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Power Of Attorney Has To Be Construed Strictly: No Agent Can Sell Without Express Authorisation: Supreme Court

Vrinda ,
  07 April 2022       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
Civil Appeal No. 2592 of 2022

Umadevi Nambiar v. Thamarasseri Roman Catholic Diocese

1stApril, 2022

Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Ramasubramanian

Umadevi Nambiar (Petitioner)
Thamarasseri Roman Catholic Diocese Rep By Its Procurator Devssia’s son Rev. Father Joseph Kappil (Respondent)


This case mainly deals with Power of Attorney and suit for partition. The Court, in this case, emphasized on the principle of Nemo dat quod non habet, that is, a person cannot create a better title than he himself has.


  • Section 3 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 defines “things attached to Earth”.
  • Section 41 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 sets out that a person who acts on the express or implied consent of a person who is interested in an immovable property is the ostensible owner of the property, according to the law. He has all the hallmarks of proprietorship, such as the choice to title, ownership, and archives, and he can transfer the property to the transferee.


  • The complainant, Umadevi Nambiar, had signed a general Power of Attorney in favour of her sister Ranee Sidhan on July 21, 1971.
  • On the 31st of January, 1985, the power was turned off. In the interim, the sister was discovered to have signed four different agreements in the names of third persons, assigning or releasing some of the family's assets. As a result, the plaintiff filed two lawsuits against the assignees/releasees at the beginning.
  • She then filed a second lawsuit, this time demanding partition and separate ownership of her half of the suit property.
  • The Trial Court dismissed the case, ruling that the deed did not grant the plaintiff's sister any authority to sell the land and that she thus had no right to alienate it.


  • Whether an agent can sell property without express authorisation?


  • To support his argument about the rule of interpretation to be applied when construing Exhibit A1, the deed of general Power of Attorney, the counsel for respondent relied on this Court's decision in Delhi Development Authority vs. Durga Chand Kaushish, (1973). He also used the case of Syed Abdul Khader vs. Rami Reddy and Others (1979) to make his point about how the Power of Attorney deed should be interpreted.


  • According to the Apex Court bench, the power of attorney deed contained

i) an express authority to lease the property; and ii) an express power to execute any document giving the property as security for any loan, but not an express power to sell the property.

  • In Church of Christ Charitable Trust and Educational Charitable Society vs. Ponniamman Educational Trust (2012), the Court held that the document must expressly authorise the agent to: (i) execute a sale deed; (ii) present it for registration; and (iii) admit execution before the Registering Authority.
  • "No one can confer a better title than what he himself has," is a key premise of property transfer law (Nemo dat quod non habet).
  • The respondent's sellers had no authority to sell the property to the appellant's sister. As a result, the respondent's sellers could not have derived any legal title to the land. If the respondent's vendors didn't have any title, they had nothing to pass to the respondent save possibly the litigation.
  • As a result, the Supreme Court granted the appeal in this case, and the High Court's judgement was overturned, while the trial court's judgement and preliminary decree were reinstated.


The Court's decision is well-supported since it is not always essential for a plaintiff in a partition suit to seek the cancellation of alienations—alienees and cosharers are both allowed to maintain the alienation to the extent of the cosharer's share. It may also be possible for the alienee to seek the assignment of the transferred property to the transferor's share in the anal decree proceedings, so that equities are worked out fairly.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

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