In a recent judgment, Dreymoor Fertilizers v. mvTheoforos-1, the Bombay High Court (Sriram J.) has held that a claimant, suing in tort for economic loss, must establish either legal ownership or possessory title over the relevant property at the time of loss. Without going into the correctness of the decision in the specific facts before the Court, it is respectfully submitted that some of the observations in the judgment may require reconsideration. In particular, the learned Single Judge held (para 21.4), following The Aliakmon  AC 785 and The Wear Breeze  1 QB 219:
“The law was and always had been that an action for negligence in respect of loss or damage to goods could not succeed unless plaintiff was, at the time of tort complained of, owner of goods or person entitled to possession of them. The duty of care is owed only to the owner of the goods or the person entitled to possession…”
With respect, one wonders whether the law is actually as clear as is supposed. English Courts themselves have moved away from the apparent rigidity of this exclusionary rule. In Shell v. Total  EWCA Civ 180, for instance, the Court of Appeal specifically held that neither the Aliakmon nor the Wear Breeze in fact concluded this point. Shell, who had neither possessory title nor legal ownership (which vested in the trustee), was held to have title to sue on the basis of beneficial ownership. Whether Shell can be applied in Indian law (where the general view has been that the concept of double ownership does not exist – the only owner is the legal owner) may perhaps be controversial. However, Shell does at the very least explain that neither of the two decisions cited by Sriram J in fact concludes the issue.
Further, cases prior to the Aliakmon indicate that title to sue can be maintained in economic loss cases even without legal ownership or possessory title to the relevant property. Interested readers may refer to the discussions in Shell, paras 116 to 144. These cases were not considered by the learned Single Judge of the Bombay High Court.
It is respectfully submitted that the decision requires further consideration, at least insofar as it purports to bring in a strict exclusionary rule into Indian law.