Understanding Pre emption Rights in India
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Understanding Pre emption Rights in India

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Are you curious about pre-emption rights in India? Do you want to know how they work and what legal implications they have? In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of pre-emption rights, exploring their origins, legal framework, and constitutional validity. Whether you are a law student, a legal professional, or simply interested in property laws, this article will provide you with a deep understanding of pre-emption rights in India.


What is Pre-emption?

Pre-emption, derived from the Latin verb "emo" meaning "buy or purchase," refers to the legal right of a person to purchase a property before it is offered to others. It allows the owner of an immovable property to buy the property if it is sold to another party. The concept of pre-emption can be best understood through an example: Imagine two neighboring properties owned by individuals A and B. If B decides to sell their property to a stranger, A, as a pre-emptor, has the legal right to purchase that property at the same price it was sold to the stranger. This right of pre-emption enables A to prevent a stranger from becoming their long-term neighbor. The underlying principle behind this right is the perceived annoyance that a stranger might bring to the neighborhood.

Pre-emption under Muslim Law

The concept of pre-emption is deeply rooted in Islamic law and was introduced to India during the Mughal era. Muslims, under their personal laws, still enjoy the privilege of being governed by preemptive laws in most countries. In Muslim law, pre-emption is known as "shuffa," which refers to the right of substitution granted to a person by law, tradition, or agreement. The right of pre-emption is based on the terms of sale set by the seller, giving priority to the seller's position. According to Mulla, a renowned legal scholar, pre-emption grants the owner of one property the right to purchase another property that has been sold to someone else.

Pre-emption rights in India can be found in four sources: Muslim personal laws, traditions, legislation, and contracts. While the right of pre-emption is mainly considered a customary right for Hindus, it is codified as part of Muslim personal laws. The transfer of property is essential to the economy of a nation, and Muslims, like any other citizens, are subject to laws enacted by the Indian legislature. However, there are still certain matters, such as the law of pre-emption, in which Muslims are governed by their own personal laws.

Constitutional Validity of Pre-emption

Before the 44th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1978, the provision of pre-emption infringed upon the fundamental right to possess and dispose of property, protected by Article 19(1)(f) and Article 31 of the Indian Constitution. However, after the amendment, these articles were removed from Part III of the Constitution and are now covered by Article 300A as constitutional rights. Consequently, the Supreme Court ruled that the statutory pre-emption provision based on vicinage was unconstitutional.

In the case of Bhau Ram v. BajiNath, the Supreme Court declared pre-emption based on vicinage illegal. The 44th constitutional amendment and subsequent judicial interpretations changed the perspective on the constitutionality of pre-emption. Property ownership is now considered a constitutional right, subject to reasonable restrictions under articles 14 and 15. The right of pre-emption can only be exercised for the first time when the need arises, and it is not an unrestricted right available at all times.

Pre-emption Rights under Hindu Law

Under Section 22 of the Hindu Succession Act, certain preferential rights to acquire property are granted in specific instances. The "preferential right" remedy can be invoked when one co-sharer intends to transfer their share, and the other co-sharer may apply to buy that portion. This situation commonly arises when a co-shareholder enters into an agreement to sell their share to a third party. The right of pre-emption under Hindu law can be considered a civil right in the absence of a statutory provision.

It is important to note that pre-emption rights only apply when immovable property is transferred through sale, and not through other means such as gift, bequest, lease, mortgage, or conditional sale with possession. The right of pre-emption may be defeated if the parties to a sale transaction use legal means that are neither dishonest nor illegal. Pre-emption is characterized as a weak right, which can be overridden by the claim of a superior or equal right.

Formalities of Pre-emption

The exercise of pre-emption rights involves certain formalities. These formalities are as follows:

  1. First Demand: The pre-emptor must make an immediate demand to exercise their right of pre-emption.
  2. Second Demand: If the first demand is unsuccessful, the pre-emptor can make a demand involving witnesses.
  3. Third Demand: If the first two demands are unsuccessful, the pre-emptor may take legal action, known as the demand for possession.

It is important to note that a person can exercise their right of pre-emption only when the property is subjected to a valid sale and when the sale is complete. There are various circumstances under which a person may lose their right of pre-emption, such as acquiescence, estoppel, waiver, forfeiture, release, or statutory disability.

Pre-emption in Modern Indian Society

Although pre-emption rights were prevalent in the past, their significance has significantly decreased in modern Indian society. While some individuals still take advantage of pre-emption rights, particularly in cases involving agricultural property, they must navigate legal challenges and the complexities of buying and upgrading the land. The concept of pre-emption has evolved over time, and its application is now limited in scope.


Pre-emption rights in India have a rich historical and legal background. While deeply rooted in Islamic law, pre-emption rights are also recognized in Hindu law and have been codified through legislation. The constitutional validity of pre-emption has evolved over time, with the right now considered a constitutional right subject to reasonable restrictions. Pre-emption rights are characterized as weak and can be overridden by legitimate methods. As India progresses, the significance of pre-emption rights in modern society has diminished, and their application is now limited to specific circumstances. Understanding pre-emption rights is crucial for individuals involved in property transactions and those interested in the intricacies of Indian property law.

At Legalstix Law School, we offer comprehensive courses on property law, including pre-emption rights. Our experienced faculty members are committed to providing flexible and comprehensive legal education. Join us at Legalstix Law School to enhance your understanding of property laws and build a successful career in the legal field.

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