Bona Vacantia Meaning, Origin, Application and Important Case Laws

By | August 3, 2021

Last Updated on by Admin LB

The legal maxim of “Bona Vacantia” means goods without an apparent owner. In this article, Sahajpreet Bhusari explains the meaning of the maxim with illustration and case laws.

Origin and Meaning

Bona vacantia is a legal maxim of Latin origin. Bona means ‘goods’ and vacantia means ‘unclaimed’ and hence the term bona vacantia means ‘unclaimed or ownerless goods’.


Bona vacantia refers to property that has been unclaimed for a period of time. No one claims ownership over these assets or properties. In cases such as these, the assets or property are handed over to the government, and the government acts as the custodian of these assets or properties.

The government takes hold of these assets and treats them as their own. This type of property comes into existence when the person dies without a living heir, and when assets or property are abandoned. This situation can also occur when an unincorporated company or group dissolves and its assets are not properly allocated.

The other process in which this happens is when the trust fails or the property owner is nowhere to be found and there is no information on his whereabouts.


The legal maxim of Bona Vacantia is used in situations where the property is left without a clear owner. The owner of the product is not known. The property is treated in different ways in such types of situations.

It is seen that in most cases the goods are stated to be the property of the government. However, if the rightful owner is found then the goods are returned to the owner.


A, the owner of a huge estate dies intestate and without any living legal heirs. His property will be considered bona vacantia.

Important Case Laws

In the case of Narendra Bahardur Tandon v. Shankerlal[1], the apex court observed that if the company on the date of dissolution had any interest in the lease then such interest vests upon the government by escheat or as bona vacantia.

It was observed in the case of State of Gujarat & Anr v. Shri Ambica Mills Limited & Anr[2] that if no claim has been made during a period of 4 years from the date of publication or the first notice, or, if a claim is made but has been rejected fully or in part, the state appropriates the unpaid debts as bona vacantia.


[1] AIR 1980 SC 575.

[2] (1974) 4 SCC 656.

  1. Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
  2. Legal Bites Academy – Ultimate Test Prep Destination
Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.