Wills on agricultural holdings in Uttar Pradesh not required to be registered: Allahabad High Court

Chambers of Ishaan Garg

Ch. No. 217, Western Wing, District & Sessions Court, Tis Hazari, New Delhi, Delhi 110054

+91 8851742417, +91 8800386163

The Allahabad High Court recently ruled that the wills on agricultural holdings are not required to be registered in Uttar Pradesh and thus a will would not be void on the ground of non-registration [Pramila Tiwari vs Anil Kumar Mishra And 4 Others].

A Division Bench of Justice Ajit Kumar and Justice Siddhartha Varma declared that the provision for compulsory registration of will under UP Zamindari Abolition & Land Reforms (U.P.Z.A. & L.R.) Act, 1950 was repugnant to Section 17 read with Section 40 of the Indian Registration Act, 1908.

"Hence we hold the amendment of Section 169(3) of the U.P.Z.A.L.R. Act to that extent void. The said part of the provision under Section 169(3) of the Act of 1950 is, accordingly, hereby struck down," the Court ordered.

The Court passed the ruling on a reference framed by a single-judge for a larger bench decision. The single-judge had come across contradictory decisions of co-ordinate benches on the question of whether the provision on compulsory registration of wills was prospective or retrospective in nature.

However, the Division Bench considered another aspect of the issue and asked whether the State legislature without President's assent could have made registration of will compulsory by incorporating the provision.

It noted that the subjects of will, intestacy and succession fall under the concurrent list of the Constitution and a central legislation in the form the Registration Act, 1908, was already there on the subject of registration of will.

Looking at the scheme of legislative relations in India, the Court observed that while the Union List and the State List reserve subjects exclusively for Union and the State respectively, the concurrent list provides for subjects where both Union and State can legislate.

However, it also said that supremacy vests with the Union legislature in case of conflict.

"Of course a Central Act in its operation and application to the State can be modified/amended with the assent of the President of India (vide Article 254). law made by Union would be void to the extent of such repugnancy, if any (vide Article 251 & 254)," it added.

In this backdrop, the Court found that when the Uttar Pradesh legislature brought in the provision on compulsory registration of wills in 2004, the Registration Act already occupied the field.

"Law relating to registration of documents and deeds being provided under the Registration Act, 1908 vide its Section 17 refers to "certain documents" to be registered. So, in the first instance, it is this act that required amendment by the State to make its modified application in the State for getting document of registration of Will enlisted under Section 17 as there exists no pre-existing State law touching the subject matter," the Court said.

It thus added that when Section 169(3) was added to UPZA & LR Act in 2004, it was contrary to the pre-existing central legislation.

"In other words, the provisions contained under Section 169(3) of the Act of 1950 and Section 17 read with Section 40 come in conflict with each other. This makes the State Act provision to be repugnant to the pre-existing Central Act and State Amendment Act, 2004 having no presidential assent is liable to be rendered void."

The Court rejected the argument to only read down the provision in question and said the enactments regarding agriculture reforms must particularly be seen in the background of socio-economic conditions of villagers living largely in remote areas.

While referring to a NITI Aayog report which stated that 38 percent of total population in Uttar Pradesh is multidimensionally poor as they lack good health, education and standard of living, the Court said,

"We sitting in Kaval towns and metropolis with multiplexes, Star hotels and high rise buildings, cannot even imagine in what condition majority of State population lives in small towns and villages. We have in fact no idea as to the magnitude of monetary poverty and the lack of basic education and health infrastructure in our rural areas."

Though the court acknowledged that the provision for compulsory registration of wills had been brought with an intent to minimise this fraud against poor farmers, the Court said,

"However, one cannot ignore the flip-side of this as there can equally be a case where a registered document is executed in suspicious circumstances, which if proved, would ultimately render the registered document void."

In conclusion, the Court said it was open for the State to get the pre-existing Central Act amended before applying it to the State 

"But now by the Amending Act of 27 of 2004, the State of Uttar Pradesh was seeking an amendment in the U.P.Z.A.L.R. Act, which in effect was amending the Registration Act, 1908. Such an Act by which the amendment was being sought definitely required a presidential assent," the Court reasoned as it struck down the provision for compulsory registration of wills.

Case Title: Pramila Tiwari v. Anil Kumar Mishra and 4 ors. (2024 All HC)