Transfer of Title by Person other than the Owner, Sale of Goods Act' 1930

Sale of Goods Act' 1930 Notes
Business Laws Notes B.Com 1st & 2nd Sem CBCS Pattern

Transfer of Title by Person other than the Owner (Section 27-30)

The general rule is that only the owner of goods can sell the goods. Conversely, the sale of an article by a person who is not or who has not the authority of the owner, gives no title to the buyer. The rule is expressed by the maxim; "Nemo dot quod non habet" i.e., no one can pass a better title than what he himself has. It means a non owner cannot make valid transfer of property in goods. If the title of the seller is defective, the buyer’s title will also be subject to same defect. If the seller has no title, the buyer does not acquire any title although he might have acted honestly and might have acquired the goods after due payment.


1. A, the hirer of goods under a hire purchase agreement, sells them to B, then B though, a bonafide purchaser, does not acquire the property in the goods. At most he can acquire such an interest as the hirer had.

2. A finds a ring of B and sells it to a third person who purchases it for value and in good faith. The true owner, i.e. B can recover from that person, for A having no title to the ring.

Exception to the General Rule

The Act while recognizing the general rule that no one can give a better title than what he himself has, laid down important exceptions to it. Under the exceptions the, buyer gets a better title of the goods than the seller himself. These exceptions are given below:

a)       Sale by mercantile agent: A buyer will get a good title if he buys in good faith from a mercantile agent who is in possession either of the goods or' documents of title of goods with the consent of the owner, and who sells the goods in the ordinary course of his business.

b)      Sale by co-owner: A buyer who buys in good faith from one of the several joint owners who is in sale possession of the goods with the permission of his co-owners will get good title to the goods.   

c)       Sale by person in possession under voidable contract: A buyer buys in good faith from a person in possession of goods under a contract which is voidable, but has not been rescinded at the time of the sale.

d)      Sale by seller in possession after sale: Where a seller, after having sold the goods, continues in possession of goods, or documents of title to the goods and again sells them by himself or through his mercantile agent to a person who buys in good faith and without notice of the previous sale, such a buyer gets a good title to the goods.

e)      Sale by buyer in possession: If a person has brought or agreed to buy goods obtains, with the seller's consent, possession of the goods or of the documents of title to them, any sale by him or by his mercantile agent to a buyer who takes in good faith without notice of any lien or other claim of the original seller against the goods, will give a good title to the buyer. In any of the above cases, if the transfer is by way of pledge or pawn only, it will be valid as a pledge or pawn.

f)        Estoppel: If the true owner stands by and allows an innocent buyer to pay over money to a third-party, who professes to have the right to sell an article, the true owner will be stopped from denying the third-party's right to sell.

g)       Sale by an unpaid seller: Where an unpaid seller has exercised his right of lien or stoppage in transit and is in possession of the goods, he may resell them and the second buyer will get absolute right to the goods.

h)      Sale by person under other laws: A Pawnee, on default of the Pawnee to repay, has a right to sell the goods, pawned and the buyer gets a good title to the goods. The finder of lost goods can also sell under certain circumstances. The Official Assignee or Official Receiver, Liquidator, Officers of Court selling under a decree, Executors, and Administrators, all these persons are not owners, but they can convey better title than they have.

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