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Adverse Possession – Hostile Possession – For adverse possession against the true owner,

Shri Uttam Chand thorugh Lrs. Vs. Nathu Ram through Lrs. And ors. – Civil Appeal No. 190 of 2020 Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 16321 of 2011 – JANUARY 15, 2020

The Supreme Court Bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Hemanth Gupta allowed the appeal and held that there is difference between hostile possession and adverse possession.

Background facts of the case:

The plaintiff filed a suit for possession on the basis of purchase of suit property from the Managing officer, Department of Rehabilitation, Government of India in a public auction in 1964. The certificate of sale was issued thereafter in 1965. The suit was filed in 1979 alleging the defendants to be in an unauthorized possession. The defendants denied that the plaintiffs are the real owners. The defendants asserted that they have been existing in that property for the past two centuries. The property was inherited from their grandfather and then their father and then to the defendant. It was denied that the property was ever vested with the Managing Officer and he has no authority to auction the property.

Parties went on a trial on the following issues:
Whether the suit is properly valued for the purpose of Court fee and jurisdiction?, Whether the suit time is barred?, Whether the plaintiff is the owner of the property in the suit?, Whether the defendants become owner by adverse possession of the property in suit?, Whether the defendants are in unauthorized occupation of the property in dispute?, Relief.

The Learned Trial Court found that a sale certificate was issued on 15th January, 1965 and that the property was sold by auction. Therefore, it was clear that the plaintiff is the owner of the property. But the issues 2,4, and 5 were decided in favor of the defendants and the suit was dismissed. A first appeal was made by the plaintiff. The Learned First Appellate Court recorded that the plaintiff is the owner of the property. On deciding whether the suit is time barred, it was decided that the suit is proper and it has not completed the period of 12 years. The suit was then decreed by the court by considering the other issues. In the second appeal, the High Court affirmed the finding of ownership in favor of the plaintiff to be in doubt and relied upon the judgment of Anjanappa and ors. Vs Somalingappa and Anr.  And held that the defendants were in possession of 12 years and more, and thus the suit is barred by limitation. The Appellate side argued that long possession is not necessarily adverse possession and it does not come under the meaning of Article 65 of the Limitation Act. The counsel for the defendants further argued that the plaintiff has admitted the possession of defendants in the year 1964 and thus they are in adverse possession. The Court held that the defendants claiming adverse possession need not find who the owner of the property is and thus they need not prove that they are not hostile.

The principle of law is firmly established that a person who bases his title on adverse possession must show by clear and unequivocal evidence that his possession was hostile to the real owner and amounted to denial of his title to the property claimed.

In the present case, it is found that the defendants have not accepted that the managing officer or the plaintiff to the owner of the property and they being in continuous possession of the property has been proved and it is not proved to be hostile. Therefore, filling of the suit will not ripe the title of the defendants and hence the Defendants are entitled to the possession of the property. The appeal is allowed.

–  Vydurya Selvi Baskaran

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