SC: ‘Acceptance’ in TOPA to Be Decided Based on the Conduct of Parties

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A Full Bench of the Supreme Court held a transfer of land via a gift deed valid while stating the non-applicability of the Rajasthan Ceiling Act on the said transfer. It also observed that while the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 (TOPA) does not define acceptance of a transfer, it has to be inferred from the conduct of the donor and donee and the circumstances of the transfer.

Brief facts of the Case

The Appellant transferred 127 acres of land in favour of his son. The Collector held that the transfer of the land in favour of the Appellant’s son was invalid. There was no acceptance of the gift. It was also declared that the Appellant was holding 11 acres of extra land above the state ceiling limit. The Collector directed the Appellant to handover vacant possession of the above-stated 11 standard acres of extra land to the Tahsildar.

On appeal, the Board of Revenue modified the order and, upon re­calculation, held that the Appellant was holding 4.5 standard acres of land above the state ceiling limit.

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The Single Bench High Court held that the case was beyond the purview of the Rajasthan Ceiling Act of 1973 because the land was transferred by way of a gift before 1970. It also held the transfer of land valid. 

However, the Division Bench held that the gift deed was invalid as the Appellant’s son was unaware of the transfer.   

Hence, the present appeal.

Appellant’s Arguments

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The transfer of land was executed in 1963. The Division Bench of the High Court did not recognize the transfer of land in favour of the Appellant’s son. 

The requirements of Section 122 of the TOPA were met as the transfer was executed during the lifetime of the son, who was a major. The acceptance of land was implied as the transfer was between father and son. The son was also living separately with his family. The transfer does not violate the provisions of the Rajasthan Tenancy Act. 

Also, the notice for reopening of the ceiling case was beyond the period of limitation.

Respondent’s Arguments

The Division Bench has upheld the order passed by the Board of Revenue. The said decision was passed after a detailed assessment of the facts and according to Section 30C and 30D of the Tenancy Act of 1955. 

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The Writ Court cannot interfere with the findings of facts.

The notice was issued within the limitation period for the reopening of the case.

Issues of the Case

The Court framed three issues. First, whether reopening of the case was beyond the period of limitation? 

Second, whether the registered gift deed by the Appellant is valid? 

And third, whether Single Bench High Court’s judgment is in ignorance of the provisions of the Rajasthan Tenancy Act?

Court’s Observations

The Bench stated that the case was re­opened within the period stipulated under Section 15 of the Rajasthan Ceiling Act.

The Bench observed that Section 122 of the Transfer of Property Act (TOPA) neither defines acceptance nor does it prescribe any particular mode for accepting a gift. The only requirement stipulated by the Act is that the acceptance of the gift must be within the lifetime of the donor itself.

However, acceptance can be ascertained from the surrounding circumstances. It can be taking into possession of the property by the donee or having the gift deed. 

Hence, being an act of receiving willingly, acceptance can be inferred by the donee’s implied conduct.

The Bench noted that the recitals in the gift deed indicated that the donor intended to part with ownership and possession immediately.

All requirements of the TOPA were satisfied. Also, the statements and conduct of the donor and done indicate the acceptance of the gift.

The Bench noted that Section 30C of the Tenancy Act of 1955 provides for the ceiling limit of 30 standard acres for a family of five members or less. The Appellant admittedly was having a family of fewer than five members and was initially holding around 34.4 acres. Subsequently, under a registered gift deed, the Appellant had transferred around 127 acres to his son.

Firstly, the Rajasthan Ceiling act is not retrospective. Secondly, Section 6 of the Rajasthan Ceiling Act of 1973 declares that every transfer of land made after 1970 to defeat the provisions of the Ceiling Act. In the present case, the gift deed was executed in 1963, that is much before 1970.   

Thirdly, there is no finding that the gift deed was executed on any extraneous consideration. 

Court’s Decision

The Court declared the transfer of land by the Appellant to his son is bona fide as the provisions of the TOPA were complied with. It upheld the order of the Singh Bench High Court.

Click here to view the original judgment.


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