The Jharkhand High Court has held that unless there is a declaration by a Civil Court that a deed is vitiated by fraud, a registered deed cannot be cancelled by the Registrar.

Holding that the State Government cannot confer such a power on the Registrar through an executive order, the Bench of Justice Gautam Kumar Choudhary observed that, "The executive power of the State Government under Article 162 is coextensive with the legislative power of the State legislature. But, in the absence of any law, the State or its officers in the exercise of executive authority, cannot infringe citizen’s rights merely because legislature has power to make law on the subject. As discussed above, registration of an instrument entails legal consequence affecting the legal rights of a citizen, and power of cancellation of such document cannot be permitted by an executive order, as it will be against the scheme of statutory provisions as contained in the Registration Act, 1908."

Counsel Nagmani Tiwari, along with others, appeared for the petitioners, while AG Rajeev Ranjan, along with others, appeared for the State.

The State of Jharkhand had issued a Circular granting jurisdiction to the Deputy Commissioner-cum-Registrar for the cancellation or annulment of sale deeds. The Deputy Commissioner-cum-Registrar, exercising this authority, initiated miscellaneous cases, registered notices, and passed cancellation orders against the petitioners. The petitioners moved the court, seeking the quashing of these cases and notices.

The writ petitions collectively challenged the notification, and the subsequent miscellaneous proceedings were initiated based on it. While some petitions challenged the legality of the miscellaneous proceedings or cancellation orders without challenging the notification itself, all petitions raised a common question concerning the Registrar's authority to cancel registered deeds of conveyances through an executive order.

The central legal issue revolved around whether the Registrar had the power to cancel a registered instrument, particularly a registered sale deed, through an executive order. The impugned notification clarified that the Registrar could exercise this power in cases where the execution of a deed of conveyance was fraudulently obtained by presenting forged documents. Additionally, the Registrar could invoke this power if the document was executed by an imposter, following a thorough inquiry into the matter.

The High Court acknowledged that the menace of fraudulent registration is on the rise, while also observing that the mere right to object cannot "cloth an executive order with legality, as the said order gives power to deprive citizens of their valuable legal right of property."

The Court further held that Section 21 of the General Clauses Act cannot be invoked to annul a quasi-judicial order and that too when an indefeasible right has accrued in favour of a party. In that context, it was further said that, "title of the executant in the property is transferred from the date the sale deed is registered, provided the executant had a title in the property. Such indefeasible legal right flowing from a registered instrument cannot be taken away without any statutory basis only by having recourse to Section 21."

Accordingly, the petitions were allowed and the impugned circular was set aside.

Cause Title: Vinod Shankar Jha vs State of Jharkhand & Ors.

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