Ker HC | Purpose for which an arrangement is entered into, is an essential ingredient to determine if the same is a mortgage or a lease 

Kerala High Court: P. Somarajan, J. allowed the second appeal in a matter related to the redemption of mortgage, against the order of dismissal by the trial court and the first appellate court.

In the present case, the dispute centred around the nature of an ‘Ottikuzhikanam Deed’ (deed) that was executed by the original owner of the property in favour of his nephew and niece. But according to the appellants, it was a mortgage whereas respondents asserted it as a lease arrangement. The trial court referred the matter to the Land Tribunal under Section 125 of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 (the Act). The Land Tribunal held that the deed was a lease arrangement and passed an order, granting fixity of tenure in favour of respondents. Both the trial court and the first appellate court accepted this finding of the Tribunal and held that ‘Ottikuzhikanam Deed’ was a lease deed and the relief of redemption of the mortgage was rejected concurrently. As a result, a second appeal was filed.

The Court noted that definition given to the expression ‘Ottikuzhikanam’ under Section 2 (39A) of the Act excluded a mortgage within the meaning of Transfer of Property Act. It observed that “A mere clause enabling the beneficiary under a deed to enjoy the property and to make improvements therein included as part of normal terms and conditions, would not bring the matter within the sweep of ‘Ottikuzhikanam’ as defined under Section 2(39A) of the Act, but it must be the essential term of the contract and for that essential term and purpose, the contract must be entered into, otherwise, it cannot be brought under the purview of ‘Ottikuzhikanam’, a lease as defined under Section 2(39A) of the Act.” Reliance was placed on the decision in Velayudhan Vivekanandan v. Ayyappan Sadasivan, 1975 KLT 1, where a document which is styled as ‘Ottikuzhikanam’ appended to the judgment found to be a mortgage and not a lease. 

The Court found, “The mortgage amount involved in the instant case comes to Rs 5,000 in the year 1962 and the property mortgaged comes to only 1 Acre 2 cents which is another indication of nature of Ext.A4 as a mortgage rather than a lease.” Thus, the decree and judgment of the trial court and the first appellate court was set aside, and order was passed for a decree of redemption of mortgage on payment of amount of Rs 5000 with interest at 12 per cent per annum from the date of suit till the date of judgment and thereafter at 6 per cent per annum to the principal sum of Rs 5000 and also the cost of defendants in the first appeal and in the second appeal, together with the improvements over the property which could be ascertained at the time of passing of the final decree.[C. Vijaya Thulasi v. D. Sudarsanan, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 1411, decided on 02-04-2019]

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