Sangeeta Mehra v Radiatben Rajnikant Shah & Ors (2004)
SANGEETA MEHRA V RADIATBEN RAJNIKANT SHAH & ORS (2004)
The trial judge had been entitled to infer from the evidence before her that the claimant was entitled to beneficial ownership of family property.
The defendants (R) appealed against a decision that the claimant (S) was entitled to a share in the beneficial ownership of various properties registered in R's name. The dispute arose between members of the extended family of S's deceased grandfather (C). S brought the claim against her uncles and aunts (R). S claimed that the properties in issue were assets of a partnership carried on by the six sons of C as equal partners and that, in consequence, on the deaths of three of the sons a one-sixth undivided share in those properties formed part of their respective estates. S was the daughter of one of the deceased sons. At trial, R contended that all twelve of C's children, including the daughters, were equal partners in the partnership with the result that the estates of the deceased brothers were entitled only to a one-twelfth share each in properties belonging to the partnership. Alternatively, R argued that, even if the properties were assets of a partnership between the six brothers only, then the sisters were entitled to a one-twelfth beneficial share under a constructive trust. The deputy judge upheld S's claim. The judge held that the work done by the sisters was significantly less than the brothers and rejected evidence that the sisters' payments to the family were contributions to the business. The judge considered evidence of a draft declaration of trust in relation to the properties which named six beneficiaries. The judge rejected the constructive trust argument on the basis of Lloyds Bank Plc v Rosset (1991) 1 AC 107 and held that the properties were partnership assets. R appealed and sought a re-trial on the basis of new evidence of a letter explaining the intention behind the draft declaration. S relied on a telephone conversation between herself and R, which the judge had accepted as accurate, in which R accepted that the properties were part of the partnership assets. R submitted that the judge's findings were against the weight of the evidence.
The terms of the draft declaration of trust coupled with R and S's telephone conversation completely undermined R's case. The new evidence of the letter did not take the matter further. The judge had been entitled to infer from the evidence before her that the purchase of two of the properties had been mainly funded by the partnership. R's case in relation to the other property contradicted what R had said in the course of the telephone conversation. The judge had been correct to dismiss the constructive trust argument as the facts did not begin to establish a constructive trust.