By Nihit Nagpal and Devika Mehra
The Registration Act, 1908 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) guarantees adherence to a proper formal procedure for the registration of documents pertaining to moveable and immoveable properties. The compulsory registration of specific documents under this Act acts as prima facie proof that such a document containing title, legal rights, obligations, interest, etc. vested in a particular property has been duly executed as per the stipulations of law in this regard. The Act shields and preserves these legal documents from forgery and fraud by publishing it in the public domain for official verification.
Part IX of the Registration Act, 1908 provides the powers and duties of the Registrar which includes her duty to endorse and register documents. The Registrar is required to be extremely vigilant while registering documents under the Act and interpreting the same. If any mistake is committed by her in the course of registration, she will not be allowed to make use of her own wrong later down the line.
Acknowledging the same, that the Registrar “Nul prendra advantage de son tort demesne”, the Kerala High Court in the case of M.A. Joy v. Sub Registrar, Edappally Sub Registrar Office & Another allowed a writ petition questioning whether the Sub-Registrar who denied the registration of a document merely on the basis of his wrongful interpretation of the legal provisions of the Registration Act, which was found to be flawed by a superior authority, can now refuse the registration on the ground that the time period for registration has expired.
Facts of the case
- To rehabilitate the Petitioner after acquiring his property for setting up pipelines, the Kerala Water Authority, through a sale deed, allocated property, measuring 1.62 Acres, in Thrikkakara Village, to the petitioner as a part of their rehabilitation policy. The deed implicitly provided that no interest/right in the given property was reserved for the Kerala Water Authority;
- The Petitioner, for the purpose of transferring the property to another person named Shasil Mohammed, executed a sale deed and presented it before the Sub-Registrar in the month of January (Respondent No. 1) for registration who observed that as per Section 71(3) of the Act a No Objection Certificate granted by the District Collector would be required as the property of Petitioner had previously belonged to the water authority;
- Upon requesting a No-objection Certificate from the District Collector (Respondent No.2), it was held that as per the sale deed executed between the Petitioner and the water authority, absolute rights vest in favor of the Petitioner and thus, NOC as a pre-requisite for registration is not required. However, the copy of this order dated 26/04/2021 was only served to the Respondent No. 1 and the Petitioner had no knowledge about the same;
- Subsequently, in July, upon enquiry from Respondent No.1 regarding the status of the registration the Petitioner was informed that as per Section 23 of the Act, the registration had become time-barred due to delay of four months and that he is now liable to pay a fine to get his sale deed registered;
- The Petitioner being aggrieved by the actions of the Sub-Registrar moved the High Court of Kerala under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution with the plea that as per Rule 44 of the Registration Rules the Petitioner is not liable to bear the fine as there was no fault on his part.
The Hon’ble High Court of Kerala explained Section 71 (3) of the Act, stating, inter alia, that a blanket ban is imposed on the Registrar from accepting documents pertaining to transfer of immovable property having vested interest of the Government of Kerala or a Public Sector Undertaking. The Court stated that in accordance with the said Section, the Registering Officer can only accept such documents if they are accompanied by a No- Objection Certificate issued by a competent authority. The Court further added that the neither the Kerala Government nor the Kerala Water Authority had any right over the property after it had passed on to the Petitioner vide a sale deed implicitly providing that no interest/right in the given property has been reserved for the Kerala Water Authority. The Petitioner was the sole owner of the property having absolute rights over the same. Thus, he had the right to transfer the same without any obstruction.
Agreeing with the contentions of the Petitioner, the High Court took note of the maxim “Nul prendra advantage de son tort demesne” and held that Respondent No. 1 was taking benefit of his own wrong. The Hon’ble Court while directing Respondent No.1 to register the deed within a stipulated period of 10 days also opined that the Petitioner must be discharged from liability of any payment of fine for delayed presentation owing to wrongful interpretation of statutes by Respondent No. 1.
 Section 52 to 62
 One will not be permitted to take advantage of his own fault
 WP(C). No. 13580 of 2021