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Title in immovable property cannot be bestowed on basis of mutation entries

Mutation is a process of changing/updating the title/ownership in the local land revenue/municipal records, which is essential for assessment of the new owner’s tax liabilities.

The Apex Court in Sawarni v. Inder Kaur and Ors.[1] set aside the orders passed by the (i) High Court dismissing the second appeal and (ii) Additional District Judge and held that “Mutation of a property in the revenue record does not create or extinguish title nor has it any presumptive value on title. It only enables the person in whose favour mutation is ordered to pay the land revenue in question.” The order recorded that the Additional District Judge has erroneously concluded that mutation in favour of Inder Kaur (respondent) conveys title to the property in her favour, thus giving rise to conflict. The Apex Court further noted that the lower appellate court did not reach any positive findings on the title of the respondent to the property and was swayed away with the mutation in the revenue record reflecting the name of the respondent.

The above principle was upheld in Balwant Singh and Ors. v. Daulat Singh (dead) by L.Rs. and Ors.[2] and it was held as follows “mutation cannot extinguish title nor it can have presumptive value on title.” In the present case, the Apex Court has opined that the trial court has erred in assuming that by Mutation No. 1311, the widow had divested herself of the title to the suit property by treating the mutation as gift and conveying the title. Further, the trial court did not apply the uniform test in appreciating the mutation entries. In one place, the trial court accepted the mutation entries in toto even for conveying title, while  in the other, it had doubts and was not prepared to accept the mutation entries. Anybody affected by such entries should have challenged the same as provided under the law. But in the absence of that, the entries cannot be ignored. Since mutation entries do not convey or extinguish any title, they are relevant only for the purpose of collection of land revenue. That being the position, Mutation No. 1311 cannot be construed as conveying title in favour of Balwant Singh and Kartar Singh (appellants) or extinguishing the title of Durga Devi (widow)[3] in the suit property. Consequently, the title to the suit property vested with the widow, notwithstanding Mutation No. 1311. There would be no effect on the reversionary rights of the reversioners in the present case because a declaration of ‘mutation gift of 1954’ was all that was sought as relief in the prior proceedings. Therefore, under Mutation No. 1311 neither Balwant Singh and Kartar Singh acquired the title nor Durga Devi’s title in the property got extinguished because mutation entries do not convey or extinguish title. The earlier court proceedings did not and could not convey the title in favour of the reversioners, as the relief sought was for a simple declaration as mentioned above. If no title as such was passed on under the alleged ‘mutation gift’, the limited right of the widow in the property would get expanded on the coming into force of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The widow must be deemed to have continued with the possession of the property to become its absolute owner on the coming into force of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Thus, the Apex Court held that the widow has not divested herself of the title and possession by mutation, and hence the erroneous conclusions of the courts have been set aside.

Similar quandary/dispute, involving a Will, came into light recently in Jitendra Singh v. The State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors.[4], wherein the Supreme Court upheld that, if there is any dispute with respect to the title and more particularly if the mutation entry is sought on the basis of a Will, the concerned party has to first approach the appropriate civil court/court and get his rights crystalised. Only then, basis the decision before the civil court, necessary mutation entries can be made. It is clear that staking claim to a title on the basis of a Will, even if it is disputed, can be done only after the death of the executioner of the Will. However, it is already settled that mutation entry in revenue records does not confer any right, title or interest in favour of anyone and is done only for fiscal purposes. The Apex Court has highlighted that the High Court had not committed any error in setting aside the order passed by the revenue authorities directing to mutate the name of Jitendra Singh in the revenue records on the basis of the alleged Will dated May 20, 1998, hence the matter was dismissed.

The basis of conferment of title viz. a viz. mutation entry in the land revenue records has been well settled since 1996 and has been relied upon several times till date, thereby, re-affirming its position.

[1] 1996 (6) (SCC) 223

[2] 1997 (7) (SCC) 137

[3] The original owner, Khushal Singh, died issueless on September 5, 1950. Subsequently, the suit lands were mutated in the name of one Durga Devi widow of deceased Khushal Singh on July 19, 1952.

[4] SLP C No. 13146/2021