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Ownership And Modes Of Aquiring Ownership

The term "ownership" invokes thoughts of property and possession, which are integral components of this fundamental legal concept. Historically, during the epoch of nomadic hunter-gatherer societies, the notion of ownership did not exist as humans had minimal knowledge of agriculture or civilization. However, the sensation of possession preceded the concept of ownership, emerging as humans started to settle down, build homes, and engage in farming activities.

At its core, ownership characterizes a person's unique relationship with an object they possess. Encompassing a myriad of rights, ownership transcends mere possession, allowing individuals to exercise control, authority, and freedom over their property. Crucially, these rights extend beyond specific individuals, holding universal applicability, often referred to as right in rem. Distinguishing ownership from possession lies in the permanency of the bond; while possession hinges on temporary control or custody, ownership endures unless explicitly altered by legal means.

Delving into the historical progression of ownership, it becomes evident that early societies functioned predominantly around the concept of possession, devoid of a robust understanding of ownership. It wasn't until communities transitioned toward permanent settlement patterns that the broader ramifications of ownership surfaced. Agricultural practices fostered attachment to land, compelling societies to develop rules and mechanisms that could adequately protect and govern proprietary relationships.

As ownership gained prominence, it incorporated diverse dimensions such as authority, autonomy, and impunity. Authority empowered owners to make informed choices about their property usage, maintenance, and allocation. Liberty enabled owners to derive pleasure, utility, and financial benefits from their possessions. Lastly, immunity fortified ownership by offering exemption from arbitrary interference or seizure by external entities. Together, these elements shaped the holistic perception of ownership, transforming it into an indispensable pillar supporting legal systems worldwide.

Furthermore, ownership constitutes a compound amalgamation of possession, demolition, and dispensation. Here, possession signifies the initial stage wherein an individual assumes physical control over an object. Destruction allows owners to modify, improve, or alter their property within reasonable limits. Finally, disposition enables owners to distribute, sell, or gift their property to others, thereby creating new chains of ownership. Collectively, these constituents facilitate a profound comprehension of ownership dynamics, paving the way for refined legislative measures and judicious resolutions.

Indeed, ownership ranks amongst the paramount juristic notions universally acknowledged across assorted legal paradigms. Despite variances in application and interpretation, the essence of ownership remains consistent signifying the apogee of an individual's proprietary association with an object.

Noteworthily, most scholars approached this topic by discussing possession prior to ownership, albeit erroneously. Human cognition innately focuses on immediate experiences, explaining why early societies centered around possession before subsequently embracing the expansive concept of ownership. Tracing its genesis to Ancient Roman Law, ownership continues to evolve as societies adapt and innovate, solidifying its significance in modern legal discourse.

In Roman law, 1 ownership and possession were denoted by the terms 'dominium' and 'possessio,' respectively. Dominium represented the utmost entitlement to a particular asset, embodying a comprehensive array of rights and freedoms. Meanwhile, possessio indicated straightforward command over a physical entity, denoting temporal control. Interestingly, Romans attributed greater importance to dominium, viewing supreme rights as more valuable than mere physical jurisdiction. They believed that absolute ownership surpassed the necessity of actual control, cementing the primacy of dominium within their legal framework.

In English law,2 the concept of ownership emerged far later than possession. The previous law placed a premium on possession, mistaking it for ownership. Holdsworth remarked that English law gradually recognized the concept of ownership as an absolute right because of the gradual evolution of possession law.

The ancient Hindu laws3 Ancient Hindu lawmakers such as Manu, Yajnavalakya, Vyasa, and Narada constructed the foundation of Hindu law by addressing issues surrounding possession and ownership, laying the groundwork for concepts like prescription, bailment, and sales made without ownership. Prescription served as a mechanism to create title through prolonged possession; specifically, real property was claimed after 20 years of possession, while chattels required a decade.

Importantly, possession itself became synonymous with evidence of ownership via pure title, reinforcing the belief that extended control legitimized proprietorship. Furthermore, ancillary topics, such as sales conducted by non-owners, garnered attention from Hindu scholars. Both Narada and Yajnavalakya asserted that the rightful owner ought to reclaim stolen articles or chattels from the buyer.

Over time, the concept of ownership blossomed within Hindu ancient laws, maturing into a specialized capacity generated by various actions. Specifically, the following events contributed to the formation of ownership: purchases, acceptances, inheritances, acquisitions, conquests, investments in health, and engagement in professions. Each instance added layers to the multifaceted construction of ownership, bolstering its significance and firmly establishing it as a cornerstone of Hindu legal thought.

To summarize, ancient Hindu law effectively tackled questions surrounding possession and ownership, setting forth guidelines that facilitated the creation and preservation of proprietary rights. Through careful analysis of prescriptions, bailments, sales, and additional occurrences, Hindu lawmakers crafted a thoroughgoing doctrine that resonated with the needs of their society, leaving behind a lasting impact on subsequent generations.

Concept Of Ownership

With the rise of civilization, humans settled down to cultivate and produce their own food, and by abiding in one area, they developed the concept of ownership and recognized the terms 'mine and thine'. The concept of possession emerged first, followed by the concept of ownership. The Roman Law used two unique terms: 'possession', which signifies physical authority over a thing, and 'dominium', which denotes the ultimate right to a thing. According to Holdsworth, ownership as an absolute right arose through advancements in possession law, and the term 'ownership' was first used in English law in 1583.

Definition Of Ownership

  1. Austin 4:
    John Austin, a renowned British jurist, introduced a concise yet controversial definition of ownership in his seminal work, "The Province of Jurisprudence Determined". According to Austin, ownership represents an indivisible cluster of rights characterized by indefinite usufructuary privileges, unfettered disposition, and infinite continuity. Though seemingly exhaustive, this description has faced substantial criticism from various scholars and legal practitioners.

    Criticism on Austin definition
    Firstly, critics argue that Austin erred in treating ownership as a solitary right. Instead, they propose that ownership incorporates an amalgamation of distinct rights, inclusive of the privilege of enjoying the property. Upon parting with select ownership prerogatives, the original owner persists in holding onto the remaining rights and retain vestiges of ownership. For instance, mortgaging a property indicates that the owner temporarily alienates specific rights tied to the asset, yet they remain the proprietor, exercising authority over the unsold portions.

    Secondly, skeptics emphasize that Austin failed to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between the right and the person wielding it. More than just a standalone right, ownership connects the bearer and their entitlement, forming a composite identity. Depicting ownership strictly as a singular right overlooks the intimate relationship between the right and the rights holder.

    Lastly, Austin's proposition of unrestricted disposition faces scrutiny, as states maintain the authority to restrict property disposals. Legislation such as Article 31(2) of the Indian Constitution empowers governments to appropriate private property for public welfare, consequently limiting ownership's disposition scope. Instances like these challenge Austin's postulate of unbridled disposition, revealing the necessity for regulatory oversight.

    Despite facing critiques, Austin's articulation of ownership significantly influenced legal scholarship, prompting rigorous discussions and alternative viewpoints. Scholars proposing modifications and enhancements contribute to a vibrant discourse aimed at refining and updating the understanding of ownership, ultimately enhancing its accuracy and inclusivity. Subsequent theories address shortcomings in earlier definitions, advancing the field of jurisprudence and strengthening the theoretical scaffolding of ownership.
  2. Salmond's Definition 5:
    To Salmond, ownership is not the fact of owning by the person but the whole accomplishment of the actions authorized by the exclusive exercise of the rights over all others. Salmond perceives ownership as a bundle of rights that terminate at the boundaries of one animal. Salmond's concept thus highlights two aspects of ownership:Salmond's concept thus highlights two aspects of ownership:
    1. Ownership is a relationship between a man and his rights and the things formally identified as his property.
    2. The inseparable quality of form with idea is the essence of ownership.
    According to property definition of Salmond, there is nothing about the character of ownership being specified. It does comprise ownership-like responsibilities for instance obligations and duties without providing proofs of the rights and powers. The ownership can be defined as an ownership.

    On the other hand, it is not only this that makes it hard to claim that ownership is a mere relationship between a person or a thing and the rights that belong to it. The ownership which is the most beloved and dominant idea is an interaction between an individual and an object or its intangible representation.

Criticism on salmonids definition:
According to Dugit, the question is not about owining but about the non-existence, and this shows that there is no such thing as ownership. As stressed by Cook, the relationship between person and right might be complex involving several rights; so, I don't think that using 'owner' is necessary for that purpose. Ownership is generally meant for the stash of the rights.

Essentials Of Ownership

  1. Right to use: The owner possesses the ultimate and unconditional authority to dispose of or alienate the owned item. No limitations can restrict the owner's power to sell, gift, lease, or transfer the property in any other permissible manner under the prevailing law. In contrast, a non-owner can only hold or use the thing but doesn't have the right to pass on ownership to others.

    They can't sell, donate, or transfer the ownership of the item to somebody else. Their involvement is limited to possessing, controlling, or managing the object, but they cannot confer ownership rights to others. The exclusivity of the owner's alienation right sets them apart from non-owners, ensuring that only the actual owner can legally transfer ownership.
  2. Right to capital or alienation: The owner holds total discretion over disposing of or transmitting the owned item, which implies that they have the unrestricted authority to sell, give away, rent, or transfer the property to others according to the prevailing legal guidelines. Conversely, a non-owner might keep or handle the object, but they aren't allowed to pass on ownership rights to others. They are only permitted to possess, manage, or utilize the thing, yet they cannot legally bestow ownership rights on any third party. This unique privilege distinguishes the owner from non-owners, as only the actual owner can legally transfer ownership of the item.
  3. Right to income: The owner has the authority to generate revenue from the owned item, profiting from its use or exploitation, as long as it complies with any legal stipulations. This entitlement empowers the owner to harvest earnings produced by the thing, whether through rental fees, dividends, royalties, or other income streams linked to its usage or value. However, the owner's right is subject to any legal limitations, restrictions, or obligations outlined by local regulations, treaties, or agreements. Governments may levy taxes, tariffs, or impose specific conditions on the generation and distribution of income from owned assets.

    Similarly, contractual clauses or communal arrangements might affect the owner's profit extraction capabilities, dictating how much and under what circumstances revenue can be earned. Consequently, the owner's right to income is conditional, requiring compliance with relevant laws, policies, and commitments.
  4. Right to possess: The owner of an item holds the exclusive right to have physical control and custody of the owned object, indicating that they have the supreme and uncontested power to possess and manage the thing. This entitlement ensures that the owner has the undisputed right to retain the item, deny access to others, and deploy it as needed, observing any legal limitations.

    Moreover, the owner has overall command over the managed object, enabling them to determine its usage, location, conservation, and deployment. The owner's control supersedes any competing claims, except those sanctioned by law, custom, or mutual agreement. This sovereign authority guarantees that the owner can exercise decisive influence over the owned item, securing its safety, productivity, and intended purpose.
  5. Right to manage: The owner retains the managerial authority over the owned item, granting them the power to dictate its usage, supervision, and optimization. This right empowers the owner to make strategic decisions on operational aspects, allocate resources efficiently, and choose qualified personnel to execute tasks related to the thing. By maintaining control over management, the owner can ensure alignment with objectives, prevent waste, mitigate risks, and optimize returns.

    Furthermore, the owner determines who gets entrusted with handling the item, delegating authority to employees, agents, or lessees. The owner's managerial right sustains their influential stance, allowing them to steer the course of action and react appropriately to market shifts, technological advances, and competitive pressures. Consequently, the owner's capacity to lead translates into effective administration, enhanced performance, and sustainable growth prospects.

  1. The direct impact of colonialism might be simply total or restricted. The title of an estate may consist of a single owner or be owned by many persons where the owner is the sole proprietor. This too could limit an owner's rights as decided by the court or when the parties agree on this voluntarily.
  2. In the circumstances of a national emergency, property owners might be subjected to the limits set by the policies. Such authorities can acquire a land by law, which may be of the owner of a house and the owner might get compensation fixed.
  3. A property ownership is not validated by the person's 'passing on'. His authority has the right to be inherited by their next of the line. The assets transferred can be effected at any time often even during the individual's lifetime.
  4. Infants and those who are mentally deficient have been deemed to be incapable of lawfully owning their property due to lack of maturity. The above is unquestionably, they lack the doesn't have the adequate capacity to form binding agreements. They are not to blame for the inappropriate behaviors. They should be provided with the realm of understanding.
  5. The government in turn, may call for taxations from property owners. Once the taxes are not paid, however, the government can use force to seize the property or the portion of it to gather the money due to the government.

Modes Of Acquisition Of Ownership

There are two types of acquisition of ownership: original and derivative. Original mode occurs when things that have never been possessed before can be acquired through possession. The objects owned before ownership of that thing are in the derivative mode.

Original mode is classified into three types:
  • Absolute
  • extinctive
  • accession
Absolutely in cases where it had previously belonged to no one. It can be acquired through either specification or occupation. In occupation, an ownerless thing is owned, and physical control is necessary. For example, birds and fish. In specification, the material belongs to another when the shape is provided by another. For example, clay obtained from one person's land is transformed into a sculpture by another. Extinctive when the ownership of previous person is done with by reason of adverse possession by the acquirer. Accessary when acquired as an accession.

  1. Corporate and Incorporeal Ownership:
    Corporeal ownership refers to the possession of concrete, palpable objects that can be experienced through our senses, whereas incorporeal ownership points to the ownership of intangible rights. Exemplifying corporeal ownership, we find houses, tables, and machines falling under this category. Turning to incorporeal ownership, copyrights, patents, and trademarks demonstrate this kind of ownership, as they concern the possession of abstract, non-physical rights.
  2. Trust and Beneficial Ownership:
    Trust ownership exemplifies a form of dual or concurrent ownership, where two individuals share the rights to the same piece of property. The trust property is legally owned by two entities: the trustee and the beneficiary. The trustee's role is nominal, meaning it appears official but isn't backed by actual possessory rights. Conversely, the beneficiary enjoys the rewards, advantages, and benefits arising from the property, hence classified as beneficial ownership.
  3. Legal and Equitable Ownership:
    Legal ownership is established through common law, but equitable ownership relies upon equity rules of law. Equity, frequently, reclaims already appertain ownership, failing the law due to the legal deficiency. The nature of legal rights as in rem, on the other hand, is that they can be enforced in personality, whereas all equity operates in persona. However, at the same time, one individual as a legal owner can stand in for a right, belonging or another individual as the equitable owner.
  4. Vested and Contingent Ownership:
    This way, people could take responsibility to care for the common home, taking pride in and being rewarded for it, leading to values shift and investments. In the case of subsistence farming, either ownership is temporary or indefinite depending on the use. Perfect title to the owner is when the owner's title is already vested. Transfer avoiding ownership now can be interpreted as the title is already flawed but can become perfect if given conditions materialize. Capital vested in private as an absolute possession of the individual.
  5. Sole Ownership and co-ownership:
    Mostly, the right of ownership is exclusive to one person at a single point in time. Still, the dual ownership has its own right so as a solo ownership. In case the ownership is embedded in a single person, it is called sole ownership. Similarly, if a number of people, namely two or more, own the property at the same time, the ownership is classified as co-ownership.

    The type of co-ownership is one of the species. Take the members of partnership business, namely the partners, who are the co-owners of the partnership's property. Within the legal context of Indian law, ownership implies three major obligations, essentially:
    • Right to possession
    • The right not to give it up.
    • Dispose by way of.12
    Consequently, a co-owner is supposed to be restored to his rightful disposition if is dispossessed through intrusion. Hence, the law regards such a co-owner as having an interest in the whole property and a right of regular co- operation with the other partners regardless of how many shares he owns.
  6. Co-ownership and Joint Ownership:
    According to Salmond, Salmond cited different ownership joints forms as being "co- ownership." Its form of common property and kind of joint property can be divided into two categories in English law. This is the main implication and it is connected to what happens if one of the co-owners dies. The ownership by joint in the classical system is personally inheritable, and the right of survivorship will withdraw the ownership of the dead by his death.

    If any joint owner dies, his ownership will perish and the survivor becomes the sole owner, because of this right of survivorship. "A co- ownership happens as frequently with just two persons who are entitled to the same right or bound with the same obligation in relation to a thing.

    " For instance, in a partnership firm, term "partnership property" is used for property that is owned by the persons involved in the firm jointly. The trustees are the joint owners of the trust property. The foundation of this conception is that there is only one right and one obligation, and so, anything that destroys this right or obligation makes the parties free to go to any direction or do any actions.
  7. Absolute and Limited Ownership:
    Absolute owner is that one over whom are all rights to the thing to the extent of the full exclusion of other. When these rights of ownership, i.e., possession, enjoyment and disposal, are in an unrestricted condition and given to a person, then this ownership is absolute. However, under the circumstances there are these limitations of who can use, how long it lasts and how to dispose of, the there will be an ownership called limited ownership.

    As an illustration, the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 removed gender biases in ancestral property since there was a time when a female had a take-it-or-leave-it ownership over the estate because she held the property only for her life, and the property passed on to the last heir or last holder of the estate after her death. Another example of limited. Another example of limited ownership in English law is life tenancy when an estate is held only for life.13

Distinction Between Ownership And Possession

Nevertheless, possession is precisely one of the purposes of owning a property. Possession, on the one hand., is the facts guarantee, and ownership, on the other hand, is the law guarantee. The right to possession differs from the right to ownership, in the sense that, possession can continue without the consent of the owner whereas, accident might be lost either by accident or by the wrongful act of someone.

There can be possession without ownership: a debt, for example, may be in being owned, but not possessed. Globally, acquisition and ownership have different manners in which they are acquired as well only.

Case Laws:
  1. Commissioner of Wealth Tax, Kanpur vs. Chander Sen & Ors., AIR 1987 SC 56715:
    This case dealt with the concept of ownership in the context of the Wealth Tax Act, 1957. The Supreme Court held that ownership implies the totality of rights which a person can exercise regarding a property, including the right to possess, enjoy and dispose of it.
  2. Kunj Behari Lall vs. Nathulal & Anr., AIR 1962 SC 129616:
    This case dealt with the concept of beneficial ownership in the context of family arrangement. The Supreme Court held that beneficial ownership means the right to receive profits or benefits arising from the property, even if the legal title is vested in another person.
  3. Mst. Sarju Devi vs. Surajpal Singh & Ors., AIR 1980 SC 162517:
    This case dealt with the concept of co-owned property in the context of partition suits. The Supreme Court held that each co-owner has an equal right to claim partition and separate possession of the property, and that the right to partition is not affected by the fact that one co-owner may be in exclusive possession of the property.
  4. State of Maharashtra vs. Narayan Rao Sham Rao Deshpande & Ors., AIR 1979 SC 156118:
    This case dealt with the concept of adverse possession in the context of land acquisition. The Supreme Court held that adverse possession requires actual, open, continuous, and hostile possession of the property for a period of 12 years, and that such possession confers a valid title on the possessor.
  5. V. Tulasamma vs. Seshagiri Reddi & Anr., AIR 1977 SC 198619:
    This case dealt with the concept of stridhan in the context of Hindu law. The Supreme Court held that stridhan is the property received by a woman from her parents, relatives, or husband, and that she has full ownership and control over it, even after marriage.
  6. Mohd. Ismail Farooqi vs. Union of India & Ors., AIR(1994) 6 SCC 36020:
    This case dealt with the concept of copyright in the context of religious texts. The Supreme Court held that the author of a literary work enjoys exclusive ownership and control over the copyright, and that such ownership subsists throughout the lifetime of the author and for a period of 60 years thereafter.

Conclusion 21
Ownership is clearly a concept with a residual nature and to describe it you might say that it includes a bundle of rights, but on the other hand it is also a form of association between a person and a thing to own. Firstly, it is an entitlement of expressing features of individuality e.g., powers, claims, privileges etc. Secondly, ownership be it of a corporeal thing or incorporation.

Owner is he who is entitled to that group of rest of rights which will be deteriorated after the restriction of use based on voluntary actions or the restriction are statutorily regulated. The absoluteness of ownership is rather governed by some statutory regulations such as the sales & transfer of land and land reform act respectively.

Accordingly, Ownership does not translate to permanent or unjustifiable and does not mean that someone has total authority in terms of use, period, or disposal. Ownership is a right of groups of powers, claims, and otherways. Ownership may consist in right on either material or non-material thing. The state authority as the owner or shareholder is empowered to put the right. It may also be restricted or prohibited by law.

Just like other country, India is recognized as a legal personality that also owns the properties. Easily observable reality, no matter what the situation, guarantees with protection by the Constitution and therefore (300A). These excluded kinds of ownership are really limited by many types of law, like example; land sales, and transfers.

On the same line, we also had a town planning and slum clearance legislation to acquire urban land for the public purpose, a landholding ceiling legislation that regulated much about the land possession of individuals, other laws derived from English laws, although we had much to achieve before the attainment of our freedom.

Ownership is a socially significant concept because it is an index of wealth, and social position. Ownership of land was the means of controlling government. In a feudal system based on land ownership, the feudal lords wielded tremendous influence, and even the qualification to vote was based on ownership of land. The social aspect of ownership also highlights the important principle that one owner shall enjoy his interest in a manner compatible with the interest of others.

As Lord Evershed 22said;. On the same level as the other interests, property also has a social duty and obligation to perform'.The social obligation and duty of a property are in line with the social policy of the legal system. However, the ownership should not be seen as simple rights, freedoms, powers package but as an overall relationship. On the one hand, private property right accompanies corresponding obligations to someone's duties, liabilities, and disabilities as it prescribes and regulates how the owner should employ his property to the certain ends for his intended audience or society.

Things which a person owns can lose to anyone who gets a right to execution for debts that the person has got. Nonetheless, finally the focus has shifted from a person to a society-from the right of having base on a property to the needs of people and one's responsibilities towards the society. an exception to the otherwise unlimited right.

  1. Law Bhoomi (14 March 2024) Ownership in jurisprudence: Meaning, kinds, incidents, and relevance in Contemporary Times,
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Editor four and Ridhi (14 March 2021) Ownership � meaning and modes of acquiring, SCC Times.
  5. Aishwarya Sandeep (11 May 2022) Ownership in jurisprudence - Aishwarya Sandeep- parenting and law,
  6. Paranjape, N.V, Studies in jurisprudence and Legal Theory, Central Law agency, ed.2013 Pg. no. 413.
  7. Mahajan's, V.D. "Jurisprudence and Legal Theory," Eastern Book Company, Fifth Edition, Pg. no.290.
  8. Aishwarya Sandeep (2022) Ownership in jurisprudence - Aishwarya Sandeep- parenting and law, Aishwarya Sandeep- Parenting and Law - Simplifying Law for Common Man and
  9. Aishwarya Sandeep (2022) Ownership in jurisprudence - Aishwarya Sandeep- parenting and law, Aishwarya Sandeep-
  10. Sehgal, D.R. (2020) Jurisprudential aspect of ownership, iPleaders. Available at:
  11. Political Science Quarterly Vol. 1 no. 4 Pg. 596
  12. Ibid
  13. Dias and Hughes: Jurisprudence (1957 edn)
  14. Dr.N.V. Paranjape, Jurisprudence, and legal theory (6th edn,2011)
  15. AIR 1987 SC 567
  16. AIR 1962 SC 1296
  17. AIR 1980 SC 1625
  18. AIR 1979 SC 1561
  19. AIR 1977 SC 1986
  20. AIR (1994) 6 SCC 360
  21. Dr. S.N. Dhyani, Jurisprudence- A study of Indian legal theory (Metropolitan Book Co. (pvt.) Ltd., New Delhi, Second Edition1 985)
  22. Ownership as a social concept (18 February 2019) Academike.

Written By: Ms.Hitha
, BBA.LLB, Alliance School Of Law, Alliance University

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