As a law firm, we have observed that Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) often face legal challenges in property dispute cases. These disputes can arise due to various reasons such as inheritance, partition or sale of property, and breach of contract among others. In this opinion piece, we aim to provide an informative and detailed overview of the legal challenges faced by NRIs in property dispute cases.
The first challenge that NRIs face is related to jurisdiction. Indian courts only have jurisdiction over a matter if it involves immovable property situated within India or if the parties involved are residing in India. This can pose problems for NRIs who reside abroad but have ancestral properties in India. The Supreme Court has held in several cases including Y Narasimha Rao v Y Venkata Lakshmi [(1991)3SCC451] and Surinder Kaur Sandhu v Harbax Singh Sandhu [(1984)3SCC698] that Indian courts do not have jurisdiction when both parties are NRI’s.
Furthermore, NRIs may also encounter issues related to the Transfer of Property Act (TOPA), which governs all transfers of immovable property within India. Under TOPA, a transfer must be made through a registered instrument signed by both parties with witnesses present at the time of registration. Failure to comply with these requirements will result in invalidity of title transfer which would lead to further litigation between the parties involved.
Another common problem encountered by NRIs is fraud during the execution of documents related to immovable assets such as forgery or coercion while signing documents which results into illegally transferring ownership rights without their knowledge/consent or doing so under duress/violence against them.. Section 17(1)(d) provides relief from fraudulent acts pertaining to instruments specifically relating to any attached schedule along with other provisions like 53-A etc., but still many potential loopholes exist where an NRI can be easily duped.
Furthermore, NRIs can also face issues related to partition and succession under the Hindu Succession Act (HSA). Under HSA, a legal heir of any property has a right to inherit it after partitioning according to their share from ancestors, but there have been several instances where family members divide properties without following legal procedures established by competent authorities like sale deed or gift deed registration which leads to later disputes among heirs. The Supreme Court in Prakash v Phulavati [2016(2)SCC36] held that daughters had equal rights as sons for inheritance if the father passed away on or after 9 September 2005.
Additionally, NRIs may face challenges related to power of attorney (POA), which is governed by the Power of Attorney Act, 1882. POA allows someone else to act on behalf of an NRI who cannot be present in India during property litigation processes. However, misuse of POAs is common practice leading many NRIs into multiple entanglements with regard to ownership rights transfer and other matters because such people sometimes use this trust bestowed upon them maliciously for their own gains instead diverting from its purpose – acting only on behalf of the owner.
To further complicate matters individuals creating fake documents (such as wills) showing themselves as being rightful beneficiaries/trustees often come up due neglected legislation implementation leaving genuine proprietors helpless while third parties usurp assets not belonging rightfully legally.
It is worth noting that these are just some examples of cases faced by NRIs in property dispute cases; however, each case is unique and must be evaluated individually based off relevant provisions laid out within Indian law including Transfer Of Property Act-1882 (TOFA), Registration Act-1908(RA), Indian Contract Act-1872(ICRA), etc., along with conducting extant research on various similar case judgments pertaining so far over different courts in India. For Instance, a noteworthy judgment regarding NRI disputes posthumous property matters can be seen in the case of Anil Kumar Jain v Maya Jain [CRL.A (J) 144/2016] where the court shed light on the rights and liabilities of an NRI while dealing with legal proceedings remotely through power of attorney.
In conclusion, NRIs face various challenges when it comes to property disputes within India. These include jurisdictional issues, fraud during document execution, partition and succession issues under HSA, POA misuse/mismanagement among others that must be tackled diligently via appropriate legislation implementation along with awareness programs to inform people about their rights and duties as proprietors so that they do not fall prey to any conflict or fraudulent activities related to properties located offshore.