(2.)THESE appeals arise as a sequel to certain directions of this Court in the famous Sanchaita case. The Sanchaita Investment Company was a firm which was controlled and run, primarily, bv three persons Sambhu Prasad Mukherjee, Bhihanlal Murarka, and Swapan Kumar Guha. It had been able, by dint of a tremendous advertise merit Campaign, to collect deposits amounting to several crores of rupees from thousands of depositors spread all over India by holding out attractive terms of interest. The firm initially prospered and its deposits steeply mounted to astromical figues. The firm, however, began to acquire, or deal in, movable and immovable propories in various cities of India in the names, net only of the firm, but of relatives and benamidars of various persons who were in main agement (of) its affairs. A sizeable portion of the firm's funds being thus tied up or sillhoned away from its coffers for the private benefit of the individuals running it, the tirm eventually. began making defaults in its obligations to the depositors. The depositors, thereupon,- approached the High Court and eventually the matters came up to this Court in W. P. Nos. 638 and 755-800 of 1983. With a view to safeguard the interests of the depositors, arrange for a return to them of as much of their deposits as possible and ensure that the properties of the firm were duly identified and the full and due benefit of the funds diverted from its coffers was restored to the firm, this Court, by its order dated 4-5-83, appointed a retired District Judge as a Commissioner to take charge of all the assets, documents and papers of the firm and of its agents, subagents, transferees and benamidars. Directions were given to the Commissioner to look into the claims of depositors and to devise a scheme whereby persons who had deposited sums not exceeding Rs. 25,000/ - could be repalid expeditiously. By a subsequent order dated 27-9-83, certain directions were given to enable the Commissioner to gather in all the assets of the firm. It is necessry to quote a portion of this order. It read :
"The Commissioner may attach such assets and properties which, in his prima facie opinion, are of the ownership of the firm Sanchaita Investments, or of the ownership of any of its partners. Such assets and properties may be put to sale by the Commissioner if no objection is received to the attachment thereof within one month of the date of attachment. All objections received to the attachment of such assets or properties will be forwarded by the Commissioner to the Prothonotary of the High Court of Calcutta. We request the learned Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court to nominate a Division Bench of the High Court for the purpose of jurisdiction upon such objections. The Division Bench will dispose of the objections on merits after hearing all interested parties."
Reference must also be made to another order of this Court dated 23-9-85 in C.M.P. No. 38589/85. By this order, this Court directed
"After hearing counsel for the parties we consider it necessary to empower the Commissioner, Sanchaita Investment, to remove all unauthorised persons and trespassers from possession of the property proposed to be sold by the Commissioner under the orders of this Court and to hand over vacant possession to the rightful purchasers. The Commissioner is authorised to take the assistance of the police for the purpose of obtaining possession and handing it over to the rightful purchasers."
In pursuance of these directions, the Commissioner attached a large number of properties situate all over the country which, he had reason to believe, were properties which belonged to the firm though acquired in the names of others. When the properties were so attached and sought to be sold, objections were lodged by persons claiming title or possession of the property in their own right and these objections were adjudicated upon by the designated Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court.
(3.)ONE of the properties that were thus attached by the Commissioner was house No. 51 / 1 / 1 B, Surendra Nath Banerjee Road, Calcutta 14. (There is a slight discrepancy in the door number of this property as appearing in various documents but that is not material for our purposes). This property stood on land of the small extent of about 800 sq. ft. and comprised of five rooms in the ground floor (three in front and two at the back), a first floor and a second floor but, being business premises in a busy commercial locality, is of considerable value today. The Commissioner found that this property had been acquired in the name of Mahamaya Devi, an aunt of Sambhu Prasad Mukherjee, for Rs. 85,000.00on 4-10-1977. Apparently the Commissioner was of the opinion that the property was really that of the firm acquired in the name of Mahamaya Devi. He, therefore, attached this property by a public notice taken out, inter alia, in "The Statesman" dated 27-5-84 to the following effect:
"The public are hereby informed that in exercise of the authority and power vested in me under the order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India passed and made on 4-5-83 and 27-9-83... I had attached or I had taken possession of or I am hereby taking possession of (as the case may be) the following properties (specified in the schedule below) including flats, lands, cars, launch, business, shares in companies and partnership firms and house properties. The persons in which names these properties stand are hereby warned that they shall not lease out, assign, sell, mortgage, transfer or otherwise encumber or deal with them until further orders from me. Anybody dealing with such properties would do so at his own risk or responsibility
It appears that there were also other similar notices issued by the Commissioner. In response to one of these notices, Smt. Mahamaya Devl put forward her claim to the ownership of the property but her claim was rejected be the Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court on 29-3-1985 in Case No. 23 of 1984. Sri Kapur, learned counsel for the respondents states that a positition for special leave to appeal to this Court preferred by her was also rejected sometime in 1985. This is not contradicated by the petitioners. We may, therefore, proceed, for the purposes of this case, on the footing that, though standing in the name of Mahamaya Devi, the property in question belongs to the firm Sanchaita.