, it cannot be said that
Suspended Act, 1975 applies to the compromise and the
proceedings before the Deputy Commissioner. Since great
prejudice was caused to the respondent-plaintiff by
permitting the appellants to raise such contention for
the first time in the LPA proceedings, Mr. Bhat,
learned senior counsel places reliance on Sitabai &
Anr. v. Ramachandra6 and Om Prakash & Ors. v. R.K.
Kalra7.
17.4 The plea of estoppel against the appellants is
also pressed home by the senior counsel by projecting
6 AIR 1970 343
7 (1988) 4 SCC 705
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that the admission of ownership of the respondentplaintiff was made by Sucha Singh in the compromise and
the same being accepted by the DC, the appellants as
the legal heirs of Sucha Singh are estopped from
raising such contention.
17.5 According to Mr. Bhat, the appellants are wrong in
saying that the compromise and the DC’s order would
require registration. The counsel further argues that
the transaction is essentially within the family of
Sucha Singh and the respondent herein being the adopted
son of Sucha Singh, the transaction should be construed
as a family transaction, and it would be an exception
to the principles governing transaction amongst
strangers. Therefore, placing reliance on Kale and
others vs. Deputy Director of Consolidation and others8,
Ram Charan Das vs. Girija Nandini Devi and others9,
Maturi Pullaiah and another vs. Maturi Narasimham and
others10, Mr. Bhat argues that the principles of
estoppel and equity will apply against the appellant on
8 (1976) 3 SCC 119
9 AIR 1966 SC 323
10 AIR 1966 SC 1836
Page 25 of 39
their insistence of formalities like registration for
what is nothing but a family arrangement. In order to
explain the principles of estoppel in transactions
involving families, Mr. Bhat relies on K. C. Kappor vs.
Smt. Radhika Devi (dead) by Lrs. and others11, Mehaboob
Sahab vs. Syed Ismail and others12, Bhagwan Krishan
Gupta (d) vs. Prabha Gupta and others13, Ganeshi (Dead)
Through Lrs. and others vs. Ashok and Another14 and
Ajambi (Dead) by legal representative vs. Roshanbi and
others15.
Findings
A. Whether the compromise dated 18.12.1975 confers
title?
18. In order to adjudicate the above issue, we need to
look at the compromise in its intent and functioning.
The compromise between the Plaintiff and Abdul Jalil
Khan (tenant) was recorded in a proceeding for
11 (1981) 4 SCC 487
12 (1995) 3 SCC 693
13 (2009) 11 SCC 33
14 (2011) 15 SCC 417
15 (2017) 11 SCC 544
Page 26 of 39
correction of revenue records under the 1972 Act and
the Rules. There, the Plaintiff was admitted to be the
owner and in possession of land which he personally
cultivated. Sucha Singh with his thumb impression
endorsed the compromise deed. On this the defendants
have contended that the said statement has to be read
in the context in which it was made and how the parties
to the transaction understood the same. The plaintiff
says that his adoptive father Sucha Singh intended to
confer title on the Plaintiff and Sucha Singh would not
have looked into the definition of “owner” under the
1972 Act, before making the endorsement on the
compromise. On this, it cannot be ignored that the
parties effectuated the transaction in a proceeding
under the 1972 Act. Thus, the compromise exists within
the four corners of the 1972 Act, and must therefore be
read by applying the statutory provisions.
19. Proceeding further, the definitions of ‘owner’ and
‘personal cultivation’ under Ss. 2(6) and (7)
respectively of the 1972 Act are expansive. The
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definition of owner is an inclusive one. It includes
not only the legal owner/proprietor, but also person
claiming through the legal owner. Specifically, the
‘adopted sons’ of the owner. Hence, the purpose of the
compromise decree in the correction proceedings under
Chapter III of the Rules pertain only to revenue
entries, and the possession of land in capacity of a
personal cultivator. This could hardly confer any
lawful title on the plaintiff over Sucha Singh’s land.
20. The power under the 1973 Rules confers limited
power to the circle officer’s and it is confined to
verifying, amending, and authenticating revenue records
as they existed on the cutoff date i.e., 1st September,
1971. Thus, it is clear that a mere affirmation in the
context of revenue records and personal cultivation
rights cannot be interpreted as an intention of Sucha
Singh to confer title upon the Plaintiff. With his
endorsement on the compromise, Sucha Singh perhaps
intended to give the right of personal cultivation but
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the same does not in any manner suggest that Sucha
Singh had intended to confer title on the plaintiff.
21. It is also important to note that Plaintiff in his
own testimony (led before Trial Court, and recorded in
the Trial Court judgment) had stated that Sucha Singh
prepared “orchards”. Albeit, by using the salary of
Plaintiff. The land is therefore of the orchard
category. In this situation, the land which is the
subject matter of the Compromise being an Orchard stood
excluded from the definition of land under S. 2(4) of
the 1972 Act. As such, the title for such category of
land could not vest with the Plaintiff. This
determination of fact is essential to adjudicate the
title and the issue was definitely raised in the LPA
proceeding before the High Court, apart from being
raised in the lower court also. In such a situation
this Court is required to keep the ‘orchard’ aspect in
mind and also address the implication of the same on
the contesting parties. The upshot of the above
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persuade us to hold that the compromise (18.12.1975)
does not convey any lawful title on the Plaintiff.
B. Did the compromise require registration?
22. It is contended by the defendants that the
compromise did not comply with Section 17 of the
Registration Act, 1977 which mandates compulsory
registration, and without a registered document, no
title or claim or possession can fructify. On the other
hand, Plaintiff has argued that the transaction is
essentially within the family of Sucha Singh since
plaintiff is the adopted son of Sucha Singh. The
transaction of the present nature belongs to a
different class, and thus, the normal principles
governing transaction among strangers, do not apply to
this class of transactions.
23. We are however unable to see the compromise as a
kind of ‘family arrangement’. The compromise was not
amongst family members but between the plaintiff and
the tenant – Jalil Khan (not a family member). The
statement of Sucha Singh “I accept the compromise”, is
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only with regard to the internal arrangement regarding
the tenancy of Jalil Khan, and this will not make it a
family arrangement. Moreover, the plea that compromise
is a “Family Arrangement” is raised for the first time
before this Court. The Plaintiff significantly had
waived his claim to other assets left by Sucha Singh
(on the basis that the Plaintiff is his adopted son),
before the High Court. He cannot therefore be permitted
to raise such a contention for the first time before
this Court. Even otherwise, Jalil Khan was not a family
member. Thus, he could not have been a party to a so
called “family arrangement”. Besides, none of the other
family members were parties to the said compromise
either. Therefore, the documents in question would
require registration and it cannot be treated as a
family arrangement.
24. It is pertinent to note that the ownership claim
for the plaintiff is founded only on the compromise and
the respondent is not claiming any antecedent title.
The issue whether the compromise decree between parties
Page 31 of 39
to a suit proceeding, could vest or transfer title to
one of them, was decided in Bhoop Singh v. Ram Singh
Major [supra], where the requirement of registration of
such compromise order which create new rights, title,
or interest, was upheld in the following manner: -
“18. The legal position qua clause (vi) can,
on the basis of the aforesaid discussion, be
summarised as below:
(1) Compromise decree if bona fide, in the
sense that the compromise is not a device to
obviate payment of stamp duty and frustrate
the law relating to registration, would not
require registration. In a converse situation,
it would require registration.
(2) If the compromise decree were to
create for the first time right, title or
interest in immovable property of the value of
Rs 100 or upwards in favour of any party to
the suit the decree or order would require
registration.
(3) If the decree were not to attract any of
the clauses of sub-section (1) of Section 17,
as was the position in the aforesaid Privy
Council and this Court's cases, it is apparent
that the decree would not require
registration.
(4) If the decree were not to embody the terms
of compromise, as was the position in Lahore
case, benefit from the terms of compromise
cannot be derived, even if a suit were to be
disposed of because of the compromise in
question.
Page 32 of 39
(5) If the property dealt with by the decree
be not the “subject-matter of the suit or
proceeding”, clause (vi) of sub-section (2)
would not operate, because of the amendment of
this clause by Act 21 of 1929, which has its
origin in the aforesaid decision of the Privy
Council, according to which the original
clause would have been attracted, even if it
were to encompass property not litigated.”
25. Further, in K. Raghundandan & Ors. vs. Ali Hussain
Sabir & Ors. [supra], while referring to Bhoop Singh
[supra], the Court held that consent terms creating
rights/title or interest for the first time, as
distinguished from recognition of a right, would
require registration if the value of property is above
Rs. 100. This was affirmed by a three Judges bench in
Phool Patti vs. Ram Singh [supra]. Lastly, in Ripudaman
Singh vs. Tikka Maheshwar Chand16, this Court held that
where there is no pre-existing right, but right has
been created by the compromise alone, such compromise
creating new right, title or interest in immovable
property of value of Rs. 100 or above, is compulsorily
registrable.
16 (2021) 7 SCC 446
Page 33 of 39
26. In the present case, the Appeal filed by the tenant
– Jalil Khan arose from the change of the entry in the
records during the process of verification under the
1972 Act. It was in this Appeal that the compromise was
recorded and endorsed by the DC’s Order, recognizing
the possession of the Plaintiff for the very first
time, as was also admitted by plaintiff in paragraph 6
of the Suit. In circumstances of this kind, we are
quite certain that the compromise was required to be
registered, under Section 49 of the Registration Act,
1977 and also under Section 138 of the J&K Transfer of
Property Act. Without such registration no title can
fructify for the plaintiff from the documents in
question.
27. Furthermore, the compromise and the DC’s consequent
Order, was passed in a revenue proceeding and this was
definitely not a part of a Court proceeding. That being
the case, the compromise did not fall under the
exception category under Section 17(2)(vi) of
Registration Act, 1977 (as applicable to then State of
Page 34 of 39
J&K). The above makes it abundantly clear that the
compromise in order to have legal effect needed
registration under the Registration Act, 1977.
28. Significantly, the DC’s 24.12.1975 order based on
the Compromise, also dealt with 6 Kanals land forming
part of Survey No. 1829 & 1838 which went to the
ownership of the tenant - Jalil Khan. The subject
compromise or the DC’s order was not restricted only to
11 Kanals and 15 Marlas as claimed by the Plaintiff.
These circumstances would imply that the compromise
required registration for it to be of any legal effect.
Since title is claimed, and the plaintiff founded his
entire case on the compromise, it would necessarily
require registration. Accordingly, question B is
answered in affirmative.
29. The defendants have also unsuccessfully argued
before the High Court that the jurisdiction of the
Deputy Commissioner to exercise powers under the J&K
Agrarian Reforms Act, 1972 stood suspended on the date
of passing the Compromise Decree. Such a question of
Page 35 of 39
law has a material bearing on this litigation and the
same needs to be considered. The 1972 Act as noted
earlier, was suspended during 25.03.1975 to 30.03.1976
and during this period the Compromise was recorded on
18.12.1975 and the 24.12.1975 Order was passed by the
DC. The power exercised for these orders are traceable
to the suspended provisions of the Act. Of course, the
J&K Agrarian Reforms (Suspension of Operations) Act,
1975 did have a proviso which created exceptions for
certain sections of the 1972 Act. The relevant part of
the proviso reads thus;
“4. Certain provisions of Act No. XXCI not
suspended for the time being- (1) The
provisions of Sections 15, 25, 26, 27, 28, and
51 and the provisions of Chapter V of the
principal Act in so far as they relate to
these sections and any rules, notifications,
orders and instructions issued thereunder
including any proceedings instituted or
actions taken under the said provisions and
pending on the date of commencement of this
Act, shall be continued and enforced as
heretofore:…”
30. The above makes it clear that this case is outside
the ambit of any of the exempted sections such as
Page 36 of 39
Section 15 (Prohibition on transfer of land), 25 (levy
of annual tax), 27 (collection of tax), 28
(Determination of ques-levy of tax related), 51 (repeal
& savings) of the 1972 Act. Only such provisions of
Chapter V which were relatable to the aforesaid
provisions were relevant, and not all sections were
within the ambit of exception. Section 31 of the 1972
Act which provided for Appeals and Revisions, was not
protected by Section 4 of the Suspension Act, 1975.
Thus, the DC, in our mind lacked inherent jurisdiction
to either entertain the appeal or endorse the
compromise during the suspended phase. In cases where
the authority lacked jurisdiction under a special Act
and yet exercises powers, without authority of law, any
order or decree so passed through such unlawful
exercise of power, will be a legal nullity. The
deficiency of jurisdiction of the authority cannot be
cured by the consent of the parties. The challenge to
such an incompetent order could be set up wherever it
is sought to be enforced or relied upon, even in
Page 37 of 39
execution or in collateral proceedings17. Accordingly
answering in favour of the defendants, the DC’s order
in our opinion can have no legal effect as the same was
passed during the operation of Suspension Act, 1975. We
have found that the compromise being unregistered
cannot confer title on the respondent.
31. The final issue for our consideration is whether
estoppel principle would apply against the defendants
in their challenge to DCs order. Equity as we know
follows the law, and whenever there is a conflict
between law and equity, it is the law which must
prevail. Here the Latin maxim “dura lex sed lex”,
which means “the law is hard, but it is the law” would
apply. Equity can only supplement the law, but it
cannot supplant or override it18, and this would have a
bearing against the respondent.
32. The records in the case show that Sucha Singh,
during his life time, had cancelled the two Wills in
favour of the plaintiff. This indicates that Sucha
17 (1991) 3 SCC 136, Para. 5 | (2017) 3 SCC 740, Para. 35
18 (2007) 2 SCC 230, Para. 29
Page 38 of 39
Singh was not interested to give any part of his
property to the plaintiff. Even otherwise, the suit
property is self-acquired property of Sucha Singh, and
a donee cannot claim equity in respect of the disposal
of self-acquired properties, by a donor. Equity is all
about balancing the competing interests and due
weightage must be given to the fact that the appellants
have been in possession and was nurturing their
father’s land for over four decades and the estoppel
principle propounded against them by the respondent
must give way to the law set out by the statute19.
33. Notwithstanding the concurrent finding against
them, in a case like this, where the law leans in
appellant’s favour, the Court has to exercise
corrective jurisdiction as the circumstances justify.
As such, taking a cue from Haryana State Industrial
Development Corporation vs. Cork Manufacturing Co20.,
the exercise of extraordinary jurisdiction under
Article 136 is found to be merited in this matter.
19 (2021) 3 SCC 401
20 (2007) 8 SCC 120
Page 39 of 39
34. Proceeding accordingly, the decree in favour of
the respondent (Plaintiff) in respect of the land
measuring 11 Kanals and 15 Marlas falling within the
survey nos.1829 and 1838 situated at Ranbirpora,
Anantnag, are set aside. The Appeal stands allowed by
leaving the parties to bear their own cost.
………………………………………………………J.
 [K.M. JOSEPH]
………………………………………………………J.
[HRISHIKESH ROY]
NEW DELHI
AUGUST 2, 2022

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