Legal Maxim

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Literal Meaning

Ownerless assets




It is a situation in which property is left without any owner. In most cases, such property is held by the government and may be recovered by rightful owners or heirs. Bona vacantia property, which remains unclaimed after a certain period of time, reverts to government ownership. Whereas in a few cases, the government is obliged to serve as custodian for bona vacantia property into perpetuity. At a common-law jurisdiction’s intestacy statute might provide that when someone dies without a Will and is not survived by a spouse, descendants, parents, grandparents, descendants of parents, children or grandchildren of grandparents, or great-grandchildren of grandparents, then the person’s estate will escheat to the state.

Case Laws

The Supreme Court in Narendra Bahadur Tandon vs. Shankerlal observed that if the company had a subsisting interest in the lease on the date of dissolution such interest must necessarily vest in the Government by escheat or as bona vacantia. In India, the law is well settled that the property of an intestate dying without leaving lawful heirs and the property of a dissolved Corporation passes to the Government by escheat or as bona vacantia.

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