Land, which is considered not just the most valuable asset but also the best possible asset to invest the money in, is most often subject to encroachment if left unattended. The legal process of eviction is quite cumbersome and time-consuming as the possessor enjoys certain rights even against the rightful owner. Therefore, a person is often appointed to look after the property when the owner is not in a position to personally do so especially as in case of Non-Resident Indians (NRI). A caretaker could be expected to rent out the property and provide the owner with the profits arising therefrom, or simply to maintain and manage the property and deal with any legal proceedings if so arises. Usually, a General Power of Attorney is made in his favour for the aforesaid purpose. The caretaker could provide such services either out of love and affection or for some consideration such as money or rent-free stay.
Though relatives, servants or some professional agencies are appointed to look after the property, they cannot be blindly trusted. They are required to report regularly to the owners with respect to major changes brought into the property, etc. Often, there are frauds committed on the innocent owners who are not in direct control over the property and are harassed by the due process of law which involves tedious proceedings. The owner has either to be at the mercy of the caretaker and make a compromise or wait for decades for justice to happen.
Clearing the position of a caretaker, the honourable Apex Court held in Maria Margarida Sequeria Fernandes and Others v. Erasmo Jack de Sequeria (Dead) through L.Rs. [2012(3)SCALE550]and Southern Roadways Ltd., Madurai v. S.M. Krishnan [(1989) 4 SCC 603] that the caretaker holds the property of the owner only as his agent and on his behalf and is required to hand over the property to the principal i.e. the owner on demand. Longtime gratuitous stay in the property does not create the right, title or interest of caretaker in it. Also in Sham Lal v. Rajinder Kumar & Others [1994 (30) DRJ 596] it was held that the servant’s or chowkidar’s right to possession cannot exclude the master or real owner of his similar right.