Transfer of movable property under Private international law is effected by the act of parties or by operation of law. And there are different theories governing transfer of tangible and intangible properties.
2. MOVABLE PROPERTY
Movable properties are either tangible or intangible. The transfer
of movables can be effected by the act of parties or by operation
The preliminary and the vital question is whether only one
common system of principles should be allowed to determine
every question that arises in respect of movables or whether there
should be different set of rules that could possibly be applied to
different aspects of the transfer, such as assignability of movables,
to formal validity and to material validity.
THEORIES GOVERNING TRANSFER OF TANGIBLE
(1) Lex domicile (2) Lex Actus
(3) Lex Situs (4) Proper law theory
3. (1) Lex domicile theory :-
This theory is founded upon the principle that since movables
have no fixed situs, their situs can be shifted at any time by its
Therefore, the medieval Italian statutists propounded the principle
of mobile sequenter personam. The maxim means that goods
follow the person. The doctrine had wide acceptance beyond the
continental Europe in England and in the USA.
In Sill v. Worswick [(1791) 1 H B1 665; 126 E.R.379]
This case laid down the doctrine that with respect to the
disposition of moveable property, with respect to the transmission
of it, either by succession, or the act of the party, it follows the
law of the person. It was held that personal property has no
locality, thus meaning that rights over movables are to be
governed by the law of the owner’s domicile.
( criticism : it may cause unjust results)
4. (2) Lex Actus theory :-
This theory has not gained much value in the contemporary legal
discourse, though there have been a few instances of judicial
acceptance of its crux (most important point at issue).
Alcock v. Smith [(1892) 1 Ch. 238]
It was laid down that, the validity of a transfer depends not upon
the law of the domicile of the owner but upon the law of the
country in which transfer of the movable took place.
Cheshire criticized this on the point that a mere fact that a
transaction was entered into a particular place is no adequate
reason to accord control to the local law.
Graveson supported this view, on the point that, a reasonable man
is expected to comply with the law of any country in which they
would have performed the transaction.
5. (3) Lex Situs theory :-
The lex situs theory obviously has its advantages, important among
them being that situs law provides a single and easily ascertained
system of law based on the focal point of the transaction, namely,
the goods that the transaction concerns itself.
Moreover, the right of control satisfies the expectations of the
reasonable man as for a party to transfer naturally conclude that the
transaction would be subject to the law of the country in which the
subject-matter is situated.
But it is difficult to ascertain in matters where the goods are in
Graveson opined that this problem can be met by mercantile
practices of treating the normal documents of title to such goods as
bill of lading as representing the goods themselves so that in effect
the relevant situs is generally that of the document of title.
6. (4) Proper law theory :-
Cheshire propounded a new theory to explain the law governing
issues arising out of the transfer of movables – is that the law of the
country with which the transfer has the most real connection or to be
more specific, i.e., the proper law of transfer.
The ascertaining of the proper law would not present any difficulty if
the proper law and the lex situs is the same.
Difficulty arises in a situation where the two factors are grounded in
two different legal systems.
The content of transfer of property tangible movables largely
addresses three issues:-
(1) Matters arising between parties to the transfer ( Contractual /
(2) Matters arising from the transfer affecting third parties
(3) Certain special types of transfers (Gifts / donatio mortis causa /
goods in transit).
7. THEORIES ON INTANGIBLE MOVABLES :-
An intangible movable may be described as an interest which is not
directly related to a physical object or land.
For e.g. shares, patents, copyrights, debts, and negotiable instruments.
They may also be referred to as “choses in action”.
Theories relating to intangible movable properties also includes:-
(1) Lex domicile theory
(2) Lex situs theory
(3) Lex loci actus theory
(4) The proper law theory
(1) Lex domicile theory:- Philimore was the main proponent to apply
this in relation to intangible movables. He explained that debts , rights
and causes of action are universally perceived as attached to the person
of the creditors and hence should be governed by the law of the
domicile of that creditor.
8. (2) Lex situs theory :- Dicey and Justice Atkin applied this
theory in the instances of debt. While situs theory has an
advantage of ascertaining the law in an easier fashion, its
difficulty arises when trying to locate it within the place of the
Since the situs of the debt is a debtor, it becomes difficult to
ascertain the situs if the debtor resides at several places, for e.g.,
(3) Lex loci actus theory :- The place of assignment, or the
place where the documents assigning the debt are executed is the
governing factor and the law of that place of execution of the
assignment governs the assignment.
(4) Proper law theory :- To govern issues on intangible
movables two principles is applied – proper law of assignment
(where assignment is most closely connected) & proper law of