Son-in-law does not have any legal right over father-in-law’s property: Kerala HC [Read Judgement]

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The Kerala High Court recently held that a son-in-law cannot claim any legal right over his father-in-law’s property (Davis Raphel v. Hendry Thomas)

Single judge Justice N Anil Kumar imposed costs while dismissing a second appeal against the orders of a trial court and first appellate court which had held that the son-in-law has no right to disturb the peaceful possession of the father-in-law over his building or property.

The High Court observed that the father-in-law is paying tax on the property and building and has been residing in the same. The Court also found it difficult to hold that the defendant is a member of the family.

“The defendant is the son-in-law of the plaintiff. It is rather 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.”

The Court adverted to the decision of the Supreme Court in Nair Service Society Ltd. v. KC Alexander and Ors. which reiterated the principle that possession is good against all but the true owner.

“The rightful owner(father-in-law) filed a suit for injunction restraining him from entering into the property. The residence of the defendant(the appellant son-in-law), 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”, the order stated.

The son-in-law had approached the High Court against the orders of lower courts which had granted permanent injunction to the father-in-law, interdicting the son-in-law from trespassing into the plaint schedule property or interfering with his peaceful possession and enjoyment of the said property.

The property belonged to the plaintiff by virtue of a gift deed.

Advocate Blaze K Jose represented the appellant and advocate VT Madhavanunni represented the respondent

The son-in-law had contended that he had married the only daughter of the respondent and had been practically adopted as a member of the family subsequent to the marriage. Therefore, he contended that he has the right to reside in his father-in-law’s building.

He further contended that he has constructed a building in the property expending his own money and he has no other place of abode.

The question considered by the Court was whether a son-in-law has any legal right over his father-in-law’s property and building.

The Court noted that the plaint schedule property was gifted in favour of the plaintiff by the church authorities by way of a gift deed.

However, it opined that it is not necessary to decide the validity of gift deed executed by the church in favour of the plaintiff. The suit for injunction filed by the plaintiff deserves to be considered on the strength of established possession of the plaintiff over the suit property and the building, the Court said.

The Court rejected the allegations made against the father-in-law’s character as as Section 52 of the Indian Evidence Act provides that in civil cases, a fact pertaining to the character of an individual is not relevant.

“A civil case has to be decided based on the matter in issue between the parties and not based on the present or past character of the parties,” the Court held.

Moreover, since the father-in-law had been paying taxes and residing in the building and had only filed the suit of permanent injunction against his son-in-law and not his own daughter, the Court found it difficult to hold that the son-in-law has been adopted as member of the family.

The Court upheld the decision of the first appellate court and the decree for injunction granted by the trial court.

It therefore, dismissed the appeal with cost.

Read Judgment here:

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