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Seeking Injunction Bare Or Consequential?

In a claim for injunctive relief regarding an immovable property, following situations[1] are possible:
  1. The plaintiff is in lawful possession and such possession is interfered by defendant who has no better title. Here, a suit for injunction simpliciter will lie on principle that a person has a right to protect his possession against any person who does not prove a better title. As an upshot, a person in wrongful possession is not entitled to an injunction against the rightful owner.
  2. Title of plaintiff is not disputed. However, he is not in possession. Here his remedy is to file a suit for possession and additionally, if necessary, seek injunction. This is because a person out of possession cannot seek relief of injunction simpliciter, without claiming possession.
  3. Plaintiff is in possession, but his title to the property is in dispute or under a cloud and there is a threat of dispossession. In this case, plaintiff will have to seek for declaration of title and consequential relief of injunction. Recourse to declaratory remedy removes such cloud over title.
  4. Plaintiff's title is disputed or under cloud and he is also not in possession. In such event the plaintiff will have to file for declaration, possession and injunction.

When cloud is caste over title
A suit for bare injunction may not be maintainable when title of the property of plaintiff is disputed by the defendant; in such situation the plaintiff is required to plead and prove title, while praying for injunction[2]. A cloud is said to arise over a person's title when there is some apparent defect in his title or when some prima facie right of a third party over it, is made out or shown. Mere denial of plaintiff's title by an interloper without an apparent title, would not give raise to a cloud over title[3]. In absence of serious cloud over plaintiff's title, the plaintiff cannot be forced to seek relief of declaration[4].

Effect of plea of adverse possession
Plea of adverse possession set up by defendant, which pre-supposes that the plaintiff was the owner, does not give raise to any dispute or casts any cloud on title[5].

When question of title can be determined in suit for bare injunction
Where there is clear pleading relating to title but the parties proceed with trial on that assertion and invite the court to frame issue regarding ownership and title and also produce evidence on said issue, the parties need not be relegated to remedy of comprehensive suit unless the matter involves complicated question of fact and law relating to title.[6]

Further, in case of a vacant land which is not physically possessed or enjoyed, the principle that possession follows title, applies. If two persons claim to be in possession of a vacant site, the one who is able to establish title thereto will be considered to be in possession. Therefore, even in a suit for bare injunction in relation to a vacant land, for determining the issue of possession, determination of title would be necessary. In such cases where title is clear and simple the court may decide issue of title in a suit for bare injunction. [7]

However, where the issue of title involves complicated or complex questions of fact and law or where the court feels that parties had not proceeded on the basis that title was an issue, the court should not decide the issue of title in a suit for bare injunction. In such case the plaintiff would be relegated to the remedy of full-fledged suit for declaration of title and consequential reliefs. [8]

When plaintiff need not seek possession
In a case where plaintiff claiming title pleads that since he was staying away from the property in question, but used to visit the same occasionally, the plaintiff is entitled to seek relief of mandatory injunction for demolishing the construction carried out by defendants illegally. In such case there is no necessity to seek relief of possession. Sporadic act of trespass by defendant in demolishing the existing structure and attempting to put up a new construction, cannot be treated as defendant's possession over such structures[9].

Consequential relief cannot be granted when plea of title rejected
When the main relief sought is for declaration and the prayer for injunction against defendant from interfering with possession is a consequential relief in the sense that claim to title was the basis to seek protection of possession, once the substantive relief of declaration of title is declined, the consequential relief of injunction must also fail[10].

When a decision in suit for title attracts res-judicata
A question arises where a finding as to title given in an earlier suit for bare injunction, can operate as res-judicata in a subsequent suit for title. In a suit for bare injunction where question of title was directly in issue in the pervious proceedings, the adverse findings against a party would be binding[11]. Where the title to a property is the basis for right of possession, a decision on question of possession is res-judicata on the question of title to the extent that adjudication of title was essential to the judgment.

In a case where the issue regarding title and ownership was directly put in issue and was a substantial issue adjudicated by court, though in a suit for bare injunction, and it did not involve complicated issue either on law or facts, the principles of constructive res-judicata would apply.[12] However, where in a suit for bare injunction the question of right of possession was only issue actually and necessarily involved, the judgment in suit for injunction is not conclusive on the question of ownership or title. In such case res-judicata will not apply[13].

While drawing up a suit seeking injunctive relief as regards an immovable property, the above principles may be borne in mind to avoid any complications including challenge as to maintainability.

  1. Anathula Sudhakar v. P. Buchi Reddy (2008) 4 SCC 594
  2. Tahsildar Urban Improvement Trust and another v. Gangubai Menariya 2024 SCC OnLine SC 169
  3. Anathula Sudhakar v. P. Buchi Reddy (2008) 4 SCC 594
  4. Muddasani Venkata Narasaiah v. Muddasani Sarojana (2016) 12 SCC 288
  5. K.M. Krishna Reddy v. Vinod Reddy (2023) 10 SCC 248) and Kurella Nagadruva Yudaya Bhaskara Rao v. Galla Jani Kamma (2008) 15 SCC 150
  6. Union of India v. Vijay Krishna Uniyal (2018) 11 SCC 382
  7. Anathula Sudhakar v. P. Buchi Reddy (2008) 4 SCC 594
  8. Anathula Sudhakar v. P. Buchi Reddy (2008) 4 SCC 594
  9. Vishram v. Sudesh Govekar (2017) 11 SCC 345
  10. Padhiyar Prahaldji Chenaji v. Maniben Jagmalbhai (2022) 12 SCC 128
  11. Lankappa and others v. Karnataka Industrial Corporation and others 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1187
  12. Union of India v. Vijay Krishna Uniyal (2018) 11 SCC 382
  13. Sajjadanashin Sayed Md B.E. Edr v. Musa Dadabhai Ummer (2000) 3 SCC 350

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