The High Court of Karnataka, vide an order dated February 26th 2022 in the case of Krishnappa v. Ashwathamma, cleared the air around the concept of family arrangements and their admissibility in courts.
The Original Plaintiff, Mr Muni Anjanappa, the previous Kartha of the HUF who was no longer allowed to manage the affairs of the family owing to old age, had filed a suit for partition and separate possession claiming a share in the properties acquired by his sons which had been allegedly acquired through joint family funds. Mr Muni Anjanappa sadly passed away during the pendency of proceedings and his daughter then became the Plaintiff.
The Defendant No. 1, the eldest son and the Karta, accepted his relationship with all the family members but denied that the schedule properties had been acquired using joint family funds, barring one. The District Court held that only two of the various properties had been joint family properties and thus, granted a share to the plaintiff in those properties, while not doing the same for the rest.
The Plaintiff approached the Appellate Court and the court while relying on a document titled ‘Panchayat Palupatti’ wherein the Defendant No. 1 had acknowledged all schedule properties as ancestral joint family properties allowed a share in the aforementioned properties to the Plaintiff. The Court also relied on Polti Lakshmi vs. Krishnavenamma to hold that a Palupatti does not require registration. Thus, a share in all schedule properties was granted in favour of the Appellant.
Defendant No. 1 then approached the High Court of Karnataka in order to file an appeal wherein the main question of law was whether a share in properties could be granted to the Appellant by relying on a document that had not even been signed by the Appellant himself.
It was argued by the Plaintiff, now Defendant, that the document was a family arrangement and registration was not required for it to be applicable. The Court here held that the argument could not be accepted since a family arrangement document needs to be agreed upon by all the family members, which was not the case here since the Original Plaintiff Mr Muni Anjanappa had not been a signatory to the said document.
The Court held that it was mandatory for all the family members to be involved in the document and that the shares of each should be explicitly defined in the same document. Another additional requirement as put out by the Court was that all the members should acknowledge the share of one another.
The Court, while assessing the document, held that it was not a family arrangement at all, but a partition deed entered into between the Defendant No. 1 and the daughter of the Original Plaintiff, and thus, would not be admissible without registration and payment of stamp duty.
The Court here relied on the case of Ramgopal vs. Tulshi Ram and Others wherein it was held that it was possible to have a verbal family arrangement and it would not require registration. However, when the same has been reduced to words, registration would become mandatory.
While applying the aforestated case the Court held that since the document was written and had been prepared in the pendency of the original suit, it was evident that the same was being prepared with an intention to be used as evidence and thus the same could not be relied upon by the Court without registration.
Conclusively, the order of the Appellate Court was set aside as it was based on erroneous reasoning and had failed to take into account that the document that it had relied upon was flawed owing to lack of registration and no certain participation of all family members. Effectively, the decree of the District Court was upheld and reinstated and as a result, a share only in two of the schedule properties was allowed.