SL CoA | Burden of proof with claimant to show lawful possession for proving prescriptive title to land

Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka: This appeal was filed before a Bench of Mahinda Samayawardhena, J., for ejectment of defendants from the land of the plaintiff.  

Facts of the case were that the plaintiff filed this action against defendants for a declaration of title to the land, ejectment of the defendants from the land and for damages. Defendants opposed plaintiff’s action and claimed that the plaintiff was holding property in trust for defendants, thus defendants had acquired prescriptive title to the land. Plaintiff’s action was dismissed by District Judge and passed judgment in favour of defendants to have prescribed to the land. Hence, this appeal was filed. District court had come to a finding that the defendants came into the land with the leave and licence of the plaintiff and from the date on which they came into possession of the land, they have started prescriptive possession against the plaintiff. 

Court of Appeal found the above finding of District Judge to be untenable. Permissive possession, however long it may be, was not prescriptive possession and to claim it, compelling cogent evidence was required. The time when an individual started adverse possession is a sine qua non for claim of prescription. Court noted that when the legal title to the premises is admitted or proved to be in the plaintiff, the burden of proof is on the defendant to show that he is in lawful possession. Since, defendant in the instant case had failed to discharge the onus to prove, the judgment of District Judge was set aside[Mohamed Shariff Mohamed Sanoon v. Mohamed Yoosuf Junaid, Case No. CA/417/1998/F, decided on 18-01-2019]

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