In Perpetual Injunction For Title Claim Where Defendant Is Claiming Title By Adverse Possession, Plaintiff Need Not Seek Ownership Declaration: SC
The Supreme Court held that in a suit simpliciter for a perpetual injunction based on title if the defendant pleads perfection of his title by adverse possession, it cannot be said that there is any dispute about the title of the plaintiff and therefore seeking a declaration of ownership is not necessary.
The Court partly allowed an Appeal filed against the judgment of the High Court wherein the Court set aside the decree passed by the First Appellate Court. The First Appellate Court overturned the dismissal decree of the Trial Court for the suit for declaration of ownership.
The Bench comprising Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal noted, “When in a suit simpliciter for a perpetual injunction based on title, the defendant pleads perfection of his title by adverse possession against the plaintiff or his predecessor, it cannot be said that there is any dispute about the title of the plaintiff. Hence, the plaintiff need not claim a declaration of title in such a case as the only issues involved in such a suit are whether the plaintiff has proved that he was in possession on the date of the institution of the suit and whether the defendant has proved that he has perfected his title by adverse possession. Therefore, in the case at hand, it was not necessary for the appellant to claim a declaration of ownership. There was no cloud on his title. Therefore, the suit, as originally filed, was maintainable”.
Advocate Rohan Dewan appeared for the Appellant, and Advocate Shakun Sharma appeared for the Respondent.
The Appellant filed a suit for perpetual injunction regarding an immovable property, claiming that he had exclusive possession of the property after a settlement was reached between him and his brother. The Respondent contended that the property had been in the possession of the Respondent and his family since 1978. The Appellant applied to amend the complaint to seek a declaration of ownership and possession, which the Trial Court granted. However, the Respondent filed a counterclaim, arguing that the amendment would not improve the Appellant's claim. The Trial Court dismissed the suit and decreed a counterclaim. However, the District Court intervened and decreed the suit filed by the Appellant. The Respondents appealed the decision to the High Court, which held that the amendment incorporating the prayer for declaration was barred by limitation and would not relate to the date of the original suit.
A Civil Appeal was filed by the Original Plaintiff (Appellant) challenging the judgment of the High Court, wherein the Court set aside the decree passed by the First Appellate Court. The Appellant contended that the Respondent had no title or right to interfere with his possession of the property.
The Court ascertained the issues: “whether it was necessary for the Appellant to claim a declaration of title?”
The Court referred to the case of Anathula Sudhakar v P. Buchi Reddy (dead) by Lrs. and Others [(2008) 4 SCC 594] and observed that there was no contention concerning the property's title. The Court held that when in a suit simpliciter for a perpetual injunction based on title, the defendant pleads perfection of his title by adverse possession, it cannot be said that there is any dispute about the title of the plaintiff. Therefore, the Bench held the Appellant doesn't need to claim a declaration of ownership. Thus, the suit, as originally filed, was maintainable.
The Bench noted, “There were two substantial questions of law framed by the High Court, which read thus:- “1. Whether the appellate court was justified in reversing the judgment and decree passed by the trial court without considering the aspect of limitation? 2. Whether in the facts and circumstances of the case of appellate court was justified in reversing the judgment and decree passed by the trial court based on Exbhit P-1?”
The Court observed that the High Court decided only on one issue that did not survive and would have to decide on the other issues. The Court affirmed the High Court's views that the amendment in plain was barred by limitation, considering the cause of action date and date of applying for amendment. However, the second issue framed by the High Court was not a substantial question of law.
Therefore, the Court remanded the case to the regular second appeal to the High Court by framing additional substantial questions of law under Subsection 5 Section 100 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
Accordingly, the Court partly allowed the Appeal, set aside the impugned judgment, and restored the Second Appeal.
Cause Title: KM Krishna Reddy v. Vinod Reddy and Anr (2023 INSC 877)