Sunday, February 18, 2018

What is the true legal position in the matter of proof of Wills? - Judgment Reading

In the leading case H. Venkatachala Iyengar v B.N. Tkimma-jamma, the Supreme Court has stated the manner and nature of proof required to prove a Will and the solemnity attached to the same which is as follows:

"What is the true legal position in the matter of proof of Wills? It is well known that the proof of Wills presents a recurring topic for decision in Courts and there are a large number of judicial pronouncements on the subject. The party propounding a Will or otherwise making a claim under a Will is no doubt seeking to prove a document and, in deciding how it is to be proved, we must inevitably refer to the statutory provisions which govern the proof of documents. Sections 67 and 68, Evidence Act are relevant for this purpose. Under Section 67, if a document is alleged to be signed by any person, the signature of the said person must be proved to be in his handwriting, and for proving such a handwriting under Sections 45 and 47 of the Act the opinions of experts and of persons acquainted with the handwriting of the person concerned are made relevant. Section 68 deals with the proof of the execution of the document required by law to be attested; and it provides that such a document shall not be used as evidence until one attesting witness at least has been called for the purpose of proving its execution. These provisions prescribe the requirements and the nature of proof which must be satisfied by the party who relies on a document in a Court of Law. Similarly, Sections 59 and 63 of the Indian Succession Act are also relevant. Section 59 provides that every person of sound mind, not being a minor, may dispose of his property by Will and the three illustrations to this section indicate what is meant by the expression "a person of sound mind" in the context. Section 63 requires that the testator shall sign or affix his mark to the Wilt or it shall be signed by some other person in his presence and by his direction and that the signature or mark shall be so made that it shall appear that it was intended thereby to give effect to the writing as a Will. This section also requires that the Will shall be attested by two or more witnesses as prescribed. Thus the question as to whether the Will set up by the propounder is proved to be the last Will of the testator has to be decided in the light of these provisions. Has the testator signed the Will? Did he understand the nature and effect of the dispositions in the Will? Did he put his signature to the Will knowing what it contained"? Stated broadly it is the decision of these questions which determines the nature of the finding on the question of the proof of Wills. It would prima facie be true to say that the Will has to be proved like any other document except as to the special requirements of attestation prescribed by Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act. As in the case of proof of other documents so in the case of proof of Wills it would be idle to expect proof with mathematical certainty. The test to be applied would be the usual test of the satisfaction of the prudent mind in such matters.

However, there is one important feature which distinguishes Wills from other documents. Unlike other documents the Will speaks from the death of the testator, and so, when it is propounded or produced before a Court, the testator who has already departed the world cannot say whether it is his Will or not; and this aspect naturally introduces an element of solemnity in the decision of the question as to whether the document propounded is proved to be the last Will and testament of the departed testator. Even so, in dealing with the proof of Wills the Court will start on the same enquiry as in the case of the proof of documents. The propounder would be called upon to show by satisfactory evidence that the Will was signed by the testator, that the testator at the relevant time was in a sound and disposing state of mind, that he understood the nature and effect of the dispositions and put his signature to the document of his own free Will. Ordinarily, when the evidence adduced in support of the Will is disinterested, satisfactory and sufficient to prove the sound and disposing state of the testator's mind and his signature as required by law, Courts would be justified in making a finding in favour of the propounder. In other words, the onus on the propounder can be taken to be discharged on proof of the essential facts just indicated".

10. Thus the principle that is evolved by the Supreme Court in short is that "where circumstances exist which excite suspicion of the Court, the propounder has to remove such suspicion and prove affirmatively that the testator knew and approved the contents of the documents". But what are suspicious circumstances is difficult to illustrate exhaustively. It depends upon facts of each case. Broadly stated some of the prominent ones indicated by the Court in the said decision being "signature is doubtful, condition of the mind is very feeble and debilitated, the disposition made in the Will is very unnatural, unfair, improbable in the light of relevant circumstances". In a later decision in Smt. Indu Bala and Others v Manindra Chandra Bose and Another, the principles of Venkataehala's case, supra, has been reiterated and some of suspicious circumstances has been illustrated in a little more detail viz., "The suspicious circumstances may be as to the genuineness of the signature of the testator, the condition of the testator's mind, the disposition made in the Will being unnatural, improbable or unfair, in the light of relevant circumstances". The Court has however sounded a word of caution by stating "Needless to say that any and every circumstance is not a suspicious circumstance. A circumstance would be suspicious when it is not normal as is not normally expected in a normal situation or is not expected of a normal person". Again in PPK Gopalan Nambiar v PPK Balakrishnan Nambiar and Others, it has been stated in order that the circumstances can be stated to be suspicious which should be removed by the propounder of the Will, it has stated "It is trite, that it is the duty of the propounder of the Will to prove the Will add remove all suspected features. But there must be real, germane and valid suspicious features and not fantasy of the doubting mind".

Thus what emerges from a reading of Section 59 of Indian Succession Act. Sections 67 and 68 of the Evidence Act; and the decisions referred to above is: That when a Will is sought to be probated by the propounder, and is charged or attacked by the caveator, the initial burden is on the propounder of the Will first to prove the Will by establishing that the executor or executrix as the case may be was not a minor, was of sound mind knew the contents and signed the Will in the presence and at least by two witnesses, and at least one of the attesting witness has to be examined as provided under Section 68 of the Evidence Act, and then remove from the mind of Court every circumstance of legitimate suspicion which is found to exist; but the suspicious circumstances must be real, germane to the case, but the approach to the question cannot be in the often quoted passage by the Supreme Court of Lord-da-pareq in Harmes v Hinksan:

"Where a Will is charged with suspicion, the rules enjoin a reasonable scepticism, not an obdurate persistence in disbelief. They do not demand from the Judge, even in circumstances of grave suspicion a resolute and impenetrable incredulity. He is never required to close his mind to truth".

One other important factor that has also to be kept in mind is that Courts should also guard in not over emphasizing circumstances which may look suspicious (though on a closer look it may not be red) which may result in frustrating the 'intention of the testator'.

After the propounder removes the legitimate suspicion circumstances if any then the burden shifts on the person attacking the Will on any grounds viz., fraud, undue influence, coercion, mistake etc., which burden he has to discharge by proper plea and proof.

Equivalent citations: ILR 1999 KAR 1038, 1999 (6) KarLJ 357Bench: Justice H Rangavittalachar

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sign this Petition: Stop GoK KTPA Amendment to destroy trees

Excerpt from the Petition:

The pernicious proposed amendment to denotify 50 species of trees will ensure any and all of our trees can be cut down by ANY civic agency BBMP BSNL BWSSB BESCOM Et al. 

We have enough green issues in our depeleting, denuded city The rule on cutting 50 trees plus needing public consultation is at best at is more followed as the exception than rule.

This move is anti environment, anti citizen & anti city -it will affect our city natural heritage,  the air we breathe, climate charge, water conservation and and sheer beauty & aesthetics. In addition it will lead to rampant green carnage and complete disregard for the environment by corrupt builders and/or  bureaucrats. Kings of yore lined paths with trees to offer shade & respitevtonits citizens, butvyoday our democratically elected leaders seem to dismiss all such basic goodness as luxuries, while they sit in air conditioned offices and spew pollution in their taxpayer funded cars . 

What is doubly worrying is not just that they are trying to slime this amendment through, but despite citizen might on protecting green  , they seem still brazenly committed to the destruction of the city. What does it say about our lawmakers ? What trust can we have in them ? They have tried this before with the steel flyover and the timber mafia had to back off. 

MLAs, please vote AGAINST the amendment if you care for this city and it’s future, and if you care for the air we breathe & the water we drink. We said Beda before to protect our beloved Bengaluru and we are saying it again.

#StopKilling ourCity  
#MaraKaraBedi so #KillBill .
Show us that #GoKLovesGreen NOT #GoKKillsGreen

As Harini Nagendra Eco expert says : How to fell trees and destroy the environment
1) Amend tree act to exclude most common species from protection
2) Chop, chop, build, build
3) Complain about #airpollution and lack of water #Bangalore #Sustainability

Further reading… Bangalore Mirror

Please sign
And make a difference.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Enemy Property Amendment and Validation Act and it's effect on China - EconomicTimes

The amendment of the 49-year-old Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Act after which the Narendra Modi government plans to auction more than 9,400 properties of those who took citizenship of China has made China jittery. 

Chinese investment in India has grown rapidly in the past few years. China fears India can confiscate assets of its companies, such as Xiaomi and Lenovo, if the two countries enter a military conflict. Last year, Indian and China faced off for months over construction by Chinese troops in the Doklam region. Though the conflict was resolved, tension persists in India-China relations. 

"If China and India become involved in a military conflict, the assets of Chinese companies doing business in India may be confiscated by the Indian government," said an article in state-run Chinese news outlet Global Times. 

According to data provided in the report of the parliament select committee on the bill, there are 9,280 immovable properties belonging to Pakistani nationals encompassing 11,882 acres. The total value of immovable properties that are vested with the custodian stood at Rs 1.04 lakh crore. Movable vested properties consist of shares in 266 listed companies valued at Rs 2,610 crore; shares in 318 unlisted companies valued at Rs 24 crore; gold and jewellery worth Rs 0.4 crore; bank balances of Rs 177 crore; investment in government securities of Rs 150 crore and investment in fixed deposits of Rs 160 crore. 

Besides this, there are 149 immovable enemy properties of Chinese nationals with the custodian in West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Delhi. 


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sebi bans PwC entities from auditing listed firms for two years

*Sebi bans PwC entities from auditing listed firms for two years Sebi also orders disgorgement of over Rs13 crore of wrongful gains from PwC and two erstwhile partners*

The order comes nine years after the scam at Satyam Computer Services came to light and after two failed attempts by PwC to settle the case through the consent mechanism.

Finding PwC guilty in the Satyam scam, India’s capital markets regulator on Wednesday barred its network entities from issuing audit certificates to any listed company in India for two years.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) also ordered the disgorgement of over Rs13 crore of wrongful gains from the auditing firm and its two erstwhile partners who worked on the IT company’s accounts. The order comes nine years after the scam at Satyam Computer Services came to light and after two failed attempts by PwC to settle the case through the consent mechanism.

This is also one of the most stringent orders passed by any regulator against a Big Four auditor.

In a 108-page order, Sebi has imposed a two-year ban on entities/ firms practicing as chartered accountants in India under the brand and banner of PwC from directly or indirectly issuing any certificate of audit of listed companies, compliance of obligations of listed companies and intermediaries registered with the regulator.

Sebi noted that the order would not impact audit assignments relating to the fiscal year 2017-18 undertaken by the firms forming part of the PwC network. Besides, Price Waterhouse Bangalore and its two erstwhile partners—S. Gopalakrishnan and Srinivas Talluri—have been directed to jointly and severally disgorge the wrongful gains of “Rs13,09,01,664 with interest calculated at the rate of 12 per cent per annum from January 7, 2009 till the date of payment”. They have to pay the amount within 45 days.

Further, Gopalakrishnan and Talluri have been restrained from directly or indirectly issuing any certificate of audit of listed companies, compliance of obligations of listed companies and intermediaries registered with Sebi for three years.

After consent pleas were rejected, PwC had approached the Supreme Court challenging Sebi’s jurisdiction over auditors. The apex court had asked the regulator to expeditiously pass the order in the matter after giving due opportunity, including access to documents, to the parties concerned.

Sebi said the objective of insulating the securities market from such fraudulent accounting practices perpetrated by an international firm of repute will be ineffective if the directions do not bring within its sweep the brand name PwC. The network structure of operations adopted by the international accounting firm should not be used as a shield to avoid legal implications arising out of the certifications issued under the brand name of the network, the order said.

“As we have said since 2009, there has been no intentional wrong doing by PW firms in the unprecedented management perpetrated fraud at Satyam, nor have we seen any material evidence to the contrary. We believe that the order is also not in line with the directions of the Bombay High Court order of 2011 and so we are confident of getting a stay before this order becomes effective,” PwC said in the statement.

It also noted that the order relates to a fraud that took place nearly a decade ago in which it played no part and had no knowledge of. Further, the statement said that Price Waterhouse Network firms in India has learnt the lessons of Satyam and invested heavily over the last nine years in building a robust and high quality audit practice.

First Published: Thu, Jan 11 2018. 12 38 AM IST
Source -