Written by: Shivangi Arora (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
Justice M. Satyanarayana Murthy of Andhra Pradesh High Court while hearing the Writ petition under case title Smt. T. Lakshmi Theresamma v. State of Andhra Pradesh noted that when the authenticity of a signature is disputed, the photocopy of an original document could not be used to testify the legitimacy of that signature as there remains the scope of mechanical errors and defective photocopying.
The petitioner T. Lakshmi Theresamma filed the complaint against District Collector as he was ignoring the petitioner’s request to issue a “No Objection Certificate” which was required to sell away her land. The land was assigned to her husband by the Tehsildar as he was in service to the Indian Army. But when a request to mutate the land in his name was made tehsildar ignored it despite repeated attempts. Within the course, the petitioner’s husband died. When she attempted to sell the property to support her old age, she was prohibited from doing so by stating that the land is government property and could not be sold. The petitioner approached the court which ordered the Registration of the property under The Registration Act of 1908. But the prospective buyer refused to buy without NOC. She applied for the NOC which was neglected. This made the petitioner to approach the court once again to obtain the direction for issuance of NOC which was subsequently granted. But once again her request was rejected. Her plea in the present court was based on the following grounds:
- She was denied natural justice as she was not given the proper opportunity to be heard.
- The issuance of NOC to her was based on the ground that the signatures of the assigning officer were not tallying with the signatures in the Patta, which the petitioner claimed to be baseless.
- The NOC was issued to other claimants in the same situation whereas only she was denied for the same. This behaviour was discriminatory towards her.
The legal issues raised in the petition were:
- Whether the petitioner was denied natural justice while passing the impugned order and was discriminatory towards the petitioner?
- Whether the impugned order is passed by comparing the signature on the Photostat copy of the patta with the signature of the then Tahsildar, without affording a reasonable opportunity, is under the law. If not, whether the order is liable to be set aside?
FINDINGS OF THE COURT
- The court contended with the fact that no reasonable opportunity to hear the petitioner was given before concluding for the impugned order which was a complete violation of the principle of natural justice.
- The court also noted that granting NOC to the similarly situated applicants while denying the same to the petitioner is discriminatory in nature and is clearly violative of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
- The court while referring to the precedents established in the cases of Kusuma Kumari v. The State of Andhra Pradesh and Anr and Bheri Nageswara Rao v. Madurai Veerabhadra Rao observed that only the court is bound to exercise the power under Section 73 of Indian Evidence Act and allowed to consult an Expert under Section 45 of the same code. The Administrative Authorities are not empowered under the same.
- Moreover, the photocopy is done through a mechanical process which has high chances of discrepancies such as defective photocopying or blurring.
The court also highlighted the change in the procedure for registration of land assigned to Ex-Servicemen. It held that, once a property is assigned to an Ex-serviceman, after the lapse of 10 years, the Government will not control the said land.
In the given case the court held that the impugned order is liable to be set aside on grounds of Violation of Principles of Natural Justice and Article 14 of the Constitution.