Property is a very important institution-in the economy of societies. The word ‘Property’ is used in two senses.
According to some writers, it includes goods or things owned by an individual or groups of individuals. Thus, Anderson and Parker write, “Property consists of goods and services that society gives an individual or group of individuals.” The exclusive rights to possess, use and dispose of in this sense property is one’s own, something possessed by him. It may be tangible or intangible.
Tangible items are those, which can be seen and touched. Clothing, ornaments, weapons tools, utensils, houses, lands, automobile, animals etc. are tangible items. The intangible property is that which cannot be seen and touched. Such property consists of tangible items.
In its second sense, property refers to rights. Davis writes, property consists of the rights and duties of one person or group as against all other person and group with respect to some scarce goods. It sets of what is mine from what is thine.
Rights and duties are not tangible in a physical sense. In this sense, tangibility or intangibility of thing owned is of little importance because what is owned are not the goods but the rights to use these goods.
H.T, Mazumdar also writes, “Property is the intangible rights to use and disposal of a good material or non-material, in which ownership rights are affirmed for the group, or a member or a set of members of the group by the folkways and modes. It may be noted that the idea of property takes its birth only when something is scarce and valuable. If a thing is easily and freely available, it cannot be the object form property. For example, air and light are freely, available to every person. Hence, they cannot from property, i.e. none can have an exclusive right to their use. In a society, there is scarcity of goods. The members have less than they want. Therefore, they want to possess the exclusive right to things in scarcity and here the concept of property acquires significance.
Nature of Property Rights:
Understood in terms of rights the following are the characteristics of property rights.
Property can be transferred by its owner by way of sell, exchange or gift. A land owner can transfer his land, physician can sell his automobile. But one cannot, transfer one’s skill and so skill is not his property.
2. Property rights do not necessarily imply actual use and enjoyment of object by the owner:
Law makes a distinction between ownership and possession. One may own property without actually using it. In other words, possession of property may be in the hands of person who is not its owner. A tenant is in possession of a house, but the house is not his property, it is the property of the landlord.
3. Power aspect:
The possession of property implies the possession of power over others. As said above, property is a right to something, which is search and valuable. A person who possessed property can exercise control over those person who do not have it. The extent of power which property gives to the owner depends not only upon the definition of his rights but also on the intensity of others’ need and scarcity of the thing, A man’s ownership of a fountain pen does not give him any control over the illiterate people who do not need it, nor on others because it is abundant in supply. But if a man has ownership of all the clothing factories his power over others would be great.
4. Property refers to a concrete external object:
It is suggested by some writers that property rights refer to a concrete external object. But as we have seen above such a view limit narrowly the range of property rights. One can have property of intangible thing like good will. When one sells the good will of ones business, what he actually sells is not any external object. The seller of good will may only agree not to compete with the buyer by using the name of the product or the name of the company. For example if the manufacturers of Bajaj electrical goods sell their good will, what they agree to its sell of Bajaj. They do not sell their goods but only the name by which these goods were known in the market. They have sold their property of good will.
5. Property is usually non-human:
This means that the object of property has no right-bf its own but is simply the passive object of such rights. The land has no right to its own; it only serves the landowner. In other words, human beings cannot be the object of property. A woman cannot be the property owner of her husband and the children cannot be the property owner of their parents. Property rights apply only to these things, which have no rights of their own.