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To be Present or Not to be Present Under The Registration Act

The object and purpose of the Registration Act, 1908 (“the Act”) amongst other things, is to provide a method of public registration of documents so as to give information to people regarding legal rights and obligations arising or affecting a particular property, and to perpetuate documents which may afterwards be of legal importance, and to prevent fraud[1]. The Act was enacted with the intention of providing orderliness, discipline and public notice in regard to transactions relating to immovable property and protection from forgery of documents of transfer[2]. To achieve this objective, the Act requires compulsory registration of certain types of documents and provides consequences for non-registration of such documents. Given that registration of a document gives a document a characteristic of inviolability, each State may also have different rules with regard to registration, and there may be certain instances especially with regard to the registration of a sale deed, where the both parties to a sale deed may be required to be present at the time of registration of the sale deed.

Recently the Supreme Court of India, through its decision in H.P. Puttaswamy v Thimmamma & Ors[3] had the opportunity to analyze whether the presence of a purchaser of an immovable property is necessary before the concerned authority under the Act at the time of effecting a registration of a deed of conveyance in accordance with the Act. The dispute in this case was with regard to a property measuring 4,500 sq. ft. in the village of Hittanahalli Koppalu in Malavallu  Taluk  in  the   State of Karnataka (“Suit Property”). The Suit Property originally bore site No. 21 and was subsequently renumbered as site No. 23. After the Suit Property was renumbered, it was allotted to Gende Veeregowdana Nathegowda under a village shifting scheme. In the given case, the Supreme Court was faced with a scenario where there were two sale deeds that had been executed with regard to the Suit Property.

The Dispute

It was the appellant’s case (plaintiff before the trial court) that Madegowda, the son of Gende Veeregowdana Nathegowda, had executed a sale deed of the Suit Property in favour of the appellant on May 28, 1981 (“Plaintiff’s Sale Deed”). The appellant on the basis of the Plaintiff’s Sale Deed instituted a suit on March 31, 1989 to be declared as the lawful owner in possession of the Suit Property. The appellant’s case in the suit was that he had come in possession of the Suit Property initially as a tenant and subsequently as a purchaser pursuant to the Plaintiff’s Sale Deed. The suit was contested by two sets of defendants, who can be categorized as follows:

  1. Respondent Nos. 7-9: These respondents were the legal heirs of Madegowda, the son of Gende Veeregowdana Nathegowda. This set of respondents contested the ownership of the Suit Property by the appellant; and
  2. Respondent Nos. 1-6: This set of respondents were the legal heirs of one Manchegowda (since deceased), who contested the claim of ownership of the plaintiff over the Suit Property. After Manchegowda’s demise, this set of respondents were impleaded in the suit. It was their contention that they were the actual owners of the Suit Property through their predecessor, Manchegowda who had purchased the Suit Property from the original owner on April 21, 1981 after the original owner executed a sale deed in favour of Manchegowda (“Manchegowda’s Sale Deed”). This set of respondents also disputed the title of Madegowda over the Suit Property.

 

The Importance of Being Present

The trial court and the first appellate court decided the case in favour of the appellant, despite Manchegowda’s Sale Deed having been executed before the Plaintiff’s Sale Deed. This finding was rendered by the trial court and the first appellate court on the ground that Manchegowda’s Sale Deed was not genuine as Manchegowda was not present before the sub-registrar at the time of execution of Manchegowda’s Sale Deed. However, the High Court while hearing an appeal filed by the descendants of Manchegowda overruled the decisions of the lower courts partly and held that the Manchegowda’s Sale Deed was indeed valid in law. As a result of which the appellant filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court while analyzing the question whether the presence of a purchaser of immovable property is necessary before the concerned authority under the Act at the time of effecting a registration of a deed of conveyance in accordance with the Act, examined Section 32 of the Act to answer the question before them. Section 32 of the Act makes it clear that apart from the exceptions envisaged under Section 31, 88 and 89 of the Act, if a document is being registered, regardless of the fact if the registration of such a document is compulsory or optional, would require either  (i) some person executing the document or claiming rights under the document, or (ii) by the representative or assign of such a person, or (iii) by the agent of such a person, representative who has a duly authorized power of attorney to be present before the concerned authority under the Act.

From a reading of Section 32 of the Act, it is evident that both the parties to a sale deed need not be present before the concerned authority under the Act. Further, since the deed of conveyance did not fall under any of the exceptions envisaged under Section 32 of the Act, the Supreme Court disposed the case without interfering with the High Court’s judgment and clarified that Section 32 of the Act does not require the presence both parties to a deed of sale when the same is presented for registration to the concerned authority under the Act.

[1] AIR1970Ori22
[2](2012)1SCC656
[3]CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3975 OF 2010

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