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Suit for injunction in respect of immovable property not abated on death of parties: Karnataka High court

According to the Karnataka High Court, in a suit relating to the grant of an injunction in respect of immovable property, the right to sue is not personal to the plaintiff but survives to his legal representative, and the suit for injunction would therefore not cease on the death of the parties.

A single-judge bench led by Honorable Justice N S Sanjay Gowda, in the case of Chennaiah @ Doddachennaiah vs Bylappa ( RSA no. 743/2011) said that  “The right to enjoy possession of immovable property is not a right that can be enjoyed only by one person, nor is it a right that can last beyond that person’s death. The right to enjoy property is a transferable right and thus is not limited to any one person. When a person dies, his legal representative has the right to continue to enjoy possession of his property.”

The court added, “If it is to be held that in a suit for injunction, whenever a plaintiff or a defendant dies, the suit would abate, it would be virtually creating a never ending cycle of litigation, which obviously would result in an absurd situation where a party to suit is to be perennially litigating in courts.”

Facts of the case are that the disputed land was gifted to the plaintiffs’ mother by her brother through a registered gift deed. After her death, that property transferred to her son, the plaintiff. the record of rights and the Pahari right from in the year 1968 up to 1989 stood in the name of the Ghenraiah @ Doddachennaiah and Ningaiah, thus, etablishing that they were in lawful possession. It was stated that they had paid the land revenue to the Government ane the Said documents proved that they were in lawful oossession. It was stated that Bylappa was trying to interfere With their peaceful possession over the land bearing. Bylappa, the sole original defendant, entered appearance and denied the averments of the plaint. He stated that he bought the property from one Revanna under a registered sale deed and on the death of Obaiaiah, his brother Arasappa had gifted the property to his sister Kalamma. Plaintiff had mortgaged that propert and Bylappa was paying taxes to establish the possession of the property. the father of plaintiff No.2, Chikkachannaiah had instituted proceedings under the Debt Relief Act and in those proceedings plaintiff had filed an affidavit before the Taluka -Magistrate stating that Bylappa was the Owner in possession of” the suit property and that he had no subsisting Interest.

The remark was made in a Second appeal involving a disputed property. During the pendency of the original suit, both the first plaintiff and the first defendant died, and their legal representatives were brought on record, and these legal representatives prosecuted not only the suit, but also the appeal that arose from the dismissal of the suit, as well as the second appeal.

The argument advanced in this second appeal is that because the suit is for injunction, if the first plaintiff dies, the suit cannot continue, and similarly, if the defendant dies, the suit must cease.

Disagreeing, the bench said, “An injunction, as stated under the Specific Relief Act, is a preventive relief granted at the discretion of the Court. A temporary injunction is one that is granted for a limited time or until further orders of the court, whereas a perpetual injunction is one that is granted by a decree at the hearing of the suit and on the merits of the suit. A perpetual injunction enjoins a defendant from asserting his right or committing an act that is contrary to the plaintiff’s rights in perpetuity. There is nothing in Part III or Part IV of the Specific Relief that even remotely suggests that an injunction is a right that is personal to the plaintiff.”

The Court held that a personal right is one that can only be enjoyed by an individual on his own and that it cannot be passed down through generations. Such personal rights are only applicable to a subset of suits, such as a suit for defamation, a suit for damages for personal injuries suffered, a suit for bankruptcy, a suit for dissolution of marriage, and so on.

Referring to Section 2 (11) of the CPC, which deals with legal representatives, the bench stated, “A legal representative is someone to whom the rights to a property devolve by operation of law or testament, because he gains the right to interfere with the deceased’s estate. As a result, it is clear that in a suit relating to the grant of a perpetual injunction in respect of immovable property, the right to sue is not personal to the plaintiff but survives to his legal representative, and the suit for injunction would not therefore be dismissed.”

After looking into all the facts and arguments, the bench also referred to Section 306 of the Indian Succession Act, stating that in a suit for injunction relating to immovable property, the legal representative of the deceased would enjoy the relief that the original party (plaintiff or defendant) would have been entitled to by virtue of the succession or inheritance in their favor, and thus the suit would not abate and would have to be continued by bringing the legal representatives of the deceased on record.

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