Decree of permanent injunction can be executed against the legal heirs of judgment debtor rules the Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court recently in Prabhakara Adiga v. Gowri, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 153, decided on 20.02.2017 has held that Section 50 CPC permits the execution of decree of permanent injunction against the legal heirs of judgment debtor.

The factual matrix of the case is fairly straightforward : The defendant in the original suit had sold more land than he owned. The land sold also included the neighbours land which could not have been sold by him. To give effect to the sale, the land of the neighbour (plaintiff) was sought to be usurped. Plaintiff succeeding in obtaining a decree of permanent injunction against the defendant. After the death of the defendant, his legal heirs tried to encroach upon the land of the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed an execution application qua the legal heirs of the original defendant/judgment debtor.

The legal heirs of the judgment debtor in this case tried to repel the execution of the decree against them on the premise that the cause of action of the plaintiff which was upheld in the decree, was of personal nature, and being an issue of personal nature it died with the judgment debtor and could not be sustained against the legal heirs of the judgment debtor. They also argued that injunction is not a relief that runs with the land, therefore, it could not be executed against the legal heirs of the judgment debtor. To buttress their submissions, the legal heirs of the judgment placed reliance on the latin maxim Actio Personalis Moritur Cum Persona (Latin for : any right of action dies with the person). They further argued that the cause of action of the plaintiff (if any) against the legal heirs of the defendant was an independant one and he was at liberty to file an independant action against them seeking permanent injunction.

The court after an elaborate discussion of case law on the subject and Sections 47, 50 and 146 r/w O. XXI Rule 16 and 32 of the CPC turned down the objections of the legal heirs of the deceased judgment debtor and held :

“In our considered opinion the right which had been adjudicated in the suit in the present matter and the findings which have been recorded as basis for grant of injunction as to the disputed property which is heritable and partible would enure not only to the benefit of the legal heir of decree-holders but also would bind the legal representatives of the judgment-debtor. It is apparent from section 50 CPC that when a judgment-debtor dies before the decree has been satisfied, it can be executed against legal representatives. Section 50 is not confined to a particular kind of decree. Decree for injunction can also be executed against legal representatives of the deceased judgment-debtor. The maxim “actio personalis moritur cum persona” is limited to certain class of cases as indicated by this Court in Girijanandini Devi v. Bijendra Narain Choudhary (supra) and when the right litigated upon is heritable, the decree would not normally abate and can be enforced by LRs. of decree-holder and against the judgment-debtor or his legal representatives. It would be against the public policy to ask the decree-holder to litigate once over again against the legal representatives of the judgment-debtor when the cause and injunction survives. No doubt, it is true that a decree for injunction normally does not run with the land. In the absence of statutory provisions it cannot be enforced. However, in view of the specific provisions contained in section 50 CPC, such a decree can be executed against legal representatives”

Ed : Judiciary Aspirants should read the decision as it traces the law and precedent in this regard quite meticulously.

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