India: Settled Possession - Right Of Possession Over Immoveable Property - Supreme Court Of India

Last Updated: 1 August 2019
Article by Riddhi Bose

In the case of Poona Ram v Moti Ram & Ors, the bench of Hon'ble Justices Mohan M Shantanagoudar and N.V Ramana of Hon'ble Supreme Court has opined that "a person who asserts possessory title over a particular property will have to show that he is under settled or established possession of the said property. But merely stray or intermittent acts of trespass do not give such right against the true owner". That, the proposition with regards, immoveable property remains that "Possession is nine-tenth of the law". However, it is necessary to observe that there must be an establishment of "settled possession" to establish possessory title claim over an immovable property under Indian Law. Thus, to state that any person having casual possession over the immoveable property will not have possessory title over the said property.

Background: Respondent Moti Ram had filed a suit over an immoveable property over which he claimed possessory title, which seemed merely based on his prior possession on the property for a number of years. However, Moti Ram had no documents to evidence his possession over the same. The Petitioner, Poona Ram submitted his title deeds to the suit property, having thus claimed a better title to the suit property. The Trial Court decreed the suit in favour of Moti Ram, but the First Appellate Court, reversed the order of Trial Court and held that, Poona Ram in lieu of title deeds had proved his title over the suit property in question. However, in Second Appeal, the High Court of Rajasthan, restored the order of the Trial Court and observed that Poona Ram was not able to prove his title over the property on two grounds: i) claim for a better title, or disposition of Moti Ram's title over the property, ii) Moti Ram not being in possession of suit property, but Moti Ram had possessory title to suit property on the basis of his long term possession. It is on the basis of this observation that Poona Ram approached the Apex Court.

Observation of Apex Court: The ratio laid down by the Supreme Court in the judgment is that a person who asserts possessory title over a particular property, will have to show he is under settled or established possession of the said property. Therefore, the Supreme Court, in the present case in light of the above submission had to observe that whether Moti Ram had better title over the suit property and whether he was in settled possession of the property, which required dispossession as per law.

The Apex Court, while addressing the stance under Section 64 of Limitation Act, wherein a suit for possession of immoveable property based on previous possession and not on title, if brought within 12 years from dated of dispossession, opined that such a suit is based on possessory title as opposed to proprietary possession has also elaborated on the term "settled possession" holding that such possession over the property which has existed for a long period of time and such effective possession of a person without title would entitle him to protect his possession, similar to that of a true owner.

The Supreme Court while addressing the issue, took relevance from its earlier judgment in the case of Nair Service Society Ltd v K.C Alexander, AIR 1968 SC 1165, wherein the Court held that a person in possession of land in assumed character of owner and exercising peaceably the ordinary rights of ownership has a perfectly good title against the entire world except the rightful owner. In such a case, the defendant must show in himself, or his predecessor a valid legal title and probably possession prior to plaintiff's possession.

Thus, the Court has observed that person who claims to have been in possessory title over a particular property, may have to show that they have been under settled or established possession of the said property, however trespass or mere possession won't give any valid right against the true owner. The Court has laid down while reiterating the definition of "settled possession" opined that "Settled possession means such possession over the property which has existed for a sufficiently long period of time, and has been acquiesced to by the true owner. A casual act of possession does not have the effect of interrupting the possession of the rightful owner. A stray act of trespass, or a possession which has not matured into settled possession, can be obstructed or removed by the true owner even by using necessary force."

The Court even went on to observe that the possession should be in the nature of Animus possidendi, holding that there should be an intention to possess. In common law, all that is required is an intention to possess. The same can be observed by reference to the judgment of Powell v McFarlane ((1979) 38 P & CR 452) wherein the Court had held that "if the law is to attribute possession of land to a person who can establish no paper title to possession, he must be shown to have both factual possession and the requisite intention to possess".

The Court has observed that the plaintiff should prove his case to the satisfaction of the Court and cannot win on the weakness of the case of the defendant. However, as there is no confusion as to the identity of the property in question. The Supreme Court has also stated that the First Appellate Court, being the final court for appreciation of fact has rightly held that Poona Ram, while evidencing his claim of title over the suit property, with the title deed has indeed succeeded in proving a better title to the suit property as against Devi Ram who merely claims casual possessory rights over the suit property. The Apex Court also opined that the High Court should not have gone into the merits of the case nor appreciation of evidence and should not have interfered with the order of First Appellate Court based on evidence on record, which are no perverse or against the material on record.

Possessory Title and Proprietary Title

The difference between Possessory Title as opposed to Proprietary Title has been laid down under the law. Article 65 of Schedule 1 of Limitation Act provides that a person aggrieved may file a suit for recovery of possession of immoveable property based on proprietary title, within 12 years from the time when the possession of the defendant is adverse to that of the plaintiff. Article 64 of the Schedule 1 of Limitation Act, provides that person aggrieved may file a suit for recovery of possession of immoveable property or any interest therein based on possessory title, within 12 years from the date of dispossession of aggrieved person from the suit property. However, in both cases if the period of 12 years expires and the challenge to title of immoveable property is not made, then it amounts to closure of the said right.

The Supreme Court has also observed in this matter that Moti Ram as rightly observed by the First Appellate Court has not been able to prove with any documentary evidence that he was in actual possession of the suit property much less continuous possession. For this the definition of Actual Possession as laid down by the Black's Law Dictionary has to considered which states that Actual Possession as "having physical control of any object or real property". Therefore, in light of the definition and observance of the Apex Court, it is clear that for the establishment of possessory title over the property, it is fundamental to establish the act of actual possession over suit property and thereafter the plea of continuous possession can be claimed to further the cause of the possessory title. However, the First Appellate Court and then reaffirmed by the Apex Court was right in holding that in the present case, the defendant Moti Ram, has not been able to prove vide any evidence, the existence of the fact that he was in actual possession of the suit property. Therefore, the Apex Court rightly overruled the judgment of the High Court of Rajasthan for the fact that the Defendant had not made a strong case of possession merely based on the right of casual possession as no documentary evidence was advanced to prove that he may have been in actual possession of the suit property.

Opinion: Therefore, from the perusal of the existing precedents and the Judgment under review, the following can be observed in case of proving possessory title of a party:

  1. Settled possession must be an effective and undisturbed possession;
  2. The possession must be to the knowledge of the owner or without any attempt being made by trespasser to conceal the same;
  3. The person claiming the possessory title, must prove his own case and prove a title better than that of the person against whom the relief is clamed;
  4. The claim of the party claming possessory title cannot succeed in the weakness of the case of the party against whom the relief is claimed.
  5. Lastly, the better title to the suit property must be proved by passing the trial of settled or established possession by showing an intention to possess the suit property with a intention of subsequent possession for a sufficient period of time, within the knowledge of the owner of the suit property.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions