[LAW REVIEW] Does a suit by a squatter against a fellow squatter constitute a valid case for ejectment?
As squatters, strictly speaking, their entry into the disputed land was illegal. Both the complainant and defendant entered the public land without the owner’s (government) permission. Title to the land remained with the government because it had not awarded to anyone ownership of the contested public land. Both the plaintiff and the defendant were in effect squatting on government property. Now, what if a squatter rented the land he is squatting to another squatter and later on files an ejectment case against the latter for non-payment of rentals, will the case prosper?
The only question that the courts must resolve in ejectment proceedings is – who is entitled to the physical possession of the premises. Not ownership.
It does not even matter if a party’s title to the property is questionable, or when both parties intruded into public land (government-owned) and their applications to own the land have yet to be approved by the proper government agency. Regardless of the actual condition of the title to the property, the party in peaceable quiet possession shall not be thrown out by a strong hand, violence or terror. Neither is the unlawful withholding of property allowed. Courts will always uphold respect for prior possession.
In fact, a party who can prove prior possession can recover such possession even against the owner himself.
Whatever may be the character of his possession, if he has in his favor prior possession in time, he has the security that entitles him to remain on the property until a person with a better right lawfully ejects him.
The underlying philosophy behind ejectment suits is to prevent breach of the peace and criminal disorder and to compel the party out of possession to respect and resort to the law alone to obtain what he claims is his. The party deprived of possession must not take the law into his own hands.