Interpleader Suit Under Code of Civil Procedure


Apart from suits of ordinary civil nature disputed between the plaintiff and the defendant there also exists a category of suits by the name of Interpleader Suits which are disputed between the defendants only. Section 88 and Order XXXV of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) defines and lays down relevant provisions with respect to the Interpleader suit. The fundamental idea behind the interpleader suit is “A person Confronted with conflicting demands that he do or pay something ought not to be liable twice.”[1]


Before dwelling upon the details of the Interpleader suit, the following example may help get an insight into the very concept. A owes money to B which is due on 1st July. However, B dies before July 1 and C and D approach A for the payment of the money. Both claim to be the legal heirs of B. In such a situation where A is ready and willing to make the payment but has no means to find out whom to pay, he would file an Interpleader suit in the court where the defendants interplead to establish their respective claims.


The interpleader suit is based on the Interpleader Doctrine or rule which evolved in Britain. There were no well-established laws in cases of multiple claimants of some disputed subject-matter. However, the doctrine evolved through various judgments and eventually came to be summarized as under.

“A person against whom two or more persons make claim may bring an action for a determination whether he is liable to one or several of the claimants, and if so to what extent, whenever:

(a) the claims involve contentions of fact, or contentions of mixed law and fact, such that the plaintiff may sustain double or multiple liabilities as a consequence of the contentions being determined inconsistently; or

(b) the claims may exhaust a limited fund to which the claimants look for recovery”.[2]


Under Section 88 of CPC, if two or more persons lay down adverse claims over a sum of money, debt, or moveable/immoveable property from another person, such another person may file an Interpleader suit in the court. The additional conditions which must be fulfilled are as follows:[3]

  1. Such another person becomes the plaintiff and the former two or more claimants are called the defendants.
  2. The plaintiff must not claim any kind of interest in it apart from the necessary charges incurred in filing such a suit or maintaining the property.
  3. The plaintiff should also be ready and willing to make such payment or deliver the required possession.
  4. On the date of the institution of the suit, no other suit must be pending under which the defendants’ rights are decided or res judicata.

In Asan v. Saroda[4], these conditions were re-iterated and the court upheld that the defendants must lay down adverse claims and the plaintiff, without any interest of his own, must be willing to pay or deliver the property.


The Plaintiff as stated above is the person who has to make payment or deliver possession to the defendants. He or she acts as a neutral party aiming at proper payment or delivery whatever may and it is for this purpose that he or she must approach the court. As mentioned in Rule 1 of Order XXXV of CPC, the plaintiff himself must not have any interest in the subject-matter of dispute, the subject-matter must be severally claimed by the defendants and there must not be any collusion between the plaintiff and the defendants.[5] In respect of the Plaintiff’s interest, the Bombay High Court in Mangal Bhikaji Nagpase v. State Of Maharashtra[6] upheld that it is limited to the costs incurred only.

5.1.  Plaintiff’s Liability:

Rule 4 of Order XXXV of CPC provides that at the first hearing of the suit, the court is empowered to discharge the plaintiff of all liabilities in respect of the property so disputed and claimed by the defendants.[7] At the same, for the purpose of justice and propriety, the court may even retain all parties and not discharge the plaintiff of such liabilities. Additionally, the court may even provide the necessary costs to the plaintiff and dismiss him for the suit to prevent further inconvenience to him.

5.2. Costs to be paid to the Plaintiff:

The costs to be paid to the plaintiff are the ones incurred by him in filing the suit and other activities like safeguarding and maintaining the property. This may even be paid at the first hearing itself. Rule 6 of Order XXXV of CPC[8], provides that upon the proper institution of the Interpleader suit, the court may allow such costs to be reduced from the money, debt or moveable/immoveable property claimed by the defendants. If not this, the court may even resort to other efficient means for the same.

5.3. Plaintiff when sued by the defendant:

Under Rule 3 of Order XXXV of CPC[9], where the plaintiff was earlier sued by the defendant with regards the same property, debt or money, such court where the suit is pending, on being acquainted about the institution of the Interpleader suit, shall stay the proceedings in the current suit. However, the proceedings are not automatically stayed; the plaintiff (Interpleader) has to prove a prima facie case in his or her favour.

5.4. When and by Whom can an Interpleader suit Not be Filed:

Under Rule 5 of Order XXXV of CPC, the tenant and the agent cannot institute an Interpleader suit against his or her landlord and principal respectively. This prevents the tenant from challenging the landlord’s title to the property while the tenancy is subsisting.[10] In Bharat Bhushan Vij v. Arti Techchandani,[11] the court substantiated that the Interpleader suit can be filed by the tenant in cases where there is a dispute between the legal heirs of the landlord.

The purpose of this rule is to prevent the landlord or principal from being compelled by the tenant or agent to interplead with third parties except those claiming through them. However, the applicability of this rule is prima facie limited to tenants and agents only. Therefore an Interpleader suit filed by a bank with regards to multiple claims over a deposit by the customer and a third party does not fall under the prohibition of this rule.[12]

Additionally, the proviso to section 88 also lays down that if a suit based on the rights of all parties is disputed is already pending in some court, the Interpleader suit cannot be filed.


Thus the Interpleader suit serves as an efficient mechanism to not only aid the plaintiff but also the courts in reducing the burden of unnecessary suits over the same matter. As already stated, section 88 and Order XXXV of the CPC are fundamental provisions in this regard. The Interpleader suit serves as a significant measure to protect a bonafide person from future condemn in terms of non-fulfillment of his or her obligations due to unnecessary confusion arising due to multiple claims.[13]


[1] Pomeroy, Equity Jurisprudence, § 806, (4th Ed.) 1846.

[2] Myron Moskovitz, An Historical and Critical Analysis of Interpleader, 52 Cal. L. Rev. 706 (1964).

[3] Code of Civil Procedure 1908, § 88.

[4] Asan v. Saroda, AIR 1922 Cal 138.

[5] Code of Civil Procedure 1908, Rule 1 Order XXXV.

[6] Mangal Bhikaji Nagpase v. State Of Maharashtra (1997) 99 BOMLR 91.

[7] Code of Civil Procedure 1908, Rule 4 Order XXXV.

[8] Code of Civil Procedure 1908, Rule 6 Order XXXV.

[9] Code of Civil Procedure 1908, Rule 3 Order XXXV.

[10]CK Takwani, Civil Procedure 427 (6th Ed.) 2009.

[11] Bharat Bhushan Vij v Arti Techchandani 153 (2008) DLT 247.

[12] N.M.N. Duraiswami Chettiar v. Dindigul Urban Co-operative Bank Ltd  AIR 1957 Mad 745.


This article is authored by Vanshika Gahlot, Second-Year, B.A. LLB (Hons.) student at  RAJIV GANDHI NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF LAW, PUNJAB

Also Read – Stages of Civil Suit Under Civil Procedure Code, 1908

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