New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that long term possession of land by caretakers or agents does not give them the right of ownership of the property.
"Watchman, caretaker or a servant employed to look after the property can never acquire interest in the property irrespective of his long possession. The watchman, caretaker or a servant is under an obligation to hand over the possession forthwith on demand," a bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Dipak Misra said.
The bench dismissed the plea of a watchman claiming ownership of a plot on the basis that his family was taking care of property for two generations.
"The watchman, caretaker or agent hold the property of the principal only on behalf the principal. He acquires no right or interest whatsoever in such property irrespective of his long stay or possession," the bench said.
The apex court also imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on the watchman for litigating over the ownership of the land which belonged to his master and who dedicated the suit land for construction of a dharamshala.
"The principles of justice, equity and good conscience, courts are not justified in protecting the possession of a watchman, caretaker or servant who was only allowed to live into the premises to look after the same," the bench said.
"In the instant case, we would have ordinarily imposed heavy costs and would have ordered restitution but looking to the fact that the appellant is a watchman and may not be able to bear the financial burden, we dismiss these appeals with very nominal costs of Rs 25,000 to be paid within a period of two months and direct the appellant to vacate the premises within two months," the bench said.
The bench also expressed concern over the litigants deliberately create confusion on the basis of irrelevant facts.
"False averments of facts and untenable contentions are serious problems faced by our courts. The other problem is that litigants deliberately create confusion by introducing irrelevant and minimally relevant facts and documents. The court cannot reject such claims, defences and pleas at the first look," the bench said.
"Unless wrongdoers are denied profit or undue benefit from frivolous litigations, it would be difficult to control frivolous and uncalled for litigations. Experience also reveals that our courts have been very reluctant to grant the actual or realistic costs," the bench said.
"We need to decide cases while keeping pragmatic realities in view. We have to ensure that unscrupulous litigant is not permitted to derive any benefit by abusing the judicial process.