What is the distinction between moulding of relief and granting mandatory relief at an interlocutory stage?

There is marked distinction between moulding of relief and granting mandatory relief at an interlocutory stage. As regards the latter, that can be granted only to restore the status quo and not to establish a new set of things differing from the state which existed at the date when the suit was instituted.

In Dorab Cawasji Warden Versus Coomi Sorab Warden and Others (1990) 2 SCC 117, the Supreme Court had occasion to consider the circumstances warranting grant of interlocutory mandatory injunction.

In paragraphs 16 & 17, after analysing the legal precedents on the point as noticed in paragraphs 11-15, the Supreme Court held as follows:

16. The relief of interlocutory mandatory injunctions are thus granted 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 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.

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.

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 required for a prohibitory injunction.

(2) It is necessary to prevent irreparable or serious injury which normally cannot be compensated in terms of money.

(3) The balance of convenience is in favour of the one seeking such relief.

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.

Though the above guidelines are neither exhaustive nor complete or absolute rules, and there may be exceptional circumstances needing action, applying them as prerequisite for the grant or refusal of such injunctions would be a sound exercise of a judicial discretion.” (emphasis supplied)

The Supreme Court rested its exposition on the dictum in Halsbury’s Laws of England, 4th edition, Volume 24, paragraph 948, which reads thus:

A mandatory injunction can be granted on an interlocutory application as well as at the hearing, but, in the absence of special circumstances, it will not normally be granted. However, if the case is clear and one which the court thinks ought to be decided at once, or if the act done is a simple and summary one which can be easily remedied, or if the defendant attempts to steal a march on the plaintiff, such as where, on receipt of notice that an injunction is about to be applied for, the defendant hurries on the work in respect of which complaint is made so that when he receives notice of an interim injunction it is completed, a mandatory injunction will be granted on an interlocutory application.

The principle expounded in this decision has been consistently followed by the Supreme Court. It is well established that an interim mandatory injunction is not a remedy that is easily granted.

It is an order that is passed only in circumstances which are clear and the prima facie material clearly justify a finding that the status quo has been altered by one of the parties to the litigation and the interests of justice demanded that the status quo ante be restored by way of an interim mandatory injunction. (See Metro Marins and Another Versus Bonus Watch Co. (P) Ltd. and Others (2004) 7 SCC 478, Kishore Kumar Khaitan and Another Versus Praveen Kumar Singh (2006) 3 SCC 312 and Purshottam Vishandas Raheja and Another Versus Shrichand Vishandas Raheja (Dead) through LRS and Others (2011) 6 SCC 73)

27. In the factual scenario in which mandatory order has been passed against the appellant, in our opinion, is in excess of jurisdiction. Such a drastic order at an interlocutory stage ought to be eschewed. It cannot be countenanced.

In Gaiv Dinshaw Irani and Others Versus Tehmtan Irani and Others (2014) 8 SCC 294, the Court moulded the relief in favour of the party to the proceedings to do substantial justice whilst finally disposing of the proceedings and did not do so at an interlocutory stage.

The invocation of principle of moulding of reliefs so also the exercise of power to grant mandatory order at an interlocutory stage, is manifestly wrong.

The principle of moulding of relief can be resorted to at the time of consideration of final relief in the main suit and not at an interlocutory stage.

This principle of law has been followed by the Supreme Court in Samir Narain Bhojwani vs M/S Aurora Properties CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7079 OF 2018, (Arising out of SLP (Civil) No.18465/2018)

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