By Sunil Garodia
The Supreme Court has held that when a father sells property owned and in the name of his minor child without a court's permission, the contract is voidable but not void. It has also held that no remedy is allowed to either the minor on attaining majority or to anyone representing the minor after his death if a suit for setting aside the sale deed for such property has not been made within the three year time limit prescribed under section 60 of the Limitation Act, 1963 and the benefits of 12 years under section 65 of the said Act are not available in such cases.
The case before the court was of a father who sold the property owned by his minor son in 1981. He also conveyed the sale deed to the purchaser. The father died in 1983. The minor son also died in 1986 while still a minor. In 1986, the mother of the minor executed release deeds for the same property in favour of cousins of the minor, who were the plaintiffs in the present case. Citing the release deeds executed by the mother, the plaintiffs filed a suit in 1992 for a decree in their favour against the defendants, who were the purchaser of the property.
The trial court decreed the property in favour of the plaintiffs. But on an appeal by the defendants, the appellate court reversed the decision, saying that the three year period of limitation had passed. Aggrieved by this, the plaintiffs approached the Supreme Court but the apex court upheld the appellate court’s order and denied them any relief.
Two laws apply in this case. Under the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, while property can be purchased and held in a minor’s name, permission of the court is required to sell such property. If at all such property is sold, the contract is not void but voidable, as pointed out by the Supreme Court. This means that an application has to be made in an appropriate court by the minor’s representatives within the period of limitation for setting aside the sale deeds. In the instant case, no such application was made.
Then, there is the question whether the time period of limitation, in this case, will be three years under section 60 of the Limitation Act or twelve years under section 65. Section 60 clearly states that as per sub-section a, the minor has three years from the date of attaining majority to get the deed set aside and as per sub-section b(1), when the minor dies before attaining his representatives have three years from the date the minor died. In the instant case, since the first suit was filed in 1992 and the minor died in 1986, the time allowed under the limitation act had expired and there was no remedy. The release deeds executed by the mother were void.
The court held that section 65 was not applicable in this case. It said “now, coming to Article 65, on which reliance has been placed by learned counsel for the appellants. The said period of limitation is available when suit is filed for possession of immovable property on any interest therein based on title. The present is a case where by registered sale deeds the property was conveyed by the father of the minor was eonominee party. Thus, when sale deed was executed by Balaraman he purported to convey the right of the minor also. The sale deeds being voidable and not void, plaintiffs cannot rely on Article 65.”