Partition Suits| Courts Must Avoid Partial Adjudication Of Suit & Must Decide Right Entitlement & Share Of Parties In Same Proceeding- SC
A Supreme Court Bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice SVN Bhatti has observed that in a suit filed for partition, Courts must endeavour to comprehensively adjudicate and decide the right entitlement and share of the parties in the same proceeding and must avoid multiplicity of proceedings or relegating parties to a fresh round of litigation.
In that context, it was said that, "It is contextual to note that in a suit filed for partition, the courts must endeavour to comprehensively adjudicate and decide the right entitlement and share of the parties in the same proceeding and must avoid multiplicity of proceedings or relegating parties to a fresh round of litigation. The partial adjudication in the circumstance of the case is erroneous and ought to have been avoided."
Senior Counsel Dhruv Mehta, Counsel Shyam Divan and Counsel Ritin Rai appeared for defendants nos. 1, 4, and 5, and the plaintiffs, respectively, while Counsel Manisha Sharma appeared for defendant no. 3.
In this case, the dispute revolved around the inheritance and partition of a property in New Friends Colony, New Delhi, measuring about 471 square yards, along with a house. Sheila Kapila, the original owner, passed away in 2003, and her husband predeceased her in 1994. She died intestate, and the parties claim to be governed by Hindu law.
The plaintiffs, defendant nos. 1, 2, and 3, argued for intestate succession, claiming equal shares in the property. However, defendant nos. 4 and 5, represented by their mother, Mrs. Bina Kapila, asserted the existence of a will executed by Sheila Kapila on 18.11.1999, which purportedly divided the property equally among her four children. The plaintiffs and defendant nos. 1 and 2 denied the existence of this will.
The Court passed a preliminary decree, declaring the parties' shares in the property as 25% each. Due to the inability to divide the property physically, it ordered the sale of the entire property, with the proceeds distributed equally among the parties, except for the 25% share of late Dr. Rajendra Kapila, which was to be held in trust until a resolution is reached regarding his legal heirs.
The case was complicated by disputes over the existence and interpretation of the alleged will, particularly regarding its provisions for equal shares among the children of Sheila Kapila. The Trial Court and a division bench of the High Court issued judgments based on the will's presumed existence, which the defendants continued to dispute.
The Apex Court referred to the pleadings of the parties and observed that the foundation of the claim in the opposing parties could be summarised as intestate succession on one side and testamentary succession on the other.
Subsequently, the Court observed that the Division Bench had straightaway assumed the existence of the Will and proceeded with interpreting the clauses in the Will. In that context, the Court said that, "We notice the said approach begs the question and leaves more questions than answers. For the reasons already discussed, the decree and Judgment dated 10.05.2023 and 11.10.2022 are interfered with and set aside except the direction in Paragraph No. 45 of the Judgment dated 10.05.2022, and the matter is remitted to the Learned Single Judge for trial and disposal of O.S. No. 701/2021, uninfluenced by any of the findings rendered till the Judgment of this Court."
The Apex Court then remanded the matter to the Single Judge on holding that the impugned Judgments suffered from a substantial error of law, and subsequently said that, "we are of the view that the impugned Judgments rendered on admission are liable to be set aside, accordingly set aside in the manner indicated above and the matter be remitted to the Learned Single Judge for framing issues and affording an opportunity of trial to the parties, to prove their respective cases and pronounce the Judgment."
Cause Title: Vikrant Kapila & Anr. vs Pankaja Panda & Ors.