Limitation under Registration Act not attracted for registration of Court decree: Madras HC [Read Order]

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The Madras High Court recently clarified that the period of limitation prescribed under Section 23 of the Registration Act, 1908 will not apply when it comes to the registration of Court decrees passed by civil courts.

In this regard, Justice N Anand Venkatesh observed that he is bound by earlier Division Bench rulings passed on the issue, and not the contradictory judgments passed in certain cases by single Judges of the High Court.

“In view of the settled law, the Sub Registrar cannot refuse to register any order or decree only on the ground that the same has been presented beyond the period of limitation provided under Section 23 of the Act”, stated Justice Venkatesh
Addressing another issue raised in one of the petitions before the Court, the Judge also clarified that the registration fee levied for registering the court decree should only be based on the total value of the suit, and not the value of the property involved.

“… the law is no longer res-integra and this Court in the case of K.Krishnan referred supra has categorically held that the registration fees should be levied only on the total value of the suit and not on the value of the property. Therefore, the respondent cannot insist for the payment of the registration fees based on the value of the property”, the Court said.

Before the Court were three writ petitions raising grievance that the sub-registrar had declined to register decrees passed by civil courts on the ground that the time limit under Section 23 of the Registration Act (four months) had expired.

The Court was told that two single-Judge judgments and one 2016 Division Bench Judgment had earlier held that a decree should be presented within a period of four months from the date it was made ready under Section 23 of the Act.

Appearing for the State and Registration authorities, Senior Government Counsel Veerakathiravan further submitted that there is scope for presenting the decree within a further period of four months under Section 25 of the Act. Beyond this extended time period, a decree cannot be entertained for registration, he submitted.

However, there were three later Division Bench rulings passed between 2019 and 2021 which held that insofar as a court decree is concerned, the limitation prescribed under the Registration Act will not get attracted.

Due to the apparent conflict between these High Court judgments, Senior Government Counsel Veerakathiravan had urged Justice Venkatesh to refer the matter to a larger Bench so that issue may be clarified.

Justice Venkatesh, however, noted that there was no conflict between the Division Bench ruling of 2016 and the Division Bench rulings between 2019-2021.

It was pointed out that in the 2016 judgment, the Division Bench had only dealt with how to calculate the four month period under Section 23. Since this judgment did not deal with the issue of whether a decree can be registered beyond the period of limitation, it cannot be cited as a precedent on the topic, Justice Venkatesh reasoned.

“While determining the ratio in a given judgment, the same should be deduced from the facts of the concerned case and the reasons given by the Court for reaching a particular decision. Even a slight change in the facts of the case, will make the judgment inapplicable in a subsequent case which is based on a different set of facts and issues”, he added

As such, only the later Division Bench rulings passed between 2019-2021 would bind the Court in the matter, it was concluded. These rulings have laid down that the limitation prescribed under the Registration Act will not stand attracted insofar as an order or decree passed by a competent court is concerned and this ratio has been consistently followed till date, Justice Venkatesh observed.

Having found no contradiction between the Division Bench rulings, Justice Venkatesh concluded that there was no need to refer the matter to a larger Bench.

The Court, therefore, directed the registration authorities to register the certified copy of the court decree presented for registration by the petitioners, regardless of the limitation period under Section 23 of the Act having expired.

Advocates J Barathan and P Samuel Gunasingh appeared for the petitioners. Government advocate R Sureshkumar assisted Senior Government Pleader Veerakathiravan in making arguments for the State authorities.

Read Judgment here :

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