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Persons Making Claims Of Adverse Possession Have To Provide More Rigorous Evidence: Karnataka High Court

Ifrah Murtaza ,
  21 June 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka
Brief :

Citation :
R.S.A. No. 1366 of 2018

Case title:

Sri C M Meer Liyakhat Ali v. Smt Vasanthamma & Ors

Date of Order:

16th April 2024

Bench:

Hon’ble Mr Justice M.G.S. Kamal

Parties:

Appellant: Sri C M Meer Lkiyakhat Ali

Respondent: Smt Vasanthamma & Ors

SUBJECT:

The Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka (hereinafter referred to as the ‘High Court’ or ‘the Court’) allowed an appeal filed before it restoring the appellant’s title to his property. The appellant’s property was encroached upon by the respondents, who later claimed adverse possession after having been in possession for more than a decade. The High Court upheld the order of the trial court and stated that the respondents had failed to substantiate their claims due to lack of relevant evidence.  

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC): 

  • Section 100
  • Order VII Rule 3
  • Order I Rule 3

The Limitation Act, 1963:

  •  Article 65
  •  Article 64

OVERVIEW:

  • The property in dispute initially belonged to Sri Ansari Mohammed Gouse. The Land measured 7 acres and 35 guntas in Uppalli Village.
  • Sri C.M. Meer Dawood, the appellant’s father, bought the land through 2 separate deeds. The deeds were made in favour of his 2 wives. The northern portion was in the name of Smt. Meharunnisa and the southern portion in the name of Smt Sufiyabi. The khatha was mutated in Smt Sufiyabi’s name.
  • Smt Sufiyabi was survived by 4 daughters and a son (the plaintiff/appellant). The daughters filed a suit for separate possession in 2002. The suit was ruled in their favour. 
  • In 2009, the plaintiff was allotted his share of the land and the khatha was made in his favour. However, the plaintiff did not take physical possession of the property. 
  • However, the plaintiff noticed illegal structures on the property in 2013. The plaintiff filed a suit in the trial court, claiming ownership of property he inherited from his parents. The index of land and record of right reflect the names of his parents as predecessors. 
  • Defendants argued that the land belonged the government, and could rightfully claim the property due to adverse possession.
  • The Trial Court ruled in favour of the plaintiff on 17.08.2017 based on the documents produced by him. 
  • But the order was reversed by the 1st Appellate court on 05.04.2018, stating that the defendants had perfected their title through adverse possession. 
  • This order is now being appealed against by the plaintiff/appellant in the instant appeal.

ISSUES RAISED:

  • Whether the plaintiff proves that, he is the absolute owner of the "A" schedule property?
  • Whether the plaintiff proves that, the "B" schedule property is the part and parcel of the "A" schedule property?
  • Whether the plaintiff proves that, the defendants have illegally encroached the "B" schedule property?
  • Whether the defendant No.1, 6, 7 and 11 proves that, the court fee paid on the plaint is insufficient?
  • Whether the defendant No.1, 6, 7 and 11 proves that, they have perfected their title over the "B" schedule property by way of adverse possession?
  • Whether the plaintiff is entitled for the reliefs sought for in the suit?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT:

  • The disputed property rightfully belonged to him as he had legally inherited it from his parents and the same could be proven by documentary evidence. 
  • The order of the trial court further solidified the appellant’s title. 
  • The respondents lack proof of their date of the adverse possession. The non-contesting defendants did not file written statements, nor did they challenge the suit, which precludes them from claiming adverse possession. 
  • The respondents’ defense is inconsistent. Initially they had argued that they were under the impression that the disputed land belonged to the government. Later the claimed adverse possession.
  • For adverse possession to be valid, “nec vi, nec clam, nec precario” (peaceful, open, and continuous), but the respondents failed to establish the same. 
  • Relying on the judgments in Janatha Dal Party v. Indian National Congress, M Durai v. Muthu & Ors, and Revanna v. A. Ramaiah, the appellant argued the burden of proof lied heavily on respondents to establish their adverse possession. They need to establish unequivocal evidence of hostile possession for the statutory period. 
  • The impugned order of the First Appellate Court was erroneous as the respondents had failed to establish adverse possession. 
  • Appellant had initiated legal action promptly after discovering the illegal structures on the disputed property.  

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT:

Respondents have been in possession of the disputed property for over 12 years, and perfected their title through adverse possession by residing there continuously, openly, and without interruption.

  • Documentary evidence such as tax receipts, electricity bills, and other similar utility payments demonstrate the respondents’ long-standing control of the disputed property.
  • The appellant had not been able to provide precise details about the alleged encroachment, making his claims inconsistent and contrary to the provisions of Order VII Rule 3 of CPC.
  • The appellant’s suit is barred by Article 64 of the Limitation Act, as the appellant had initiated proceedings in 2013 but the respondents had put up constructions in 2001-2002.
  • Respondents cited rulings in Ramiah v. N.Narayana Reddy (Dead), Ravinder Kaur Grewal & Ors v. Majit Kaur, to support their claim to uphold their possession despite initial possession being permissive or unclear.

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS:

  • The High Court acknowledged that the appellant had established his ownership of the property through the documentary evidence, including sale deeds, revenue records, and partition decree. 
  • While the respondents claimed possession of government land, they encroached the appellant’s land later. 
  • The respondents had also failed to provide specific dates of their possession from when it became adverse. Moreover, defendants 2-5, 8, and 10 did not even file written statements or contest the initial proceedings.
  • The High Court underscored the need for the respondents to plead specifically in order to prove their exact date of their adverse possession, which they failed to do.
  • The documentary evidence presented by the respondents were mostly irrelevant and did not support their claim.
  • The order of the First Appellate Court was deemed flawed as it failed to consider the non-contest by several defendants as the claim of adverse possession mandates provision of stricter proof which could not have been inferred in their absence. 
  • Referring to the cases of Parsinni (Dead) & Ors v. Sukhi & Ors, T.K. Mohammamed Abubucker (Dead) & Ors v. P.S.M. Ahamed Abdul Khadar & Ors, HC ruled that clear, specific details were essential to substantiate the claims of adverse possession.
  • There was not sufficient evidence to back the adverse possession claims of the respondent. 

CONCLUSION

The High Court overturned the order of the First Appellate Court, stating that the respondents lacked sufficient evidence to prove their claim of adverse possession. The Court highlighted the strict standards necessary for establishing adverse possession and the respondents had failed to meet those standards. The trial court’s decree dated 17.08.2017 was upheld and the appellant’s title to the property was restored with no order as to costs. 
 

 
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