Kerala High Court: N. Anil Kumar, J., decided a matter wherein the son-in-law claimed his right on father-in-law’s property while pleading that he was adopted by his wife’s family after marriage and hence had a right on the property.
Plaintiff aged 69 years was the respondent in the appeal claiming for permanent injunction interdicting the defendant from trespassing into the plaint schedule property or interfering with the plaintiff’s peaceful possession and enjoyment of the plaint schedule property and the house therein or committing any waste therein.
The said suit property belonged to the plaintiff by virtue of a gift deed.
Plaintiff also submitted that he had constructed a concrete house spending his own funds and was also residing with his family on the said property.
The defendant was the son-in-law of the plaintiff and he had no manner of right over the property.
Reason for filing the suit was that the defendant was disturbing the plaintiff’s peaceful possession and enjoyment of the suit property.
What was the son-in law’s contention?
Son-in-law contended that he had married the only daughter of the plaintiff and has been practically adopted as a member of the family subsequent to the marriage. Hence, he maintained that he has a right to reside in the house, as of right. He also added that he had constructed a building in the property expending his own money and has no other place of abode.
Trial Court’s decision
Trial Court held that the plaintiff is the owner in possession of the plaint schedule property and the defendant, who is the son-in-law of the plaintiff, has no manner of right in interfering with the possession of the plaint schedule building.
First Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision.
Question for Consideration:
Does a son-in-law have any legal right to his father-in-law’s property and building?
High Court expressed that it would be difficult to hold that the defendant was a member of the family.
It was noted by the Court that the defendant’s behaviour became intolerable, due to which the plaintiff filed a suit seeking a permanent prohibitory injunction restraining the defendant from entering into the plaint schedule property and building.
High Court stated that it is a settled principle of law that even a trespasser, who is in established possession of the property, could obtain an injunction.
In the present matter, the matter would have been different if the plaintiff was the true owner of the property.
Defendant was the son-law in the present case, it is shameful for him to plead that he had been adopted as a member of the family, subsequent to the marriage with the plaintiff’s daughter.
Nair Service Society Ltd. v. K.C. Alexander, AIR 1968 SC 1165, in this decision the 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court reiterated the principle that possession is good against all but the true owner.
“A person in possession of the land in the assumed character of owner and exercising peaceably the ordinary rights of ownership has a perfectly good title against all the world but the rightful owner.”
The rightful owner filed a suit for injunction restraining him from entering into the property. The residence of the defendant, if any, in the plaint schedule building is only permissive in nature. The defendant cannot contend that he is in legal possession of the suit property or the building.
Further, the Court opined that it was not necessary to decide the validity of the Gift Deed executed by the Church in favour of the plaintiff.
Contention that the plaintiff was a man of bad character and not on good terms with family members was rejected in view of Section 52 of the Indian Evidence Act which provides that in civil cases, a fact pertaining to the character of an individual is not relevant.
The said section lays down the principle that the character of a party as a piece of evidence cannot be used to manifest that conduct attributed to him is not probable or improbable.
To be a question of law involved in the case, there must be first, a foundation for it laid in the pleadings, and the question should emerge from the sustainable findings of fact, arrived at by Courts of facts, and it must be necessary to decide that question of law for a just and proper decision of the case.
Bench dismissed the appeal on finding no error in the decision of lower courts. [Davis Raphel v. Hendry Thomas, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 3491, decided on 6-09-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
Blaze K. Jose, Advocate
Deepa Narayanan, Advocate
V.A. Satheesh, Advocate