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THE SPECIFIC RELIEF ACT, 1963

Title : THE SPECIFIC RELIEF ACT, 1963

Year : 1963



Except as otherwise provided herein, where any relief is claimed under this Chapter in respect of a contract, the person against whom the relief is claimed may plead by way of defence any ground which is available to him under any law relating to contracts.



Except as otherwise provided in this Chapter, the specific performance of any contract may, in the discretion of the court, be enforced-

(a) When there exists no standard for ascertaining actual damage caused by the non-performance of the act agreed to be done; or

(b) When the act agreed to be done in such that compensation in money for its non-performance would not afford adequate relief.

Explanation.-Unless and until the contrary is proved, the court shall presume-

(i) That the breach of a contract to transfer immovable property cannot be adequately relieved by compensation in money; and

(ii) That the breach of a contract to transfer movable property can be so relieved except in the following cases:-

(a) Where the property is not an ordinary article of commerce, or is of special value or interest to the plaintiff, or consists of goods which are not easily obtainable in the market;

(b) Where the property is held by the defendant as the agent or trustee of the plaintiff.



(1) Except as otherwise provided in this Act, specific performance of a contract may, in the discretion of the court, be enforced when the act agreed to be done is in the performance wholly or partly of a trust.

(2) A contract made by a trustee in excess of his powers or in breach of trust cannot be specifically enforced.



(1) Except as otherwise hereinafter provided in this section the court shall not direct the specific performance of a part of a contract.

(2) Where a party to a contract is unable to perform the whole of his part of it, but the part which must be left unperformed be a only a small proportion to the whole in value and admits of compensation in money, the court may, at the suit of either party, direct the specific performance of so much of the contract as can be performed, and award compensation in money for the deficiency.
 
(3) Where a party to a contract is unable to perform the whole of his part of it, and the part which must be left unperformed either-

(a) Forms a considerable part of the whole, though admitting of compensation in money; or

(b) Does not admit of compensation in money; he is not entitled to obtain a decree for specific performance; but the court may, at the suit of the other party, direct the party in default to perform specifically so much of his part of the contract as he can perform, if the other party-

(i) In a case falling under clause (a), pays or has paid the agreed consideration for the whole of the contract reduced by the consideration for the part which must be left unperformed and a case falling under clause (b),1[pays or had paid] the consideration for the whole of the contract without any abatement; and

(ii) In either case, relinquishes all claims to the performance of the remaining part of the contract and all right to compensation, either for the deficiency or for the loss or damage sustained by him through the default of the defendant.

(4) When a part of a contract which, taken by itself, can and ought to be specifically performed, stands on a separate and independent footing from another part of the same contract which cannot or ought not to be specifically performed, the court may direct specific performance of the former part.

Explanation.-For the purposes of this section, a party to a contract shall be deemed to be unable to perform the whole of his part of it if a portion of its subject matter existing at the date of the contract has ceased to exist at the time of its performance.

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1. Inserted by Act 52 of 1964, Schedule II.

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(1) Where a person contracts to sell or let certain immovable property having no title or only an imperfect title, the purchaser or lessee (subject to the other provisions of this chapter), has the following rights, namely:-

(a) If the vendor or lessor has subsequently to the contract acquired any interest in the property, the purchaser or lessee may compel him to make good the contract out of such interest;

(b) Where the concurrence of other person is necessary for validating the title, and they are bound to concur at the request of the vendor or lessor, the purchaser or lessee may compel him to procure such concurrence, and when a conveyance by other persons is necessary to validate the title and they are bound to convey at the request of the vendor or lessor, the purchaser or lessee may compel him to procure such conveyance;

(c) Where the vendor professes to sell unencumbered property, but the property is mortgaged for an amount not exceeding the purchase money and the vendor has in fact only a right to redeem it, the purchaser may compel him to redeem the mortgage and to obtain a valid discharge, and, where necessary, also a conveyance from the mortgagee;

(d) Where the vendor or lessor sues for specific performance of the contract and the suit is dismissed on the ground of his want of title or imperfect title, the defendant has right to a return of his deposit, if any, with interest thereon, to his costs of the suit, and to a lien for such deposit, interest and costs on the interest, if any, of the vendor or lesser in the property which is the subject-matter of the contract.

(2) The provisions of sub-section (1) shall also apply, as far as may be, to contracts for the sale or hire of movable property.



(1) The following contracts cannot be specifically enforced, namely:-

(a) A contract for the non-performance of which compensation is an adequate relief;

(b) A contract which runs into such minute or numerous details or which is so dependent on the personal qualifications or volition of the parties, or otherwise from its nature is such, that the court cannot enforce specific performance of its material terms;

(c) A contract which is in its nature determinable;

(d) A contract the performance of which involves the performance of a continuous duty which the court cannot supervise.

(2) Save as provided by the Arbitration Act, 1940, no contract to refer present of future differences to arbitration shall be specifically enforced; but if any person who has made such a contract (other than arbitration agreement to which the provisions of the said Act apply) and has refused to perform it, sues in respect of any subject which he has contracted to refer, the existence of such contract shall bar the suit.

(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in clause (a) or clause (c) or clause (d) of sub-section (1), the court may enforce specific performance in the following cases:-

(a) Where the suit is for the enforcement of a contract,-

(i) To execute a mortgage or furnish any other security for securing the repayment of any loan which the borrower is not willing to repay at once:

Provided that where only a part of the loan has been advanced the vender is willing to advance the remaining part of the loan in terms of the contract; or

(ii) To take up and pay for any debentures of a company;

(b) Where the suit is for,-

(i) The execution of a formal deed of partnership, the parties having commenced to carry on the business of the partnership; or

(ii) The purchase of a share of a partner in a firm;

(c) Where the suit is for the enforcement of a contract for the construction of any building or the execution of any other work on land:

Provided that the following conditions are fulfilled, namely:-
 
(i) The building or other work is described in the contract in terms sufficiently precise to enable the court to determine the exact nature of the building or work;

(ii) The plaintiff has a substantial interest in the performance of the contract and the interest is of such a nature that compensation in money for non- performance of the contract is not adequate relief; and

(iii) The defendant has, in pursuance of the contract, obtained possession of the whole or any part of the land on which the building is to be constructed or other work is to be executed.Persons for or against whom contracts may be specifically enforced.



Except as otherwise provided by this Chapter, the specific performance of a contract may be obtained by-

(a) Any party thereto;

(b) The representative in interest or the principal, of any party thereto:

Provided that where the learning, skill, solvency or any personal quality of such party is a material ingredient in the contract, or where the contract provides that his interest shall not be assigned, his representative in interest or his principal shall not be entitled to specific performance of the contract, unless such party has already performed his part of the contract, or the performance thereof by his representative in interest, or his principal, has been accepted by the other party;

(c) Where the contract is a settlement on marriage, or a compromise of doubtful rights between members of the same family, any person beneficially entitled thereunder;

(d) Where the contract has been entered into by a tenant for life in due exercise of a power, the remainderman;

(e) A reversioner in possession, where the agreement is a covenant entered into with his predecessor in title and the reversioner is entitled to the benefit of such covenant;

(f) A reversioner in remainder, where the agreement is such a covenant, and the reversioner is entitled to the benefit thereof and will sustain material injury by reason of its breach;

(g) When a company has entered into a contract and subsequently becomes amalgamated with another company, the new company which arises out of the amalgamation;

(h) When the promoters of a company have, before its incorporation, entered into a contract for the purposes of the company, and such contract is warranted by the terms of the incorporation, the company:

Provided that the company has accepted the contract and has communicated such acceptance to the other party to the contract.



Specific performance of a contract cannot be enforced in favour of a person-

(a) Who would not be entitled to recover compensation for its breach; or

(b) Who has become incapable of performing, or violates any essential term of, the contract that on his part remains to be performed, or acts in fraud of the contract, or willfully acts at variance with, or in subversion of, the relation intended to be established by the contract; or

(c) Who fails to aver and prove that he has performed or has always been ready and willing to perform the essential terms of the contract which are to be performed by him, other than terms of the performance of which has been prevented or waived by the defendant.

Explanation.-For the purposes of clause(c),-

(i) Where a contract involves the payment of money, it is not essential for the plaintiff to actually tender to the defendant or to deposit in court any money except when so directed by the court;

(ii) The plaintiff must aver performance of, or readiness and willingness to perform, the contract according to its true construction.



(1) A contract to sell or let any immovable property cannot be specifically enforced in favour of a vendor or lessor-

(a) Who, knowing himself not to have any title to the property, has contracted to sell or let the property;

(b) Who, though he entered into the contract believing that he had a good title to the property, cannot at the time fixed by the parties or by the court for the completion of the sale or letting, give the purchaser or lessee a title free from reasonable doubt.

(2) The provisions of sub-section (1) shall also apply as far as may be, to contracts for the sale or hire of movable property.



Where a plaintiff seeks specific performance of a contract in writing, to which the defendant sets up a variation, the plaintiff cannot obtain the performance sought, except with the variation so set up, in the following case, namely:-

(a) Where by fraud, mistake of fact or misrepresentation, the written contract of which performance is sought is in its terms or effect different from what the parties agreed to, or does not contain all the terms agreed to between the parties on the basis of which the defendant entered into the contact

(b) Where the object of the parties was to produce a certain legal result which the contract as framed is not calculated to produce;

(c) Where the parties have, subsequently to the execution of the contract, varied its terms.



Except as otherwise provided by this Chapter, specific performance of a contract may be enforced against-

(a) Either party thereto;

(b) Any other person claiming under him by a title arising subsequently to the contract, except a transferee for value who has paid his money in good faith and without notice of the original contract;

(c) Any person claiming under a title which, though prior to the contract and known to the plaintiff, might have been displaced by the defendant;

(d) When a company has entered into a contract and subsequently becomes amalgamated with another company, the new company which arises out of the amalgamation;

(e) When the promoters of a company have, before its incorporation, entered into a contract for the purpose of the company and such contract is warranted by the terms of the incorporation, the company:

Provided that the company has accepted the contract and communicated such acceptance to the other party to the contract.



(1) The jurisdiction to decree specific performance is discretionary, and the court is not bound to grant such relief merely because it is lawful to do so; but the discretion of the court is not arbitrary but sound and reasonable, guide by judicial principles and capable of correction by a court of appeal.

(2) The following are cases in which the court may properly exercise discretion not to decree specific performance:-
 
(a) Where the terms of the contract or the conduct of the parties at the time of entering into the contract or the other circumstances under which the contract was entered into are such that the contract, though not voidable, gives the plaintiff an unfair advantage over the defendant; or

(b) Where the performance of the contract would involve some hardship on the defendant which he did not foresee, whereas its non-performance would involve no such hardship on the plaintiff; or
 
(c) Where the defendant entered into the contract under circumstances which though not rendering the contract voidable, makes it inequitable to enforce specific performance.

Explanation
1.-Mere inadequacy of consideration, or the mere fact that the contract is onerous to the defendant or improvident in its nature, shall not be deemed to constitute an unfair advantage within the meaning of clause (a) or hardship within the meaning of clause (b).

Explanation 2.-The question whether the performance of a contract would involve hardship on the defendant within the meaning of clause (b) shall, except in cases where the hardship has resulted from any act of the plaintiff subsequent to the contract, be determined with reference to the circumstances existing at the time of the contract.

(3) The court may properly exercise discretion to decree specific performance in any case where the plaintiff has done substantial acts or suffered losses in consequence of a contract capable of specific performance.

(4) The court shall not refuse to any party specific performance of a contract merely on the ground that the contract is not enforceable at the instance of the other party.
Last updated on August, 2016

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