He who is prior in time is stronger in right.
Explanation & Origin
Origin – The maxim has a Latin origin.
Explanation – The determination of the relative rights and priorities of successive assignees of the same or overlapping rights has been a serious problem for the Courts. When there are two or more competing equitable interests, the equitable maxim qui prior est tempore potior est jure (he who is earlier in time is stronger in law) applies. This means that the first in time prevails over the others. Section 48 of the Transfer of Property Act embodies this principle in legislation. It is a principle of natural justice that if rights are created in favour of two persons at different times, the one who has the advantage in time should also have the advantage in law. This rule, however, applies only to cases where the conflicting equities are otherwise equal.
If A mortgages or sells to B and afterwards C purchases at a Court-sale the then existing right, title, and interest of A, C buys in the first case the equity of redemption and in the second nothing at all. In such a case registration cannot help, for on the very face of his certificate of sale, the property comprised therein is not the property previously conveyed to B, but only the residue of A’s estate after such conveyance.
Madras High Court in Duraiswami Reddi v. Angappa Reddi, held that the prior transferee would be entitled to enforce his rights though his document is registered later and even if the subsequent transferee entered into transactions bona fide without knowledge of the first transaction. It was held that this result was implicit and was a direct consequence of the combined operation of Section 47 of the Registration Act and Section 48 of the Transfer of Property Act.
In Chouth Mal v. Hira Lal, an agreement to sell land in favour of one defendant was executed on 17th January, 1932. The sale-deed was executed in defendant’s favour on 5th May, 1932. But in the meanwhile owners executed an usufructuary mortgage of the same land in the plaintiff’s favour on 20th February, 1932. It was held that the mortgage must have its due effect as against the subsequent sale.
In Hafiz Md. Anwar v. Jamuna Prasad Singh, it was stated that according to Section 48 to the Transfer of Property Act, if the same property has been transferred at different times the subsequent transfer shall not confer any right, title or interest on the basis of the subsequent transfer vis-à-vis the first transfer.
Edited by Vigneshwar Ramasubramania
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
 (1945) 1 MLJ 425
 AIR 1950 Ajmer 50.
 AIR 1958 Pat. 193 at pp. 195-96