March 23, 2024 In Uncategorized



Adverse possession is a legal principle that grants ownership rights to an individual who resides on or possesses another person’s land without their permission. According to the Limitation Act 1963, if a Property owner fails to assert their ownership rights for a period of 12 years, the ownership rights can be transferred. However, in this particular case, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the criteria for proving the claim of adverse possession as follows: (a) possession against the true owner, (b) owner has knowledge of such adverse continuous possession, (c) the date of adverse possession and (d) the open and undisturbed adverse possession.

A Two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Abhay S.Oka and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan passed a judgement dated 18.03.2024 in a case of M. Radheshyamlal Vs. V Sandhya and Anr. in Civil Appeal Nos.4322 – 4324 of 2024 arising out of SLP (C) Nos. 19059-19061 of 2014, where the Bench held that when a party claims adverse possession, he must know who the actual owner of the Property is and also plead that he has been in a open and uninterrupted possession for more than 12 years and the same was within  the original owner’s knowledge.

Facts of the Case:

i) This present case involves Appeals arising from three distinct Suits (Original Suit Nos. 973 of 1996 , 12091 of 2010 and 12092 of 2010). One, Sugani Bai (also known as Sukri Bai), the original Property owner, died in the year 1947. Before her death, she executed a Settlement Deed on 01.12.1945, thereby transferring the rights thereof to three individuals: Gopu Bai, Abbey Karan Joshi and Vijay Kishan Bohra. It is the fact that the original owner died intestate, leaving no legal heirs.

ii) The Settlement Deed stipulated that one-third of the Property was settled in favor of Gobu Bai for her lifetime, and thereafter, in favor of her daughters and succeeding male descendants. Another one-third was settled in favor of Karan Joshi until his demise, and thereafter in favor of his children. Karan Joshi had a son, Sailesh Joshi, who is the 2nd Defendant in the present case. The remaining one-third was granted to Vijay Kishan Bhora for his lifetime, and thereafter, in favor of his children. Bhora’s son, Vasanatha Kumar is the 3rd Defendant, and his wife, V. Sandhya is the 4th Defendant. The 4th Defendant obtained the Property through a Sale Deed executed on 29.01.2001 from the 2nd Defendant. The 5th Defendant is the son of the 3rd and 4th Defendants.

iii) In the present case, the Appellant, who was the Plaintiff in the Suit bearing OS No.12091 of 2010, sought a declaration of ownership of the Property which was filed on 17.11.1995. In the said Suit, the Plaintiff claimed 45 years of open, uninterrupted, and continuous possession of the Property. He stated that he was having entitlement to the Property through adverse possession, along with his family members. Additionally, the Plaintiff alleged that due to the Defendants’ attempt to dispossess and trespass upon the Property, he filed the Suit seeking a declaration of ownership.

iv) In the same Suit, the 2nd Defendant contested that the Owner has executed and settled the Property, vide a Settlement Deed, in favor of Gobu Bai, Karan Joshi and Vijay Kishan Bhora and hence, they were the rightful owners upon the original Owner’s demise. Additionally, the 4th and 5th Defendants contended that the Plaintiff was in unlawful possession and denied the Plaintiff’s claim.

v) The Defendants filed another Suit in OS No.12092 of 2010 against the Plaintiff for possession, based on title acquired by 3rd to 5th Defendants through a Sale Deed dated 29.01.2001. Additionally, the 2nd Defendant initiated a Suit against the Plaintiff-Tenant for eviction, where an Execution Petition was passed against the Plaintiff.

vi) The Plaintiff filed another Suit in OS No.973 of 1996 to declare that he was not bound by any eviction order. The said Suit was decreed in favor of the Plaintiff. Further, an Appeal was filed by the 2nd Defendant against the Decree passed in favor of the Plaintiff.

vii) Meanwhile, the Suits bearing OS No. 12091 and 12092 of 2010 were subsequently dismissed by the Ld. City Civil Court, Maharashtra, with a Decree of Possession granted in favor of the Defendants.

viii) The Trial Court observed that the Plaintiff did not have obtain any title by adverse possession and subsequently his claim was set aside.

ix) Aggrieved, the Plaintiff filed an Appeal before the High Court of Bombay, thereby, challenging the Trial Court’s dismissal of the two Suits bearing OS No.12091 and 12092 of 2010.

x) Finally, vide Judgment dated 25.04.2014, the Appeals filed by the Plaintiff were dismissed by the High Court of Bombay. Aggrieved by the Order dated 25.04.2014 passed by the High Court, the Plaintiff challenged the said High Court Order before the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal Nos.4322 – 4324 of 2024.

Substantial Question of Law before the Supreme Court:

I) Is the Plaintiff entitled to a declaration of ownership based on adverse possession in the Suit?

II) Are the conclusions of both the Trial Court and the High Court supported by evidence on record to establish adverse possession by the Plaintiff?

Supreme Court Observations:

1) After considering the submissions made by both Parties, the Supreme Court noted that to establish adverse possession, the plaintiff must (i) demonstrate possession adverse to the true owner, (ii) establish continuous possession known to the true owner, (iii) specify the time of adverse possession initiation, and (iv) show open and undisturbed possession for more than 12 years.

2) Considering Issue No.1 the Apex Court referred to the Plaintiff’s submission in OS No. 12091 of 2010, where the Plaintiff claimed “open uninterrupted and continuous possession and enjoyment of the premises” for 45 years. However, since the Suit was filed in 1995, the Bench noted that the highest claim to possession could only be from 1950. The Apex Court found that the Plaintiff failed to plead hostile possession before 1947 or establish uninterrupted possession for over 12 years known to the original owner. Consequently, the Supreme Court concluded that there was no proper foundation for the adverse possession plea based on the Plaint and Plaintiff’s averments.

3) While Observing the Issue No.2, the Supreme Court held that :

The High Court, in dismissing the Appeals, observed that Property tax and water tax bills remained in the name of the original owner. It upheld the Ld.Trial Court’s decision that the Plaintiff failed to provide any evidence indicating payment of house tax prior to 1995. The High Court cited the Commissioner’s Report, which highlighted the deteriorated condition of the building on the Property. It noted the Plaintiff’s lack of action in rectifying this issue. Additionally, the High Court found that water and sewage taxes were left unpaid for several years, indicating that the Plaintiff was not in possession of the Property.

3) The Supreme Court further observed that “the High Court referred evidence on record showing that on 25.08.1995, the Plaintiff submitted a complaint to the police stating possession of only the front portion of the Property and claiming possession for 35 years prior to the complaint. This supportive evidence shows  the Plaintiff claimed possession since 1960, whereas in the plaint, the claim was from 1950.”

4) Referring to the records, the Supreme Court concluded that the Plaintiff failed to establish the commencement date of adverse possession. As a result, the Plaintiff’s attempt to claim ownership through adverse possession in the Suit was deemed unsuccessful. Additionally, the Defendants were found to possess a legitimate title superior to that of the Plaintiff/Appellant.


Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the Appeals filed by the Plaintiff were dismissed by the Apex Court. But considering the age of the Plaintiff, who is 80 years old, the Supreme Court Court granted time till 31st March 2025 to the Plaintiff for vacating the Suit Property.




The Indian Lawyer

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