Grant or Refusal of Injunctions in Civil Cases: General Principles

General Principles Governing the Issuance and Refusal of Injunctive Relief

Grant or Refusal of Injunctions in Civil Cases


Injunctions are legal orders issued by courts that require or prohibit certain actions to preserve rights and prevent harm in civil litigation. They hold immense significance in safeguarding interests and maintaining fairness. 

The propriety of granting an injunction depends on the facts of each particular case and the general principles of equity. Since relief by injunction is a drastic remedy, it will be granted only in extraordinary or exigent circumstances.

The right to exercise common sense in the granting or refusing of injunctions is one of the fundamental prerogatives of a court. Since an injunction should not be made an instrument of oppression and injury, it will not be granted when good conscience does not require it, where it will operate oppressively or contrary to justice, where it is not reasonable and equitable under the circumstances of the case, or where it will tend to promote, rather than to prevent fraud and injustice. An injunction will not be issued merely because no demonstrable harm will result from its issuance.

You can also read Injunctions in Civil Litigation: A Comprehensive Study of Grounds, Provisions, and Case Laws

Principles Governing the Grant or Refusal of Injunctions  

Following have been held to be the general principles that a Court should keep in mind while granting an injunction: 

Injunction as Auxiliary remedy

A Court of equitable jurisdiction has the right to use a writ of injunction as an auxiliary remedy, and an injunction may properly be granted in aid of other actions or proceedings. So, an injunction may be sought as ancillary relief in an action at law, and an injunction can be employed procedurally to preserve rights pending the outcome of substantive litigation. However, the courts are reluctant to issue mandatory orders in ‘ancillary proceedings, and an injunction asked in a proceeding brought for other purposes must have some relation and be subsidiary to those purposes; it is not proper in that proceeding to ask for an injunction for some independent purpose. 

Discretion of Court

Except in cases where a statute gives an absolute right to an injunction, whether temporary or permanent, cannot as a general rule be sought as a matter of right, but the power to grant or refuse it rests in the sound discretion of the court under the circumstances and the facts of the particular case. 

Caution Required

An injunction is not to be routinely or lightly granted, and restraint is required in issuing injunctive relief, since, the remedy is an extraordinary one. The power of the courts to issue injunctions should be exercised sparingly, with the utmost care, and with great caution and deliberation. So, the power is to be exercised only where the reason and necessity, therefore, are clearly established, and only in cases reasonably free from doubt.

Grounds for Grant of Injunction

Broadly stated, an injunction should be issued only in cases specifically pointed out by law, or where irreparable injury to the personal or property rights of the individual will result unless protected by its restraining effect. Permanent injunctive relief is available where there is no adequate remedy at law, where the balance of equities favors the moving party, and where success on the merits has been demonstrated. Standards for granting permanent injunctions are different from and less demanding than, standards for granting preliminary injunctions. 

(a) Grounds for Preliminary Injunction 

The appropriateness of granting or denying a preliminary injunction depends on the balancing of several factors, including the likelihood of success on the merits, lack of an adequate remedy at law, the prospect of imminent and irreparable harm if an injunction is not issued, comparison of relative hardships imposed on the parties, and whether the relief requested will adversely affect other parties or the public interest.

Existence and Nature of Right Protected 

Wherever a right cognizable at law exists or is created, a violation of that right will be prohibited, unless there are other considerations of policy or expediency that forbid a resort to the remedy of injunction. On the other hand, the existence of a right violated is a prerequisite to the granting of an injunction. Such right must be vested in the complainant, and it must be a right which is legally cognizable and justiciable, that is, one which is the proper subject of judicial inquiry and protection.

(a) Nature of Right 

While an injunction will not be granted unless there is some substantial right to be protected, the question of whether such relief will be granted to protect political rights or rights other than property or civil rights frequently is dependent on statutory provisions. 

(b) Doubtful Right

Where a complainant’s right is doubtful, a permanent injunction cannot be obtained until the doubt is removed and the right is made certain.

Status Quo Where Right Doubtful 

While the rule has been frequently laid down that a preliminary injunction will not be issued where the right that the complainant seeks to have protected is in doubt or where the right to the relief asked is doubtful, nevertheless it has often been held proper to maintain the status quo by a temporary injunction even though complainant’s right to permanent relief is doubtful.

Probability of success; Prima facie case 

Although an estimate of ultimate success in the entire action is a pre-requisite to the granting of a preliminary injunction, absolute certainty of the plaintiff's right to the final decision on the merits is not required, and it is sufficient and necessary that the plaintiff makes out a prima facie case showing a right to the final relief. It has been variously stated that in order for a preliminary injunction to issue, the plaintiff must demonstrate probable success on the merits or a reasonable probability of success at the trial on the merits.

The existence of a prima facie case is to be judged or made out on the basis of material/evidence on record at the time of hearing of injunction application and such evidence of material should be of the nature that by considering the same, the court should or ought to be of the view that plaintiff applying for injunction was in all probability likely to succeed in the suit by having a decision in his favor.

Balancing of Inconvenience

Balance of convenience is that if an injunction is not granted and the suit is ultimately decided in favor of the plaintiff, the inconvenience caused to the plaintiff would be greater than that would be caused to the defendant if the injunction is granted. In determining the appropriateness of injunctive relief, the courts balance the equities between the parties and are committed to the relative hardship or balance of convenience standard. So, ordinarily, on an application for an injunction, the court will in the exercise of the wide discretion with which it is vested take into consideration the relative inconvenience, hardship, or injury, that the parties will sustain by the granting or refusal of the application for an injunction. Deprivation of a substantial benefit, however, falls short of the imposition of substantial hardship, for the purpose of the doctrine of balancing of conveniences.

Where a court balances conveniences to determine whether an injunction, otherwise warranted, should be withheld, its action approaches an exercise of the right of eminent domain in favor of a private person. When the issuance of an injunction will cause great injury to the defendant and will confer no benefit or very little benefit in comparison to the Plaintiff, it is proper to refuse the injunction. 

Threats of injury

It is not a condition precedent to the issuance of an injunction that actual threats to do the injury complained of have been made, but it will be sufficient if acts evincing such intention have been committed, or if the defendant has manifested an intent to act. While mere threats to commit the act complained of unaccompanied by some overt act will not authorize the issuance of an injunction, if dependants threaten to do the wrong and have the power to do so an injunction should be issued.

Existence and Nature of Injury 

Subject to some exceptions, in order to entitle a person to injunctive relief, he must establish an actual and substantial injury or an affirmative prospect thereof.

(a) Injury Sustained Prior to Suit 

Since the purpose of an injunction is not to afford a remedy for what is past but to prevent future mischief, rights already lost and wrongs already perpetrated ordinarily may not be corrected by injunction. 

Discontinuance of Acts

Injunctive relief will not lie to prevent that which in good faith has been discontinued, in the absence of any existence that the acts are likely to be repeated in the future, and a suit for injunction relief may be moot if the defendant can demonstrate that there is no reasonable expectation that the wrong sought to be enjoined will be repeated. 

Injury Suffered in Common with Public 

In the absence of special statutory regulation, where the injury complained of is, in fact, a public injury and the right violated is a public right, an individual cannot, as a general rule, maintain a suit for an injunction unless he suffers a special injury different from that suffered by the public at large.

Irreparable Injury/loss

Irreparable loss is meant to be the loss, which is incapable of being calculated on the yardstick of money. Ordinarily, to warrant injunctive relief, it must clearly appear that some act has been done, or is threatened, which will produce irreparable injury to the party asking for such relief. The irreparable injury was such injury that could not be adequately remedied by damages. Remedy by damages would be inadequate if compensation ultimately payable to the plaintiff in case of success in the suit would not place him in the position in which he was before the injunction was refused. 

(a) What Constitutes Irreparability 

With respect to injunctions, generally, an injury to be irreparable need not be such as to render its repair physically impossible, but it is irreparable when it cannot be adequately compensated in damages, although not necessarily beyond the possibility of compensation in damages. Also, an injury may be irreparable where there exists no certain pecuniary standard for the measurement: of the damages. In other words, the lack of an adequate remedy at law is a substantial element of irreparable harm, and an injury is irreparable when the only remedy at law is by a large number of suits for damages which by reason of their number and cost will produce no substantial results. This inadequacy of damages as compensation may be due to the nature of the injury itself or to the nature of the right or property injured, and it may also be due to the insolvency or want of responsibility of the person committing the acts complained of, although some courts have reached the opposite conclusion. Of course, if the injury is irreparable aside from the fact of the defendant’s insolvency, it is of no importance whether the defendant is solvent or not.

(b) Destruction or Change of Property 

Acts that destroy or result in a serious change of property either physically or in the character in which it has been held or enjoyed have been held to do an irreparable injury.

Injury or Inconvenience to Public or Third Person 

On an application for an injunction, it is the duty of the court to take into consideration the public interest, that is, the injury or inconvenience which may result to the public if an injunction is awarded. Different factors are considered when injunctive relief is sought in the public interest than if the action is between private parties, and the courts may go much further both to give or to withhold an injunctive relief in furtherance of public interest than where only private interests are involved. The public interest, when in conflict with the private interest, is paramount. 

Prevention of Multiplicity of Suits 

The prevention of multiplicity of actions at law is one of the special grounds of equity jurisdiction and for that purpose, the remedy by injunction is freely used, even when there may be a legal remedy, and although the only injury resulting from the wrongful acts is pecuniary loss. However, an injunction will not always be granted to obviate a multiplicity of lawsuits as a matter of right, and a theoretical inadequacy of the legal remedy may be outweighed by other considerations. The court will consider the facts and circumstances of the particular case, and will not overlook the “balance of convenience” rule. The saving of expense is not alone a sufficient ground for bringing a bill in equity. Even though an injunction would prevent a multiplicity of actions at law, the interests of the public may be paramount to those of the complainant, and an injunction may be refused for that reason.

Inadequacy of Legal Remedies

The traditional and fundamental basis for injunctive relief is the inadequacy of legal remedies and irreparable harm or injury. Accordingly, except where such rule may be changed by statute, an injunction ordinarily will not be granted where the remedy at law for the injury complained of is full, adequate, and complete.

(a) Sufficiency of Legal Remedy

In order to warrant the denial of an injunction because of the existence of a remedy at law, such remedy must be plain, adequate, complete, and as practical and efficient as the equitable remedy.

Conduct and Motive of Plaintiff

In determining whether or not the relief asked by way of injunction should be given, it is the duty of the court to take into consideration the conduct and situation of the parties. The plaintiff must show that he is equitably and in good conscience entitled to relief by injunction in addition to showing equitable grounds for relief, and, where the established facts do not show any superior equity entitling the plaintiff to the injunction asked as against the defendant, it should not be granted.

Successive Injunctions 

Ordinarily, where an injunction has been refused, or dissolved if granted, the plaintiff may after that be entitled to an injunction only on grounds that did not exist when the first bill was filed.

(a)  Injunction Already in Force

Ordinarily, where a prior injunction has been obtained and is still in force, a second injunction in the same or another court will be refused.

Injunction Ineffectual or Unnecessary

As a general rule, an injunction will be refused where the circumstances are such that the injunction cannot be enforced by the court, or where such enforcement would require continuous supervision on the part of the court; and the granting of an injunction is inappropriate where there is no necessity, therefore, where it would be a futile act and serve no useful purpose, or where for any reason it can be of no benefit to the complainant, or” could not correct the mischief complained of, or would bring about the very conditions which it is sought to prevent. Accordingly, before the plaintiff may successfully invoke the court’s injunctive powers, the case must have reached a posture in which judicial intervention would be appropriate and effective.

Change in Circumstances After Suit Brought

Equity, it has been said, acts in the present tense, and relief is dependent on current and future conditions rather than solely on those existing when the suit was brought. Accordingly, although the bill or complaint may state valid grounds for the granting of an ‘ injunction, where events occur after the filling of the bill which renders an injunction unnecessary or ineffectual, it will ordinarily be refused, since the issue to be determined has become moot.

Other Objections to Issuance 

Where a crime would naturally and directly vest the property in a criminal, an injunction will issue to prevent such result, although a contract, a will, or a statute is thereby nullified; but an injunction will not be granted where the effect thereof would be to aid an act which, if done, would be criminal or illegal. 

Persons who may be Restrained 

An injunction will not be issued restraining a defendant from taking certain action unless he is himself the person attempting to take such action or is the person in control thereof. 

Persons Entitled to Injunction

In order to be entitled to injunctive relief, the plaintiff must have the capacity to sue. He must be the real party in interest and must stand or fall on the merits of his own case.

Summary of Principles Governing the Grant or Refusal of Injunctions

Principles Governing the Grant of Injunctions:

Prima Facie Case:

To obtain an injunction, the applicant must establish a strong prima facie case by presenting credible evidence and supporting documentation. This requires demonstrating the likelihood of success on the merits of the case and irreparable harm or injury if the injunction is not granted.

Balance of Convenience:

The principle of balancing the interests of the parties involved plays a crucial role in granting or refusing injunctions. Courts weigh the potential harm caused by granting or refusing an injunction and evaluate the impact on public interest and welfare. The goal is to achieve fairness and minimize any unjust consequences.

No Adequate Remedy at Law:

Injunctions are granted when there is no adequate remedy available through monetary compensation or other legal means. They are necessary to protect rights and prevent irreparable harm that cannot be adequately remedied by monetary damages alone.

Principles Governing the Refusal of Injunctions

Absence of Prima Facie Case:

If the applicant fails to establish a strong prima facie case, the court may refuse to grant an injunction. Insufficient evidence or lack of credibility may lead to the denial of injunctive relief. Clear and compelling evidence is required to justify the refusal of an injunction.

Delay and Laches:

Timeliness is essential in seeking injunctions. Delay and laches, referring to unreasonable delay or neglect in asserting one's rights, may result in the refusal of an injunction. Acting promptly is crucial to protect rights and prevent harm effectively.

Balance of Convenience Favors Refusal:

In certain situations, the balance of convenience may favor refusing an injunction. If the potential harm caused by granting an injunction outweighs the benefits, the court may decline injunctive relief. The impact on public interest and welfare is carefully considered in the context of refusal.

Case Laws From Different Jurisdictions

United States:

eBay Inc. v. MercExchange LLC

It was held that the appeals court's general rule was an unwarranted departure from the traditional four-part test applied to determine whether an injunction is necessary.

That test requires the plaintiff to prove:

  • (1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury;
  • (2) that the law does not provide other adequate ways to compensate it;
  • (3) that considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, an injunction is warranted; and
  • (4) that the public interest would not be harmed by a permanent injunction.

The Court found no reason to make decisions on injunctions under the Patent Act different from other decisions on injunctions, and so the appeals court's general rule was rejected and the decision reversed.

United Kingdom:

Cyanamid Co. v. Ethicon Ltd

It was held that 

  • (a) it was not the courts’ role to consider conflicting evidence in respect of an interim application. This was a matter for trial.
  • (b) All that was necessary at this stage was that the claimant should show that there was a real issue to be tried.
  • (c) The court should consider whether damages were an adequate remedy for a claimant if an injunction was not granted. If so, an injunction would not be available.
  • (d) If damages were not an adequate remedy, the court should then ask whether the claimant would be able to give an undertaking in damages to the defendant.
  • (e) If it was considered that there was any difficulty regarding the availability of damages on either side, the court should consider the balance of convenience between the parties.
  • (f) If these factors were evenly balanced, the court should consider maintaining the status quo.
On the facts of this case, the balance of convenience lay with the appellant and the appeal was allowed.


Injunctions are rarely refused where their refusal will operate contrary to the justice of the case and produce inequitable results. An injunction will be granted to protect clear legal rights, but not to accomplish a wrong, and the equities of the case must be in favor of the party seeking the injunctive relief. However, an injunction will lie if the court can by its decree assure the parties that its operative effect will be wholly without injustice or oppression to either party. 

Read also:
Highly accomplished, meticulously organized, and detailed Attorney with a proven track record of success in conducting legal research, analysis, trial preparation, and document drafting.