Ownership in jurisprudence

Jurists have defined ownership in different ways. All of them accept the right of ownership as the complete or supreme right that can be exercised over anything. Thus, according to Hibbert ownership includes four kinds of rights within itself.

  • Right to use a thing
  • Right to exclude others from using the thing
  • Disposing of the thing
  • Right to destroy it.

Austin’s definition
Austin while defining ownership has focused on the three main attributes of ownership, namely, indefinite user, unrestricted disposition and unlimited duration.

  • Indefinite User
  • Unrestricted Disposition
  • Unlimited Duration

The abolition of Zamindari system India , the abolition of privy purses, nationalization of Bank etc. are some example of the fact that the ownership can be cut short by the state for public purpose and its duration is not unlimited.
Austin’s definition has been followed by Holland. He defines ownership as plenary control over an object. According to him an owner has three rights on the subject owned

  • Possession
  • Enjoyment
  • Disposition

Planetary control over an object implies complete control unrestricted by any law or fact. Thus, the criticism levelled against Austin’s definition would apply to that given by Holland in so far as the implication of the term “plenary control” goes.
Salmond’s Definition:
According to the Salmond ownership vests in the complex of rights which he exercises to the exclusive of all others. For Salmond what constitute ownership is a bundle of rights which in here resides in an individual. Salmond’s definition thus point out two attributes of ownership:

  • Ownership is a relation between a person and right that is vested in him
  • Ownership is incorporeal body or form


Under modern law there are the following modes of acquiring ownership which may be broadly classed under two heads,viz,.
Original mode
Derivative mode
The original mode is the result of some independence personal act of the acquire himself. The mode of acquisition may be three kinds

  • Absolute when a ownership is acquired by over previously ownerless object
  • Extinctive, which is where there is extinctive of previous ownership by an independence adverse act on the part of the acquiring. This is how a right of easement is acquiring after passage of time prescribed by law.
  • Accessory that is when requisition of ownership is the result of accession. For example, if three fruits, the produce belongs to the owner unless he has parted with to the same. When ownership is derived from the previous version of law then it is called derivate acquisition. That is derived mode takes place from the title of s prior owner. It is derived either by purchase, exchange, will, gift etc.Indian Transferee Acts of property rules for the transfer of immovable property, Sale of goods Acts for the transfer of property of the firm and the companies Act for the transfer of company property.


Normally ownership implies the following:

  • The right to manage
  • The right to posses
  • The right to manage
  • The right to capital
  • The right to the income


An analysis of the concept of ownership, it would show that it has the following characteristics: Ownership ma either be absolute or restricted, that is, it may be exclusive or limited. Ownership can be limited by agreements or by operation of law.The right of ownership can be restricted in time of emergency. An owner is not allowed to use his land or property in a manner that it is injurious to others. His right of ownership is not unrestricted.The owner has a right to posses the thing that he owns. It is immaterial whether he has actual possession of it or not. The most common example of this is that an owner leasing his house to a tenant. Law does not confer ownership on an unborn child or an insane person because they are incapable of conceiving the nature and consequences of their acts. Ownership is residuary in character. The right to ownership does not end with the death of the owner; instead it is transferred to his heirs. Restrictions may also be imposed by law on the owner’s right of disposal of the thing owned. Any alienation of property made with the intent to defeat or delay the claims of creditors can be set aside.


There are many kinds of ownership and some of them are corporeal and incorporeal ownership, sole ownership and co-ownership, legal and equitable ownership, vested and contingent ownership, trust and beneficial ownership, co- ownership and joint ownership and absolute and limited ownership.

Corporeal and Incorporeal Ownership

Corporeal ownership is the ownership of a material object and incorporeal ownership is the ownership of a right. Ownership of a house, a table or a machine is corporeal ownership. Ownership of a copyright, a patent or a trademark is incorporeal ownership. The distinction between corporeal and incorporeal ownership is connected with the distinction between corporeal and incorporeal things. Incorporeal ownership is described as ownership over tangible things. Corporeal things are those which can be perceived and felt by the senses and which are intangible. Incorporeal ownership includes ownership over intellectual objects and encumbrances.

Trust and Beneficial Ownership

Trust ownership is an instance of duplicate ownership. Trust property is that which is owned by two persons at the same time. The relation between the two owners is such that one of them is under an obligation to use his ownership for the benefit of the other. The ownership is called beneficial ownership. The ownership of a trustee is nominal and not real, but in the eye of law the trustee represents his beneficiary. In a trust, the relationship between the two owners is such that one of them is under an obligation to use his ownership for the benefit of the other. The former is called the trustee and his ownership is trust ownership. The latter is called the beneficiary and his ownership is called beneficial ownership.

Legal and Equitable Ownership

Legal ownership is that which has its origin in the rules of common law and equitable ownership is that which proceeds from the rules of equity. In many cases, equity recognizes ownership where law does not recognize ownership owing to some legal defect. Legal rights may be enforced in rem but equitable rights are enforced in personam as equity acts in personam. One person may be the legal owner and another person the equitable owner of the same thing or right at the same time.

The equitable ownership of a legal right is different from the ownership of an equitable right. The ownership of an equitable mortgage is different from the equitable ownership of a legal mortgage.

There is no distinction between legal and equitable estates in India. Under the Indian Trusts Act, a trustee is the legal owner of the trust property and the beneficiary has no direct interest in the trust property itself. However, he has a right against the trustees to compel them to carry out the provisions of the trust.

Vested and Contingent Ownership

Ownership is either vested or contingent. It is vested ownership when the title of the owner is already perfect. It is contingent ownership when the title of the owner is yet imperfect but is capable of becoming perfect on the fulfillment of some condition. In the case of vested ownership, ownership is absolute. In the case of contingent ownership it is conditional. For instance, a testator may leave property to his wife for her life and on her death to A, if he is then alive, but if A is dead to B. Here A and B are both owners of the property in question, but their ownership is merely contingent. It must, however, be stated that contingent ownership of a thing is something more than a simple chance or possibility of becoming an owner. It is more than a mere spes acquisitionis. A contingent ownership is based upon the mere possibility of future acquisition, but it is based upon the present existence of an inchoate or incomplete title.

Sole Ownership and Co-ownership

Ordinarily, a right is owned by one person only at a time. However, duplicate ownership is as much possible as sole ownership. When the ownership is vested in a single person, it is called sole ownership; when it is vested in two or more persons at the same time, it is called co-ownership, of which co-ownership is a species. For example, the members of a partnership firm are co-owners of the partnership property. Under the Indian law, a co-owner is entitled to three essential rights, namely

  • Right to possession
  • Right to enjoy the property
  • Right to dispose

Co-ownership and Joint Ownership

According to Salmond, “co-ownership may assume different forms. Its two chief kinds in English law are distinguished as ownership in common and joint ownership. The most important difference between these relates to the effect of death of one of the co-owners. If the ownership is common, the right of a dead man descends to his successors like other inheritable rights, but on the death of one of two joint owners, his ownership dies with him and the survivor becomes the sole owner by virtue of this right of survivorship.

Absolute and Limited Ownership

An absolute owner is the one in whom are vested all the rights over a thing to the exclusion of all. When all the rights of ownership, i.e. possession, enjoyment and disposal are vested in a person without any restriction, the ownership is absolute. But when there are restrictions as to user, duration or disposal, the ownership will be called a limited ownership. For example, prior to the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, a woman had only a limited ownership over the estate because she held the property only for her life and after her death; the property passed on to the last heir or last holder of the property. Another example of limited ownership in English law is life tenancy when an estate is held only for life.


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Papoo Parmar

I am so simple and Like to do any special in my life in short way.

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