Acquisition of title by adverse possession may entitle right to sue as well.

Whether a person claiming the title by virtue of adverse possession can maintain a suit under Article 65 of Limitation Act, 1963 (for short, “the Act”) for declaration of title and for a permanent injunction seeking the protection of his possession thereby restraining the defendant from interfering in the possession or for restoration of possession in case of illegal dispossession by a defendant whose title has been extinguished by virtue of the plaintiff remaining in the adverse 2 possession or in case of dispossession by some other person?

Adverse possession:

There is the acquisition of title in favour of plaintiff though it is negative conferral of right on extinguishment of the right of an owner of the property. The right ripened by prescription by his adverse possession is absolute and on dispossession, he can sue based on ‘title’ as envisaged in the opening part under Article 65 of Act. Under Article 65, the suit can be filed based on the title for recovery of possession within 12 years of the start of adverse possession, if any, set up by the 55 defendant. Otherwise right to recover possession based on the title is absolute irrespective of limitation in the absence of adverse possession by the defendant for 12 years. The possession as trespasser is not adverse nor long possession is synonym with adverse possession.

Supreme Court not inclined to accept the submission that there is no conferral of right by adverse possession:

Section 27 of Limitation Act, 1963 provides for extinguishment of right on the lapse of limitation fixed to institute a suit for possession of any property, the right to such property shall stand extinguished. The concept of adverse possession as evolved goes beyond it on completion of period and extinguishment of right confers the same right on the possessor, which has been extinguished and not more than that. For a person to sue for possession would indicate that right has accrued to him in presenti to obtain it, not in futuro. Any property in Section 27 would include corporeal or incorporeal property. Article 65 deals with immovable property.

Possession is the root of title and is right like the property. As ownership is also of different kinds of viz. sole ownership, contingent ownership, corporeal ownership, and legal equitable ownership. Limited ownership or limited right to property may be enjoyed by a holder.

What can be prescribable against is limited to the rights of the holder. Possession confers enforceable right under Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act. It has to be looked into what kind of possession is enjoyed viz. de facto i.e., actual, ‘de jure possession’, constructive possession, concurrent possession over a small portion of the property. In case the owner is in symbolic possession, there is no dispossession, there can be formal, exclusive or joint possession. The joint possessor/co­owner possession is not presumed to be adverse. Personal law also plays a role to construe nature of possession.

The adverse possession requires all the three classic requirements to co­exist at the same time, namely, nec­vi i.e. adequate in continuity, nec­clam i.e., adequate in publicity and nec­precario i.e. adverse to a competitor, in denial of title and his knowledge. Visible, notorious and peaceful so that if the owner does not take care to know notorious facts, knowledge is attributed to him on the basis that but for due diligence he would have known it. Adverse possession cannot be decreed on a title which is not pleaded. Animus possidendi under hostile colour of title is required. Trespasser’s long possession is not synonym with adverse possession. Trespasser’s possession is construed to be on behalf of the owner, the casual user does not constitute adverse possession. The owner can take possession from a trespasser at any point in time.

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. In our opinion, consequence 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 Act and any person who has perfected title by way of adverse possession, can file a suit for restoration of possession in case of dispossession. In case of dispossession by another person by taking law in his hand a possessory suit can be maintained under Article 64, even before the ripening of title by way of adverse possession. 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. Similarly, under other Articles also in case of infringement of any of his rights, a plaintiff who has perfected the title by adverse possession, can sue and maintain a suit.

[Source: Ravinder Kaur Grewal vs Manjit Kaur decided by SC on 7 August, 2019]
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