1. Interpretation of Statutes – External Aids – Reports of Commissions and Committees – Reports and recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committees/Commissions – Scope of using as external aid – Principles reiterated.

Reiterated, Reports and recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committees/Commissions that precede enactment of a statute can be used as external aids to interpret the meaning of ambiguous words in a statutory provision wherever considered necessary . They can also be taken note of as to the existence of a historical fact. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that such Reports are not decisive and a court is free to arrive at a different conclusion based on its own findings and other evidence produced by the parties.

Kshetrimayum Maheshkumar Singh and Anr. v. The Manipur University and Anr, (2022) 2 Supreme Court Cases 704 [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 163 OF 2022, decided on 05-01-2022]

2. Interpretation of taxing statutes

Charging, computation and exemption provisions – Manner of interpretation

In every taxing statute the charging, the computation and exemption provisions at the

threshold stage should be interpreted strictly. In case of ambiguity in case of charging provision, the benefit necessarily must go into favour of the subject/assessee. This means that the subject of tax, the person liable to pay the and the rate at which the tax is to be levied have to be interpreted and construed strictly. If there is any ambiguity in any of these three components, no tax can be levied till the ambiguity or defect was removed by the legislature. However, in case of exemption notification or clause, same is to be allowed based wholly by the language of the notification, and exemption cannot be gathered by necessary implication, or on a construction different from the words used by reference to the object and purpose of granting exemption.

Further it is for the assessee to show by construction of the exemption clause/ notification that it comes within the purview of exemption. The assessee/ citizen cannot rely on ambiguity or doubt to claim benefit of exemption. The rationale is not to widen the ambit at the stage of applicability. However, once the hurdle is crossed, the notification is constructed liberally. Thus, distinction can be made between the substantive requirements that require strict compliance, non-compliance of which would render the assessee ineligible to claim exemption, and the procedural or compliance provision which can be interpreted liberally.

The statutory conditions for grant of exemption can neither be tinkered with nor diluted. The

exemption notification must be interpreted by their own wordings and where the wordings of notification with regard to the construction are clear, the said notification has to be given effect to . If on the wordings of the notification, benefit is not available, then the court would not grant benefit by stretching the words of the notification or by adding words to the notification. To interpret the exemption notification one should go by the clear, unambiguous wordings thereof.

State of Maharashtra v. Shri Vile Parle Kelvani Mandal & Ors., (2022) 2 Supreme Court Cases 725 [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7319 OF 2012, decided on 07-01-2022]

3. Succession Act of 1925, S. 63 – Execution of Will – Suspicious circumstances – Exclusion of one of natural heirs from bequest, cannot by itself be ground to hold that there are suspicious circumstances – More so when specific reasons are given in Will for such exclusion

Original testators executed Will bequeathing their property in favour of their sons excluding daughter giving specific reasons for such exclusion. Once it is found that father not only attested the mother’s Will and in his own Will which is a registered Will, the father had made a mention about the mother’s Will, all the suspicious circumstances sought to be projected would automatically fall to the ground. When it was not even the case of the respondents that the testators were not in a sound and disposing state of mind, the High Court found fault with the appellants for not disclosing the nature of the ailments suffered by them. The exclusion of one of the natural heirs from the bequest cannot by itself be a ground to hold that there are suspicious circumstances. The reasons given in Will of mother are more than convincing to show that the exclusion of the daughter has

happened in a very natural way. If said Will had been fabricated on blank papers containing the signatures of the mother, there would have been no occasion for the father to make a mention in his own Will about the execution of the Will by the mother. The father was alive till 08.08.2000. Therefore, there was no necessity for the appellants to seek probate of the said Will. After the death of father on 08.08.2000, the appellants obviously had no support, due to the fact that their father had pre deceased his father. The occasion for the appellants to seek probate of the Will arose only when the respondents filed the suit for partition. Therefore, there was actually no delay on the part of the appellants in seeking probate.

Swarnalatha & Ors. v. Kalavathy & Ors. : AIR 2022 Supreme Court 1585 [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1565 OF 2022, (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (C) No.13840 of 2019) decided on 30-03-2022]

4. Interpretation of Statutes – Legislative intent – For finding out the true meaning of one part of a statute, a reference will have to be made to another part of the statute and that will best express meaning of the makers.

Statute must be read as a whole. This rule of statutory construction is so firmly established that it is variously styled as “elementary rule”. It has been held that for finding out the true meaning of one part of a statute, a reference will have to be made to another part of the statute and that will best express meaning of the makers. It is the duty of the Court to avoid a head on clash between two sections of the Act and to construe the provisions which appear to be in conflict with each other in such a manner so as to harmonise them. Provisions of one section of a statute cannot be used to defeat the other provisions unless the court finds the reconciliation between them impossible. When two conflicting provisions in an Act cannot

be reconciled with each other, they should be so interpreted that, if possible, effect should be given to both. It has further been held that an interpretation, which reduces one of the provisions as a “dead letter” or “useless lumber”, should be avoided. If the court has a choice between two interpretations, the narrower of which would fail to achieve the manifest purpose of the legislation, such an interpretation will have to be avoided.

Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation v. Sanjay Gajanan Gharat And Another: AIR 2022 SUPREME COURT 1618 [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2643 OF 2022, decided on 31-03-2022]

5. Powers-of-Attorney Act of 1882), Ss. 1A, 2 – Transfer by ostensible owner – After finding that power of Attorney did not contain authorization to sell, bonafide purchaser cannot claim benefit of

41 of Transfer of Property Act The deed of general Power of Attorney executed by the appellant in favour of her sister on 21.07.1971 did not specifically contain any power of sale. If the respondent/purchaser had exercised reasonable care as required by the proviso to section 41, they could have easily found out that there was no power of sale. Deed of power of Attorney did not contain a clause authorizing the agent to sell the property though it contained two express provision, one for leasing out the property and another for executing necessary documents if a security had to be offered for any borrowal made by the agent. Therefore, by convoluted logic, punctuation marks cannot be made to convey a power of sale.

The document should expressly authorize the agent, (i) to execute a sale deed; (ii) to present it for registration; and (iii) to admit execution before the Registering Authority.

It is a fundamental principle of the law of transfer of property that “no one can confer a better title than what he himself has” (Nemo dat quod non habet). The appellant’s sister did not have the power to sell the property to the vendors of the respondent. Therefore, the vendors of the respondent could not have derived any valid title to the property. If the vendors of the respondent themselves did not have any title, they had nothing to convey to the respondent, except perhaps the litigation.

Mrs. Umadevi Nambiar v. Thamarasseri Roman Catholic Diocese Rep By Its Procurator Devssias Son Rev. Father Joseph Kappil: AIR 2022 SUPREME COURT 1640 [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2592 OF 2022, decided on 01-04-2022]

6. Land Acquisition Act of 1894, Ss. 23, 4 – Compensation – Sale instances – Whether comparable or not – Sale instances with respect to small plots/parcels of land are not comparable to large extent of land for purpose of determining compensation – Deduction towards development charges:

As per the settled position of law, small plots/ parcels of land cannot offer the same market value as when a large tract of land is purchased in an open market by a willing and prudent purchaser. As per the settled position of law, generally the sale instances with respect to small plots/parcels of land are not comparable to a large extent of land for the purpose of determining the compensation. In the case of Mahanti Devi v. Jaiprakash Associates Ltd., reported in (2019) 5 SCC 163: (AIR Online 2019 SC 571), after following the decision of this Court in the case of Viluben Jhalejar Contractor

State of Gujarat, reported in (2005) 4 SCC 789: (AIR 2005 SC 2214), it is held that in case of acquisition of large tracts of land and

the exemplars are of small portion of land, there shall be a suitable deduction towards development costs.

What should be reasonable deduction towards development charges has been considered by SC Court in the cases of Lal Chand v. UOI (AIR 2010 SC 170) and UOI v. Dyagala Devamma (AIR 2018 SC 3511).

In the present case, the acquired land is a barren agricultural land which may have a non agricultural potentiality. Therefore, considering the fact that the sale exemplars/sale deeds produced are in respect of very small plots of land and were non-agricultural developed plots and even the same were on the highway and having the access to the main road, therefore directed that there shall be at least 40% deduction towards development charges.

Union Of India v. Premlata Bhatia And Ors. : AIR 2022 SUPREME COURT 1693 [CIVIL APPEAL  176-177 OF 2022 with 178-179 OF 2022, decided on 06-04-2022]

7. Interplay between the judicial remedies under the Consumer Protection Act and the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016 – Refund of Amount

When allowed – Apartment buyer’s agreement – Delay compensation clause

In the present case, which provided that the Developer would be liable to pay delay compensation @ Rs 7.5 per square foot which works out to approximately 0.9 to 1% p.a. The Court held that this Clause is one-sided and entirely loaded in favour of the Developer and against the allottee. The Court concluded that the powers of the Consumer Court were in no manner constrained to declare a contractual term as unfair and one-sided as an incident of the power to discontinue unfair or restrictive trade practices.

Held that the Developer cannot compel the apartment buyers to be bound by the one-sided contractual terms contained in the apartment buyer’s Agreement. The Commission is correct in its approach in holding that the clauses of the agreement are one sided and that the Consumer is not bound to accept the possession of the apartment and can seek refund of the amount deposited by her with interest.

It has consistently been held by this Court that the remedies available under the provisions of the CP Act are additional remedies over and above the other remedies including those made available under any special statutes; and that the availability of an alternate remedy is no bar in entertaining a complaint under the CP Act.

A consumer invoking the jurisdiction of the Commission can seek such reliefs as he/she considers appropriate. A consumer can pray for refund of the money with interest and compensation. The consumer could also ask for possession of the apartment with compensation. The consumer can also make a prayer for both in the alternative. If a consumer prays for refund of the amount, with-out an alternative prayer, the Commission will recognize such a right and grant it, of course subject to the merits of the case. If a consumer seeks alternative reliefs, the Commission will consider the matter in the facts and circumstances of the case and will pass appropriate orders as justice demands. This position is similar to the mandate under Section 18 of the RERA Act.

The Commission has the power and jurisdiction to direct return of money under Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act, if a consumer so chooses. The freedom to choose the necessary relief is of the Consumer and it is the duty of the Courts to honour it.

Experion Developers Private Ltd. v. Sushma Ashok Shiroor AIR 2022 SUPREME COURT 1824 [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6044 OF 2019 decided on 7-04-2022]

8. Words and Phrases – Delay, Laches and Acquiescence

Delay is genus to which laches and acquiescence are species. Similarly, laches might be called a genus to a species by name acquiescence. However, there may be a case where acquiescence is involved, but not laches. In a case involving mere laches, principle of estoppel would apply to all defences that are available to a party. Therefore, a defendant can succeed on various grounds raised by plaintiff, while an issue concerned alone would be amenable to acquiescence.

Laches involves unreasonable delay or negligence in pursuing a claim involving an equitable relief while causing prejudice to other party. It is neglect on part of a party to do an act

which law requires while asserting a right, and therefore, must stand in way of party getting relief or remedy.

Acquiescence would mean a tacit or passive acceptance. It is implied and reluctant consent to an act. In other words, such an action would qualify a passive assent When acquiescence is followed by delay, it may become laches. However concept of acquiescence is to be seen on a case-to-case basis.

Union of India And Others v. N Murugesan and others (2022) 2 Supreme Court Cases 25 [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2491-92 OF 2021, with 2493-94 OF 2021 decided on 07-10-2021]

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