A person can’t acquire Adverse Possession by simply remaining in permissive possession, for howsoever long it may be

The Supreme Court exposited that one who holds possession on behalf of another i.e. permissive possession, does not by mere denial of the other’s title, make his possession adverse so as to give himself the benefit of the statute of limitation.

The above said observation was made in the matter of Ram Nagina Rai vs. Deo Kumar Rai [Civil Appeal No. 7266/2013], ordered on 23.08.2018.


Plaintiffs in a title suit claimed to be owners of a property, which was being occupied by the defendants, as permitted by their ancestors. Their case was that defendants got khatian changed without notice to them, showing the defendants to be in possession of the same.

Khatian, which records that Defendants are in possession, was published in the year 1970, but the plaintiff filed the title suit only 19 years after its final publication and hence, the suit is barred by limitation and contending that they had perfected the title by way of adverse possession.

Though the Munsiff’s court rejected the plea of adverse possession, the appellate courts found favour with it and dismissed the suit filed by the plaintiffs. Hence, the case reached the apex court.


The Apex Court in the instant matter reiterated the law on Adverse possession as follows:

  • The burden is on the defendants to prove affirmatively that the bar of limitation prescribed under Article 65 of the Schedule of the Limitation Act, 1963, viz., 12 years, is applicable in the matter to file a suit for possession of immovable property.
  • The limitation of 12 years begins when the possession of the defendants would become adverse to that of the plaintiffs. Thus, it is incumbent on the plaintiffs to file a suit for possession within 12 years from when the possession of the defendants becomes adverse to the plaintiffs.
  • Adverse possession means a hostile assertion, i.e., a possession which is expressly or impliedly in denial of the title of the true owner. The person who bases his title on adverse possession must show by clear and unequivocal evidence, that the possession was hostile to the real owner and it amounted to the denial of his title to the property claimed.
  • It is important to assess whether such intention to dispossess is apparent to the actual owner or not. The intention of the adverse user must be communicated at least impliedly to the actual owner of the property. It follows that the intention and possession of the adverse possessor must be hostile enough to give rise to a reasonable notice to the actual owner.
  • In conclusion, the defendants are required to prove the possession to be adequate in continuity, adequate in publicity and to adequately show that their possession is adverse to that of the true owner. It must start with wrongful dispossession of the rightful owner and be actual, visible, exclusive, hostile and continued over the statutory period.


It was held in the instant case that the acquisition of title by adverse possession springs into action essentially by default or inaction of the owner. There is a lot of difference between simple possession and adverse possession. Every possession is not adverse possession. The defendants will not acquire adverse possession by simply remaining in permissive possession for howsoever long it may be.

By applying the test of nec vi, nec clam, nec precario i.e., ‘without force, without secrecy, without permission’ as an established test for finding adverse possession, The Court found that the defendants have not proved their possession to be adverse to that of the real owner inasmuch as they entered into possession as licensees to begin with and there is nothing on record to show as to when the permissive possession became adverse to the interest of the real owner.