Once Suit Is Barred By Limitation Qua Declaratory Relief, Consequential Relief Can Also Be Said To Be Barred By Limitation: SC
A two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice MR Shah and Justice BV Nagarathna has held that "It is true that under normal circumstances, the relief of permanent injunction sought is a substantive relief and the period of limitation would commence from the date on which the possession is sought to be disturbed so long as the interference in possession continuous. However, in the case of a consequential relief, when the substantive relief of declaration is held to be barred by limitation, the said principle shall not be applicable."
Mr. Pallav Shishodia, Senior Advocate appeared on behalf of defendant no. 1 while Mr. Rauf Rahim, Advocate appeared on behalf of the plaintiff.
In appeal, before the Apex Court, was the judgment of the Gujarat High Court that dismissed the second appeal and confirmed the judgment and decree of the Trial Court that was confirmed by the First Appellate Court (FAC) that granted an injunction in favor of the plaintiff restraining the defendant from disturbing the possession of the plaintiff. Hence, the instant appeal.
The husband of the plaintiff had executed a sale deed in favor of the defendant by which he sold his agricultural land in question. The name of defendant no. 1 was mutated in the revenue record. Defendants argued that thereafter they authorized and completed construction projects on the land. Defendant also availed a bank loan where the suit property was given as collateral security.
The husband of the original plaintiff died in 1999. After a period of 22 years, the original plaintiff instituted a civil suit for cancellation of the registered sale deed and permanent injunction.
The case set up was that husband was addicted to liquor and as a family was in need of finances, the husband decided to sell 1 acre out of 6 acres and 16 gunthas to defendant no. 1, and defendant no. 1 fraudulently got the sale deed registered for the entire suit property.
On appreciation of evidence, both oral as well as documentary, the trial court partly allowed the suit. The trial court declined to grant the relief of cancellation of the sale deed and declaration and held that defendant No.1 purchased the entire 6 acres and 15 gunthas of the land under the registered Sale Deed dated 17.06.1975. However, the trial court believed the plaintiff to be in possession of the suit land to the extent of 5 acres and 15 gunthas of land and accordingly granted the relief of permanent injunction.
A first appeal was preferred which was dismissed. The judgment of the trial court refusing to grant a decree of cancellation attained finality. Defendant no. 1 preferred a second appeal. The High Court dismissed the second appeal and held that the relief of permanent injunction sought by the original plaintiff can be said to be substantive relief and not a consequential relief and therefore, the trial court was justified in granting the permanent injunction in favor of the plaintiff as the plaintiff was/is found to be in possession of 5 acres and 15 gunthas of land out of total area ad-measuring 6 acres and 15 gunthas.
Hence, the instant appeal.
The Court culled out the question for its consideration as follows:
Therefore, the short question, which is posed for the consideration of this Court is, whether, in a case where the plaintiff has lost so far as the title is concerned and the defendant against whom the permanent injunction is sought is the true owner of the land, whether the plaintiff is entitled to a relief of permanent injunction against the true owner, more particularly, when the plaintiff has lost so far as the title is concerned and can thereafter the plaintiff be permitted to contend that despite the fact that the plaintiff has lost so far as the title is concerned, her possession be protected by way of injunction and that the true owner has to file a substantive suit claiming the possession.
The Court noted that "after the execution of the registered sale deed in favour of defendant No.1, which has been believed by all the courts below, the name of defendant No.1 was mutated in the Revenue record as an owner and cultivator and the plaintiff, who claims to be in possession of the land and cultivating the same, is deemed to have the knowledge of the said entry."
The Court noted that once a suit is held to be barred by limitation qua declaratory relief and when the relief for permanent injunction was a consequential relief, the prayer for permanent injunction can also be barred by limitation.
The Court noted that even on merits, the Courts below erred in passing the decree of a permanent injunction. The Court noted that once the dispute with respect to the title is settled and it is held against the plaintiff, the suit for permanent injunction shall not be maintainable against the true owner.
The Court made the following crucial observations:
"In the present case, once the defendant No.1 was held to be the true and absolute owner pursuant to the registered sale deed executed in his favour and the plaintiff was unsuccessful so far as the declaratory relief is concerned, thereafter, it cannot be said that there was a cloud over the title of the plaintiff and/or even the defendant. Therefore, the only relief which survived before the trial court was the consideration of relief of permanent injunction and having been unsuccessful in getting the relief of cancellation of the registered sale deed and the declaration thereof, the relief of permanent injunction could not have been granted by the trial court as well as by the first Appellate Court. This aspect of the case has been lost sight of by the High Court in the second appeal."
The Court noted that the courts below have erred in granting a permanent injunction against defendant no. 1 who is the true owner after having held that the plaintiff had no title.
Hence, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned judgments.