The provided text discusses a property dispute in Kudayathoor village
involving a piece of land measuring 30 cents with particular survey numbers. The
land is said to be Puramboke government property. The disagreement stems from
the respondents' claim of adverse possession, which claims that a man called
Joseph obtained title of the property and has owned it since 1940.
On February 20, 1982, the Tahsildar of District Thodupuzha issued a notice to
the claimants for unauthorized occupancy of Government land. On August 9, 1982,
Joseph, the first occupant, died. On March 11, 1983, the Assistant Collector,
Idukki, denied the appeal against the Tahsildar's order. On April 14, 1983, the
claimants' legal counsel filed a suit for injunction. The suit was first
permitted by the Munsiff's court on July 31, 1987, but after an appeal and
remand, the decree was confirmed on July 21, 1990.
In a subsequent first appeal, the court evaluated whether the respondents had
established a valid case for a declaration and injunction, and also reviewed the
validity of the earlier court's decree. The court noted that the injunction was
based on a notice issued on May 3, 1982, and was influenced by Section 20 of the
Kerala Land Conservancy Act, 1957. This section dictates that suits can only be
filed against orders under the Act related to lands not owned by the Government
or not classified as puramboke land. Furthermore, the suit was subject to the
Proviso to Section 20, which allows such suits to be filed within one year of
the notice date. However, in this case, the notice was given on February 22,
1982, and the suit was filed on April 14, 1983, exceeding the permissible
In short, the controversy concerns competing claims to a piece of land claimed
by the government as Puramboke land. The matter went through many judicial
processes, including appeals and remands. The court's reasoning centres on the
notice's date, the applicability of the Kerala Land Conservancy Act, and the
limits imposed by applicable legal regulations.
The plaintiffs' claim for adverse possession was rejected due to a combination
of factors, including unreliable witnesses, lack of independent verification,
insufficient evidence, failure to meet the criteria for adverse possession, and
the absence of necessary documentation. The court's decision emphasized the
importance of credible evidence and adherence to legal procedures in property
In this case, there appears to be an appeal process where the lower court's
decision, dated August 5, 2009, is being reviewed. The lower court disagreed
with the approach the lower Appellate Court took and provided a different legal
The appellate process involved a reconsideration of the lower court's decision
and a comparison with the lower Appellate Court's approach. The reviewing court
emphasized the legal context, credibility of witnesses, period of encroachment,
and the criteria for adverse possession. Ultimately, the respondents were deemed
eligible for adverse possession based on their long-standing possession of the
land, and the original judgment of the Munsiff Court was upheld, reversing the
judgment of the Court of First Appeal.
The Court faces a two-fold consideration when addressing the current dispute.
Firstly, it must examine whether the judgment being challenged in the Second
Appeal adheres to the established criteria for such an appeal. Secondly, it
needs to determine whether the respondents are eligible for adverse possession
or if their claim is prohibited by the Kerala Land Conservancy Act, 1957.
The court observed that the term "substantial question of law" in the amended
Section 100 of the CPC lacks a precise definition within the Code. The word
"substantial," qualifying "question of law," implies significance, importance,
and real worth. It denotes a question that is essential, substantial, and
practical worth, rather than merely technical, insignificant, or academic.
Notably, the legislative choice to not append the words "of general importance"
to the phrase "substantial question of law" distinguishes it from certain other
The court clarified that the scope of a "substantial question of law" in a
second appeal doesn't necessarily have to be of general importance.
In essence, an appeal to be maintainable under Section 100 of the CPC should
present a question of law that is not merely technical or insignificant but
holds practical worth and importance. This principle was elucidated in the
Santosh Hazari case and guides the determination of whether a second appeal
fulfills the necessary criteria for adjudication.
The discussion provides further clarification on the criteria that a question of
law must fulfill to render an appeal maintainable under Section 100 of the CPC.
The Court underscores the significance of adhering to these requirements for a
Second Appeal. It emphasizes that these conditions are not mere procedural
formalities but must be observed in practice. Given the extended duration of the
ongoing litigation, the Court decides not to remand the matter back to the lower
court and proceeds to assess the claim of adverse possession on its own merits.
The State's contention against the claim of adverse possession is based on two
main points: i.e. government ownership and insufficient possession period.
Additionally, the State invokes Section 20 of the Act, which prevents legal
proceedings against the government for actions taken under the Act regarding
unauthorized land occupation. Since the notice that initiated the proceedings
was issued under this Act, the State contends that subsequent proceedings are
barred by law.
In light of these arguments, the case involves complex legal considerations
surrounding the claim of adverse possession, the ownership of the land, the
possession duration, and the applicability of relevant legal provisions.
The provision that restricts the jurisdiction of civil suits in relation to
proceedings initiated under the Act contains the following conditions for the
bar to be applicable:
- No civil suit can be filed in any Civil Court.
- The suit must pertain to an order issued under this Act.
- The only basis for allowing such a suit is if the notice pertains to
property that does not belong to the Government.
- The exception mentioned in point (iii) is also subject to a time limit
of one year from the cause of action's date.
Applying these conditions to the facts of the current case, the bar's
applicability hinges on whether the civil suit filed is against an order issued
by the competent authority under this Act regarding the unauthorized occupation
of Government land. Upon examining the records, it's evident that the original
notice issued on August 3, 1982, was appealed before the Collector, Idukki, who
dismissed it. The legal representatives of Avira did not challenge this
dismissal order. Instead, they pursued a different course of action by filing a
civil suit for declaration on April 14, 1983.
This suit sought a permanent injunction against eviction proceedings, as well as
possession and title to the land in question. While the third condition (that
the disputed property is Government-owned) is met and undisputed, the primary
requirement of the civil suit being related to a government action remains
unmet. As a result, the bar stipulated in this Section cannot be applied to the
present case based solely on the third condition. The question of whether the
respondents have any rights over the Government land in question needs to be
In the context of the claimants' pursuit of ownership through adverse possession
over government-owned land, the Court underscores the importance of a thorough
evaluation. The burden of proof initially rests on the claimants, considering
the undisputed government ownership of the land. The claimants must then
demonstrate that their possession was openly hostile to the government's rights.
In this regard, the evidence presented to support adverse possession is limited,
primarily consisting of testimonies from villagers. However, these testimonies
lack consistency, particularly regarding the age of rubber trees, which is
crucial for determining the duration of possession.
While the testimonies suggest long-term possession, the Court finds that they do
not fulfill the requirement for a "more serious and effective" inquiry. The
inconsistency about tree age among the witnesses (ranging from 15 to 18 years)
raises doubts, compounded by the absence of independent verification of tree
Importantly, the Court stresses that extended possession alone is insufficient
to establish the right to adverse possession. Concrete evidence of possession is
required, rather than vague or contradictory statements.
The Court notes that during eviction proceedings initiated against the claimants
for unauthorized occupation, they did not assert title through adverse
possession. Instead, they acknowledged the unauthorized occupation and claimed
to have planted rubber trees for tapping.
While these proceedings concluded with an eviction order and compensation, the
claimants did not challenge this outcome, nor did they include this fact in
their suit. The fact was introduced in their written statement, which was
neither refuted nor explained.
Upon a comprehensive analysis of the testimonies, the Court concludes that they
do not establish hostile possession against the true owner (the government). The
testimonies acknowledge the claimants' possession and tree planting, but the
varying duration estimates weaken their credibility. Ultimately, the testimonies
fail to substantiate the claimants' adverse possession claims.
Considering these factors, the Court allows the appeal, setting aside the High
Court's judgment and reinstating the judgment of the First Appellate Court. This
conclusion is drawn from a meticulous evaluation of the evidence and the
claimants' failure to meet the essential criteria for adverse possession.