Difference Between Ownership And Possession, Jurisprudence



Ownership and possession are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion. However, they have distinct legal meanings. This article aims to clarify these terms in a simplified manner.


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Deciphering the Distinction: Ownership and Possession

  1. To define it, Ownership [1]is the right of exclusive control and disposal of a thing. Whereas, Possession means having control over property in a way that allows for legal enjoyment to the exclusion of others, except the true owner or prior possessor.
  2. Ownership is a De Jure concept, meaning a right that is recognized by the law. Whereas Possession is simply De Facto concept, meaning, the factual control over a thing.
  3. Both ownership and possession trace their origin to Roman law. However, the idea of possession comes first than that of ownership.
  4. Ownership is more extensive than possession. The owner of a property has the right to possess it, but the possessor of a property does not necessarily have the right to own it.
  5. The transfer of ownership is more difficult than the transfer of possession. The transfer of ownership requires a legal document, such as a deed or a bill of sale. The transfer of possession can be accomplished simply by delivering the property to the new possessor.[2]
  6. It is indefinite in the point of the user to use the thing owned. One can use the thing in whatever way he wants. However, in possession, the possessor has limited jurisdiction and a limited concept of rights.
  7. Ownership provides proprietary remedies, while possession provides possessory remedies. Proprietary remedies are available to the owner of a property to protect their ownership rights. Possessory remedies are available to the possessor of a property to protect their right to possession.[3]



  1.     Suppose you buy a car. You are now the owner of the car, and you have the right to possess it, use it, and enjoy it. You can also sell the car, lease it, or mortgage it.
  2.     Suppose you find a lost wallet. You are now the possessor of the wallet, but you are not the owner. The owner of the wallet is the person who lost it.


Also read:

  1.     Difference Between Judicial Separation and Divorce (Hindu Law)
  2.     Difference Between Sale And Agreement To Sell
  3.     Difference Between Contract of Indemnity and Guarantee (Contract Law)
  4.     Difference between Torts and other branches of Law, i.e. Crime, Contract, Quasi-contract and Breach of Trust


Ownership vs. Possession (Tabular Representation)





Legal right recognized by law.

Physical control without ownership.

Legal Recognition

De Jure concept.

De Facto concept.

Extent of Rights

More extensive.



Complex procedures.

Simpler, often no formal documentation.

Legal Remedies

Proprietary remedies available.

Possessory remedies for protection


Important Cases

  1.     Hannah v. Peel (1945)
  2.     South Staffordshire Water Co. v. Sharman.
  3.     Bridges v. Hawkesworth.



Ownership and possession, though interconnected, hold distinct legal meanings and implications. Ownership confers absolute rights and legal recognition, while possession signifies physical control. Understanding these terms is essential in legal contexts.



[1] Oxford Learner's Dictionaries, https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/


[2] Jurisprudential aspect of Ownership, IPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/jurisprudential-aspect-of-ownership/


[3] What Is the Difference Between Possession and Ownership, WritingLaw, https://www.writinglaw.com/difference-between-possession-and-ownership/

About The Author

This article is written by Wafiya Faiz, a first year law student from Jamia Milia Islamia University. You can connect her on LinkedIn. The submission has undergone additional editing by Mr. Siddharth Sharma for refinement, click here to connect him.


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