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A presumption of truth attached to the revenue record can be rebutted only on the basis of evidence of impeccable integrity and reliability; SC.

Supreme Court of India

Justice Hemant Gupta & Justice L Nageswara Rao

The SC {SHRI PARTAP SINGH (DEAD) THROUGH LRS. & ORS v. SHIV RAM (DEAD) THROUGH LRS.} holds as per Section 32(2)(a) of the Himachal Land Revenue Act, 1954, record-of-rights, i.e. Jamabandi, shall include the name of persons who are landowners, tenants or assignees of land revenue and also the rent, land revenue, rates, cesses or other payments due from and to each of those persons and to the Government. On the other hand, the periodical record, i.e. Khasra Girdawari, as mentioned in Section 34 of Himachal Land Revenue Act, 1954, is to be prepared every year as the proof of the statements, as mentioned in sub-section (2) clause (a) of Section 32, which includes the name of the landowners, tenants and the rent and land revenue payable. In terms of Section 45 of the 1954 Act, the record-of-rights as prepared in terms of Sections 32 and 34 of the 1954 Act carries a presumption of truth. 

It was further held that the detailed procedure for recording of periodical record-of-rights as well as the record-of-rights in terms of Sections 32 & 34 of the 1954 Act has been prescribed. The record-of-rights contains entries of the revenue record for the four years. Such record-of-rights carries the presumption of correctness in terms of Section 45 of the 1954 Act and also Section 35 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Section 109 of the Evidence Act further contemplates that whether there exists a relationship of landowner and tenant and the burden of proving such a relationship is on the person who affirms it. 

It was held that the entries in the Jamabandi carry presumption of truth but such presumption is rebuttable. Once that presumption is raised, still another comes to the aid of respondent No. 1 by reason of the rule contained in Section 109 of the Evidence Act, namely, that when two persons have been shown to stand to each other in the relationship of landlord and tenant, the burden of proving that such relationship has ceased, is on the party who so asserts.

Further, held that the present is a case where no relationship of landlord and tenant is mentioned in the revenue record though required in terms of Section 32(2)(a) of 1954 Act. It was held that in the absence of entry in the revenue record, which is also expected to contain the entry of rent and possession, the tenancy cannot be treated to be in existence only on the basis of oral evidence of the witnesses examined by the defendant. The burden of proving the relationship was on the defendant. Such burden cannot be said to be rebutted only by oral evidence. The witnesses may lie but the documents do not, is a golden rule. The presumption of truth attached to the revenue record can be rebutted only on the basis of evidence of impeccable integrity and reliability. The oral evidence can always be adduced contrary to the revenue record but such oral testimony will not be sufficient to hold that the statutory presumption stands rebutted.

It was held that the presumption of truth attached to the revenue record can be rebutted if such entry was made fraudulently or surreptitiously or where such entry has not been made by following the prescribed procedure. Even in earlier case, where thirty years old lease deed was produced, the SC had not accepted the proof of the relationship between landowner and tenant in absence of receipt of payment of rent.

In the present case, the appeal was directed against an order passed by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh whereby the defendant's second appeal was allowed and the suit for a permanent injunction, mandatory injunction and rendition of accounts was dismissed. The suit was based on revenue records by the plaintiff. The defendant asserted landlord - tenant relationship. It was held that the onus was upon the defendant to prove relationship which he failed to establish. The suit was decreed by the SC - appeal was allowed.

Consequently, the order of the High Court was set aside by the SC.

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