NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has held that a person who has acquired right over a property as it was in his possession for 12 years can file a suit to re-claim it in case of forced dispossession by the original owner or any other party.
The top court referred to the "doctrine of adverse possession", under which a person who is not the original owner becomes the owner because of the fact that he has been in possession of the property for a minimum of 12-years, within which the real owner did not seek legal recourse to oust him.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah held that a person, who is not a title holder (original owner) but gets right over the property under the doctrine of adverse possession, is empowered to file law suits to reclaim possession in case he is dispossessed by others.
"We hold that a person in possession cannot be ousted by another person except by due procedure of law and once 12 years' period of adverse possession is over, even owner's right to eject him is lost and the possessory owner acquires right, title and interest possessed by the outgoing person/ owner as the case may be against whom he has prescribed," the bench said.
It said that consequence of the ruling is that "once the right, title or interest is acquired it can be used as a sword by the plaintiff as well as a shield by the defendant within ken of Article 65 of the Limitation Act (law which deals with maintainability of law suit on the basis of time limit) and any person who has perfected title by way of adverse possession, can file a suit for restoration of possession in case of dispossession".
The top court held that in case of dispossession by another person by taking law in his hand a possessory suit can be maintained under the law even before the ripening of title by way of adverse possession.
It said: "By perfection of title on extinguishment of the owner's title, a person cannot be remediless. In case he has been dispossessed by the owner after having lost the right by adverse possession, he can be evicted by the plaintiff by taking the plea of adverse possession. Similarly, any other person who might have dispossessed the plaintiff having perfected title by way of adverse possession can also be evicted until and unless such other person has perfected title against such a plaintiff by adverse possession."
The top court ruling came while answering a legal question whether a person claiming the title by virtue of adverse possession can maintain a law suit under the law for declaration of title.
It held that same may not be the case with the land or property meant for public use as there are instances when such properties are encroached upon and then a plea of adverse possession is raised.
"In such cases, on the land reserved for public utility, it is desirable that rights should not accrue. The law of adverse possession may cause harsh consequences, hence, we are constrained to observe that it would be advisable that concerning such properties dedicated to public cause, it is made clear in the statute of limitation that no rights can accrue by adverse possession," the bench said.