Mere living in house does not mean ownership: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court has said mere living in a particular house by itself would not mean that the said house is under ownership of the person residing over there in his individual capacity.

A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal dismissed a petition filed by Purushottam Bagh Sahkari Awas Samiti Ltd against the Allahabad High Court's order which set aside a decision to cancel allotment of a residential plot in Agra to Krishna Pal Singh and others on the ground that they already had a house in the area of the society.

A sale deed was executed in favour of Singh in 1983 in respect of the plot measuring 933 sq meters.

Under the bye-laws of the society, a residential plot could be allotted to a member only if he lives or wishes to live in the area of operation of the society provided he or his family member does not own any building or plot in the area of operation of the society. The ‘family’ of such a member under the by-laws means husband, wife and dependent minor children.

In 2010, the matter was referred to the sole arbitrator, i.e. cooperative officer (resident) Agra on a complaint that Singh gave a false affidavit as he had already possessed a house and his family lived over there.

It was also alleged that Singh had not constructed a house or the boundary wall of the said plot within the time permitted. 

Meanwhile, Singh died in 1992 and was succeeded by his two sons, Lt Col Upendra Pal Singh and Shobhan Pal Singh.

In 2010, the sale deed was declared as null and void even though Singh's sons claimed their father had raised a boundary wall on the said plot after the building plan was sanctioned by the society and that they had deposited even the development charges with the society. Their father never had any house or building within the area of operation of the society, they also claimed.

An appeal against arbitrator's award too was dismissed in 2011.

On a writ petition filed by sons, the High Court in 2013 found that the society had failed to bring on record any material to prove that Krishna Pal Singh at the time of the purchase of the property was residing in his own house or that he was having any residential property in the area of operation of the society. It also noted no evidence was brought before the arbitrator about ownership of any other land by the Singh or that no construction was raised on the plot in question. The HC held that the sale deed cannot be declared to be null and void.

Hearing the appeal by the society, the top court said writ court has returned a specific finding that the society had failed to furnish any evidence before the arbitrator to substantiate its allegation that Singh was having land or a house in Agra and that he or his successors have violated any of the conditions of the sale deed or of the bylaws of the society.

"The only finding recorded by the arbitrator is that at the time of allotment he had given his address to be F150 Kamla Nagar, Agra where even now his successors are residing. However, such finding  falls short of saying that the address at which he was living was  a house which belonged to him or his family members as defined under the by-laws or that his successors are the owners of the said house in their own capacity," the bench said.

"Mere living in a particular house by itself would not mean that the said house is under ownership of the person living therein in his individual capacity or even that it is within the area of operation of the society," the bench added.

Case Title: Purushottam Bagh Sahkari Awas Samiti Vs. Shobhan Pal Singh

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