In Purshottam Vishandas Raheja v Shrichand Vishandas Raheja(1) the Supreme Court considered the nature of the relief that a court may grant at an interim/interlocutory stage and reiterated its stance that an interim order cannot be such that it would non-suit one of the parties at this stage and would therefore take the form of final relief. The court also reiterated the various conditions under which a division bench of a high court may interfere with an order handed down by a single high court judge in appeal.


The two appellants before the Supreme Court were a father-son pairing – the original defendants in a suit filed before the Bombay High Court by the respondent (the original plaintiff, now deceased and represented by his heirs), the first appellant's elder brother. The dispute involved the title to certain immovable property and the operation of bank accounts held jointly by the first respondent and the appellant.

The respondent had title to the property in question and had executed certain powers of attorney in favour of the appellants to enable them to deal with the property with a view to developing real estate projects on it. While the respondent contended that he was the sole title holder to the entire property, the appellants strongly disputed this, claiming that while the property was indeed purchased in the respondent's name, almost 90% of the amount paid as consideration for acquiring the rights to the property had been contributed by the first appellant. Further, the appellants referred to a family settlement dated January 30 1992 under which the respondent could claim only a 10% share in the property. This claim was also supported by the first appellant's sisters, who were parties to the family settlement by way of a joint affidavit filed before a single judge. Moreover, the first appellant contended that the primary joint account held by him and the respondent, wherein the proceeds from the sale of flats with in the property were deposited, was operated by him in his own independent right, and that therespondent could not prohibit him from operating the accounts.

The first appellant contended that he was the joint developer of the property with his son, on account of having:

  • worked solely towards obtaining no-objection certificates from the relevant government authorities;
  • invested considerable sums of money towards the construction of buildings on the disputed land;
  • cleared the land of all encumbrances; and
  • disbursed significant moneys towards the development of the property.

Accordingly, the respondent filed suit before a single judge of the Bombay High Court seeking, among other things, an order restraining the appellants from dealing with the property, entering the property and directing the respondents to surrender all documents pertaining to the property.

Furthermore, the respondent sought ad interim (temporary) orders and injunctions in terms of these conditions, and also sought relief (in the form of mandatory injunctions) restraining the appellants from operating and withdrawing money from the joint bank accounts. The banks where the joint accounts were held were also arraigned as parties before the single judge.

On considering the material and the contentions of the parties set out before him, the judge held that the material on record was not sufficient to come to a prima facie determination as to the validity of the respondent's assertions regarding sole possession of title to the property – even more so when the first appellant's sisters had supported the first appellant's claims. Further, the judge observed that, given that the property was in the final stages of development, granting an interim injunction would cause grave inconvenience to the appellants, as they would be restrained from entering the property, thereby also inconveniencing buyers and other third parties which were dealing with the appellants. Accordingly, the judge passed a limited ad interim order whereby all moneys obtained from the sale of apartments in the property were to be deposited into a joint account held by the parties, and that the joint account would be operated only towards disbursing amounts payable on account of development of the property on proof of the required expenditure.

The respondent appealed to the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court, pursuant to which the division bench granted the interim orders as requested by the respondent. While granting the interim order, the division bench appeared to be convinced that the property, which was dealt with by the appellants, was in fact in the respondent's name, and that there was no evidence of any arrangements regarding the property between the first appellant and the respondent.

Aggrieved by this order of the division bench, under which the respondent was granted the ad interim injunctions and directions as requested, the appellants appealed on the primary grounds, that the grant of the ad interim injunction resulted in the non-suiting of the appellants.


The Supreme Court noted that the primary issue for adjudication in the first instance was whether the order passed by the single judge was so perverse and arbitrary that the interference of the appellate court was mandated in the circumstances. Accordingly, the Supreme Court proceeded to examine first whether the circumstances merited the grant of an interim mandatory injunction by the division bench against the appellants. Referring to its decision in Dorab Cawasji Warden v Coomi Warden,(2) relating to situations which warrant the grant of interim mandatory injunctions, the Supreme Court reiterated that an interim mandatory injunction, being an equitable relief, should be granted only where:

  • the plaintiff has a case, which should be of a higher standard than just a prima facie case (as normally required for a prohibitory injunction);
  • the granting of the injunction would prevent irreparable or serious injury, which could be compensated by money; and
  • the balance of convenience favours the plaintiff.

In view of the above, the Supreme Court observed that in the first instance circumstances, granting the interim order as requested by the respondent would essentially have entailed a pre-trial decree in his favour, as all relief sought by the respondent would have been obtained by him. Moreover, such an order would have been untenable without giving the appellants an opportunity to make their plea, supported by the first appellant's sisters, as examined by the adjudicatory authority.

Having ruled that the first instance circumstances did not merit the granting of an interim mandatory injunction, the Supreme Court looked to its three-judge bench decision in Wander Ltd v Antox India Pvt Ltd,(3) which held that an appellate court would not normally be justified in interfering with the exercise of discretion under appeal solely on the grounds that, had it considered the matter at the trial stage, it would have come to a different conclusion. Consequently, the court held that the single judge had taken all of the material on record under consideration and had passed a reasoned order; therefore, the circumstances did not merit interference by the division bench. The Supreme Court further held that the single judge's order could in no manner be said to have been passed in an arbitrary, capricious or perverse manner, and that there was therefore no reason for the division bench to have interfered with the order. As a result of this observation, the Supreme Court set aside the division bench's order and restored that of the single judge.


In the past, the Supreme Court has granted ad interim relief in the nature of final relief, but has secured the interests of the parties by directing the party seeking ad interim relief to deposit moneys in court as security.(4) However, via the present judgment, the Supreme Court has once again made it clear that an interim mandatory injunction, which may result in the grant of final relief should be granted only with great discretion and as an exception to the general rule in this regard. Further, this judgment seeks to lay down that an appellate court should not substitute its own decision for the decision of a trial court - even more so when the circumstances clearly indicate that there is no perversity or arbitrariness in the order.

For further information on this topic please contact Kirat Singh Nagra or Adit Pujari at Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co by telephone (+91 11 2692 0500), fax (+ 91 11 2692 4900) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).


(1) (2011) 6 SCC 73.

(2) (1990) 2 SCC 117.

(3) (1990) Supp SCC 727.

(4) National Aluminium Co v Gerald Metals SA (2004) 9 SCC 307 .