Possession – Does not give any right or interest in the property

In Sham Lal v. Rajinder Kumar, (1994) 30 DRJ 596, on the question of possession, the Court in Para 13, held as below:

“Possession is flexible term and is not necessarily restricted to mere actual possession of the property. The legal conception of possession may be in various forms. The two elements of possession are the corpus and the animus. A person though in physical possession may not be in possession in the eye of the law, if the animus be lacking. On the contrary, to be in possession, it is not necessary that one must be in actual physical contact. To gain the complete idea of possession, one must consider:

(1)    The person possessing,

(2)    The things possessed and,

(3)    The persons excluded from possession.

A man may hold an object without claiming any interest therein for himself. A servant though holding an object, holds it for his master. He has, therefore, merely custody of the thing and not the possession which would always be with the master though the master may not be in actual contact of the thing. It is in this light in which the concept of possession has to be understood in the context of a servant and a master.”

The ratio of this judgment is that merely because the plaintiff was employed as a servant or chowkidar to look after the property, it cannot be said that he had entered into such possession of the property as would entitle him to exclude even the master from enjoying or claiming possession of the property or as would entitle him to compel the master from staying away from his own property.

Principles of law which emerge in this case are crystallized as under:

(1)    No one acquires title to the property if he or she was allowed to stay in the premises gratuitously. Even by long possession of years or decades such person would not acquire any right or interest in the said property.

(2)    Caretaker, watchman or servant can never acquire interest in the property irrespective of his long possession. The caretaker or servant has to give possession forthwith on demand.

(3)    The courts are not justified in protecting the possession of a caretaker, servant or any person who was allowed to live in the premises for some time either as a friend, relative, caretaker or as a servant.

(4)    The protection of the court can only be granted or extended to the person who has valid, subsisting rent agreement, lease agreement or licence agreement in his favour.

(5)    The caretaker or agent holds property of the principal only on behalf of the principal. He acquire no right or interest whatsoever for himself in such property irrespective of his long stay or possession. Maria Margarida Sequeira Fernandes and others v. Erasmo Jack De Sequeira (dead) through Lrs. (2012) 5 SCC 370.

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