Understanding Adverse Possession in India

A person who has invested their hard-earned money in buying a property is at constant risk of losing it through some dispute or scam. With the help of the doctrine of adverse possession, any person can claim ownership of your property after a certain time frame without even buying it. The concept of adverse possession is based on the idea that land must not be left vacant and be put to judicious use. It can also be described as a method of hostile or unfriendly possession of property.

Though the legislation has not enacted any particular act or law in relation to adverse possession, there are a few provisions of the limitation act which govern the principle of adverse possession. According to the limitation act, if you as a property owner fail to make a claim towards your property for twelve years, then the ownership rights of your property will be transferred to the person occupying it, even without a valid title. In other words, if the real owner of the property does not file the recovery suit for possession within a stipulated time then it shall be considered that the property belongs to the person claiming adverse possession.

Legal Requirements for Adverse Possession in India

To successfully navigate an adverse possession claim, one must fulfill the following legal requirements:

1. Immovable Property

The property which has been unlawfully occupied should be immovable in nature which can be a house or land. The doctrine of adverse possession is not applicable to movable property.

2. Knowledge of Owner and Neighbors

A crucial facet involves proving that the true owner was aware of the possession and pinpointing the specific date of this awareness. You are also required to demonstrate that neighboring parties were also cognizant of the possession and the associated timeline.

3. Peaceful Possession

The possession in question must have been acquired without coercion and in contrast to the expectations of the true owner. The peaceful nature of possession forms a crucial element in substantiating a claim for adverse possession.

4. Lack of Owner’s Action

It is incumbent upon the claimant to showcase that, despite being aware of the possession, the true owner refrained from taking any legal action against it. Substantiating this requires demonstrating, beyond reasonable doubt, the owner’s full awareness of the ongoing possession.

5. Statute Of Limitation

In case of a private property, the individual should be in possession of the property for a minimum period of 12 years in case of government property, you should be in possession of the property for minimum 30 years.

List of Essential Documents Required for Adverse Possession in India

The following are some essential documents required to prove adverse possession in India

1. Possession Acknowledgment Documents

Documents that could be interpreted as indicating the owner’s acceptance of the opposing possessor’s rights or agreement to occupy

2. Affidavits and Witnesses

Sworn declarations or testimony from witnesses endorsing the opposition possessor’s ongoing, hostile, and open possession.

3. Tax Payment Records

Documents attesting to the opposing possessor’s adoption of ownership duties, such as receipts or records of property tax payments.

4. Title Documents

Records of ownership and historical documentation proving the claimant’s continuous possession and employment.

5. Survey or Boundary Documents

Documents that show the borders of the occupied territory and how they correspond with the claimant’s ownership.

The Adverse Possession Process in India

While there is no fixed procedure for claiming the adverse possession in India. You can follow the below-mentioned adverse possession procedure to claim ownership:

1. Occupation and Possession:

  • Continuous Possession

For the duration of the statutory period, typically 12 years in most states and occupy the land in an open, continuous, and uninterrupted manner.

  • Hostile Possession

Take over the property against the owner’s will or without their permission.

2. Legal Proceedings:

  • File a Suit

Initiate legal actions by filing a suit in the relevant court, giving evidence of continuous and hostile possession.

  • Elements to be proved

Establish the elements of hostile possession, such as open possession, animosity, and the passage of the required time frame.

  • Court Decision

Should the case be successful, a decree recognizing adverse possession and transferring ownership may be granted by the court.

Common Challenges and Solutions

While adverse possession laws in India serve as a mechanism to balance the interests of possessors and original owners, it has faced criticism for potentially leading to unjust outcomes. Sometimes the doctrine of adverse possession encourages trespassers and discourages property owners from diligently safeguarding their property or land. Additionally, the subjective nature of determining hostility and the potential for fraudulent claims pose challenges to the fair application of adverse possession laws. Striking balance between protecting property rights and preventing and unjust enrichment remains a constant challenge for the Indian legal system.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What exactly is adverse possession?

As per the Act, an individual can obtain lawful title to another person’s property if they occupy it in an open, continuous, and uninterrupted manner for a predetermined statutory duration, which is often 12 years.

2. What are the legal requirements to claim adverse possession?

To claim the adverse possession over any property, the possessor will have to prove the following before the court which includes the date of possession of the property, the possession was known to the public, the possession was continuous in nature, the duration of the possession etc.

3. Which documents are essential for an adverse possession claim?

For adverse possession claim, documents include Property deed or title, tax receipts, utility bills, Affidavits from witnesses, survey documents and other relevant documents.

4. What is the required duration of possession for a successful adverse possession claim?

For a successful adverse possession claim, the possessor must have been in possession of the property for more than 12 years.

5. Is adverse possession legal in India?

Yes, adverse possession is legal in India and it’s followed to make sure a land or property is in continued use.