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Dr. Karan Singh V. State of Jammu & Kashmir & Another (2004)

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Citation: Dr. Karan Singh v. State of J&K, (2004) 5 SCC 698

Date of Judgment: 13/04/2004

Equivalent citations: AIR 2004 SUPREME COURT 2480, 2004 AIR SCW 2973, 2004 (5) SRJ 485, 2004 (1) ARBI LR 599, 2004 (4) SCALE 418, 2004 (4) ACE 495, 2004 (2) JKJ 1, (2004) 19 ALLINDCAS 280 (SC), 2004 (19) ALLINDCAS 280, (2004) 5 JT 142 (SC), 2004 (5) SCC 698, 2004 (3) SLT 839, (2004) 1 ARBILR 599, (2004) 4 SUPREME 483, (2004) 4 SCALE 418, (2004) 18 INDLD 89

Case No: Appeal (civil) 5943-5945 of 1997

Case Type: N/A

Petitioner/ Appellant: Dr. Karan Singh

Respondent: State of Jammu & Kashmir & Anr.

Bench:

  • Hon’ble Justice Y.K. Sabharwal
  • Hon’ble Justice Dr. AR. Lakshmanan

Court: Supreme Court of India

Statutes Referred:

  • Constitution of India – Article 363

Facts:

  • The Appellant was a son of Maharaja Hari Singh, ex-ruler of Jammu and Kashmir who made a representation on 2 December, 1983 before Ministry of Home Affairs claiming articles lying in Toshakhana that is the private property of Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • While the representation was pending, a writ petition was filed by the Appellant in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, praying for issue of directions to Union of India, Ministry of Home Affairs to adjudicate upon the representation made on 2 December, 1983.
  • While the writ petition was pending before High Court the representation of Appellant was rejected by Union of India on 24th September, 1984, and regarding this the notice was sent to Appellant on the same day.
  • The Union of India also noticed the Appellant that in response to Government’s letter dated 18th May, 1949, Maharaja Hari Singh in his letter dated 1st June, 1949 addressed to late Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, the then Minister of Home Affairs, had sent a list of his private properties. There is no mention of jewellery or regalia which is being claimed by the Appellant in the said list. The said list of private properties given by the Maharaja Hari Singh was accepted by the Government of India and duly communicated by letter dated 9th June, 1949 to Maharaja Hari Singh.
  • The writ petition which was filed by the Appellant in Jammu and Kashmir High Court got rejected and it was ordered to seal the Box of Jewlery.
  • Then the Appeal was filed in the Supreme Court, which set aside the order of High Court and also directed the opening of the boxes for the purpose of inspection for determining the true nature and character of the articles and whether any items constitute heirlooms articles of personal use of the appellant and his family.
  • The inspection was carried out and an inspection report was made which was submitted to the High Court.
  • The writ petition which was filed in High Court was amended by the Appellant in which he sought quashing of the Government’s order of rejecting his representation and also to quash the decision of declining to review the said order. Further, a declaration was sought that the heirlooms in the custody of Toshakhana, Srinagar (563 items) are the personal properties of the appellant.
  • The writ petition of Appellant was partly allowed by Learned Single Judge Bench and it was decided:-
  • That Appellant is rightful owner of ‘heirlooms’ consisting of 42 items of jewellery mentioned in appendix ‘C’ of the inspection report.
  • It was directed to State Government to deliver possession of 42 items of jewellery to Appellant.
  • The order of the Government of India, rejecting the representation and declining to review the said order were quashed.
  • The Government of India was directed to reconsider the appellant’s representation after giving a proper opportunity of being heard to all the parties involved in the matter with regard to the claim of the items of jewellery mentioned in appendix ‘A’ and ‘B’ to the report of the Inspection Committee.
  • The judgment of Learned Single Judge Bench was challenged by filing of Letter Patents Appeal separately by:- Appellant, The State Government, Union of India
  • The Appellant claimed that all the articles ought to have been declared as his private property and the State Government and Union of India claimed that the writ petition should have been dismissed by the Learned Single Judge.
  • All the three appeals were decided by the Division Bench in which it was decided that:- he circumstances and conduct of the Appellant it is evident that till 1983, no attempt was made, either by the ex-ruler or by the appellant, to claim these properties as private properties, so from this either there was relinquishment of right or waiver voluntarily by the Appellant Also the finding of Learned Single Judge in respect of 42 items was reversed.
  • It was further held by the Division Bench that according to Article 363 of Indian Constitution, the Court of Law is not allowed to adjudicate upon the matter and dismissed the appeal filed by the Appellant.
  • The Appeals filed by the State and the Union of India have been allowed.
  • The Appeal was filed by the Appellant in the Supreme Court against the decision.

Issues Involved:

  • Whether the Appeal filed by Appellant was maintainable or not in regard to Article 363 of Indian Constitution?
  • Whether the appellant is disentitled to relief on applicability of the doctrine of estoppel, abandonment and waiver?
  • Whether the decision of the Government of India rejecting the representation deserves to be quashed or the issue either deserves to be remitted to Government of India for reconsideration or should be referred for adjudication to an arbitrator?

Contentions of Petitioner/ Appellant:

The counsel for the Petitioner contended that:

  • The Division Bench is in error in coming to the conclusion that the appellant has abandoned, relinquished or waived his right and in dismissing the writ petition.
  • The Appellant didn’t forsake his right and it was further contended that to exercise the right over the articles, the proper opportunity arose only in the year 1983 when the newspaper report showed that the state government has an intention of selling this articles and the appellant immediately asserted his right by filing a representation and also filed a writ petition before High Court without awaiting the decision of representation.
  • The issue in the matter was reasonably fit and deserve to be referred for adjudication to the arbitration of an independent arbitrator.
  • The inspection report at least prima facie shows that these articles are private property of the appellant and, therefore, an independent adjudication is needed.

Contention of Respondents:

The counsel for the Respondent contended that:

  • The writ petition was not maintainable according to the bar contained in Article 363 of the Constitution of India.
  • The issue whether the articles are private or State property is barred from the jurisdiction of court according to Article 363 of Indian Constitution, as it arises from the document of accession entered into by Late Maharaja Hari Singh with the Government of India.

Judgment:

  • The correspondence exchanged between Maharaja Hari Singh and the Government of India would amount to ‘agreement’ within the meaning of Article 363 and thus the jurisdiction of court would be barred.
  • The decision of Division Bench that the appellant has waived or abandoned his right in respect of the articles in question were considered right.
  • The decision of the Government of India rejecting the representation of Appellant was not quashed and was considered right.
  • So, the Judgment given by the Division Bench of High Court was considered right and Appeal of the Petitioner was dismissed.

Ratio Decidendi:

The Court emphasized that the father of Dr. Karan Singh, Maharaja Hari Singh, never claimed the articles as private property, and Dr. Karan Singh failed to assert his right at the proper opportunity. The conclusion of the Division Bench regarding waiver and abandonment was considered valid.

Obiter Dicta:

N/A

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court, while upholding the decisions of the Division Bench, concluded that the appeal lacked merit. The court affirmed the findings related to abandonment and the inapplicability of court jurisdiction under Article 363. The decision underscores the importance of timely assertion of rights in property disputes.

Drafted By: – Sargam Bansal

Published on: February 12, 2024 at 15:35 IST