Courts Should Assess Jurisdiction Before Granting Interim Relief And Suits Can’t Be Decreed Merely On Failure Of Defendant To File A Written Statement If Plaintiff’s Case Isn’t Proved – Asma Lateef & Anr. v. Shabbir Ahmad & Ors.

Posted On - 29 January, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva

Civil Appeal No. 9695 Of 2013

Decided on 12th January 2024.


A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has observed that if the maintainability of a civil suit is challenged, and opposition to interim relief is raised on that basis, the trial court should, before deciding on interim relief, ensure there is at least a preliminary satisfaction regarding the suit’s maintainability. The Court further held that a Court cannot pronounce judgment in a suit merely on the default of the defendant to file a written statement if the plaintiff doesn’t prove his case.


The case involves a civil suit stemming from a property dispute where the appellants claim ownership through an oral gift from their great-grandmother, documented in a memorandum in 1988. The appellants initiated a civil suit under section 38 of the Specific Relief Act against three defendants, seeking a permanent injunction against interference with their possession of the property. Kazmi, one of the defendants, contested the suit, arguing it was barred by certain provisions and that he exclusively inherited the property upon the great-grandmother’s demise. In 1990, the Trial Court granted an interim injunction maintaining the status quo. Following Kazmi’s death in 1995, his sons transferred the property to the respondents in 1997. The suit against Kazmi was abated in 2009. Subsequently, as purported decree holders, the appellants filed an execution application in 1997, seeking punishment for the violation of the 1991 order and invalidation of the 1997 sale deed. Respondents 1 to 3 objected under Section 47 of the CPC in an execution application by appellants, contending the decree was inexecutable. The Executing Court, on March 19, 2008, upheld the objections, leading to the application’s dismissal. Appellants appealed to the Revisional Court, which, on February 21, 2009, dismissed respondents’ objection, directing execution with the objection treated as non-maintainable. Respondents 1 to 3 challenged this revisional order through an Article 227 application before the High Court, which, on February 4, 2011, quashed the Revisional Court’s order, directing the parties to seek adjudication through the appropriate forum. The current appeal challenges this High Court judgment.


Whether the order dated 5th August, 1991 suffered from a jurisdictional error so grave that the decree drawn up subsequently is incapable of execution by the Executing Court and an objection that it is inexecutable was available to be raised under section 47, CPC by the respondents 1 to 3?


The Supreme Court while answering the above question made two key observations:

  1. Court on Scope of Rule 10, Order 8 of the CPC:
    • The court’s interpretation of Rule 10, Order 8 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) is that it has discretionary power which offers two choices. If a judgment were to be consistently issued against a defendant for not submitting a written statement in every case, the latter part of Rule 10, which allows the court to “make such order in relation to the suit as it thinks fit,” would become redundant. The court emphasized that a plaint in a lawsuit is different from a writ petition, where not only the facts need to be stated but also evidence supporting these facts must be attached. In contrast, a plaint requires the presentation of facts, with evidence being presented during the examination of witnesses. Consequently, the failure of a defendant to file a written statement, without disputing the pleaded facts, may not automatically lead to a judgment in the plaintiff’s favour. The court clarified that Rule 10 of Order VIII, CPC is not obligatory in the sense that the court is compelled to render a judgment in favour of the plaintiff. However, if the plaint indicates the presence of disputed factual issues, the court should refrain from passing a judgment without requiring the plaintiff to substantiate the facts.
  2. Court should decide Jurisdiction before granting Interim Relief:
    • The court emphasizes that jurisdiction is crucial even when considering interim relief in a civil suit. Before granting interim relief, the court must be satisfied that the suit is maintainable and not barred by law. This satisfaction, based on a prima facie assessment of the pleadings, interim relief application, objections, and relevant laws, forms part of the court’s reasoning. It is inappropriate to grant interim relief without recording such satisfaction. If the court believes the suit is legally barred, it can refuse interim relief without framing a preliminary issue. However, in exceptional cases where delay could cause irreversible harm, the court may justify granting interim protection.
  3. Lastly, the court agreed with both the High Court and the Executing Court that, in legal terms, there is no decree. As a result, it concludes that any decree following a judgment or order of this nature is legally unenforceable, subject to objections under Section 47, CPC.


In this decision, the court emphasizes on the critical importance of a valid judgment adhering to procedural standards, including a clear presentation of the case, formulation of issues, decisive pronouncement, and explanation of underlying reasons. Ultimately, the ruling asserts that the 1991 order and subsequent decree did not meet these legal requirements, making them legally ineffective. The court maintains that the contested decree, lacking legal effectiveness, does not conclusively determine the legal entitlements of the parties as required by law. In summary, the analysis underscores the utmost significance of adhering to procedural and legal norms when delivering judicial decisions. To conclude, the court has brought much more clarity to the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code and the exercise of power by the courts in these matters. This decision has answered multiple legal questions and has given settled law on matters where it was required to have a certain precedent established.