In the Supreme Court of India Civil Appellate Jurisdiction Civil Appeal No. 190 of 2020 Appellant Sri Uttam Chand (D) Through LRS. Respondents Nathu Ram (D) Through LRS. & Ors. Date of Judgement 15th January, 2020 Bench Hon’ble Justice L. Nageswara Rao; Hon’ble Justice Hemant Gupta
- In a public auction the plaintiff purchased the property from the Managing Officer of Department of Rehabilitation, GOI on 4th January, 1965.
- Certificate of sale was issued on 4th January, 1965.
- On 17th February, 1979 the plaintiff filed the suit for possession and alleged that the defendants are in unauthorized possession of property, and refused to vacate the same.
- Defendants denied that the plaintiff is owner of property, and asserted that their house existed on the property for more than the last two centuries.
- Defendants never admitted that the suit property vests with plaintiff or Managing Officer.
- Defendants have tax receipts from 1963.
- On 17th February, 1979 the plaintiff filed a suit for possession alleging unauthorized possession of property by the defendants.
- The trial court found the plaintiff to be the owner of property but held that the suit is time barred as per Limitation Act, and the defendants are in adverse possession of the property.
- The First Appellate Court found that the suit is within time and filed within completion of 12 years. It also decided the issue of adverse possession in favour of plaintiff and decreed the suit.
- The High Court of Delhi, being the second appellate court, affirmed that plaintiff is the owner of the property, and held the issue of adverse possession in favour of defendants and hence passed the decree in favour of defendants.
- Aggrieved by the Judgement and decree passed by the High Court of Delhi, plaintiff filed appeal before The Supreme Court of India.
Arguments for the Appellants
The appellant argued that the trial court decided the issue of ownership of property in favour of appellant which is not set aside either by First Appellate Court or by the High Court. Relying on Karnataka Board of Wakf v. Government of India & Ors., Kurella Naga Druva Vudaya Bhaskara Rao v. Galla Jani 1 (2006) 7 SCC 570 (2004) 10 SCC 779, Kamma alias Nacharamma and Dagadabai by Legal Representatives v. Abbas alias Gulab Rustum Pinjari , the appellant argued that long possession is not necessarily adverse possession.
Arguments for the Respondents
They argued that the witness of plaintiff has admitted the possession of defendants itself in 1964(before the purchase) , therefore the possession is adverse to the knowledge of plaintiff.
Whether the defendants have perfected the title by adverse possession?
The Hon’ble Supreme Court has placed reliance on various Landmark Judgements to decide the question of adverse possession. The court referred to Ravinder Kaur Grewal & Ors. V. Manjit Kaur & Ors. And M Siddiq (D) through LRs v. Mahant Suresh Das & Ors. Wherein the Court has laid down the three classic requirements of adverse possession namely nec vi nec clam nec precario meaning adequate in continuity, adequate in publicity, and adverse to competitor in denial of title. Referring to Brijesh Kumar & Anr. V. Shardabai by Legal Representatives and Ors. and constitution bench Judgement in M Siddiq through Legal Representatives v. Mahant Suresh Das the court noted that a person claiming adverse possession should show a) date of coming to possession b) nature of his/her possession 3) whether the fact of possession known to the other party 4) continuity of possession 5) whether the possession is open and undisturbed. Referring to T. Anjanappa case the court noted that in cases where defendant is not sure about the true owner, the question of defendant denying the title of true owner, and being in hostile possession does not arise. The court also referred to Kurella Naga Druva Vudaya Rao case wherein it observed that mere possession for some years and payment of tax receipts is insufficient to claim adverse possession.
Considering the facts of the current case that the defendants have denied title of both Managing Director and plaintiff, the court noted that the defendants cannot claim hostile possession to the true owner of the property. And hence in view of the Judgements referred above, the court observed that the finding of the High Court defendants have perfected the title by adverse possession is not sustainable and therefore set aside the Judgement and decree passed by High Court. Consequently the Court decreed the suit.
Adverse Possession essentially requires nec vi nec clam and nec precario (adverse to competitor, in denial of title & his knowledge) to coexist at same time. But in hostile possession and in denial of title to the true owner, defendant is required to know who the true owner is. In present case the defendants have admitted the vesting of property neither with plaintiff nor with Managing Officer. It is essential for adverse possession that the possession is to the true owner and in denial of the title of the true owner. As essential requirement of hostile possession for possession being adverse is not fulfilled , the finding of high court that defendants have perfected the title is not legally sustainable.
It is essential that possession is adequate in continuity, adequate in publicity, and hostile to the title of the true owner, and in denial of the title of the true owner. All the three essentialities should coexist for adverse possession. Mere continuity of possession is not sufficient.
“The views of the authors are personal“