Rule against Perpetuity under Section 14 of Transfer of Property Act

Author: Ritesh Singh Shekhawat, Mahatma Jyoti Rao Phoole University, Jaipur, Rajasthan

Emergence and Objective of the Rule Against Perpetuities

The rule against perpetuities, codified under Section 14 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, addresses the duration within which property interests must vest. The rule is aimed at preventing the indefinite tying up of property and ensuring that it does not remain inalienable for extended periods. Historically, the rule emerged from the Duke of Norfolk’s case (1682), where attempts were made to control property disposition beyond the settlor’s lifetime, influencing several generations. The legal principle dictates that no interest in property should subsist beyond 21 years after a life in being at the time of the property transfer, plus the period of gestation, where applicable.

Legal Mechanisms and Scope

The primary legal mechanism under this rule is the prevention of future interests in property from vesting beyond an allowed timeframe. Specifically, this applies to transfers that could extend beyond the lifetime of living persons at the transfer time, plus the minority of any person alive at the period’s expiration. The rule’s scope extends to both movable and immovable property but excludes personal contracts that do not create property interests, thereby avoiding undue restrictions on property utility and exchange.

Key Legal Cases and Interpretations

Several cases have shaped the interpretation and application of the rule against perpetuities in India. In “R Kempraj v Burton Son and Co. (AIR 1970 SC 1872),” the Supreme Court addressed the application scope regarding property interests, emphasizing the rule’s objective to facilitate property alienation within reasonable timeframes. Furthermore, “Jagar Nath v Cheddi Dhobi (AIR 1973 All 307)” clarified that transactions not involving property transfer are not subjected to these perpetuity restrictions.

Comparisons with English Law

Differences between Indian and English law on perpetuities primarily lie in the treatment of the gestation period and the fixed period extensions beyond a life in being. Unlike English law, which allows a fixed additional 21-year period irrespective of minority, Indian law restricts extensions strictly to the minority of the beneficiaries concerned without additional time. The gestation period, if relevant, is added at the beginning of the period under English law but is not extended at the end under Indian law, reflecting a more stringent approach to ensuring property vesting within predictable periods.

Modern Applications and Legal Reasoning

The modern application of the rule against perpetuities continues to influence property transfers, where conditions that might indefinitely delay interest vesting are rendered void. This is illustrated in scenarios involving complex family trusts or where property interests are contingent upon long-term conditions being fulfilled, which could potentially exceed the stipulated vesting period.

In legal reasoning, the rule is employed to assess whether property transfers align with statutory limitations, ensuring no undue delay affects the property’s alienation or utilisation rights. Courts evaluate whether potential future events, as stipulated in property agreements, could lead to vesting delays beyond the permissible limit, thereby preserving the underlying legal intent to prevent property from being unalienable indefinitely.


The rule against perpetuities remains a fundamental legal principle in Indian property law, ensuring that property remains within the commerce and control of living persons within a reasonable timeframe. It reflects a balance between respecting the intentions of property owners and preventing the stagnation of property utility and ownership, thus facilitating more dynamic and equitable property relations in society. The rule’s consistent evolution through case law and statutory amendments highlights its critical role in adapting to changing social and economic landscapes, ultimately guiding legal practitioners and property owners in structuring transfers that comply with legal standards and societal needs.


  1. “Transfer of Property Act, 1882, Section 14.”
  2. S N Shukla, “Transfer of Property Act” (27th Edn 2009).
  3. R Kempraj v Burton Son and Co. AIR 1970 SC 1872.
  4. Jagar Nath v Cheddi Dhobi AIR 1973 All 307.
  5. Mulla, “Transfer of Property Act” (10th Edn 2008).
  6. Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 349 (5th ed. 1979).

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