What is Movable Property?

Vidhi Agarwal

Property as a concept has a very broad definition. It not only includes tangible but also intangible objects. It is a right in rem of a man over his land which means that it exists against the world at large. In Indian law it is bifurcated into various types across Acts, such as, Movable, and Immovable, Intellectual property, Tangible and Intangible, etc. This article answers the question- What is Movable Property? `

Definitions across Sections

Section 22 of Indian Penal Code says that the words “movable property” are intended to include corporeal property of every description, except land and things attached to the earth or permanently fastened to anything which is attached to the earth.

Section 3(36) of the General Clauses Act explains movable property as “Movable Property shall mean property of every description, except immovable property’’

Section 2(9) of the Registration Act, 1908 explain movable property as “Movable Property includes standing timber, growing crops and grass, fruit upon and juice in trees, and property of every other description, except immovable property”

Explanations: Movable Property is something which can be transferred easily without any alteration in its size or shape or even quality and quantity. It is a non-attachable and tangible object that can conveniently be moved from one place to another.

In other words, it is physically mobile and can either move by itself or at least by someone in space. It broadly includes concrete estates and excludes all those affixed to the earth/ground.

For example: Vegetables growing on your land, your car or even a small thing as your pencil comes under movable property but does not include buildings and objects fastened to earth.

Under the Indian Registration Act, 1908, a movable property has no obligation to be licensed. It is entirely optional. The transfer is done by easy distribution with the purpose of moving the movable property. An expansion to an ancestral impartible property does not constitute a movable property.

Few Torts pertaining to movable property: The common tort committed pertaining to movable property is trespass to the same. Trespass, basically, means unlawful conduct where a person occupies or interferes with the ownership of the property of another individual, whether movable or immovable or without the permission of the person, causing any harm to his body.

Additionally, when a person with a malicious purpose does some harm to others’ movable property, the act of trespassing on movable property is said to be committed. It means unlawfully causing disruption without one’s permission to someone’s movable property or products.

For example: Suppose, Meghna visits Ben and sees a beautiful statue in his house. If out of jealousy, she drops it and the statute is distorted, Meghna has said to commit trespass to movable property. Movable goods are also a part of movable property and trespass to movable goods is also a classic tort committed against movable property. Trespass to movable goods constitute when there is an apparent direct or indirect harm to the good of the individual or if the rightful owner is wrongfully striped off from any of his goods without his/her permission.

In other words, the offence of Trespass of Goods implies the illegal and deliberate disruption of the ownership of the goods by wrongfully taking it away from the rightful owner’s disposition.

For instance: Saloni sees an expansive bag with Selina. Saloni wants to use it in a party and without Selina’s permission takes it away from her. In this case, Saloni happened to commit trespass to movable goods.

Further, according to Trespass ab initio, an individual who lawfully takes the movable property in his custody, but later violates or wastes it, i.e., wrongfully infuriates his own possession, becomes responsible.

For example: Bina gives Sumit her clothes for alteration. Here Sumit has the rightful possession of the goods but while altering, with an intension of keeping some pieces of cloths for himself, alters in such a way that it is disrupted, commits Trespass ab initio. Also, detention is the act in which an individual unjustly owns another’s movable property.

The remedy given by English law is a detinuous action, i.e., clear recovery from the custody of the offender of the detained movable property. As a wrongful detainer, the one who unlawfully retained the movable property is identified. For example: Tom gives Helen some jewellery for safe keeping while he goes abroad to travel and on return Helen refuses to return the jewellery, she commits the tort of detention of movable property.

Case Laws

In Jadu Nath, Dundput, Sripati v. Hari Kar And Ors, a very famous case, the defendant trespassed into the land of the plaintiff and will ill intention, cut down the crops on the plaintiff’s land. The court gave judgement against the defendant and upheld the fact that it was a trespass of goods which was a movable property of the plaintiff.

In Muthuswami Gounder vs Thulasi Ammal, the driver of the car was negligently driving, stuck with the automobile and allowed the car to be hurt. However, the Court notes that it was not only the event of an accident, but also an infringement of the movable property of another and the impairment to the property. The defendant is also responsible for trespassing on movable land.

In Dhulji vs Kanchan, the court highlighted the difference between movable and immovable under IPC. Before stating the ratio decendi, one must be aware of section 403 and 404 of IPC. Section 403 states that Whoever dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use any movable property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for e term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Section 404 states that Whoever dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use property, knowing that such property was in the possession of a deceased person at the time of that person’s decease, and had not since been in the possession of any person legally entitled to such possession, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine; and if the offender at the time of such person’s decease was employed by him as a clerk or servant, the imprisonment may extend to seven years.

The court inferred that the Section 403, I.P.C., therefore, is general and deals with fraudulent misappropriation or conversion by an accused person of any movable property. Next Section deals with dishonest misappropriation or dishonest conversion of property that clearly requires protection, specifically when the prior owner who owned it is dead and has not acquired possession of it by the corresponding owner.

The Section mandates various sentences when the crime is perpetrated by strangers and when the offence is perpetrated by people in a place of trust. The intent behind Sec, 404, I.P.C. is to provide security for property that needs protection because of its specific location where the person who should take care of it is dead and the person who is required and eligible to take care of it after the death of the aforementioned person has not occurred on the scene.

There is a chance open to outsiders to misappropriate and transform the same fraudulently. If such strangers are permitted to do so, the following owner can lose the property completely under these circumstances. There is no documentation in most cases as to what the property was and there is barely any hope of pursuing the property that has passed into many hands.

It is for this purpose that a clause is rendered under which deceptive misappropriation or conversion under these situations is made particularly punishable with a higher term It is clear that no such risk is involved in the event of immovable property except where the immovable property is first dismantled and transformed into movable property and then deceitfully misappropriated or converted. If the immovable property remains intact, no individual can gain rights to it except in compliance with the law.

The sole supply of possession by an unauthorized person will not grant any title on the transferor and may at any time be robbed off custody. In view of this immovable property status, it is hard to claim that the property is exposed to any danger or requires any defence where the eventual owner has not stepped in.

The Legislature may not have planned to safeguard the otherwise protected property and facts relating to which it could not be lost. There would be an inappropriate and uncalled for provision for administering punishment with regard to such land. Consequently, it is evident that in Section 404, I.P.C., the word property may mean no other property but movable property.

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*Dhulji vs Kanchan on 27 July, 1955 (citations: 1956 CriLJ 224)

*Indian Penal Code, 1860