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An estimated 4-minute read

“Burden of Proof” – Party relying on a fact must prove it

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The take of the Supreme Court in the recent case Rangammal v. Kuppuswami and Ors. CIVIL APPEAL NO. 562 OF 2003 that burden of proof lies on the person who first asserts the fact, and not on the one who denies that fact to be true. The responsibility of the defendant to prove a fact to be true would start only when the authenticity of the fact is proved by the plaintiff. This case is related to a property issue, where it is alleged by the appellant that he was minor at the time when the sale deed of his property was executed, and that he cannot be made bound by that sale deed. Before getting into the main issue of this article i.e. Burden of Proof, it would be better to know the sections which makes a sale deed invalid executed at the time, when the person whose property is being sold is a minor. Section 54 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 states that "Sale" is a transfer of ownership in exchange for a price paid or promised or part-paid and part-promised. Section 7 of the same act provides the competency of a person to transfer, and it specifically mentions that every person competent to contract, which is relevant for the purpose of present case. And under Section 11 of the Indian Contract Act, every person is competent to contract who is of the age of majority according to the law to which he is subject, and who is of sound mind, and is not disqualified from contracting by any law to which he is subject. It can be concluded that a minor is not eligible to contract with another person, and the sale made by a minor would be void ab initio.

In the present case, it has been alleged by the original plaintiff that the sale deed was executed by the legal guardian of the appellant ostensibly as the appellant's mother had to discharge certain debts which she was owing to the plaintiff's father during her lifetime. But, the same line of facts was denied by the appellant in the present case. Appellant stated that the sale deed was executed fraudulently, and her share of property was sold to a different branch of their family so as to deprive her from her property share. Appellant was not impleaded in the original suit filed by the respondent. Appellant was impleaded in the suit at the time when she approached the court for this purpose and argued that she was not aware of the alleged sale deed. The alleged property was in possession of the appellant, which according to her was included in the partition suit fraudulently. Appellant further argued that her share of property was included in the partition suit without making her a party, and stated that she was the only legal heir to claim that property as her only brother died without getting married. Trial court was not able to appreciate the appellant’s denial of allegations, which were made by the respondent. An appeal was filed by the appellant in this case at Madras High Court followed by 2nd appeal. High Court while dealing with the second appeal arising out of the partition suit, cast the burden completely on the appellant/2nd defendant to prove that the property shown in the sale deed which fell into the share of the appellant, was not for the purpose of discharge of the liability of her deceased mother who according to her case was not owing any debt to anyone. Moreover, it was held by the Madras High Court that appellant was in fact late in alleging that she was not aware of the sale deed, or in alleging that the deed which was executed by her de facto guardian was not binding on her. And that, It is not the appropriate time to raise this point because if appellant was aggrieved by the sale deed, then she should have approached the court at an early stage after attaining the age of majority and not after 31 years of the sale deed.

The main dispute in the present case is “Who would be liable to prove the sale deed to be authentic or not authentic as the case may be?”

According to Section 101 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 defines `burden of proof' which clearly lays down that whosoever desires any court to give judgment as to any legal right or law dependent on the existence of facts which he asserts, must prove that those facts exist. Supreme Court criticised the judgment of the High Court along with the trial court’s judgment stating that the burden to prove the existence of sale deed was clearly on the plaintiff/respondent in the present. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, “Burden of Proof” in the context of law of evidence can be defined as the necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact on an issue raised between of the parties in a cause. Webster Dictionary defines the same as the duty of proving a particular position in a court of law, a failure in the performance of which duty calls for judgment against the party on whom the duty is imposed....Full Article

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