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Triple Test/ Three Pillars For Grant Of Temporary Injunction By Courts

It is common knowledge that plaintiffs, appellants, and petitioners apply for temporary/injunction/stay in courts but the courts are generally loathed in granting injunction although the law in this regard is well settled. The Apex Court has time & again propounded Triple Test Doctrine for the grant of temporary injunction- existence of Prima Facie Case, Balance of Convenience & Doctrine of Irreparable Injury but more importantly all these tenets must coexist together to enable the Courts to exercise their judicial discretion in favour of the applicant. These three cardinal principles are to be applied in a proper perspective looking to the particular facts and circumstances of a case before deciding the grant of temporary injunction.

It would be trite to refer to Apex Court's judgment in Shanti Kumar Panda v. Shakuntala Devi (2004) 1 SCC 438 wherein it was expressly held thus:

At the stage of passing an interlocutory order such as on an application for the grant of ad interim injunction under Rule 1 or 2 of Order 39 of the CPC, the competent Court shall have to form its opinion on the availability of a prima facie case, the balance of convenience and the irreparable injury - the three pillars on which rests the foundation of any order of injunction.

The cardinal principles for grant of temporary injunction were earlier spelt out by the Apex Court in landmark judgment of Dalpat Kumar vs. Prahlad Singh (1992) 1 SCC 719 wherein it was held thus:

"It is settled law that the grant of injunction is a discretionary relief. The exercise thereof is subject to the court satisfying that (1) there is a serious disputed question to be tried in the suit and that an act, on the facts before the court, there is probability of his being entitled to the relief asked for by the plaintiff/defendant; (2) the court's interference is necessary to protect the party from the species of injury. In other words, irreparable injury or damage would ensue before the legal right would be established at trial; and (3) that the comparative hardship or mischief or inconvenience which is likely to occur from withholding the injunction will be greater than that would be likely to arise from granting it."

The Apex Court in the case of Shiv Kumar Chadha Etc. Etc vs Municipal Corporation of Delhi 1993 SCC (3) 161 reiterated the said dictum and held thus:

"It has been pointed out repeatedly that a party is not entitled to an order of injunction as a matter of right or course. Grant of injunction is within the discretion of the Court and such discretion is to be exercised in favour of the plaintiff only if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court that unless the defendant is restrained by an order of injunction, an irreparable loss or damage will be caused to the plaintiff during the pendency of the suit.

The purpose of temporary injunction is, thus, to maintain the status quo. The Court grants such relief according to the legal principles--ex debite justitiae. Before any such order is passed the Court must be satisfied that a strong prima-facie case has been made out by the plaintiff including on the question of maintainability of the suit and the balance of convenience is in his favour and refusal of injunction would cause irreparable injury to him."

It would be apropos to refer to Apex Court judgment in Mandali Ranganna & Ors. Vs. T. Ramachandra & Ors., (2008) 11 SCC 1 wherein the said dictum has been reiterated. The Court held thus:
"While considering an application for grant of injunction, the court will not only take into consideration the basic elements in relation thereto viz. existence of a prima facie case, balance of convenience and irreparable injury, it must also take into consideration the conduct of the parties."

It would be relevant to refer to Seema Arshad Zaheer Vs. Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, (2006) 5 SCC 282 wherein the Apex Court observed thus:
"The discretion of the court is exercised to grant a temporary injunction only when the following requirements are made out by the plaintiff:
  1. Existence of a prima facie case as pleaded, necessitating protection of plaintiff's rights by issue of a temporary injunction;
  2. When the need for protection of plaintiff's rights is compared with or weighed against the need for protection of defendant's rights or likely infringement of defendant's rights, the balance of convenience tilting in favour of plaintiff; and
  3. Clear possibility of irreparable injury being caused to plaintiff if the temporary injunction is not granted. In addition, temporary injunction being an equitable relief, the discretion to grant such relief will be exercised only when the plaintiff's conduct is free from blame and he approaches the court with clean hands.

The Apex Court in the case of Gujarat Bottling Co. Ltd. Vs. Coca-Cola Co. AIR 1995 SC 2372 gave a landmark judgment as to the guidelines to be followed by the court while considering applications for granting a temporary injunction. The Court held thus:

The grant of an interlocutory injuction during the perdency of legal proceedings is a matter requiring the exercise of discretion of the court. While exercising the discretion the court applies the following tests:
  1. Whether the plaintiff has a prima facie case;
  2. Whether the balance of convenience is in favour of the plaintiff; and
  3. Whether the pliantiff would suffer an irreparable injury if his prayer for interlocutory injuction is disallowed.

The decision whether or not to grant an interlocutory injuction has to be taken at a time when the existence of the leagal right assailed by the plaintiff and its alleged violation are both contested and uncertain and its alleged violation are both contested and uncertain and remain uncertain till they are established at the trial on evidence.

Relief by way of interlocutory injuction is granted to mitigate the risk of injustice to the plaintiff during the period before that uncertainty could be resolved. The object of the interlocutory injuction is to protect the plaintiff against injury by violation of his right for which he could not be adequately compensated in damages recoverable in the action if the uncertainty were resolved in his favour at the trial.

The need for such protection has, however, to be weighed against the corresponding need of the defendant to be protected against injury resulting from his having been prevented from exercisising his own legal rights for which he could not be adequately compensated. The court must weigh one need against another and determine where the 'balance of convenience' lies. [see: Wander Ltd.& Anr. v,. Antox India P. Ltd., 1990 (supp) Scc 727 at pp. 731-32]. In order to protect the defendent while granting an interlocutory injuction in his favour the Court can require the plaintiff to furnish an undertaking so that the defendent can be adequately compensated if the uncertainty were resolved in his favour at the trial."

In M/s Transmission Corporation of A.P. Ltd. Versus M/s Lanco Kondapalli Power Pvt. Ltd. (2006) 1 SCC 540, the Apex Court reiterated the Triple Test before granting temporary injunction thus:
The interim direction ordinarily would precede finding of a prima facie case. When existence of a prima facie case is established, the court shall consider the other relevant factors, namely, balance of convenience and irreparable injuries.

The Apex Court in M. Gurudas & Ors vs Rasaranjan & Ors AIR 2006 SC 3275 restated the principle of Triple Test for grant of temporary injunction and observed thus:
While considering an application for injunction, it is well-settled, the courts would pass an order thereupon having regard to:
  1. Prima facie
  2. Balance of convenience
  3. Irreparable injury.

A finding on 'prima facie case' would be a finding of fact. However, while arriving at such finding of fact, the court not only must arrive at a conclusion that a case for trial has been made out but also other factors requisite for grant of injunction exist.

However, it is pertinent that it may not be appropriate for any court to hold a mini trial at the stage of grant of temporary injunction as held by the Apex Court in S.M. Dyechem Ltd. Vs. M/s. Cadbury (India) Ltd., AIR 2000 SC 2114.

Let us deal with the aforesaid three tests/tenets elaborately with reference to the declaration of law in this regard by the Apex Court.

Prima Facie Case:
The expression 'Prima facie' is a Latin expression meaning at first sight or based on first impression or on the face of it. Prima facie means that evidence brought on record would reasonably allow the conclusion that the plaintiff seeks. The term prima facie is used in modern law to signify that upon initial examination, sufficient corroborating evidence appears to exist to support a case. In common law, a reference to prima facie evidence denotes evidence that, unless rebutted would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact.

The Washington State Supreme Court has defined prima facie case thus:
"A 'prima facie case' is one where the evidence is sufficient to justify, but not to compel, an inference of liability, or, in other words, evidence to be weighed, but not necessarily to be accepted by a jury or other trier of fact." Nopson v. City of Seattle, 33 Wn.2d 772, 812, 207 P.2d 674 (1949) (citing McCoy v. Courtney, 25 Wash.2d 956, 962, 172 P.2d 596, 600, 170 A.L.R. 603).

The Apex Court in Martin Burn Ltd. v. R.N. Banerjee 1958 SCR 514 explained the true connotation of 'Prima Facie Case' thus:
''A prima facie case does not mean a case proved to the hilt but a case which can be said to be established if the evidence which is led in support of the same were believed. While determining whether a prima facie case had been made out, the relevant consideration is whether on the evidence led it was possible to arrive at the conclusion in question and as to whether that was the only conclusion which could be arrived at on that evidence.''

The Apex Court in Gujarat Electricity Board, Gandhinagar v. Maheshkumar and Co., Ahmedabad 1995(5) SCC 545 elucidated the meaning of Prima Facie Case thus:
"Prima facie case" means that the Court should be satisfied that there is a serious question to be tried at the hearing, and there is a probability of Plaintiff obtaining the relief at the conclusion of the trial on the basis of the material placed before the Court. Prima facie case is a substantial question raised bona fide which needs investigation and a decision on merits. The Court, at the initial stage, cannot insist upon a full proof case warranting an eventual decree."

It is appropriate to refer to the Apex Court judgment in Dalpat Kumar vs. Prahlad Singh (supra) wherein it elucidated the necessity of 'Prima Facie Case' for grant of temporary injunction & observed thus:
"Therefore, the burden is on the plaintiff by evidence aliunde by affidavit or otherwise that there is "a prima facie case" in his favour which needs adjudication at the trial. The existence of the prima facie right and infraction of the enjoyment of his property or the right is a condition for the grant of temporary injunction.

Prima facie case is not to be confused with prima facie title which has to be established, on evidence at the trial. Only prima facie case is a substantial question raised, bona fide, which needs investigation and a decision on merits."

The first and foremost requisite for grant of temporary injunction is that Applicant/Plaintiff should make out a prima facie case in support of the right claimed by him. The burden to prove and satisfy the court lies on the applicant/plaintiff to file relevant documents & lead evidence to satisfy the Court that he has a prima facie case in his favour. The applicant/plaintiff has to approach the Court with clean hands and state all material facts truly else the discretionary relief of temporary injunction would not be granted to him.

Principle of Irreparable Injury:
The second condition is that the applicant would suffer 'Irreparable Injury' if the respondent is not injuncted. An irreparable injury is, in equity, "the type of harm which no monetary compensation can cure or put conditions back the way they were."

It would be relevant to refer to J & K High Court judgment dated 19 April, 2019 in Mr M. Ashraf Bhat vs Mr Z. A. Qureshi in OWP no.393/2019 IA no.01/2019 which explained the true connotation of the term 'irreparable injury' thus:

"The term 'irreparable injury' means injury which is substantial and could never be adequately remedied or atoned for by damages, injury which cannot possibly be repaired. It implies a substantial and continuous injury for which there does not exist any standard for ascertaining the actual damage likely to be caused. It is most apposite to mention here that irreparable injury, however, does not mean that there must be no physical possibility of repairing the injury, but means only that the injury must be a material one, that cannot be adequately remedied or compensated by way of damages.

[Vide: Subodli Gopal Bose v. Province of Bihar AIR 1950 Pat 222; Raju Maheshwar Dayal Sseth v. Yuvraj Dutta Singh AIR 1946 Oudh 42; Doherty v. Allman (1878) 3 App Cas 709; Subba v. Haji Badsha (1903) ILR 26 Mad 168, 175; Firm Ram Kishun Shah Itwari Sahu v. Jamuna Prasad AIR 1951 Pat 469; Israil v. Shamser (1914) ILR 41 Cal 436, 442- 43, 21 IC 861; Nanabhai v. Janardhan (1888) ILR 12 Boim 110; Hemanta v. Baranagore (1914) 19 CWN 442, 24 IC 313; Civil IA no.01/2019 Station Sub-Committee, Nagpur v. Govindrao 1937 ILR Nag 33, 170 (C 239, AIR 1937 Nag 137; LD Meston Society v. Kashi Nath Misra AIR 1951 All 558; Sitaram Banwari Lal AIR 1972 Cal 105]."

It is appropriate to refer to the Apex Court judgment in Dalpat Kumar vs. Prahlad Singh (supra) wherein it elucidated the 'Doctrine of Irreparable Injury' and it's necessity besides existence of 'Prima Facie Case' & observed thus:
"Satisfaction that there is a prima facie case by itself is not sufficient to grant injunction. The Court further has to satisfy that non-interference by the Court would result in "irreparable injury" to the party seeking relief and that there is no other remedy available to the party except one to grant injunction and he needs protection from the consequences

of apprehended injury or dispossession. Irreparable injury, however, does not mean that there must be no physical possibility of repairing the injury, but means only that the injury must be a material one, namely one that cannot be adequately compensated by way of damages."

Thus, the Court while granting or refusing to grant injunction should exercise sound judicial discretion to find the amount of substantial mischief or injury which is likely to be caused to the parties, if the injunction is refused and compare it with that it is likely to be caused to the other side if the injunction is granted. If on weighing competing possibilities or probabilities of likelihood of injury and if the Court considers that pending the suit, the subject-matter should be maintained in status quo, an injunction would be issued. Thus the Court has to exercise its sound judicial discretion in granting or refusing the relief of ad interim injunction pending the suit.

The applicant is required to satisfy the court that he will suffer irreparable injury if injunction is not granted. The Court is obligated to grant injunction only if it is satisfied that the Plaintiff/Applicant needs to be protected from the consequences of apprehended injury. The expression irreparable injury however does not mean that there should be no possibility of repairing the injury. It implies an injury which cannot be adequately compensated by damages.

In Best Sellers Retail India (P) Ltd. vs. Aditya Nirla Nuvo Ltd. (2012 ) 6 SCC 792, the Apex Court held that only prima facie case alone is not sufficient to grant injunction and the Court held thus:
"Yet, the settled principle of law is that even where prima facie case is in favour of the plaintiff, the Court will refuse temporary injunction if the injury suffered by the plaintiff on account of refusal of temporary injunction was not irreparable."

Balance of Convenience:
The Applicant is required to prove in application for grant of temporary injunction that there is the balance of convenience is in favour of the applicant i.e. the comparative mischief, hardship or inconvenience which is likely to be caused to the Applicant if the injunction is being refused. The balance of convenience comes into the picture when there is doubt as to the adequate remedies in damages available to either party or both.

Balance of convenience does not imply that the balance would be on one side and not in favour of the other. The Court must assess balance between the parties and take into consideration whether withholding the injunction will be greater than that which is likely to arise from granting it. In applying this principle, the Court has to consider the amount of substantial mischief that is likely to be done to the applicant if the injunction is refused and compare it with that which is likely to be caused to the other side if the injunction is granted.

The Apex Court in Dalpat Kumar Versus v. Prahlad Singh (supra) discussed the legal connotation of the term 'Balance of Convenience' and held thus:
The third condition also is that:
"the balance of convenience" must be in favour of granting injunction. The Court while granting or refusing to grant injunction should exercise sound judicial discretion to find the amount of substantial mischief or injury which is likely to be caused to the parties, if the injunction is refused and compare it with that it is likely to be caused to the other side if the injunction is granted.

If on weighing competing possibilities or probabilities of likelihood of injury and if the Court considers that pending the suit, the subject-matter should be maintained in status quo, an injunction would be issued. Thus the Court has to exercise its sound judicial discretion in granting or refusing the relief of ad interim injunction pending the suit.

U.P. Avas Evam Vikash Parishad vs. N.V. Rajgopalan Acharya, AIR 1989 All 125 (DB)

(iii) Maria Margarida Sequeira Fernandes vs. Erasmo Jack De Sequeira, (2012) 5 SCC 370

Coexistence of all 3 pillars- the bigger question:
Prima Facie case, balance of convenience and the irreparable injury are the three pillars on which rests the foundation of any order of injunction.' In Colgate Palmolive (India) Ltd. Vs. Hindustan Lever Ltd., AIR 1999 SC 3105, the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed that the other considerations which ought to weigh with the Court hearing the application or petition for the grant of injunctions are as below:
  1. Extent of damages being an adequate remedy;
  2. Protect the plaintiff's interest for violation of his rights though however having regard to the injury that may be suffered by the defendants by reason therefor;
  3. The court while dealing with the matter ought not to ignore the factum of strength of one party's case being stronger than the others;
  4. No fixed rules or notions ought to be had in the matter of grant of injunction but on the facts and circumstances of each case- the relief being kept flexible;
  5. The issue is to be looked from the point of view as to whether on refusal of the injunction the plaintiff would suffer irreparable loss and injury keeping in view the strength of the parties' case;
  6. Balance of convenience or inconvenience ought to be considered as an important requirement even if there is a serious question or prima facie case in support of the grant;
  7. Whether the grant or refusal of injunction will adversely affect the interest of general public which can or cannot be compensated otherwise.

Mere making out a prima facie case by party not enough for grant of temporary injunction. It must be shown that the injury suffered by the plaintiff in case of refusal of temporary injunction would be irreparable. The Apex Court in Best Sellers Retail India Private Limited vs. Aditya Birla Nuvo Limited, AIR 2012 SC 2448 and the Allahabad High Court in Moradabad Development Authority vs. Sai Sidhi Developers, AIR 2019 All 196 has categorically upheld this view.

In Kashi Math Samsthan vs. Shrimad Sudhindra Thirtha Swamy, AIR 2010 SC 296, the Apex Court held that no interim injunction in the absence of prima facie case even if the other requirements are fulfilled Interim injunction u/o 39, rules 1 & 2 CPC cannot be granted when the party is unable to prove prima facie case in his favour even if such party makes out a case of balance of convenience and irreparable injury. The Court categorically held thus:

13. It is well settled that in order to obtain an order of injunction, the party who seeks for grant of such injunction has to prove that he has made out a prima facie case to go for trial, the balance of convenience is also in his favour and he will suffer irreparable loss and injury if injunction is not granted. But it is equally well settled that when a party fails to prove prima facie case to go for trial, question of considering the balance of convenience or irreparable loss and injury to the party concerned would not be material at all, that is to say, if that party fails to prove prima facie case to go for trial, it is not open to the Court to grant injunction in his favour even if, he has made out a case of balance of convenience being in his favour and would suffer irreparable loss and injury if no injunction order is granted.

In Sri Gowrishankara Swamigalu vs Sri Siddhaganga Mutt ILR 1989 KAR 1701, 1989 (2) KarLJ 548, the Karnataka High Court dealt with the co- existence of all the three pillars for grant of temporary injunction. The Court held thus:
25. I need hardly add the existence of a prima facie case in these matters of granting injunction is really the harbinger or the all clear sign to go ahead in investigating other aspects of the question governing the grant or refusal of injunction.

If there was no prima facie case at all or the case put forward was so weak and tainted having very little prospect of being accepted by the Court, further questions of balance of convenience and irreparable loss need not be considered since the plaintiff would fall at the very first stile itself. But if there was a prima facie case then other considerations governing the grant of injunction would come into play and will also have to be evaluated before granting or refusing the injunction.

26. In other words the existence of a prima facie case or even a very strong prima facie case does not permit leap-frogging by the plaintiff directly to an injunction without crossing the other hurdles in between......

It is in that context this Court in L.I.C. v. Bangalore L.I.C.E.H.C.S. Ltd. made the following statement at para 24:

The preventive remedy of injunction is thus granted as an instant antidote to stop or prevent the invasion of the plaintiff's rights in regard to which a complaint is made. The Court having regard to the expediency involved should not embark upon a nit-picking operation at that stage by holding a mini trial to lay thread-bare the case of the plaintiff to find out if a prima facie case is made out or not. It would be sufficient if the Court is assured that questions raised by the plaintiff are not vexatious or too casual, but are such as to merit serious consideration at a subsequent stage.

There is overwhelming authority- for the proposition that mere existence of a prima facie case or a very strong prima facie case does not ipso facto justify the grant of an injunction (See in this connection J. Krishnamoorthy v. Bangalore Turf Club ILR (Kar) 1975, 1957 and National Advertisers v. M.S.R.T.C 1963(2) Mys.L.J. 356.) Therefore even granting that the plaintiff has an invincible prima facie case, he will not be entitled ex debitiae justiciae, to the grant of an injunction unmindful of other consequences. If the consequences of granting an injunction are detrimental in nature then an injunction will not be granted even though the plaintiff might have an unbeatable prima facie case.''

It is no more Res Integra that when all the above three conditions/factors/tests/pillars exist simultaneously, the Court would be under a bounden duty to grant temporary injunction to meet the ends of justice. When even one of the aforesaid tests are not met out, the Court would not be legally justified in granting temporary injunction.

Written By: Inder Chand Jain
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 8279945021

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