‘One who holds possession on behalf of another, does not by mere denial of the other’s title, make his possession adverse so as to give himself the benefit of the statute of limitation.’
Some judgments of the Supreme Court, though does not state anything new, are to be read in an academic point of view. It helps newbie lawyers and law students to know law as it is.
The judgment expositing the law on adverse possession by the bench comprising Justice NV Ramana and Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar, in Ram Nagina Rai vs. Deo Kumar Rai, is one such.
Plaintiffs in a title suit claimed to be owners of a property, which was being occupied by the defendants, as permitted by their ancestors. Their case was that defendants got khatian changed without notice to them, showing the defendants to be in possession of the disputed house.
The defendants’ case was that they are the owners in possession of the suit house even prior to 1953. RS Khatian, which records they are in possession, was finally published in the year 1970, but the plaintiff filed the title suit only 19 years after its final publication and hence, the suit is barred by limitation. The main contention was that they had perfected the title by adverse possession and, therefore, the plaintiffs are not entitled to recover the possession of the suit house from the defendants.
Though the munsiff’s court rejected the plea of adverse possession, the appellate courts found favour with it and dismissed the suit filed by the plaintiffs. The case reached the apex court.
Reading of this judgment will give us a clear picture on the law of adverse possession. The bench reiterated the position of law as follows:
Taking note of the evidence on record, the bench observed that except for the change of khatian sometime in the year 1970 by the defendants and the payment of taxes for being in possession of property, no material is produced by the defendants to show whether the possession was really hostile to the actual owner.
“There is absolutely nothing on record to show that there was a hostile assertion by the defendants. We do not find that the defendants had hostile animus at any point of time, from the facts and circumstances of this case. The defendants denied the title of the plaintiffs over the suit property only when the suit came to be filed, inasmuch as the defendants have taken such a contention for the first time in their written statements,”, the bench observed.
The bench held that there is no absolute requirement to deem the mere possession of the suit property by the defendants to amount to adverse possession over the suit property as it would be in clear violation of the basic rights of the actual owner of the property. On tax receipts and land records, the bench said even assuming that those documents relate to the suit house, they, at the most, depict the possession of the defendants and not their adverse possession.
Restoring the Munsiff’s Court Decree, the bench set aside the judgments of appellate courts.