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May 17, 2024

Specific Performance under the Special Relief Act, 1963

The concept of Specific Performance refers to a legal remedy provided by the Indian courts under the Special Relief Act, 1963. It essentially compels a party to a contract to fulfill their obligations exactly as agreed upon, rather than awarding monetary compensation for breach of contract.

Circumstances for Granting Specific Performance:

The court will generally grant specific performance of a contract under certain conditions:

  • Adequacy of Damages: Monetary compensation (damages) wouldn’t be an adequate remedy for the breach. This is often the case for unique items like rare artwork or ancestral property, where money cannot replace the specific item.

  • Nature of Contract: The contract should be for something specific and identifiable. For example, a contract to deliver a specific car or a painting is more likely to be granted specific performance than a contract for general services.

  • Enforceability of Contract: The contract must be valid and enforceable in the first place. If the contract is illegal or has some fundamental flaw, specific performance won’t be granted.

  • Mutuality of Contract: Both parties must have obligations under the contract. A one-sided agreement wouldn’t be eligible for specific performance.

  • Clean Hands Doctrine: The party seeking specific performance must have acted fairly and legally throughout the entire process. If their conduct has been questionable, the court may be reluctant to grant this remedy.

  • Discretion of the Court: Ultimately, the decision to grant specific performance lies with the court’s discretion. They will consider all aspects of the case and decide if it’s the most appropriate remedy in the given situation.

Key Points:

  • Specific performance is a powerful tool to ensure exact fulfillment of contractual obligations.
  • It’s not an automatic right; specific conditions must be met for the court to grant it.
  • The court has the discretion to decide whether specific performance is the most suitable remedy.

When Specific Performance Won’t Be Granted:

There are situations where specific performance might not be granted, even if the conditions above are met. Here are some examples:

  • Personal Services: Courts typically wouldn’t force someone to perform personal services like singing in a concert.
  • Impracticability: If fulfilling the contract has become impossible or impractical due to unforeseen circumstances, specific performance might not be granted.
  • Hardship: If enforcing the contract would cause undue hardship to the other party, the court might opt for alternative remedies.

Important sections and case law:

Important Sections:

  • Section 5: Recovery of Specific Immovable Property – This section empowers individuals to seek court orders to regain possession of their immovable property (land and buildings) if they have been dispossessed wrongfully.
    • Case Law: Sheela Devi vs. Union of India (AIR 2000 SC 1934) – This case highlights the court’s role in ensuring possession is rightfully restored to the owner.
  • Section 6: Suit by Person Dispossessed of Immovable Property – This section outlines the legal procedure for filing a suit for recovery of possession of immovable property.
    • Case Law: Tripathi Kashinath vs. Govind Sakharam (AIR 1976 SC 1231) – This case clarifies the limitation period for filing such suits.
  • Section 9: Defences Respecting Suits for Relief Based on Contract – This section acknowledges that even when seeking specific performance of a contract (enforcement), the defendant can raise valid defenses based on contract law.
    • Case Law: National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd. vs. M/s. Gannon Dunkerley & Co. Ltd. (2014) 6 SCC 628 – This case emphasizes the court’s discretion in granting specific performance based on fairness and practicality.
  • Section 10: Specific Performance in Respect of Contracts – This section is a key provision that allows courts to order the specific performance of a contract, ensuring the parties fulfill their contractual obligations.
    • Case Law: Pushpa Devi vs. Sohan Lal (AIR 2010 SC 3478) – This case highlights that specific performance is generally granted when monetary compensation wouldn’t be sufficient to fulfill the contract’s purpose.
  • Section 41: Injunctions – This section empowers courts to grant injunctions, which are court orders restraining a party from doing something (prohibitory injunction) or compelling them to do something (mandatory injunction) to prevent injustice.
    • Case Law: Cadila Healthcare Ltd. vs. Roche Products India Pvt. Ltd. (2004) 10 SCC 1 – This case exemplifies the use of injunctions in intellectual property disputes to prevent trademark infringement.

Understanding the concept of specific performance and the circumstances under which it’s granted is crucial for individuals and businesses entering into contracts in India.


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