Rule That Final Relief Cannot Be Granted At Interlocutory Stage Is Not An Absolute Principle

It is well settled general proposition of law that mandatory injunction at the interlocutory stage should not normally be granted which has the effect of granting the final relief. The law has been laid down in catena of cases. However, there is no such mandate by any law that in all circumstances such a relief at an interlocutory stage had to be refused. Thus, general proposition of law is not an absolute principle of law. Needless to say that it is only under exceptional circumstances such a relief at interlocutory stage can be granted by the courts. Before understanding such exceptional circumstances elucidated by the courts, it is imperative to understand as such what the relief of interlocutory mandatory injunctions is?

In one of the earliest cases in Rasul Karim and another versus Pirubhai Amirbhai, reported as ILR 1914 38 Bom. 381, Justice Beaman was of the view that the Courts in India have no power to issue a temporary injunction in a mandatory form but Justice Shah who constituted a Bench in that case did not agree with Justice Beaman. However, in a later Division Bench judgment in Champsey Bhimji & Co. versus The Jamna Flour Mills Co. Ltd., reported as ILR 1914 16 Bom. 566, two Judges of the Bombay High Court took a different view from Justice Beaman and this view is now the prevailing view. While accepting that it is not possible to say that in no circumstances will the Courts in India have any jurisdiction to issue an ad-interim injunction of a mandatory character, in Nandan Pictures Ltd. v. Art Pictures Ltd. & Ors., AIR 1956 Cal. 428 a Division Bench of the High court was of the view that if the mandatory injunction is granted at all on an interlocutory application it is granted only to restore the status quo and not granted to establish a new state of things differing from the state which existed at the date when the suit was instituted. Therefore, the Interlocutory Mandatory injunctions are generally granted to preserve or restore the status quo of the last non-contested status which preceded the pending controversy until the final hearing when full relief may be granted i.e. a direction to restore the status quo anterior to the institution of suit or to compel the undoing of those acts that have been illegally done or the restoration of that which was wrongfully taken from the party complaining.

Generally speaking, the primary dilemma about the grant of interlocutory injunctions, whether Prohibitory or Mandatory, is that there is by definition a risk that the court may make the ‘wrong’ decision, in the sense of granting an injunction to a party who fails to establish his right at the trial (or would fail if there was a trial) or alternatively, in failing to grant an injunction to a party who succeeds (or would succeed) at trial. Therefore, the courts have evolved a fundamental principle that usually the Court take whichever course appears to carry the lower risk of injustice if it should turn out to have been wrong. Thus, where it appears to the court that the case is one in which withholding a mandatory interlocutory injunction would in fact carry a greater risk of injustice than granting it even though the court does not feel a ‘high degree of assurance’ about the Plaintiff’s chances of establishing his right, there cannot be any rational basis for withholding the injunction. (Observation of lord Justice Hoffmann in Films Rover International Ltd.. & Ors. v. Cannon Film Sales Ltd and quoted with approval by Hon’ble Supreme Court in Dorab Cawasji Warden v. Coomi Sorab Warden & Ors reported as 1990 AIR 867).

Therefore, the courts in India have powers to grant relief of interlocutory mandatory injunctions under exceptional circumstances keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the cases and also generally to preserve or restore the status quo of the last non-contested status which preceded the pending controversy until the final hearing when full relief may be granted. But since the granting of such an injunction to a party who fails or would fail to establish his right at the trial may cause great injustice or irreparable harm to the party against whom it was granted or alternatively not granting of it to a party who succeeds or would succeed may equally cause great injustice or irreparable harm, courts have evolved certain guidelines to be followed while deciding the grant of interlocutory mandatory injunction. Generally stated these guidelines are:

  1. The Plaintiff has a strong case for trial. That is, it shall be of a higher standard than a Prima facie case that is normally
  2. required for a Prohibitory injunction.
  3. It is necessary to prevent irreparable or serious injury which normally cannot be compensated in terms of money.
  4. The balance of convenience is in favour of the one seeking such relief.

Apropos, being essentially an equitable relief the grant or refusal of an interlocutory mandatory injunction shall ultimately rest in the sound judicial discretion of the Court to be exercised in the light of the facts and circumstances in each case. Few of the judicial instances under which the Courts have resorted to grant mandatory injunction at interlocutory stage and have hence granted the final relief itself in the prayer are discussed below:

  1. Deoraj v. State of Maharashtra reported as AIR 2004 SC 1975

The Petitioner filed the writ Petition for seeking quashing of the Order passed by the Telsildar-cum-Returning officer and for seeking a command to complete the election programme as scheduled by resuming the same from the stage at which it had stopped. The Petitioner had also sought interim relief to the effect that he be declared as duly elected Chairman of the Sangh. While granting the interim relief in Writ Petition the Court observed that the situations may emerge where the granting of an interim relief would tantamount to granting the final relief itself and then there may be converse cases where withholding of an interim relief would tantamount to dismissal of main Petition itself or for by the time the main matter comes up for hearing there would be nothing left to be allowed as relief to the Petitioner though all the findings may be in his favour. Considering and being fully satisfied that a foolproof case for the grant of interim relief was made out in favour of the Petitioner in the High Court on the basis of the material available before the Court, the Court granted the relief at the interlocutory stage.

  1. Dorab Cawasji Warden v. Coomi Sorab Warden & Ors (supra)

The Appellant before the Supreme Court was original Plaintiff seeking interlocutory mandatory injunction to direct the Respondent No. 4 (i.e. subsequent purchaser) to vacate the suit property of which the Plaintiff was owner of an undivided half share. The Plaintiff had filed the suit on the ground that the suit property is a dwelling house belonging to an undivided family and there had not been any division of the said property at any point of time. Taking an objection of Section 44 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 the Plaintiff filed the suit for a decree of permanent injunction against the Defendants. Granting the relief of interlocutory mandatory injunction thereby directing the Respondent No. 4 (who had purchased the undivided share of other Respondents in suit property and had also shifted to the premises) to vacate the suit property, the Supreme Court observed that there is strong possibility of Plaintiff getting relief prayed for by him in the suit. The Hon’ble Court further held that the comparative mischief or inconvenience which is likely to issue from withholding the injunction will be greater than that which is likely to arise from granting it and hence the balance of convenience is in favour of the Plaintiff.

  1. Hammad Ahmed versus Abdul Majeed and others reported as 2019 (5) SCALE 698

In the present case it was argued before the Court that in an Application under Order XXXIX Rules 1 and 2 of the CPC, the Court cannot grant an interim mandatory relief resulting in creation of entirely new state of affairs which hitherto never existed. Rejecting the said argument the Court observed that the said rule is not general rule of universal application. The Court granted the interim mandatory injunction sought for by the Plaintiff thereby noting the balance of convenience in favour of the Plaintiff and directed the Defendants to handover the password of the domain name for discharging the duties of chief Mutawalli of Hamdard Laboratories (India) which was claimed by both of the parties.

  1. Sukerma Rani Kapoor versus Om Prakash Kapoor and Others reported as 2002IIAD(Delhi)860

In this case the dispute was between Plaintiff – mother and her son. The Plaintiff was the registered owner of the suit property and was receiving the rent from the property for the last 12 years. Granting the relief of interlocutory mandatory injunctions in the facts of the case, the Hon’ble Justice A.K. Sikri (as his lordship then was) directed the Defendant to vacate the suit property and restored the status quo ante i.e. restored the Plaintiff to the possession of the suit property at the interim stage.

  1. Vishal Gupta versus L and T Finance Limited decided on 09.09.2009 registered as C.S. (OS) 2309 of 2008 & I.A. 13399 of 2008

The Plaintiff filed the present case against his employer seeking declaration that the Plaintiff is entitled to a letter relieving him from the Defendant and for permanent mandatory injunction directing the Company to issue a relieving letter and other reliefs qua damages. While deciding an Application of interlocutory mandatory injunction seeking direction to the Defendant to issue the relieving letter and rejecting the objection of the Defendant that the relief of mandatory injunction being a main prayer cannot be granted at the stage of interim, the Hon’ble Court considered the fact that admittedly the Plaintiff was no longer in the services of the Defendant and held that the denial of a relieving letter by the Defendant in the case will prevent the Plaintiff from accepting the other offer of employment and cause irreparable injury to the Plaintiff. The Hon’ble Court issued the interlocutory mandatory injunction and granted the relief which was sought as final relief in the suit. Though the above case laws are only few of the instances where the courts have under the exceptional circumstances needing action granted interlocutory Mandatory Injunctions. Therefore, the rule that the final prayer cannot be granted at the interim stage is not absolute principle having universal application. All the more, when it is demanded by the justice, the law itself can be moulded to come to the aid of the aggrieved party.

Rule that final relief cannot be granted at interlocutory stage is not an absolute principle by Nisha Sharma

Relief of Mandatory injunction at interlocutory stage.

Article was 1st published on Mondaq