Consent Decree – Does Not Operate As Res Judicata

In Pulvarthi Venkata Subba Rao v. Valluri Jagannadha Rao, AIR 1967 SC 591, the Hon’ble Supreme Court specifically repelled the contention that a compromise decree would operate as res-judicata, though accepted that it may create estoppel by conduct—

          “The compromise decree was not a decision by the Court. It was the acceptance by the Court of something to which the parties had agreed. It has been said that a compromise decree merely sets the seal of the Court on the agreement of the parties. The court did not decide anything. Nor can it be said that a decision of the court was implicit in it. Only a decision by the Court could be res judicata, whether statutory under section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, or constructive as a matter of public policy on which the entire doctrine rests.“

          A full bench of the Hon’ble Allahabad High court in Parma Nand v. Champa Lal, AIR 1956 All 225, explained the various types of estoppel, as follows:

          “Under the English, estoppel is of three kinds; estoppel is of three kinds; estoppel by judgment, estoppel by deed and and estoppel by pais.”

          In Baldev Shivlal v. Filmistan Distributors India (P) Ltd., (1969) 2 SCC 201, the Hon’ble Apex Court again specifically held that “a consent decree, according to the decisions of the Court, does not operate as Res Judicata, because a consent decree is merely the record of a contract between the parties to a suit, to which is superadded the seal of the court. A matter in contest in a suit may operate as res judicata only if there is an adjudication by the Court: the terms of Section 11 of the Code leave no scope for a contrary view. Manoj v. Smt. Devendri Devi, 2019 (137) ALR 445.    

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Mode of Proving – A Will

In Shashi Kumar Banerjee v. Subodh Kumar Banerjee, AIR 1964 SC 529, it was held as under:

        “The mode of proving a Will does not ordinarily differ from that of proving any other document except as to the special requirement of attestation prescribed in the case of a Will by Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act. The onus of proving the will is on the propounder and in the absence of suspicious circumstances surrounding the execution of the Will, proof of testamentary capacity and the signature of the testator as required by law is sufficient to discharge the onus. Where however, there are suspicious circumstances, the onus is on the propounder to explain them to the satisfaction of the Court before the Court accepts the will as genuine. Where the caveator alleges undue influence, fraud and coercion, the onus is on him to prove the same. Even where there are no such pleas but the circumstances give rise to doubts, it is for the prpounder to satisfy the conscience of the Court. The suspicious circumstances may be as to the genuineness of the signature of the testator, the condition of the testator’s mind, the dispositions made in Will being unnatural, improbable or unfair in the light of relevant circumstances or there might be other indications in the Will to show that the testator’s mind was not free. In such a case the Court would naturally expect that all legitimate suspicion should be completely removed before the document is accepted as the last will of the testator. If the propounder himself takes part in the execution of the Will which confers a substantial benefit on him that is also a circumstance to be taken into account, and the propounder is required to remove the doubts by clear and satisfactory evidence. If the propounder succeeds in removing the suspicious circumstances, the Court would grant probate, even if the Will might be unnatural and might cut off wholly or in part near relations.

A will is executed to alter the ordinary mode of succession and by the very nature of things it is bound to result in either reducing or depriving the share of natural heir. If a person intends his property to pass to his natural heirs, there is no necessity at all of executing a Will. It is true that a propounder of the Will has to remove all suspicious circumstances. Suspicion means doubt, conjecture or mistrust. But the fact that the natural heirs have either been excluded or a lesser share has been given to them, by itself without anything more, cannot be held to be a suspicious circumstance especially in a case where the bequest has been made in favour of an offspring. As held in PPK Gopalan Nambiar v. PPK Balakrishnan Nambiar, AIR 1995 SC 1852, it is the duty of the propounder of the Will to remove all the suspected features, but there must be real, germane and valid suspicious features and not fantasy of the doubting mind. It has been held that if the propounder succeeds in removing the suspicious circumstance, the Court has to give effect to the Will, even if the Will might be unnantural in the sense that it has cut off wholly or in part, near relations. Smt. Veena Chawla v. Mahendra Singh, 2019 (136) ALR 332.      

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Appellate Jurisdiction vis-à-vis Revisional Jursidiction

A revision petition has a narrower scope than an “appeal”. In Sri Raja Lakshmi Dyeing Works v. Rangaswamy Chettiar, (1980) 4 SCC, the dictinction between “appellate jurisdiction” and “revisional jurisdiction” was discussed as follows:

        “Appeal” and “revision” are expressions of common usage in Indian statute and the distinction between “appellate jurisdiction” and “revisional jurisdiction” is well known though not well defined. Ordinarily, appellate jurisdiction involves a rehearing, as it were, on law as well as fact and is invoked by an aggrieved person. Such jurisdiction may, however, be limited in some way as, for instance has been done in the case of second appeal under the Code of Civil Procedure, and under some Rent Acts in some States. Ordinarily, again, revisional jurisdiction is analogous to a power of superintendence and may sometimes be exercised even without its being invoked by a party. The extent of revisional jurisdiction is defined by the statute conferring such jurisdiction. The conferment of revisional jurisdiction is generally for the purpose of keeping tribunals subordinate to the revising Tribunal within the bounds of their authority to make them act according to law, according to the procedure established by law and according to well defined principles of justice.”

        In Hindustan Petroleum Corpn. Ltd.  v.  Dilbahar Singh  (2014) 9 SCC 78 it was held that:

“Conceptually, revisional jurisdiction is a part of appellate jurisdiction but it is not vice versa. Both, appellate jurisdiction and revisional jurisdiction are creatures of statutes. No party to the proceeding has an inherent right of appeal or revision. An appeal is continuation of suit or original proceeding, as the case may be. The power of the appellate court is co-extensive with that of the trial court. Ordinarily, appellate jurisdiction involves rehearing on facts and law but such jurisdiction may be limited by the statute itself that provides for appellate jurisdiction. On the other hand, revisional jurisdiction, though, is a part of appellate jurisdiction but ordinarily it cannot be equated with that of a full-fledged appeal. In other words, revision is not continuation of suit or of original proceeding. When the aid of revisional court is invoked on the revisional side, it can interfere within the permissible parameters provided in the statute.” Ordinarily, the power of revision can be exercised only when illegality, irrationality, or impropriety is found in the decision making process of the for a below. Karnataka Housing Board v. K.A. Nagamani. (2019) 6 SCC 424

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Due Course of Law

In the case of East India Hotels Ltd. v. Syndicate Bank, 1992 Supp (2) SCC 29, Hon’ble Supreme Court observed as under:

“What is meant by due course of law? Due course of law in each particular case means such an exercise of the powers by duly constituted Tribunal or Court in accordance with the procedure established by law under such safeguards for the protection of individual rights. A course of legal proceedings according to the rules and principles which have been established in our system of jurisprudence for the enforcement and protection of private rights. To give such proceedings any validity, there must thus be a Tribunal competent by its constitution, that is by law of its creation, to pass upon the subject matter of the suit or proceedings; and, if that involves merely a determination of the personal liability of the defendant, it must be brought within its jurisdiction by service of process within the State, or his voluntary appearance. Due course of law implies the right of the person affected thereby to be present before the Tribunal which pronounces judgment upon the question of life, liberty or property in its most comprehensive sense; to be heard, by testimony or otherwise, and to have the right determination of the controversy by proof, every material fact which bears on the question of fact or liability be conclusively proved or presumed against him. This is the meaning of due course of law in a comprehensive sense.”   Sawwad Ali v. Rajesh Kumar, 2019 (135) ALR 927.

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Lawful Possession

Possession may be lawful, it may be unlawful. It may be legal or illegal. The acquisition of legal possession would obviously be lawful and would of necessity involve the occurrence of some event recognized by law whereby the subject matter falls under the control of the possessor. But a problem arises where the duration for which possession is recognized is limited by the grantor or the law. Continuance of possession beyond the period specified by the grantor or recognized by law is not treated as a lawful possession. For example, a tenant acquires legal as well as lawful possession of the tenanted premises from the landlord with the express consent of the landlord but limited to the duration of the lease. On expiry of the leaser, if the landlord does not consent to the lease being continued, the possession of such tenant would not be a lawful possession. The nature of possession being not lawful would entitle the landlord to regain possession.

        From a common sense point of view, lawful possession must be the state of being a possessor in the eyes of law. The possession must be warranted or authorized by law; having the qualifications prescribed by law and not contrary to nor forbidden by law. Sawwad Ali v. Rajesh Kumar, 2019 (135) ALR 927.

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Waiver of Applicability of – Section 12(5) of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act

Section 12(5) of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act is a new provision which relates to the de jure inability of an arbitrator to act as such. Under this provision, any prior agreement to the contrary is wiped out by the non obstante clause in Section 12(5) the moment any person whose relationship with the parties or the counsel or the subject-matter of the dispute falls under the Seventh Schedule. The sub-section then declares that such person shall be “ineligible” to be appointed as arbitrator. The only way in which this ineligibility can be removed is by the proviso, which again is a special provision which states that parties may, subsequent to disputes having arisen between them, waive the applicability of Section 12(5) by an express agreement in writing. What is clear, therefore, is that where, under any agreement between the parties, a person falls within any of the categories set out in the Seventh Schedule, he is, as a matter of law, ineligible to be appointed as an arbitrator. The only way in which this ineligibility can be removed, again, in law, is that parties may after disputes have arisen between them, waive the applicability of this sub-section by an “express agreement in writing”. Obviously, the “express agreement in writing” has reference to a person who is interdicted by the Seventh Schedule, but who is stated by parties (after the disputes have arisen between them) to be a person in whom they have faith notwithstanding the fact that such person is interdicted by the eventh Schedule.

Unlike Section 4 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act which deals with deemed waiver of the right to object by conduct, the proviso to Section 12(5) will only apply if subsequent to disputes having arisen between the parties, the parties waive the applicability of sub-section (5) of Section 12 by an express agreement in writing. For this reason, the argument based on the analogy of Section 7 of the Act must also be rejected. Section 7 deals with arbitration agreements that must be in writing, and then explains that such agreements may be contained in documents which provide a record of such agreements. On the other hand, Section 12(5) refers to an “express agreement in writing”. The expression “express agreement in writing” refers to an agreement made in words as opposed to an agreement which is to be inferred by conduct. Here, Section 9 of the Contract Act, 1872 becomes important. It states:

9. Promises, express and implied.—Insofar as the proposal or acceptance of any promise is made in words, the promise is said to be express. Insofar as such proposal or acceptance is made otherwise than in words, the promise is said to be implied.”

It is thus necessary that there be an “express” agreement in writing. Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. v. United Telecoms Ltd., (2019) 5 SCC 755.

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Negotiable Instruments Act, Section 139 – Rebuttable Presumption

Once the execution of cheque is admitted Section 139 of the Negotiable Instruments Act mandates a presumption that the cheque was for the discharge of any debt or other liability. The presumption under Section 139 is a rebuttable preumption and the onus is on the accused to raise the probable defence. The standard of proof for rebutting the presumption is that of preponderance of probabilities.

        To rebut the presumption, it is open for the accused to rely on evidence led by him or the accused can also rely on the materials submitted by the complainant in order to raise a probable defence. Inference of preponderance of probabilities can be drawn not only from the materials brought on record by the parties but also by reference to the circumstances upon which they rely.

        It is not necessary for the accused to come in the witness box in support of his defence, Section 139 imposed an evidentiary burden and not a pervasive burden.

        It is not necessary for the accused to come in the witness box to support his defence.  Basalingappa v. Mudibasappa, (2019) 5 SCC 418.

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