Supreme Court of India
Sri Lankappa vs Karnataka Industrial … on 8 December, 2021Author: Uday Umesh Lalit
Bench: Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat, Hon’Ble Ms. Trivedi
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. OF 2021
(@ SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 8283 OF 2020)
SRI LANKAPPA & ORS. …APPELLANT(S)
CORPORATION & ORS. …RESPONDENT(S)
S. RAVINDRA BHAT, J.
1. Special leave granted. The appellants are aggrieved by a judgment and
order of the Karnataka High Court1 which allowed the regular first appeal filed
by the first respondent (Karnataka Industrial Corporation, hereafter called
2. The appellants had filed a suit2 seeking declaration of title and injunction
in respect of suit properties as stipulated in the schedule3 (hereafter called “Suit
Schedule Property”) which were 11 acres and 16 guntas of agricultural land.
Muninarayana Gowda, Putta s/o Ramanna, Sampath s/o Hanumantharayappa,
Raja s/o Mangamma and KIC were impleaded as respondents. The appellant’s
case was that Chowdappa, their grandfather, was granted the Suit Schedule
Property by order dated 22.10.1929 passed by the Amaldar, Bangalore South
Signature Not Verified
Digitally signed by Dr.
Dated 22.01.2020 by the principal Bench at Bengaluru in RFA No. 14/2019.
O.S. No.388/1995, before the Court of II Munsiff, Bangalore Rural District.
Sy.No. 30, measuring 11 acres 16 guntas situated in Talaghattapura Village, Uttarahalli Hobli, Kanakapura Main
Road, Bangalore South Taluk.
Taluk, and that after his death, his heirs and the appellants were owners in
possession of the Suit Schedule Property. It was alleged by KIC (the fifth
respondent), a partnership firm, that by order dated 25.03.1968, the Karnataka
Government had granted the Suit Schedule Property to it, for non-agricultural
use, and the appellants sought to interfere with KIC’s possession. KIC resisted
the suit alleging, inter alia, that it was the absolute owner in possession of
“Khatha No. 290 formerly Sy. No. 30 measuring 11 acres 16 guntas in extent
situated at Thalaghattapura village, Uttarahalli Hobli, Bangalore South Taluk
and it is the suit schedule property”.
3. During pendency of the appellant’s suit [hereafter called the “1995 Suit”]
KIC filed O.S. No.21/1996 (hereafter called “KIC Suit-I”) claiming injunction to
restrain the appellant from disturbing its possession of the Suit Schedule
Property. In its suit, it was alleged inter alia, that:
“3. The plaintiff is the owner in possession of Sy. No. 30 measuring 11 acres
16 guntas in extent, situate at Talaghattapura village, Uttarahalli Hobli,
Bangalore South Taluk.
4. It has been converted for non-agricultural use for the purpose of establishing
a Table Moulded Brick Factory. DOCUMENT NO. 2 (two) and DOCUMENT
NO. 3 (Three) is the certified copy of the Index of Lands. The plaintiff is in
exclusive possession of the property mentioned above, hereinafter called ‘Suit
Schedule Property’. After conversion, the Katha number of the schedule
property is 290 and it has been assessed to payment of tax to Talaghattapura
Orama Panchayat, Uttarahalli Hobli, Bangalore South Taluk. Up-to-date taxes
have been paid in respect of the suit schedule property.
In view of the aforesaid orders in the other suits, the defendants are trying to
dispossess the plaintiff-firm from the possession of the land in question and are
trying to trespass on the suit schedule property. Defendants have no right, title
and interest in the suit schedule property and they are not the owners of the suit
schedule property and they are not and were not in possession of the suit
schedule property at any point of time.
10. The aforesaid documents completely establish that the plaintiff is the
owner in possession of the suit schedule property. As the land in question is
converted for non-agricultural use and katha number is given by the
Panchayath, RTC is not being written in respect of the suit property….”
4. Both suits, i.e., the 1995 Suit and KIC Suit-I were tried together and
disposed of by common judgment4. It was held by the trial court that the
appellants herein could establish “their continued, unhindered and unhampered
possession, cultivation and enjoyment of the suit schedule property since 1929”
till date of judgment; and that they had perfected title against the Karnataka
Government in 1963. It was also held that “Hence, the Govt. had no rights and
title over the suit schedule property on the date of grant i.e., on 25.3.1968”. It
was further held that:
“When the Govt. itself has lost the title and right over the suit schedule property
it has no right to grant the suit schedule property to the 5th defendant. The
defendants never in possession of the suit schedule property.”
5. For the same reason, KIC’s suit was dismissed. It was held that the grant
in its favour was ineffective, as the Karnataka Government had no power to issue
it, and further that KIC was never in possession. KIC and the other aggrieved
parties (including the other respondents in the 1995 Suit) appealed this, by
preferring R.A. No.31/1998. This common appeal was disposed of by judgment
and decree dated 03.03.1999. The appellate court noticed that the findings of the
trial court in KIC Suit-I were unchallenged. KIC had relied on a document to say
that the lands were converted. The appellate court while dismissing the appeal,
held as follows:
“The appellant Corporation contended that the suit land was got converted by
the conversion sanctioned certificate said to have been issued by Tahasildar
dated 18.12.78 and copy of the said document is marked as Ex. D4. In my
considered view no reliance can be placed upon Ex. D4 which is much disputed
by the respondents because it is only a Xerox copy and the appellant has failed
to produce the original of the same before the Court. On the other hand Ex. Pl
is an endorsement issued by the Assistant Commissioner, Bangalore dated:
27.5.89 which reveals that the proceedings regarding conversion of land are
not available in the office. Hence, I find some force in the arguments of the
respondent that Ex. D4 is a got up document. If the suit land was really got
converted, the appellant could have produced the certified copies of relevant
documents from the Revenue Office. It appears that Ex. D4 is a fictitious
document and there is no order for conversion of land as contended by the
appellant. Hence the entries made in the relevant R.T.C. records that the land
was converted are incorrect and false. The R.T.C: extracts for the year 1983-
84, 84-85 reveal that 4 acres of land is under cultivation but the name of
Dated 31.01.1998, Ld. First Add. Civil Judge (Junior) at Bangalore.
cultivator is not mentioned in cultivator’s column. It is not the case of appellant-
that it cultivated the lands during relevant period. Since the finding given in
O.S. 21/96 remained unchallenged, I am of the considered view that, it is the
respondents who are in physical possession of suit land and trial court is
justified in granting the prohibitory injunction as against the appellant.”
6. The declaration granted in the 1995 Suit by judgment dated 31.01.1998
(that the appellants herein were absolute owners) was set aside; however, it was
held that KIC’s grant had been cancelled. The decree of permanent injunction
was however, confirmed. KIC had also preferred a second appeal5 in which the
judgment of the first appellate court in R.A. No.31/1998 was impugned. KIC’s
second appeal was dismissed by judgment dated 16.06.2005, by the Karnataka
High Court. The High Court categorically held that a deemed cancellation of the
grant of land in favour of KIC had occurred, as due procedure had not been
followed while making the alleged grant. The High Court held:
“In view of the detailed discussion made above, while answering the substantial
question of law raised in favour of the respondents, it is held that both the courts
below have rightly come to the conclusion that the plaintiffs/respondents are in
possession of the suit property and thereby rightly injuncted the appellants from
interfering with the peaceful possession and enjoyment of the suit property and
that there is deemed cancellation of the grant of land granted in favour of the
appellants and that due procedure has not been followed while making alleged
grant in favour of the appellants.”
7. A special leave petition6 was preferred before this Court against the above
judgment of the Karnataka High Court, in which KIC was the fifth petitioner.
Leave was granted, and the petition was converted into Civil Appeal
No.10086/2010. The civil appeal was dismissed by order dated 22.11.2017.
Therefore, the matter had attained finality.
8. KIC filed another suit O.S. No. 1168/2018 (hereafter called “KIC Suit-II”).
In that suit, the following reliefs were claimed:
“(a) declaring that the plaintiff is the absolute owner of the suit schedule
(b) directing the defendants Nos. 5 to 27 to deliver possession of the suit
schedule property to the plaintiff;
RSA No. 236/1999 before Karnataka High Court.
(c) to grant permanent injunction restraining the defendant No. 1 to 4 from
deleting the name of plaintiff from revenue records without due process of law,”
The trial court considered the plaint in KIC Suit-II and rejected the plaint,
after considering all the previous facts and the history of the litigation. The trial
court observed that:
“In the case on hand, the issue regarding deemed cancellation of grant was
decided by all the courts up to the Hon’ble Apex Court. It is also significant to
note that the finding of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka in RSA 236/99, as
to the title of the plaintiff, based on the alleged grant was directly and
substantially in issue and sad issue was answered in the Affirmative by the
Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka. It appears that challenging the findings of
the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka, the plaintiff herein filed review petition,
which was dismissed by the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka. Indeed, the
plaintiff also approached the Hon’ble Apex Court, on couple of occasions. The
contention of the plaintiff is that he is in possession and enjoyment of the suit
schedule property by virtue of the grant and the plaintiff is the owner of the suit
schedule property. The claim of the plaintiff that the property was granted by
the Government of Mysore, has been consistently negatived by the Hon’ble
Courts. Therefore, this court cannot entertain the above suit, for the relief of
declaration, once again on the basis of the alleged grant. Hence, I proceed to
pass the following:
The suit of the plaintiff is hereby rejected as not maintainable.”
9. KIC appealed, contending that the rejection of its plaint in KIC Suit-II was
erroneous. The High Court set aside the order rejecting the plaint, and held that
in the circumstances of the case, it was incumbent upon the trial court to issue
summons, and its suo motu determination on the maintainability of the suit before
such issuance was erroneous. The impugned judgment also held that it was open
to a court to reject the plaint at any stage.
10. Mr. Neeraj Kishan Kaul, learned senior counsel, urged that the High Court
fell into error, in overlooking the fact that the subject matter of KIC Suit-II was
barred by res judicata as the issues in it were directly and substantially in issue
in both the 1995 Suit and KIC Suit-I. The decision in that suit had attained finality
before this Court in Civil Appeal No.10086/2010. Furthermore, the High Court
erred in ignoring that in terms of the mandate of Order II Rule 2 of the Code of
Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereafter called “CPC”), KIC, in KIC Suit-I was bound to
include the whole claim which it was entitled to make in respect of the cause of
action and if it omitted to sue in respect of, or intentionally relinquished, any
portion of its claim, it could not afterwards sue in respect of the portion so omitted
or relinquished. It was argued that being party to the 1995 Suit, KIC was aware
of its claim ownership over the Suit Schedule Property. Therefore, the omission
on KIC’s part in claiming relief of declaration of ownership in its earlier suit (i.e.,
KIC Suit-I) which was tagged with the 1995 Suit, statutorily barred the
subsequent suit (i.e., KIC Suit-II) for declaration of title under Order II Rule 2(2)
11. Learned senior counsel argued that the High Court overlooked that since
the grant issued by the Government of Karnataka was held to be non-est by the
common judgment of the trial court (dated 31.01.1998) in the 1995 Suit and KIC
Suit I, and that such finding was modified by the High Court in RSA No.
236/1999 – to the effect that the grant in favour of Muniswamappa is deemed to
have been cancelled – KIC lacked locus standi to file a suit for declaration on
the basis of such grant. Learned senior counsel also drew attention of this Court
to the High Court’s order in RP No. 493/ 2005 where it confirmed that the grant
as claimed by KIC was deemed to have been cancelled, thereby stripping it off
of any right to title to the Suit Schedule Property.
12. Learned senior counsel relied on the decision of this Court in T.
Aravindandam and Others v T. V. Satyapal & Anr7 where this Court upheld the
jurisdiction of trial courts under Order VII Rule 11 CPC in rejecting frivolous
and vexatious suits. Reliance was also placed on Ramrameshwari Devi and
Others v Nirmala Devi & Ors8 where it was held that the trial court ought not to
have framed an issue on a point which had been finally determined up to this
Court, and further held that unless the wrongdoers were denied profit or undue
1977 (4) SCC 467.
(2011) 8 SCC 249.
benefit from the frivolous litigation, it would be difficult to control such
13. Ms. Kiran Suri, learned senior counsel for the respondents herein, urged
that KIC Suit-II was not in abuse of the process of any court of law. Subsequent
to the filing of the suit, an application was filed before this Court. That
application was declined. KIC Suit- I was a suit for bare injunction and the title
to the Suit Schedule Property was not considered. Therefore, the subsequent suit
(i.e., KIC Suit-II) seeking title and possession was not barred.
14. Learned senior counsel contended that the civil court had to mandatorily
issue summons to the respondents; and that maintainability of the suit could only
be considered after such issuance, when it was contested by the respondents.
However, in this case, before issuance of the summons to the respondents, the
trial court suo moto passed determination on maintainability of the suit and
rejected it as not maintainable. That order was contrary to law. Consequently, the
High Court was justified in setting it aside.
15. Ms. Suri relied on the judgment of this Court in Anathula Sudhakar v. P.
Buchi Reddy9 to urge that KIC Suit-I was one for injunction. There was no
occasion for KIC to claim ownership or title to the Suit Schedule Property. In
these circumstances, KIC Suit-II claiming title and possession was maintainable.
She also relied on Alka Gupta v Narendr Kumar Gupta10 to say that the courts
should not summarily reject a plaint, on the ground that the judgment in an earlier
suit, barred the later one.
16. It is apparent from the above facts that the two suits filed earlier – the 1995
Suit and KIC Suit-I – culminated in a decision favourable to the appellants herein,
as KIC’s suit was dismissed. KIC and the other respondents appealed against the
decision in the present appellant’s suit; that appeal was also dismissed. The
(2008) 4 SCC 594.
2010 (10) SCC 141.
second appeal preferred by the parties i.e., RSA No. 236/1999 was dismissed on
16.06.2005. The High Court pertinently observed and held that the appellants
herein were in possession of the Suit Schedule Property and rightly injuncted the
respondents from interfering with their peaceful possession and enjoyment of the
same, holding further that there was deemed cancellation of the grant of land
granted in favour of the respondents herein as due procedure had not been
17. These findings were challenged in a suit filed by the appellants, which
claimed that they had absolute title to the property. No doubt, KIC’s suit claimed
injunction; its dismissal, if that were the only proceeding, would not have
precluded a subsequent suit, claiming title. However, the fact here is that KIC
was a respondent in the suit filed by the appellant (i.e., the 1995 Suit) which
expressly sought the relief of declaration that the appellant was the absolute
owner. It was in such a context that the question of ‘ownership’, which was
directly in issue, in a proceeding, i.e., a suit, filed before a competent court, was
decided. That decision ruled out KIC’s ownership, holding that there was
“deemed cancellation of the grant of land” before the High Court. All these facts
were disclosed by KIC in the suit filed after this Court dismissed its civil appeal,
thus rendering the judgment in the second appeal final. In these circumstances,
the issue which remains is whether the trial court wrongly rejected KIC Suit-II,
as found by the impugned judgment.
18. In Anathula Sudhakar, this Court outlined various situations in which a
person claiming possession or injunction can claim relief. They are set out below:
“21. To summarise, the position in regard to suits for prohibitory injunction
relating to immovable property, is as under:
(a) Where a cloud is raised over the plaintiff’s title and he does not have
possession, a suit for declaration and possession, with or without a
consequential injunction, is the remedy. Where the plaintiff’s title is not in
dispute or under a cloud, but he is out of possession, he has to sue for possession
with a consequential injunction. Where there is merely an interference with the
plaintiff’s lawful possession or threat of dispossession, it is sufficient to sue for
an injunction simpliciter.
(b) As a suit for injunction simpliciter is concerned only with possession,
normally the issue of title will not be directly and substantially in issue. The
prayer for injunction will be decided with reference to the finding on
possession. But in cases where de jure possession has to be established on the
basis of title to the property, as in the case of vacant sites, the issue of title may
directly and substantially arise for consideration, as without a finding thereon,
it will not be possible to decide the issue of possession.
(c) But a finding on title cannot be recorded in a suit for injunction, unless
there are necessary pleadings and appropriate issue regarding title (either
specific, or implied as noticed in Annaimuthu Thevar [Annaimuthu
Thevar v. Alagammal, (2005) 6 SCC 202]). Where the averments
regarding title are absent in a plaint and where there is no issue relating to
title, the court will not investigate or examine or render a finding on a question
of title, in a suit for injunction. Even where there are necessary pleadings and
issue, if the matter involves complicated questions of fact and law relating
to title, the court will relegate the parties to the remedy by way of
comprehensive suit for declaration of title, instead of deciding the issue in a
suit for mere injunction.
(d) Where there are necessary pleadings regarding title, and appropriate issue
relating to title on which parties lead evidence, if the matter involved is simple
and straightforward, the court may decide upon the issue regarding title, even
in a suit for injunction. But such cases, are the exception to the normal rule that
question of title will not be decided in suits for injunction. But persons having
clear title and possession suing for injunction, should not be driven to the
costlier and more cumbersome remedy of a suit for declaration, merely because
some meddler vexatiously or wrongfully makes a claim or tries to encroach
upon his property. The court should use its discretion carefully to identify cases
where it will enquire into title and cases where it will refer to the plaintiff to a
more comprehensive declaratory suit, depending upon the facts of the case.”
19. In the present case, KIC no doubt sought only a permanent injunction in
its first suit. However, it is a fact of equal importance that the appellants-herein
consistently agitated KIC’s title. KIC was a party to those proceedings. All the
courts concurrently held that the grant, on which KIC based its possession, was
deemed to be cancelled. Therefore, KIC could, by no procedure known to law,
claim in another suit, that it was the absolute owner by virtue of the self-same
grant, which was deemed to have been cancelled. The trial court therefore cannot
be faulted with for holding that the question of title was directly in issue in the
previous proceedings, and merely because it resulted in findings adverse to KIC,
it could not escape being bound by those findings.
20. It is noticeable that the High Court, in the impugned judgment, has
considered Vithalbhai (P) Ltd., v Union Bank of India11where it has been held
that a plaint can be rejected at any stage. Furthermore, it has also been ruled in
M. Nagabhushana v State of Karnataka & Others12 that the principle of res
judicata is fundamental to the judicial system. Having regard to the above
discussion, this Court is of the opinion that the impugned judgment (in
holding that despite the fact that in the previous proceedings the issue of title
stood concluded, the trail court had to proceed with the suit) is clearly in error.
21. For the above reasons, the impugned judgment is hereby set aside; the
appeal is allowed, without order on costs.
[UDAY UMESH LALIT]
[S. RAVINDRA BHAT]
December 8, 2021.
(2005) 4 SCC 315.
(2011) 3 SCC 408.