When members of a joint family live on a property, it does not mean they co-own it, the Supreme Court has ruled.
Anybody who says the property is a joint family estate must also prove it, the court said in a ruling that distinguishes between joint estate and joint family.
The onus of proving that a particular property is joint family property lies on the person who claims it to be so, the court said, while allowing a landlord’s appeal to get his defaulting tenant evicted. The landlord had gone to the high court which said that the property was a joint family estate and that the landlord wasn’t its owner.
The latest ruling, handed down by a bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and KS Radhakrishnan on Friday, however, said if the possession of a nucleus of joint family property is proved, any acquisition made by its member is presumed to be joint family property.
This is, however, subject to the limitation that joint family property must be such as with its aid the property in question could have been acquired. It is only after the possession of an adequate nucleus is shown that the onus shifts on the person who claims the property as self-acquisition to establish that the property was acquired without any aid from the family estate.
Two brothers whose families living together in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh — Sameer Kumar Pal and Subhash Chandra Pal — had sought eviction of their tenant Sheikh Akbar.
Akbar wouldn’t vacate the premises for which he had paid rent since 1991. The brothers, who own Madras Hotel in the city and had let out a shop to Akbar at New Corporation Chowk, Wright Town, Jabalpur, had filed a lawsuit under various sections of the Madhya Pradesh Accommodation Control Act, 1961.
The trial court ordered Akbar’s eviction, but the Madhya Pradesh high court (Jabalpur bench) reversed the finding.
Without any pleadings or basis, it held that Madras Hotel is a joint family property. It “erroneously” held that the property was purchased by the landlords’ father and his brothers, though the truth was the brothers had purchased it on December 31, 1991. “A wrong assumption led to a totally erroneous finding and conclusion. The high court weaved out an entirely new case,” the apex court observed.
It also referred to a 1948 Privy Council judgment delivered by Sir John Beaumont defining Hindu law. Proof of the existence of a joint family should not lead anyone to presume that all its members own the property, he had said.