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ADVERSE POSSESSION AS EXPLAINED BY SUPREME COURT OF INDIA



ADVERSE POSSESSION

In Saroop Singh v. Banto & Ors. [(2005) 8 SCC 330], Court held : In terms of Article 65 the starting point of limitation does not commence from the date when the right of ownership arises to the plaintiff but commences from the date the defendant s possession becomes adverse. Animus possidendi is one of the ingredients of adverse possession. Unless the person possessing the land has a requisite animus the period for prescription does not commence. As in the instant case, the appellant categorically states that his possession is not adverse as that of true owner, the logical corollary is that he did not have the requisite animus. T. Anjanappa & Ors. v. Somalingappa & Anr. [(2006) 7 SCC 570], stating : “It is well-recognised proposition in law that mere possession however long does not necessarily mean that it is adverse to the true owner. Adverse possession really means the hostile possession which is expressly or impliedly in denial of title of the true owner and in order to constitute adverse possession the possession proved must be adequate in continuity, in publicity and in extent so as to show that it is adverse to the true owner. The classical requirements of acquisition of title by adverse possession are that such possession in denial of the true owner’s title must be peaceful, open and continuous. The possession must be open and hostile enough to be capable of being known by the parties interested in the property, though it is not necessary that there should be evidence of the adverse possessor actually informing the real owner of the former s hostile action.”

Yet recently, in P.T. Munichikkanna Reddy & Ors. v. Revamma & Ors. [(2007) 6 SCC 59], Court noticed the recent development of law in other jurisdiction in the context of property as a human right to opine : “Therefore, it will have to be kept in mind the courts around the world are taking an unkind view towards statutes of limitation overriding property rights.”

M. Durai v. Muthu & Ors. [(2007) 3 SCC 114], noticed the changes brought about by Limitation Act, 1963, vis-a-vis, old Limitation Act, holding : “The change in the position in law as regards the burden of proof as was obtaining in the Limitation Act, 1908 vis-a-vis the Limitation Act, 1963 is evident. Whereas in terms of Articles 142 and 144 of the old Limitation Act, the plaintiff was bound to prove his title as also possession within twelve years preceding the date of institution of the suit under the Limitation Act, 1963, once the plaintiff proves his title, the burden shifts to the defendant to establish that he has perfected his title by adverse possession.”

AIR 2008 SC 346 Annakili vs A. Vedanayagam & Ors Claim by adverse possession has two elements : (1) the possession of the defendant should become adverse to the plaintiff; and (2) the defendant must continue to remain in possession for a period of 12 years thereafter. Animus possidendi as is well known is a requisite ingredient of adverse possession. It is now a well settled principle of law that mere possession of the land would not ripen into possessory title for the said purpose. Possessor must have animus possidendi and hold the land adverse to the title of the true owner. For the said purpose, not only animus possidendi must be shown to exist, but the same must be shown to exist at the commencement of the possession. He must continue in said capacity for the period prescribed under the Limitation Act. Mere long possession for a period of more than 12 years without anything more do not ripen into a title.


AIR 2007 SC 1753 P.T. Munichikkanna Reddy & Ors VS Revamma and Ors CHARACTERIZING ADVERSE POSSESSION Adverse possession in one sense is based on the theory or presumption that the owner has abandoned the property to the adverse possessor or on the acquiescence of the owner to the hostile acts and claims of the person in possession. It follows that sound qualities of a typical adverse possession lie in it being open, continuous and hostile.

Adverse Possession is a right which comes into play not just because someone loses high right to reclaim the property out of continuous and willful neglect but also on account of possessor's positive intent to dispossess. Therefore, it is important to take into account before stripping somebody of his lawful title, whether there is an adverse possessor worthy and exhibiting more urgent and genuine desire to dispossess and step into the shoes of the paper owner of the property.

Efficacy of adverse possession law in most jurisdictions depend on strong limitation statutes by operation of which right to access the court expires through effluxion of time. As against rights of the paper-owner, in the context of adverse possession, there evolves a set of competing rights in favour of the adverse possessor who has, for a long period of time, cared for the land, developed it, as against the owner of the property who has ignored the property. Modern statutes of limitation operate, as a rule, not only to cut off one's right to bring an action for the recovery of property that has been in the adverse possession of another for a specified time, but also to vest the possessor with title. The intention of such statutes is not to punish one who neglects to assert rights, but to protect those who have maintained the possession of property for the time specified by the statute under claim of right or color of title.


In similar circumstances, in the case of Thakur Kishan Singh (dead) v. Arvind Kumar [(1994) 6 SCC 591] Supreme court held: "As regards adverse possession, it was not disputed even by the trial court that the appellant entered into possession over the land in dispute under a licence from the respondent for purposes of brick-kiln. The possession thus initially being permissive, the burden was heavy on the appellant to establish that it became adverse. A possession of a co-owner or of a licencee or of an agent or a permissive possession to become adverse must be established by cogent and convincing evidence to show hostile animus and possession adverse to the knowledge of real owner. Mere possession for howsoever length of time does not result in converting the permissible possession into adverse possession. Apart from it, the Appellate Court has gone into detail and after considering the evidence on record found it as a fact that the possession of the appellant was not adverse."

A peaceful, open and continuous possession as engraved in the maxim nec vi, nec clam, nec precario has been noticed by Supreme Court in Karnataka Board of Wakf v. Government of India and Others [(2004) 10 SCC 779] in the following terms: "Physical fact of exclusive possession and the animus possidendi to hold as owner in exclusion to the actual owner are the most important factors that are to be accounted in cases of this nature. Plea of adverse possession is not a pure question of law but a blended one of fact and law. Therefore, a person who claims adverse possession should show:
(a) on what date he came into possession,
(b) what was the nature of his possession,
(c) whether the factum of possession was known to the other party,
(d) how long his possession has continued, and
(e) his possession was open and undisturbed.

A person pleading adverse possession has no equities in his favour. Since he is trying to defeat the rights of the true owner, it is for him to clearly plead and establish all facts necessary to establish his adverse possession"

In Narne Rama Murthy v. Ravula Somasundaram and Others [(2005) 6 SCC 614], Supreme Court held: "However, in cases where the question of limitation is a mixed question of fact and law and the suit does not appear to be barred by limitation on the face of it, then the facts necessary to prove limitation must be pleaded, an issue raised and then proved. In this case the question of limitation is intricately linked with the question whether the agreement to sell was entered into on behalf of all and whether possession was on behalf of all. It is also linked with the plea of adverse possession. Once on facts it has been found that the purchase was on behalf of all and that the possession was on behalf of all, then, in the absence of any open, hostile and overt act, there can be no adverse possession and the suit would also not be barred by limitation. The only hostile act which could be shown was the advertisement issued in 1989. The suit filed almost immediately thereafter."

In Karnataka Wakf Board, the law was stated, thus: "In the eye of law, an owner would be deemed to be in possession of a property so long as there is no intrusion. Non-use of the property by the owner even for a long time won't affect his title. But the position will be altered when another person takes possession of the property and asserts a right over it. Adverse possession is a hostile possession by clearly asserting hostile title in denial of the title of true owner. It is a well- settled principle that a party claiming adverse possession must prove that his possession is 'nec vi, nec clam, nec precario', that is, peaceful, open and continuous. The possession must be adequate in continuity, in publicity and in extent to show that their possession is adverse to the true owner. It must start with a wrongful disposition of the rightful owner and be actual, visible, exclusive, hostile and continued over the statutory period. Physical fact of exclusive possession and the animus possidendi to hold as owner in exclusion to the actual owner are the most important factors that are to be accounted in cases of this nature. Plea of adverse possession is not a pure question of law but a blended one of fact and law. Therefore, a person who claims adverse possession should show (a) on what date he came into possession, (b) what was the nature of his possession, (c) whether the factum of possession was known to the other party, (d) how long his possession has continued, and (e) his possession was open and undisturbed. A person pleading adverse possession has no equities in his favour. Since he is trying to defeat the rights of true owner, it is for him to clearly plead and establish all facts necessary to establish his adverse possession."


An observation has been made in this regard in S.M. Karim v. Mst. Bibi Sakina [AIR 1964 SC 1254]: "Adverse possession must be adequate in continuity, in publicity and extent and a plea is required at the least to show when possession becomes adverse so that the starting point of limitation against the party affected can be found. There is no evidence here when possession became adverse, if it at all did, and a mere suggestion in the relief clause that there was an uninterrupted possession for "several 12 years" or that the plaintiff had acquired "an absolute title" was not enough to raise such a plea. Long possession is not necessarily adverse possession and the prayer clause is not a substitute for a plea."

Anjanappa and Others v. Somalingappa and Another [(2006) 7 SCC 570], wherein it was opined : "The High Court has erred in holding that even if the defendants claim adverse possession, they do not have to prove who is the true owner and even if they had believed that the Government was the true owner and not the plaintiffs, the same was inconsequential. Obviously, the requirements of proving adverse possession have not been established. If the defendants are not sure who is the true owner the question of their being in hostile possession and the question of denying title of the true owner do not arise. Above being the position the High Court's judgment is clearly unsustainable"


Chatti Konati Rao & Ors. vs Palle Venkata Subba Rao on 7 December, 2010 Bench: JUSTICE HARJIT SINGH BEDI, JUSTICE CHANDRAMAULI KR. PRASAD
In the case of T. Anjanappa v. Somalingappa (2006) 7 SCC 570, it has been held that mere possession however long does not necessarily mean that it is adverse to the true owner and the classical requirement of acquisition of title by adverse possession is that such possessions are in denial of the true owner's title. Relevant passage of the aforesaid judgment reads as follows : "20. It is well-recognised proposition in law that mere possession however long does not necessarily mean that it is adverse to the true owner. Adverse possession really means the hostile possession which is expressly or impliedly in denial of title of the true owner and in order to constitute adverse possession the possession proved must be adequate in continuity, in publicity and in extent so as to show that it is adverse to the true owner. The classical requirements of acquisition of title by adverse possession are that such possession in denial of the true owner's title must be peaceful, open and continuous. The possession must be open and hostile enough to be capable of being known by the parties interested in the property, though it is not necessary that there should be evidence of the adverse possessor actually informing the real owner of the former's hostile action."

What facts are required to prove adverse possession have succinctly been enunciated by this Court in the case of Karnataka Board of Wakf vs. Government of India and Ors. (2004) 10 SCC 779. It has also been observed that a person pleading adverse possession has no equities in his favour and since such a person is trying to defeat the rights of the true owner, it is for him to clearly plead and establish necessary facts to establish his adverse possession. Paragraph 11 of the judgment which is relevant for the purpose reads as follows : "11. In the eye of the law, an owner would be deemed to be in possession of a property so long as there is no intrusion. Non-use of the property by the owner even for a long time won't affect his title. But the position will be altered when another person takes possession of the property and asserts a right over it. Adverse possession is a hostile possession by clearly asserting hostile title in denial of the title of the true owner. It is a well-settled principle that a party claiming adverse possession must prove that his possession is "nec vi, nec clam, nec precario", that is, peaceful, open and continuous. The possession must be adequate in continuity, in publicity and in extent to show that their possession is adverse to the true owner. It must start with a wrongful disposition of the rightful owner and be actual, visible, exclusive, hostile and continued over the statutory period.

Physical fact of exclusive possession and the animus possidendi to hold as owner in exclusion to the actual owner are the most important factors that are to be accounted in cases of this nature. Plea of adverse possession is not a pure question of law but a blended one of fact and law. Therefore, a person who claims adverse possession should show: (a) on what date he came into possession, (b) what was the nature of his possession, (c) whether the factum of possession was known to the other party, (d) how long his possession has continued, and (e) his possession was open and undisturbed. A person pleading adverse possession has no equities in his favour. Since he is trying to defeat the rights of the true owner, it is for him to clearly plead and establish all facts necessary to establish his adverse possession.

In view of the several authorities of this Court, few whereof have been referred above, what can safely be said that mere possession however long does not necessarily mean that it is adverse to the true owner. It means hostile possession which is expressly or impliedly in denial of the title of the true owner and in order to constitute adverse possession the possession must be adequate in continuity, in publicity and in extent so as to show that it is adverse to the true owner. The possession must be open and hostile enough so that it is known by the parties interested in the property. The plaintiff is bound to prove his title as also possession within 12 years and once the plaintiff proves his title, the burden shifts on the defendant to establish that he has perfected his title by adverse possession. Claim by adverse possession has two basic elements i.e. the possession of the defendant should be adverse to the plaintiff and the defendant must continue to remain in possession for a period of 12 years thereafter. Animus possidendi as is well known a requisite ingredient of adverse possession. Mere possession does not ripen into possessory title until possessor holds property adverse to the title of the true owner for the said purpose. The person who claims adverse possession is required to establish the date on which he came in possession, nature of possession, the factum of possession, knowledge to the true owner, duration of possession and possession was open and undisturbed. A person pleading adverse possession has no equities in his favour as he is trying to defeat the rights of the true owner and, hence, it is for him to clearly plead and establish all facts necessary to establish adverse possession. The courts always take unkind view towards statutes of limitation overriding property rights. Plea of adverse possession is not a pure question of law but a blended one of fact and law.


In a case before Supreme Court Vidya Devi vs Prem Prakash AIR 1995 SC 1789, By referring to following citations the point is clarified “In Karbali Begum Vs. Mohd Sayeed (AIR 1981 SC 77), it was held that a co-sharer in possession of the property would be a constructive trustee on behalf of other co-sharer who is not in possession and the right of such co-sharer would be deemed to be protected by the trustee co-sharer. Certain observations of the Privy Council in Coera Vs. Appuhamy (AIR 1914 PC 243, 245-246) may be quoted below:- "Entering into possession and having a lawful title to enter, he could not divest himself of that title by pretending that he had no title as all. His title must have ensured for the benefit of his co-proprietors. The principle recognised by Wood, V.C. in Thomas Vs. Thomas (1856) 25 LJ Ch 159 (161): 110 RR 107 holds good: `Possession is never considered adverse if it can be referred to a lawful title'..... His possession was, in law, the possession of his co-owners. It was not possible for him to put an end to that possession by any secret intention in his mind. Nothing short of ouster or something equivalent to ouster could bring about that result."



KARNATAKA LAND LAWS