The Supreme Court recently ended a four decade long litigation between family members claiming ownership of some properties.

The Court was deciding a batch of appeals preferred against the judgment of the Delhi High Court by which an appeal filed in respect of Kamla Nagar property was allowed and the appeal filed in respect of the Malcha Marg property was dismissed.

The two-Judge Bench of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah observed, “The plea of the respondents that the said amount was for the upkeep of the HUF does not stand to reason for it is the admitted position that the respondents or their ancestors were never living in the Kamla Nagar property. Hence, there was no occasion for the appellants to contribute a heavy amount of Rs.55,000/- (Rupees Fifty-Five Thousand) in the year 1979 for the upkeep and/or maintenance of the said property to the respondents, when the same was exclusively being enjoyed by the appellants, who alone would be liable for its maintenance. Moreover, there being disclosure by ACK in his Wealth Tax Returns of the years 1964-1967 showing the valuation of the property to be around Rs.38,000/- (Rupees Thirty-Eight Thousand) and payment having been made in 1979 of Rs.55,000/- (Rupees Fifty-Five Thousand) does not indicate that it was undervalued as there has been a marked increase in the valuation from Rs.38,000/- (Rupees Thirty-Eight Thousand) to Rs.1,10,000/- (Rupees One Lakh Ten Thousand) and payment made of 50% i.e., Rs.55,000/- (Rupees Fifty Five Thousand), in 1979, that too in a family settlement between ACK and RKK cannot be labelled a totally sham consideration.”

Advocate Arjav Jain represented the appellants while Advocate S.C. Singhal represented the respondents.

In this case, the parties were common descendants of a man who had two sons and the appellants were descendants of RKK whereas the respondents were the successors of ACK. In the year 1941, RKK purchased a piece of land admeasuring 344 square yards in the name of his father TCK and a residential house was constructed thereupon in 1950. Another property was also acquired by RKK and constructed by the family in the name of the wife of ACK. The claim of the appellants was that the purchase and construction of the Malcha Marg property was out of the funds provided by RKK and the income of the family generated from Regal Cinema Business. RKK died in the year 1978 and after that ACK claimed share in the Kamla Nagar property claiming it to be joint family property.

The appellants claimed that in 1979, in terms of an oral settlement between the parties a sum of Rs. 55,000/- was paid through cheques by the LRs of RKK in favour of ACK for the purchase of the share of ACK in the Kamla Nagar property. In 1983, upon ACK having expired, his LRs filed two suits, one claiming partition of the properties at Shimla and another claiming partition of the Kamla Nagar property. The Trial Court via an order dismissed the suit with regard to the claim over the Kamla Nagar property. However, insofar as the Malcha Marg property was concerned, the Trial Court decided the issue of the suit being bad on account of partial partition against the appellants, on the ground that circumstances given by the appellants were not sufficient to prove that the Malcha Marg property was purchased out of joint family funds.

The Supreme Court in view of the above facts noted, “Moving on to the Kamla Nagar property, the Court finds that the findings, unearthed during trial indicate that Rs.55,000/- (Rupees Fifty-Five Thousand) was paid by the appellants’ side to the respondents’ side. There is nothing on record to indicate that it was paid for the upkeep of the HUF or on some other account or to fulfil some other purpose.”

The Court further noted that the appellants having enjoyed possession right from the time the property was purchased and even letting out the premises to tenants and collecting/taking rent from the tenants without any claim raised at any point of time, would also support the claim that ACK had not claimed any right or title over any portion of the Kamla Nagar property during his lifetime.

“Had that been the case, there was no occasion for him not to take or lay a claim to a 50% share in the rent given by the tenants, which is clear from the finding recorded by the High Court that there were tenants also in the Kamla Nagar property; but the respondents never claimed any share in such proceeds/ rent from the tenants. The issue was agitated for the very first time only by filing the suit before the Trial Court in 1983”, it added.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed one appeal and dismissed the another.

Cause Title- Jugal Kishore Khanna (D) Thr LRs & Anr. v. Sudhir Khanna & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 224)


Appellants: Advocates Arjav Jain, Ishita Kadyan, and AOR Chander Shekhar Ashri.

Respondents: Advocates S.C. Singhal, Megha Gaur, Vibhav Mishra, and AORs Parmanand Gaur, and Tushar Bakshi.

Click here to read/download the Judgment