SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS PLAINTIFF’S OWNERSHIP TO SUIT PROPERTY, AS DEFENDANTS FAILED TO ESTABLISH TITLE BY WAY OF ADVERSE POSSESSION
Recently, a two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Rajesh Bindal passed a Judgment dated 11-04-2023 in Murti Shri Durga Bhawani (Hetuwali) Trust & Anr. vs Sh. Diwan Chand (Dead) through LRs & Ors. Civil Appeal No. 6801 of 2010 and other connecting matters and held that the title and ownership to the disputed property was established in favor of the Appellants, as the Respondents failed to establish ownership by way of adverse possession.
i) In the present case, the Appellant, Murti Shri Durga Bhawani (Hetuwali) Trust filed a Suit for Possession in Suit Nos. 273 and 274 of 1989 before the Sub Judge, First Class, Karnal (Trial Court) thereby claiming (i) ownership in respect of a land situated in Khasra No. 4833 within the revenue estate of Karnal (Suit Property) and (ii) that the Defendant No. 1, Shri. Diwan Chand had trespassed over the said Land.
ii) The Ld. Trial Court vide Judgment dated 28-02-1991 decreed the Suit for Possession in favor of the Plaintiffs-Appellants. The Defendants were restrained from interfering with the peaceful possession of the Plaintiffs in respect of the Suit Property, through a Decree of Permanent Injunction.
iii) In an Appeal before the Ld. Additional District Judge, Karnal (Lower Appellate Court), the Appeal was allowed vide Judgment dated 16-01-1997 and the Trial Court Judgment dated 28-02-1991 was set aside on the ground that the Plaintiffs-Appellants failed to prove their title to the Suit Property.
iv) Aggrieved by the Ld. Lower Appellate Court Judgment dated 16-01-1997, the Plaintiffs-Appellants filed Regular Second Appeal Nos. 2306 and 2307 of 1997 before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh. The High Court, vide Order dated 13-10-2009, upheld the Ld. Lower Appellate Court Judgment dated 16-01-1997.
v) Aggrieved by the High Court Order dated 13-10-2009, the Plaintiffs-Appellants filed Review Application Nos. RA-RS-25C & 26-C of 2010 before the High Court, which were dismissed vide Orders dated 05-04-2010.
Supreme Court Observations
Aggrieved by the High Court Orders dated 05-04-2010, the Plaintiffs-Appellants filed Civil Appeal No. 6801 of 2010 before the Supreme Court. The Apex Court vide Judgment dated 11-04-2023 made the following observations:
1) That in an earlier litigation of Harsarup vs. Municipal Committee, Suit No. 292 of 1962:
2) The predecessor-in-interest of the Defendants-Respondents claimed ownership to the Suit Property through adverse possession.
3) The Ld. Trial Court observed that “the mere fact that the predecessor-in-interest of the respondents had filed the suit claiming ownership of the property on the basis of adverse possession, pre-supposes that the ownership of the appellants on the suit property was admitted.”
4) Further, the Ld. Trial Court held that the predecessor-in-interest of the Defendants failed to establish title to the Suit Property by way of adverse possession.
5) Thus, the title to the Suit Property was held in favor of the predecessor-in-interest of the Plaintiffs-Appellants by the Ld. Trial Court, vide Decree dated 30-07-1965.
6) Further, despite not having proper title to the Suit Property, the Defendants-Respondents continued possession of the Suit Property for a long period of time and the same has been admitted by the Defendants in their submissions.
Thus, based on the aforesaid submissions and admissions made by the Defendants-Respondents and their predecessors-in-interest, the Supreme Court observed that the title and ownership to the Suit Property was established in favor of the Plaintiffs-Appellants and therefore, held that the Ld. Trial Court had rightly decreed the Suit in favor of the Plaintiffs-Appellants. As a result, the Appeal was allowed, the Ld. Trial Court Judgment dated 28-02-1991 was upheld and consequently, the Judgments and Decrees of the Lower Appellate Court and the High Court dated 16-01-1997, 13-10-2009 and 05-04-2010 respectively were set aside.
The Indian Lawyer
 Adverse possession may be defined as “holding possession under a claim of title inconsistent with that of the true owner”. The Supreme Court in earlier cases has held that the burden of proof in respect of adverse possession is on the person who claims title by way of adverse possession, as such a person does not have equities in his favour and as 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.
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