SC Ruling To Make Adverse Possession Tougher
Becoming a property owner is no easy job. Those who have earned it entirely through their own efforts can narrate their struggles with much flair and detail. And, under no circumstances would an owner be willing to let go of this claim on the property. It is precisely for this reason a property owner has to keep his eyes and ears open all the time, especially if the property has been given to another person to stay.
Under the provisions of an archaic law, you may lose ownership over your property if someone else is living there for an uninterrupted period of 12 years and claims ownership through adverse possession.
However, the Supreme Court recently made tougher for a squatter or an illegal occupant to claim your property. Before coming to that, let us see what the law says about adverse possession.
Limiting your rights
Provisions on adverse possession are made under the Limitation Act, 1963. In case an owner does not stake his claim over his property for 12 years, a squatter can acquire legal rights over the property. The prescribed period in case of for government-owned properties is 30 years.
- To claim his ownership, this squatter has to prove that his occupancy of the property has been uninterrupted for the entire period. You cannot break the period into halves.
- He will also have to prove that he has been the sole occupant of the property. There cannot be under the provisions of the law multiple claimants.
- The squatter will also have to let his intentions known to the owner, with an element of hostility into his action. Starting reconstruction work, for instance, would amount to a squatter's attempt to claim ownership. However, he is not liable to inform the original owner about his intentions. This means the entire responsibility of monitoring the movements of another occupant lies on the original owner.
There is an exception to the rule. An adverse possession cannot take place in case the original owner is minor, or of unsound mind, or is serving in the armed forces.
This would seem to you that the Limitation Act encourages hostile possession of property while unreasonably punishing the right owner. The recent SC verdict is going to change that.
What does the SC say?
Giving its verdict in the Dagadabai versus Addas case, the SC rules a squatter will have to first accept the ownership of the original landlord to file a case of adverse possession and make it known to the latter. This squatter will also have to file a suit along with the original owner to proceed legally.
"The true owner has to be made a party to the suit to enable the court to decide the plea of adverse possession between the two claimants," the SC order by a Bench of Justices R K Agrawal and A M Sapre said.
“It is only thereafter and subject to proving other material conditions with the aid of adequate evidence on the issue of actual, peaceful, and uninterrupted continuous possession of the person (squatter) over the suit property for more than 12 years to the exclusion of the true owner with the element of hostility in asserting the rights of ownership to the knowledge of the true owner, a case of adverse possession can be held to be made out,” the order read.