Explained| Is a suit for injunction maintainable where the plaintiff’s title is in dispute?

Supreme Court: The bench of L. Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai, JJ has, in two judgments, has held that where the plaintiff’s title is not in dispute or under a cloud, a suit for injunction could be decided with reference to the finding on possession.

“… if the matter involves complicated questions of fact and law relating to title, the court will relegate the parties to the remedy by way of comprehensive suit for declaration of title, instead of deciding the issue in a suit for mere injunction.”

While where there are necessary pleadings regarding title and appropriate issue relating to title on which parties lead evidence, if the matter involved is simple and straightforward, the court may decide upon the issue regarding title, even in a suit for injunction; such cases are the exception to the normal rule that question of title will not be decided in suits for injunction.

Below are two important rulings on the issue suits for prohibitory injunction relating to immovable property

Anathula Sudhakar v. P. Buchi Reddy, (2008) 4 SCC 594

(a) Where a cloud is raised over the plaintiff’s title and he does not have possession, a suit for declaration and possession, with or without a consequential injunction, is the remedy. Where the plaintiff’s title is not in dispute or under a cloud, but he is out of possession, he has to sue for possession with a consequential injunction. Where there is merely an interference with the plaintiff’s lawful possession or threat of dispossession, it is sufficient to sue for an injunction simpliciter.

(b) As a suit for injunction simpliciter is concerned only with possession, normally the issue of title will not be directly and substantially in issue. The prayer for injunction will be decided with reference to the   finding   on   possession.   But   in   cases where de jure possession has to be established on the basis of title to the property, as in the case of vacant sites, the issue of title may directly and substantially arise for consideration, as without a finding thereon, it will not be possible to decide the issue of possession.

(c) But a finding on title cannot be recorded in a suit for injunction, unless there are necessary pleadings and appropriate issue regarding title. Where the averments regarding title are absent in a plaint and where there is no issue relating to title, the court will not investigate or examine or render a finding on a question of title, in a suit for injunction. Even where there are necessary pleadings and issue, if the matter involves complicated questions of fact and law relating to title, the court will relegate the parties to the remedy by way of comprehensive suit for declaration of title, instead of deciding the issue in a suit for mere injunction.

(d) Where there are necessary pleadings regarding title, and appropriate issue relating to title on which parties lead evidence, if the matter involved is simple and straightforward, the court may decide upon the issue regarding title, even in a suit for injunction. But such cases, are the exception to the normal rule that question of title will not be decided in suits for injunction. But persons having clear title and possession suing for injunction, should not be driven to the costlier and more cumbersome remedy of a suit for declaration, merely because some meddler vexatiously or wrongfully makes a claim or tries to encroach upon his property. The court should use its discretion carefully to identify cases where it will enquire into title and cases where it will refer to the plaintiff to a more comprehensive declaratory suit, depending upon the facts of the case.

Jharkhand State Housing Board v. Didar Singh, (2019) 17 SCC 692

“11. It is well settled by catena of judgments of this Court   that   in   each   and   every   case   where   the defendant disputes the title of the plaintiff it is not necessary that in all those cases plaintiff has to seek the relief of declaration. A suit for mere injunction does not lie only when the defendant raises a genuine dispute with regard to title and when he raises a cloud over the title of the plaintiff, then necessarily in those circumstances, plaintiff cannot maintain a suit for bare injunction.”

[KAYALULLA PARAMBATH MOIDU  HAJI v. NAMBOODIYIL VINODAN, CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 5575­5576 OF 2021 and T.V. RAMAKRISHNA REDDY v. M. MALLAPPA, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 675, decided on 07.09.2021]


*Judgments by: Justice BR Gavai

Know Thy Judge| Justice B.R. Gavai

Appearance in first case:

For appellant/plaintiffs: Senior Advocate P.N. Ravindran

For Respondent/Defendant: Senior Advocate V. Chitambaresh

Appearance in second case:

For appellant/plaintiffs: Senior Advocate Ajit Bhasme

For BDA: Advocate S.K. Kulkarni

For respondent: Senior Advocate Basava Prabhu S. Patil

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