In what comes as a huge respite to landlords (especially NRIs holding property in India) the Supreme Court has in a decision come down heavily upon servants/agents/caretakers/tenants/licensee’s of owners – who try to usurp property by indulging in uncalled for litigation against real owners, by abusing the process of courts, and taking benefit of the delays in the justice delivery system.
It was seen that normally caretakers in the absence of real owners tried to usurp the property by not evicting the same, and on account of legal flaws in our legal system claim ownership on the basis of uninterrupted possession of 12 years (known as adverse possession), although many of these frivolous claims collapse like a pack of cards in the end, these cases take a long in being decided, in the meanwhile these people obtain a stay against the real owner, due to which the owner becomes tied and incapable of selling the property any further, and the wrongdoer continues to enjoy the property.
The Court in Maria Sequeria v. Erasmo Sequiria (2012 SC) as well as Ramrameshwari Devi v. Niramala Devi (2011 SC) noted that an agent/servant/caretaker‟s possession is not in it‟s own right but on behalf of the real owner – the employer, and such person cannot claim independent possession & set up title contrary to the real owner.
The real owner in such cases is within his right to approach the court for eviction of the person after his employment is terminated.
The Court repelled action on behalf of one such caretaker to recover possession or obtain stay against the real owner.
The SC in Ramrameshwari Devi (Supra) has called for awarding of realistic costs to deter such frivolous litigation and also called for judicious exercise of power to order status quo/injunctions.
ADVISE : If you want to give your property to a person to live – make sure you execute a caretaker’s or leave and license agreement replete with all safeguards.