Apex court rebukes high court over sibling dispute

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court has rebuked the Madhya Pradesh High Court for deciding a civil dispute between two brothers over their ancestral property in favour of the ‘dishonest’ one, while also ruing the loss of trust among brothers.

‘The impugned judgement of the (Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh) high court is wholly unsustainable, illegal, perverse and against the norms of any civilised society,’ said a bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice M.K. Sharma.

‘The high court’s judgement has demolished the entire fibre of joint family system of our country and has put premium on the dishonesty of the defendant and the same deserves to be set aside,’ said the bench April 15, while setting aside the high court ruling. The apex court ruling was released recently.

‘It is unfortunate if one brother cannot trust his own brother even to this extent, then how can peace and tranquility prevail in the society,’ wondered the bench while disapproving of the dishonesty by one of the brothers towards his sibling.

‘The saddest part is that the high court has put judicial seal of approval on such a dishonest conduct of the defendant brother Jagannath,’ said the bench, adding that ‘the impugned judgement of the high court cannot be sustained.’

The ruling came on a civil dispute between two brothers Sukhram and Jagannath, sons of late Nar Singh and residents of Kadwali Khurd in Indore district, over 22.39 acres of agricultural land and an ancestral house in the village.

In his youth, Sukhram left his village to look after his maternal uncle’s property, but before leaving the village he asked his brother Jagannath to look after his share of the ancestral property as well and return the same after his return from his maternal uncle’s village.

But a few years down the line, when Sukhram returned to his native village, Jagannath refused to return his share of the property contending that the same was looked after and developed by him in his absence and accordingly, he (Sukhram) had no right over the property.

This forced Sukhram to approach the court in early 1972 against his brother Jagannath, who contended in the court that Sukhram was not his own brother but only a step brother. He also argued that the house left by his father was in a dilapidated condition and had to be repaired with his own money.

He also said that his father had left behind unpaid loans from several people and he had to pay back all the loans, partly through his own income and partly through the income generated by the property left by the father.

The lower court, however, ruled equal distribution of property in favour of the two brothers. Against this ruling, Jagannath approached the district court, which too endorsed the lower court ruling in favour of equal distribution of property.

Jagannath subsequently approached the Indore bench of the state high court, which ruled in favour of him on the reasoning that the apex court said was ‘very unusual, strange and totally unsustainable’.

The apex court also castigated the high court for admitting an appeal against the two concurrent judgements of the lower courts though there was no substantial question of law and the section 100 of the Civil Procedure Code specifically bars the high court from admitting such an appeal.

Upset by the loss of trust between the brothers, the apex court also ordered Jagannath to pay Rs.50,000 for ‘hoodwinking his own brother in the dispute over ancestral property’.


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