Dhani Ram (died) through LRs. & others v/s Shiv Singh [Civil Appeal No. 8172 Of 2009]
The division bench of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah said that it is well settled that mere registration would not sanctify a document by attaching to it an irrebuttable presumption of genuineness.
The court found that neither of the attesting witnesses in the case fulfilled the mandate of Section 63(c) of the Succession Act to prove the Will. Though Lok Nath Attri claimed that Leela Devi affixed her signatures in the Will in their presence, which was vehemently denied by the other attesting witness, Chaman Lal, the fact remains that Lok Nath Attri also did not state that he affixed his signatures in the Will in the presence of Leela Devi. This is one of the compulsory requisites of Section 63(c) of the Succession Act.
Leela Devi, also referred to as Leela Wati, died on 10.12.1987. Her husband, Sohan Lal, had predeceased her. Dhani Ram, the son of Leela Devi’s brother, claimed that she executed a registered Will bequeathing to him the properties left by late Sohan Lal. Shiv Singh, the son of Sohan Lal’s brother, instituted a Civil Suit on the file of the Senior Sub Judge, Solan, Himachal Pradesh, challenging the Will executed by Leela Devi, under which Dhani Ram claimed entitlement to the properties that originally belonged to Sohan Lal.
The court noted that Lok Nath Attri claimed that he had good relations with Leela Devi and that she would meet him regularly for some work or the other. Having stated so, he surprisingly said that Leela Devi may have lived for 2 – 3 years after the execution of the Will. However, Leela Devi allegedly executed the Will on 27.10.1987, got it registered on 03.11.1987 and expired on 10.12.1987. Therefore, she lived for barely a month and a half after the execution of the Will. The fact that Lok Nath Attri did not recall this crucial detail casts any amount of doubt on his credibility.
It was observed that Section 68 of the Evidence Act requires at least one attesting witness to the Will to prove its execution in terms of Section 63 of the Succession Act, but it is clear that neither Lok Nath Attri nor Chaman Lal passed muster in satisfying this requirement.
“In consequence, Section 71 of the Evidence Act had a role to play in the matter, as one attesting witness, Chaman Lal, denied the very execution of the document in his presence while the other attesting witness, Lok Nath Attri, did not establish its execution in terms of the legal mandate. It was, therefore, incumbent upon Dhani Ram to lead other evidence to prove the execution of the Will by Leela Devi. However, neither Ghanshyam Dutt Sharma, the document writer who scribed the Will, nor anyone from the Registrar’s Office at Kasauli were examined to prove its execution”, the court further observed.
The court held that compliance with the essential legal requirements, in terms of Sections 68 and 71 of the Evidence Act and Section 63 of the Succession Act, was not established in order to prove the execution of Will.