As legal practitioners, we are often summoned to represent non-resident Indians (NRI) in civil and criminal litigations. It is imperative to understand the nuances of laws that would affect our clients’ cases. One such law that has gained prominence in recent years is Section 114B of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
Section 114B was introduced as an amendment to the Act by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2003. This provision allows a court of law to presume certain facts against a defendant who fails to prove them while dealing with suits filed by NRIs concerning property located in India.
The section reads as follows: “In suit filed by NRI for any property located in India against resident defendant who fails to disclose its particulars or does conceal it, then onus lies upon him/her only whether such property exists with him/her or anyone claiming right thereon and if he/she failed to discharge burden then Court can raise presumption under this section.”
This means that once a plaintiff-NRI pleads his case before the court regarding any specific property situated within India, if the defendant fails to furnish details about those properties which they possess/claims rights over; then the court may assume these facts going against them.
The primary objective behind introducing Section 114B seems clear – it seeks to prevent defendants from hiding crucial information about their possession over disputed properties solely because they are living abroad. With globalization bringing more and more NRIs into mainstream transactions involving Indian properties, this became necessary for ensuring timely dispensation of justice.
Now let us examine some judicial precedents defining how courts have interpreted Section 114B –
1. In P.Nallammal vs M.P.Catherine AIR Madras HC (2018), an NRI plaintiff sued her sister for absolute ownership claim on some agricultural lands inherited from her father’s estate situated in Tamil Nadu but produced no documents supporting her claims. The respondent, on the other hand, had filed a counterclaim where she pleaded that it was not her sibling’s exclusive property. Ultimately, because of no proof emerging from either side during the trial, Madras High Court ruled in favor of defendant while presuming that plaintiff failed to establish her claim.
2. Similarly, in Darshan Singh and Others vs Bela Rani Devi AIR Delhi HC (2018), an NRI landowner sued his Pakistani brother-in-law, claiming he occupied some properties without any right or authority. The trial court waited for respondent-defendant to specify those properties before deciding ex-parte against him when presented with no documents at all.
3. In Jagtar Singh vs Raminder Kaur AIR SC (2020), an NRI prayed before Supreme Court for setting aside a decree passed against him on account of none-appearance after being served with summons citing various reasons including death threats by grabbers and absence from India resulting into cancellation of flight tickets multiple times over last moment notices issued etc. It relied mainly upon Sec 114B as well as Order V Rule 20 CPC/1908 but failed to satisfy Apex Court about existence/magnitude/nature/offence aspect behind such threats or steps taken towards protecting himself/his interests which would have created doubt about its credibility.
From the above cases and Section 114B’s language itself; it can be concluded that NRIs filing suits within India should ensure they present their case backed up with relevant evidence – particularly relating to facts pertinent to ownership claims – if they wish not to bear adverse consequences due to this provision.
In conclusion, Section 114B has been enacted for achieving quicker resolution of litigation involving Indian properties owner by NRIs who are residing outside India through creating pressure upon respondents regarding disclosing details related thereto promptly so it can prevent opponents from by-passing judicial scrutiny using overseas status as an excuse thereby saving valuable time & money implied therein alongwith ensuring substantive justice.