A pending legal action
The doctrine has been derived from a Latin maxim “Ut pendent nihil innovetur” meaning ‘during litigation nothing should be changed or no new rights should be introduced’.
Lis means Suit; Pendens means pending
Lis Pendens is referred to as a ‘notice of pending action’. The doctrine of Lis Pendens may be defined as the jurisdiction that courts have during the pendency of action over the property, involved therein. In general, a written notice that a lawsuit has been filed which concerns the title to real property or some interest in that real property.
The doctrine is embodied in Section 52 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 which prohibits the alienation of immovable property when a dispute relating to the same is pending in a competent court of law. It is based on the principle that the person purchasing an immovable property from the judgment debtor during the pendency of the suit has no independent right to property to resist, obstruct or object the execution of a decree.
In India, the courts have been segregated on the basis of territorial, pecuniary or the subject matter jurisdiction. Hence, the suit must be pending in the court having the jurisdiction to try the suit, else the suit would not be considered by the rule of Lis Pendens.
The doctrine applies in the case of immovable properties only and not to movable property. The litigation must involve a specific right in immovable property, such as a dispute with respect to title, possession or a right of alienation, etc. The doctrine of Lis Pendens applies to the sale, specific performance of a contract, mortgage suit, easements, pre-emption, the charge created by Hindu widow on the Hindu Joint Family Property, etc. However, it is not applicable to the suits related to debts, rents, accounts (house tax), etc.
- A dispute regarding the title of the property X arose between A and B. A was then in the possession of X. The matter was brought before the District court. The District Court passed the decree in favor of A. While the decree was appealable, A sold the property X. The transfer would be considered via Section 52 or the Doctrine of Lis Pendens. In this case, the HC passed the decree in favor of A, however, the Supreme Court passed the decree in favor of B. In such cases, when the apex Court passes a decree ordering A to transfer the possession of X to B within 30 days, then during this period of 30 days, the suit would be deemed to be pending.
- A is the owner of the property F, which is managed by B with the permission of A. However, B sells the property to C. A files a suit against B reclaiming the possession of the property and C is not made the party to the suit. Meanwhile, C sells the property to Y. As C is not the party to the suit, the transfer made by him will not be affected by the doctrine of Lis Pendens.
In Hardev Singh vs. Gurmail Singh, the Supreme Court observed that Section 52 of the Act does not declare a pendente lite transfer by a party to the suit as void or illegal, but only makes the pendente lite purchaser bound by the decision of the pending litigation. Thus, if during the pendency of any suit in a court of competent jurisdiction which is not collusive, in which any right of immovable property is directly and specifically in question, such immovable property cannot be transferred by any party to the suit so as to affect the rights of any other party to the suit under any decree that may be made in such a suit.
In T.G. Ashok Kumar v. Govindammal & Anr., the Supreme Court observed that if the title of the pendente lite transferor is upheld in regard to the transferred property, the transferee’s title will not be affected. On the other hand, if the title of the pendente lite transferor is recognized or accepted only in regard to a part of the transferred property, then the transferee’s title will be saved only in regard to that extent and the transfer in regard to the remaining portion of the transferred property will be invalid and the transferee will not get any right, title or interest in that portion. If the property transferred pendente lite, is entirely allotted to some other party or parties or if the transferor is held to have no right or title in that property, the transferee will not have any title to the property.