Supreme Court asks government to change archaic land law

September 23rd, 2008 - 9:51 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 23 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday recommended the central government to change an archaic law, which accords legal rights to an illegal occupier of land if its real owner fails to take legal action to retrieve the property within a stipulated time.Recommending a suitable amendment to the law on ‘adverse possession’, a bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Harjit Singh Bedi asked the apex court registry to send its ruling on the matter to Law Secretary T.K. Vishvanathan.

The bench recommended amendment saying: “The law of adverse possession which ousts an owner on the basis of inaction within limitation is irrational, illogical and wholly disproportionate.

“The law as it exists is extremely harsh for the true owner and a windfall for a dishonest person who had illegally taken possession of the property,” the bench said.

“The law ought not to benefit a person who in a clandestine manner takes possession of the property of the owner in contravention of law,” said the bench.

“This in substance would mean that the law gives the seal of approval to the illegal action or activities of a rank trespasser or who had wrongfully taken possession of the property of the true owner,” the bench said.

“We fail to comprehend why the law should place premium on dishonesty by legitimizing possession of a rank trespasser and compelling the owner to lose its possession only because of his inaction in taking back the possession within limitation (of 12 years),” the bench noted.

“In our considered view, there is an urgent need of fresh look regarding the law on adverse possession. We recommend the Union of India to seriously consider and make suitable changes in the law,” it said.

It also ordered that a copy of the relevant judgement “be sent to the secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice, Department of Legal Affairs, Government of India for taking appropriate steps in accordance with law.”

The bench made the recommendation while dismissing an appeal by Hemaji Waghaji Jat, a resident of Palanpur in Gujarat, who had taken forcible possession of over six acres of land in his village Yavarpura in Palanpur district in 1960. The land had been in his possession till 1986.

On an appeal by real land owner Bhikhabhai Khengarbhai Harijan, a trial court in April 1986 had ruled that Jat had become the owner of the land by adverse possession.

But the sessions court and later the Gujarat High Court in 2004 ruled against Jat, divesting him of the land ownership on account of adverse possession.

The apex court bench upheld the high court ruling.

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