Renowned author Salman Rushdie and his family have lost a three-decade-old legal battle to retain their ancestral house in New Delhi which his father had agreed in 1970 to sell to an another family, with the Supreme Court directing them to honour the agreement.
The apex court, however, has directed the buyer to pay the current market price of the property.
Rushdie's father Anis Ahmed Rushdie had entered into an agreement with the then Congress leader Bhiku Ram Jain to sell his house situated in posh Civil Lines in North Delhi for Rs. 3.75 lakh. Jain had paid Rs. 50,000 to Rushdie and given an assurance to pay the rest of the amount after the owner got tax clearance certificates from income tax authorities.
The two families then got into a dispute after they accused each other of not respecting the terms of the agreement.
Jains then filed a suit in 1977 requesting the trial court to direct Rushdie for the execution of the December 1970 agreement.
On October 5, 1983, the court ruled in their favour, saying Jains could get the property after paying the rest of the Rs. 3.25 lakh to Rushdies.
Rushdies then appealed in the Delhi high court which on October 31 last ruled that Jains could not ask for transfer of the bungalow to them.
It asked Rushdies to return Rs. 50,000 with 12% annual interest.
Jains then approached the apex court which after hearing all sides came to the conclusion that the high court erred in giving order in favour of Rushdies and quashed the order.
"Having given our anxious consideration to all relevant aspects of the case we are of the view that the ends of justice would require this court to intervene and set aside the findings and conclusions recorded by the high court of Delhi and to decree the suit of the plaintiffs for specific performance of the agreement dated December 22, 1970," a bench of justices P Sathasivan and Ranjan Gogoi said.
"We are of the further view that the sale deed that will now have to be executed by the defendants in favour of the plaintiffs will be for the market price of the suit property as on the date of the present order.
"As no material, whatsoever is available to enable us to make a correct assessment of the market value of the suit property as on date, we request the learned trial judge of the High Court of Delhi to undertake the said exercise with such expedition as may be possible in the prevailing facts and circumstances," the bench said.
"The ultimate question that has now to be considered is whether the plaintiff should be held to be entitled to a decree for specific performance of the agreement of 22.12.1970. The long efflux of time (over 40 years) that has occurred and the galloping value of real estate in the meantime are the twin inhibiting factors in this regard.
"The same, however, have to be balanced with the fact that the Jains are in no way responsible for the delay that has occurred and their keen participation in the proceedings till date show the live interest on the part of the plaintiffs to have the agreement enforced in law," the bench said.