Punjab and Haryana High Court redefines criteria for Will challenges, says evidence will prevail over assumptions : The Tribune India

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Punjab and Haryana High Court redefines criteria for Will challenges, says evidence will prevail over assumptions

Interference is warranted only in cases of concrete evidence establishing strong suspicious circumstances, says High Court

Punjab and Haryana High Court redefines criteria for Will challenges, says evidence will prevail over assumptions

Photo for representational purpose only. Tribune file



Saurabh Malik

Chandigarh, February 23

Redefining the criteria for intervention in matters involving a challenge to a Will after the testator’s death, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear in a 32-year-old case that a court is not required to impose its own perception unless substantial and genuine grounds of suspicion are presented. Interference is warranted only in cases of concrete evidence establishing strong suspicious circumstances.

The ruling by Justice Anil Kshetarpal came on a regular second appeal filed way back in 1992 following a dispute between heirs regarding the inheritance of property, left behind by a person, on the basis of his Will dated June 10, 1979.

Holding that the courts below erred in discarding the Will executed 45 years back, Justice Kshetarpal asserted the court was not expected to interfere in cases involving Will unless and until there was a genuine and substantial ground proving that the document was surrounded by strong suspicious circumstances. The attesting witnesses or the scribe was required to be confronted with such circumstances, as the case might be, to solicit his response.

Elaborating, Justice Kshetarpal asserted the alleged suspicious circumstances should not be based on figment of imagination. Mere allegations without a foundation supported by evidence were insufficient for court intervention.

Justice Kshetarpal observed: “The Will is a solemn document, which comes into effect after the death of the testator. The court should try to honour the wishes of the testator unless the propounder fails to prove it, or the testator did not execute it, or there are some grounds which are sufficient for the common man to believe that the testamentary disposition is not in accordance with the wishes of the testator/executor.

Justice Kshetarpal also observed that the testimonies of the attesting witness were required to be read in entirety while trying to analyse their credit worthiness. Human memory was not expected to recollect every small event in the exactly the same manner after a passage of long time. Some leverage on that account was required to be given to the attesting witnesses.

Besides this, each individual had his own perceptions about the things, development and events which took place. The oral evidence, in such circumstances, was required to be appreciated and critically analysed.

“It has been noticed that the testamentary disposition are declared to be surrounded by suspicious circumstances in a very casual manner. This is not a correct approach. The courts are not required to substitute their own opinion. They are expected to decide the cases on the basis of evidence. Before declaring that the Will is surrounded by suspicious circumstances, the court is required to sit on the chair of the executant and examine the circumstances,” Justice Kshetarpal asserted.


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