Essentials of a declaratory suit
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This article is written by Rohit Raj, a student currently pursuing B.A.L.L.B.(Hons.) from Lloyd Law College. This is an exhaustive article which deals with all the aspects of Declaratory decree and what will be the effect of Declaratory decree and is there any existence of discretion of the court in it.

Introduction

If you’ve ever wondered why the Concept of ‘declaratory decree’ emerges and for whom it comes into the picture, here’s everything you need to know. This whole article deals with the concept of ‘declaratory decree’ and what are the essentials of filing declaratory suit, whether the court can exercise its discretion in the case of the declaratory decree and if yes, under what circumstances. This article also deals with other aspects of ‘declaratory decree’.

Declaratory decrees

The declaratory decree is the edict which declares the rights of the plaintiff. It is a binding declaration under which the court declares some existing rights in favour of the plaintiff and declaratory decree exists only when the plaintiff is denied of his right which the plaintiff is entitled to. After that specific relief is obtained by the plaintiff against the defendant who denied the plaintiff from his right. 

According to Section 34, of the Special Relief Act, 1963, any Person entitled to any legal character, or to any right as to any property, may institute a suit against any person denying, or interested to deny, his title to such character or right, and the court may in its discretion make therein a declaration that he is so entitled, and the plaintiff need not in such suit ask for any further relief. 

Declaratory decree provisions bring out to merely perpetuate and strengthen the Plaintiff in case of an even adverse attack so that the attack on the Plaintiff can not weaken his case and it is mentioned in the case of Naganna v. Sivanappa. And by the arguments made in this case, it encourages the plaintiff to come forward to enjoy the rights which they are entitled to and if any Defendant denied the Plaintiff from providing any rights for which the Plaintiff is entitled, then it gives them the power to file the suit and get special relief.

Discretion of court as to declaration of status 

As in the Section 34 of Special Relief Act, 1963 the condition mentioned for the declaration of status or right i.e. (1) the plaintiff at the time of suit was entitled to any legal character or any right to any Property (2) the defendant had denied or was planning or interested in denying the rights of the plaintiff (3) the declaration asked for should be same as the declaration that the plaintiff was entitled to a right (4) the plaintiff was not in a position to claim a further relief than a mere declaration of his rights which have been denied by the defendant. But, it is not compulsory that even after the fulfilment of all the four essential conditions required for declaration, the specific relief will be provided through a declaration to the plaintiff. It is totally on the discretion of the court whether to grant the relief or not to the plaintiff. The relief of Declaration or specific relief cannot be asked as a matter of right, it is a total discretionary power which is in the hands of the court.

In the case of Maharaja Benares vs. Ramji khan, it was declared that if the suit is filed and the necessary party is absent then the court will dismiss the suit for the declaration. So, it is necessary that both parties should be available. There is no specific rule to decide whether the discretionary power of the courts should be granted or not, the discretionary power of the court is being exercised according to the case and there are no specific criteria to decide in which cases the court will exercise its discretionary power.

Essentials of a declaratory suit

There are a total of four essential elements considered for a declaratory Suitor for the valid suit for Declaration and all the four elements are mentioned below. 

  • The plaintiff at the time of suit was entitled to any legal character or any right to any Property.
  • The defendant had denied or was planning or interested in denying the rights of the plaintiff.
  • The declaration asked for should be the same as the declaration that the plaintiff was entitled to a right.
  •  The plaintiff was not in a position to claim a further relief than a mere declaration of his rights which have been denied by the defendant.

Requisites

According to the Section 34 of the Special Relief Act, 1963 it put forward certain conditions which are to be fulfilled by the plaintiff to file a valid suit for declaration for the rights which is denied by the defendant. In the case of the State of M.P. vs. Khan Bahadur Bhiwandiwala and co., The court observed that in order to obtain the relief of declaration the Plaintiff had to fulfil the four conditions as mentioned above. 

The object of Section 34 of the Special Relief Act, 1963 to provide a perpetual bulwark against adverse attack on the title of the Plaintiff and to prevent further litigation by removing the existing cause of controversy. If any of the essential elements are missing then the court will not provide any relief of declaration. The Plaintiff has to prove that the defendant has denied or is interested in denying to the character or title of the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff has to establish that there must be some present danger to his interest. The denial must be communicated to the Plaintiff in order to give him a cause of action. The court must exercise their rights while granting declaratory decree and only in proper cases, this legal remedy should be granted so as to avoid multiplicity of suits and to remove clouds over legal rights of a rightful person.

Legal Character

We have talked about the requisites that a person should be entitled to the legal character. So, what we mean about the Legal Character. Legal character is attached to an individual’s legal status which shows the person’s capacity. Legal character by names itself denotes character recognized by law. In the case of Hiralal v. Gulab, it was observed that variety of status among the natural person, can be referred to the following listed causes i.e. Sex, minority, rank, caste, tribe, profession any many more list.

Person Entitled to any Right to Property

The second condition which is to be fulfilled by the Plaintiff for the successful relief of Declaration or we can just say that for getting Special relief which should be related to Plaintiff Right to Property. A person seeking special relief has a condition that they must have a right to any property, only then they can go for special relief under Special relief Act, 1963. The Bombay High Court has made a distinction in ‘Right to Property’ and ‘Right in Property’ and it has been held that to claim and go for a declaration the Plaintiff need not show the right in Property. The Plaintiff only has to show that he has Right to Property from which he has been denied.

Declaration asked should be the same as the declaration that the plaintiff entitled.

The third condition is to be fulfilled by the Plaintiff for the Declaration and for Special relief. This is considered as essential because it is very necessary to look that the Plaintiff asking for the declaration from the Court should be the same as the declaration to which the Plaintiff is entitled under the right to any Property. 

Plaintiff should claim only for mere Declaration

The fourth and the last one which is to be fulfilled by the Plaintiff is that the suit filed by the Plaintiff should claim only for mere declaration and he is not entitled to more than that. Excess relief seeking suits will not be entertained by the court in any manner and there is no restriction or any hard and fast rule to entertain such cases where the suit filed is seeking relief more than just mere declaration.

When suit for declaration is not Maintainable

A suit for the declaration will not be maintainable under some circumstances which are to be mentioned below. 

  • In the case of a declaration that the Plaintiff did not infringe the defendant’s trademark.
  • For a declaration that during the lifetime of the testator, the will is invalid.
  • No one can ask for a declaration of a non-existent right of succession.
  • A suit by a student against a university for a declaration that he has passed an examination. 

If any person is seeking for a mere injunction without seeking for any declaration of title to which the Plaintiff is entitled so, then the suit will not be maintainable and will not be laid down within its ambit. In the case of P. Buchi Reddy and Others vs. Ananthula Sudhakar, it was held that the Plaintiff’s suit for a mere injunction without seeking a declaration of the title is not maintainable.

‘Suit for a bare injunction’ is a condition where the suit is not maintainable because in the case of the bare injunction, Plaintiff and Defendant both are claiming the title on which effective possession cannot be proved. And the suit for bare injunction is not maintainable under Section 41(h) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963.

‘Suit for a bare injunction’ is a condition where the suit is not maintainable because in the case of the bare injunction, Plaintiff and Defendant both are claiming the title on which effective possession cannot be proved. And the suit for bare injunction is not maintainable under Section 41(h) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963.

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Effect of declaration

Before going into an in-depth analysis of what is the effect of the Declaration, first, we should look at what it is according to Section 35 of the Special Relief Act, 1963. According to this Section, a declaration made under this section is binding on both the parties to the suit and the persons claiming through them respectively and, where any of the Parties are trustees, on the persons for whom, if in existence at the date of declaration, such parties would be trustees. 

Lets understand how the effect of the declaration is being in process with the help of an illustration i.e. Ram, a Hindu, in a suit to which Komal, his alleged wife, and her mother, are defendants, seeks a declaration that his marriage was duly commemorated and an order for the restitution of his conjugal rights. The court makes the declaration and order. Shumbham claims that Komal is his wife, then sues Ram for the recovery of Komal. The declaration made in the former suit is not binding upon shubham.

Case laws

There are several case laws related to the declaratory decree under the Special relief Act, 1963 in which several aspects of the Declaratory decree has been covered up and Judgment have been declared on that and were setting precedents to be followed up in the new cases of Declaratory Decree. 

Some of the Cases are mentioned below with their judgment related to Declaratory decree for the sake of convenience of Reader. 

  • Tarak Chandra Das vs. Anukul Chandra Mukherjee, it was held that the court had absolute discretion to refuse the relief if considered the claim to be too remote or the declaration if given, would be ineffective. In this same case, it was observed that the term mentioned above in this article ‘Right to Property’ showed that Plaintiff should have an existing right in any property, not the mere interest in that property would lead to special relief. 
  • Ram Lal vs. Secretary of Staten this case was held that by virtue of section 35 of Special relief Act, 1963, a judgment is binding only upon the inter partes, which is not in rem and does not operate as res-judicata. No other party who is not the party of the suit does not come under the ambit of Section 35 of Special relief Act, 1963. 

Conclusion

Declaratory decree is a provision which focuses on the rights of the Plaintiff and gives immense power to the Plaintiff to deal effectively against the defendant. How the court uses their discretionary power under what circumstances and other aspects analysis helps the reader also to analyse and understand the Declaratory decree concept in the simplest way. According to my opinion and analysis, Declaratory decree is a concept which is to be wider and covers more aspects than it currently does and the main thing according to my opinion should be amended in a long-term is that there should be a limitation on the use of discretionary power by the different courts and fixation should be done in which cases or in which type of cases, the discretion of court can be used.

Really good attempt, good article and well written.


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