A two judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising L. Nageswara Rao and B.R.
Gavai, J.J. dismissed an appeal of the plaintiff-appellant against an order of
the High Court of Karnataka, which held that suit simpliciter for permanent
injunction without claiming declaration of title, as filed by the plaintiff, was
not maintainable. The plaintiff-appellant had prayed for perpetual injunction
against the interference with the peaceful possession of his property, the title
of which was disputed by the Bangalore Development Authority (respondent no. 2).
For a second time in T.V. Ramakrishna Reddy Vs. M. Mallappa & Anr
Supreme Court has reiterated that suit for permanent injunction simpliciter
shall not be maintainable if the title of the suit property is in dispute or
under a cloud.
Before this, in Anathula Sudhakar v. P. Buchi Reddy (dead) by
L.Rs. and others
[ii], the Apex Court had decided that when plaintiff is
dispossessed of his property, suit for injunction simpliciter shall succeed only
if the title of the plaintiff is not disputed. In case the title of suit
property is in dispute, the plaintiff shall have to resort to the remedy of
filing a suit for declaration of title. Only then, shall the suit for injunction
be decided, once the title has been crystallized.
Need for a declaration before grant of Permanent Injunction
When someone approaches the Court for a permanent injunction against a squatter
disturbing peaceful possession and enjoyment of their property, a very
fundamental premise on which such relief is granted is that the Defendant is
disturbing the peaceful possession of the Plaintiff who holds title to the
property. However, if the defendant is actually claiming to be owner/ sharer of
the property, title
becomes a fact in issue.
It then becomes necessary to
ascertain who the actual owner of the property is. The Plaintiff, who seeks
injunction, must prove better title than the person who is allegedly interfering
with the possession.[iii] Granting an injunction against the rightful title
holder would be grave miscarriage of justice. Therefore, the issue of title,
whenever disputed in a suit for injunction, must be settled on higher priority,
because the fate of the suit for injunction heavily relies on its outcome.
Does this mean additional harassment for the plaintiff?
For an already woebegone plaintiff coming to the court with a suit for mandatory
injunction against trespassers on their property, the judgement seems to extend
their woes. The defendant could possibly have no better title, but raise a
dispute as to the Plaintiff's title with an ulterior motive of prolonging
litigation or harassing the rightful owner. Not only must the plaintiff now pray
for an injunction, but also for declaration of their title to the suit property.
However, the problem is not lost on the Apex Court. Taking note of the
possibility of potential harassment to the plaintiff, the Supreme Court in
various judgements seems to have acknowledged that a mere aspersion as to the
title of the plaintiff would not do. The dispute as to the title of the
plaintiff shall arise only if there lies a serious defect in their title. The
court observes in Anathula Sudhakar (supra):
A cloud is said to raise over a person's title, when some apparent defect
in his title to a property, or when some prima facie right of a third party over
it, is made out or shown. An action for declaration is the remedy to remove the
cloud on the title to the property. On the other hand, where the plaintiff has
clear title supported by documents, if a trespasser without any claim to title
or an interloper without any apparent title, merely denies the plaintiff's
title, it does not amount to raising a cloud over the title of the plaintiff and
it will not be necessary for the plaintiff to sue for declaration and a suit for
injunction may be sufficient.
Also in numerous judgements including Union of India (UOI) and Ors. Vs. Vasavi
Co-op. Housing Society Ltd. and Ors.
[iv] , the court has observed that merely
disputing or disproving the plaintiff's title to the suit property would not be
enough for the defendant to dispossess the plaintiff. Each party shall have to
prove better title than the other to resist dispossession, and one could
succeed only on the strength of their own title and not on the weakness of the
case of the (opposite party)[v]. Thus, it is only fair that if a dispute as to
the title property arises, it be settled before a permanent injunction may be
granted, so as to avoid miscarriage of justice.
Hitting the road after a bumpy ride
The judgement in T.V. Ramakrishna Reddy (supra)
is a welcome one, after the
settled law of Anathula Sudhakar (supra) (2019) was disturbed by the decision
in A.Subramanian vs R.Pannerselvam[vi] on 08.02.2021, by way of a decree of an
injunction simpliciter without prayer for declaration of title, despite title
being in dispute.
The court while acknowledging the above cited precedents,
agreed with the decision of the Madras High Court in evaluating that they were
not applicable in the case in question:
The High Court has rightly observed that a bare perusal of the plaint would
demonstrate that the plaintiff has not narrated anything about the title dispute
obviously because of the fact that in the previous litigation, DW1 failed to
obtain any relief.
The High court has rightly observed that the principle that plaintiff cannot
seek for a bare permanent injunction without seeking a prayer for declaration is
not applicable to the facts of the present case… 25. There cannot be any dispute
to the proposition laid down by this Court in the above cases. But coming to the
facts in the present case the present suit giving rise to this appeal, was not a
suit for declaration of title and possession rather the suit was filed for
Such a position would have upset the law settled in Anathula Sudhakar (supra) if
not for the coming of T.V. Ramakrishna Reddy (supra), which finally settles that
whenever title is disputed, suit for injunction must be accompanied by a prayer
for declaration of title.
Revenue records not proof of title
In addition to the issue of injunction and declaration of title, the Supreme
Court also reiterated the position of revenue records (Records of
Rights/ jamabandis) as proof of title to suit property. It is no more res
integra that revenue records are no proof of title, but are mere statements for
revenue purpose. They cannot confer any right or title on the party relying on
them for proving their title. Mutation entry in the revenue records does not
create or extinguish title over the land, nor such entry has any presumptive
value on the title of such land[vii].
This leaves the sale deed of the suit
property as the only remaining proof of title. Even a certified copy of the sale
deed can be adduced as evidence to prove title if the original deed is not
recoverable, and it does even not require to be proved by calling a witness.[viii]
This comes after allegations in numerous cases of revenue records being tampered
with or entries in the Corporate Registers being made by fraud,
misrepresentation or suppression of facts or by furnishing false, incorrect and
incomplete material. Thus, it is settled now that entries on revenue records
neither create nor extinguish title in property.
Therefore, whenever title is disputed, the plaintiff coming to court for a
mandatory injunction against the defendant must also pray for declaration of
title. If the plaint has been filed, and title is disputed later, plaint should
be amended to include the necessary prayer for declaration, subject to the
provisions of Order VI, Rule 17 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
Written By: Rini Mehra
- T.V. Ramakrishna Reddy v. M. Mallappa & Anr, (2021) LL SC 423
- Anathula Sudhakar v. P. Buchi Reddy (dead) by L.Rs. and others (2008) 4 SCC
- Shanti Bai v. Narbada and Ors. (2019) SCC All 4627
- Union of India (UOI) and Ors. v. Vasavi Co-op. Housing Society Ltd. and
Ors. (2014) 2 SCC 269
- Jagdish Prasad Patel (dead) through L.R. and Anr. v. Shivnath (2019) 6 SCC
- A.Subramanian vs R.Pannerselvam (2021) LL SC 71
- Bhimabai Mahadeo Kambekar (D) through L.R. v. Arthur Import and Export
Company and Ors. (2019) SCC SC 99
- Ramappa v. Bojappa, (1963) AIR S.C. 1633