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SC laments ‘saddest… plight of poor landlord’ in court for 40+ years, overturns ‘perverse’ Raj HC order [READ JUDGMENT]

The Supreme Court disposed of a land dispute pending for more than forty years, and sympathised with the appellant landlord, writing in their judgment:

“The facts unfold the plight of a poor landlord languishing in courts for over fourty years. The case gets sadder when we note that appellant had been successful both in the trial court and the first appellate court and the saddest part is that the high court in second appeal, went against him on a pure question of fact!”

The Chief Justice of India TS Thakur and Justice Kurian Joseph, in their final judgement pronounced on 5 January and written by Joseph, lamented the Rajasthan high court’s decision in reversing the first appellate order on, not a question of law as a high court can do in its jurisdiction, but a question of fact.

The Supreme Court ruled that it was proven in the trial court as well as the first appellate court that the tenants had created structures over the plot of land given to them on rent without permission from the landlord. The high court had reversed these findings on the ground of ‘adverse inference’, because the landlord had failed to appear before the courts.

The high court dismissed the suit for eviction observing:

“... In the considered opinion of this Court, such finding in the statement of the plaintiff cannot be treated to be trustworthy or in consonance with law. The trial court was under obligation to draw adverse inference for the non-appearance of the plaintiff in the witness-box. Therefore, the finding arrived at by the trial court on the issue of material alteration is totally perverse and not based upon sound and trustworthy evidence. The trial court has committed gross error while not drawing adverse inference for non-appearance of the plaintiff.”

In the landlord’s appeal to the Supreme Court, justices Thakur and Joseph said that the question whether there is a structural alteration in a tenanted premises is not a fact limited to the personal knowledge of the owner. It can be proved by any other admissible and reliable evidence.

They noted in the judgement:

“Suffice to say that the approach made by the high court has been wholly wrong, if not, perverse. It should not have interfered with concurrent findings of the trial court and first appellate court on a pure question of fact. Their inference on facts is certainly reasonable. The strained effort made by the high court in second appeal to arrive at a different finding is wholly unwarranted apart from being impermissible under law. Therefore, we have no hesitation to allow the appeal and set aside the impugned judgment of the high court and restore that of the trial court as confirmed by the appellate court.”

The court discussed how to determine if the judgments are “perverse”.

The bench said that the, “safest approach on perversity is the classic approach on the reasonable man’s inference on the facts. To him, if the conclusion on the facts in evidence made by the court below is possible, there is no perversity. If not, the finding is perverse.Inadequacy of evidence or a different reading of evidence is not perversity.”

Download judgment (PDF) / Text

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