What is Ownership? || Definition and 5 incidents || Jurisprudence ||

What is Ownership? || It’s definition and incidents || Jurisprudence ||

In this article, we will discuss what is ownership and its definition, and incidents.

what is ownership in jurisprudence


The institution of property has been of tremendous significance in human affairs. The two important rights over or in relation to property are the rights of ownership and that of possession. These two concepts have certain similarities yet in their legal connotations and incidents, they differ vitally.

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In primitive society, the only concept known to the human mind was that of possession. It was much later that the concept of ownership was adopted. So long as men were huntsmen or herdsmen they were nomadic in character and had no settled habitation, had no sense of ownership. Gradually with the planting of trees and the cultivation of land and the settlement of a local home, the notion of ownership began to grow.

Meaning and element:-

The term ‘own’ literally means to have or hold a thing. The one who holds a thing as his own is said to be the owner and has the right of ownership over it. Thus in the non-legal sense ownership can be defined as the right of exclusive control and disposal of a thing at will.
In the legal sense, the term ownership refers to the right over a thing to the exclusion of all other persons. This implies that the exercise of this right should not be interfered with by others and must be distinguished from holding a thing in one’s possession.
Ownership implies two elements, one is the formal element, namely, will, power, capacity, faculty, etc. Another is the material element i.e., the thing owned. For example, if ‘A’ has Rs. 100-it (Rs. 100) constitutes the material element of his ownership, while his power under the law to spend it, to gift it or to will it is the formal element of his ownership.


Normally ownership implies, (a) the right to possess; (b) the right to use; (c) the right to manage; (d) the right to the capital; (e) the right to the income.

A. Right to possess:-

The owner of a thing has the right to possess it, to the exclusion of all other i.e., the owner has exclusive physical control of a thing or such control as the nature of the thing admits.

B. The right to use:-

The owner has the right to use the subject matter of ownership at his own discretion. Here ‘use’ means personal use and enjoyment of the thing by the owner. This right of enjoyment or use is not absolute; this can be and is in fact, limited by law.

C. Right to manage:-

The owner has the right to manage i.e. he has the right to decide how and by whom the thing owned shall be used.

D. Right to the capital:-

One who owns a thing has also the right to alienate the same or to waste, destroy, or consume the whole or part of it. The right to consume and destroy is straightforward liberty. The right to alienate i.e. right to transfer his rights from our object to another involves the existence of power.

E. Right to income:-

The owner of a thing has not only the right to possess the thing but also the right to fruits and the income of the thing within the limits, if any, laid down by the law.

Definitions of ownership:-

Different writers have defined ownership in different ways. Austin defined ownership as a right in point of the user, unrestricted in point of disposition, and unlimited in point of duration.

Austin’s definition thus implies three attributes viz.

  1. Indefinite uses;
  2. Unrestricted disposition; and
  3. Unlimited duration.

Holland’s definition:-

He defines ownership as plenary control over an object. According to him, an owner has three rights on the subject owned–

  1. Possession
  2. Enjoyment
  3. Disposition

Salmond’s definition:-

Salmond says ‘Ownership in most comprehensive significance denotes the relation between a person and any right that is vested in him’.
Ownership in this wider sense extends to all classes of rights, whether proprietary or personal, in rem or in personam in, in propria or in re-aliena.

We may, in conclusion, say that:-

  1. Ownership is a right that comprises powers, claims, privileges, etc.
  2. Ownership is in relation to a thing that may be corporeal or incorporeal,
  3. The rights relating to or in connection with the owners are subject to state regulations i.e. can be limited or restricted by law.
  4. Owner is the one who is entitled to the residue of rights with respect to an object left after the limitation resulting from the voluntary acts of the owner (mortgage, lease or hire) or those imposed by law as exhausted,
  5. Ownership doesn’t imply or indicate absolute or unlimited rights relating to the use, disposal, or duration.

Kinds of ownership will be discussed in our next article.

Thank you for reading.

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