Summary of the Specific Relief (Amendment) Act 2018

The Specific Relief (Amendment) Act 2018 changes the features of contract remedies. The important provisions relating to contract remedies are as follows:

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the Specific Relief Act 1963 as amended in 2018 (SRA 1963)
the Specific Relief Act 1963 as amended showing all changes.

1. Specific Performance is a general remedy.

Specific performance as a relief will be available to any promise who asks for it (s 10 of SRA 1963). He need not show that compensation will be inadequate or unascertainable. He has the right to select the remedy of specific performance. Specific performance is no longer an exceptional remedy.

The only grounds for refusing specific performance are given in ss. 11(2), 14 (as amended) and 16.

2. Contracts not specifically enforceable.

S 14 of the Specific Relief Act 1963 has been amended. It now states four situations when specific performance cannot be enforced.

Situations retained by amendment:

  1. performance of a continuous duty which court cannot supervise,
  2. performance so dependent on personal qualifications of parties that the court cannot enforce material terms,
  3. contract is determinable by nature.

Situations removed by amendment:

  1. Contracts which could not be enforced:
    • Contract for the performance of which compensation was adequate relief.
    • Contract which ran into minute or numerous details.
    • Contract is otherwise of such nature that court cannot grant enforcement of its material terms.
  2. Contracts could be enforced:
    • Agreement to execute a mortgage or furnish any other security, or to take up debentures.
    • Contract to construct a building.

Situation added by amendment :

Where a party has obtained substituted performance of the contract under s 20, the contract cannot be specifically enforced.
[This provision is redundant. The appropriate provision should have been: Where the promisee could have  obtained a substitute. More about this in a later post]

3. Parties to a suit for specific performance

Specific performance can be enforced by or against the new limited liability partnership formed by amalgamation of two limited liability partnerships. (Ss 15(fa) and 19(ca) of the SRA 1963)

4. Readiness and willingness

It will now be sufficient if the plaintiff proves readiness and willingness. His suit will not fail if he does not aver readiness and willingness in the plaint. (s 16(c) of the SRA 1963)

5. Personal bar to relief after substituted performance

If the plaintiff has obtained substituted performance of contract under s 20, he is not entitled to specific performance. (s 16(a) of the SRA 1963)
[This provision is redundant. More about this in a later post]

6. Court’s discretion removed

The court has now no discretion in granting or refusing specific performance. S 20 of the original Act has been deleted entirely.

7. New remedy of substituted performance

The substituted s 20 creates a new remedy of substituted performance. If the promisor refuses to perform, the promisee can perform the promise himself or through a third party, and claim the costs and expenses from the promisor. Before getting the promise performed through a third party, the promisee should give to the promisor an opportunity to complete his promise. This remedy is in addition the remedy of compensation under s 73 of the Indian Contract Act 1872.

8. No compensation in substitution of specific performance.

The amendment rules out the claim for compensation in the alternative of specific performance. The plaintiff seeking specific performance cannot now claim compensation if specific performance is refused.  (s 21 of the SRA 1963)
[This bars the claim of compensation if specific performance of a contract is refused by the court under s 14 of the amended Act. More about this in a later post.]

9. No injunction to restrain progress of infrastructure projects

The court will not grant injunction in a suit under the Specific Relief Act about a contract relating to an infrastructure project, where granting such injunction would impede or delay the progress or completion of such project. (S 20A of the SRA 1963)

This restraint on the powers of the court is not restricted to suits on contracts, but has been extended by incorporating clause (ha) in section 41. The court should not grant injunction which would impede or delay the progress or completion of an infrastructure project, irrespective of the nature of the suit.

10. Other provisions.

The amendment makes new provisions about other aspects:

  1. Summary suit against forcible dispossession by his predecessor or successor-in-interest (s 6 of the SRA 1963)
  2. Appointment of experts by the Court (S 14A of the SRA 1963),
  3. Special courts to try suits on contracts relating to infrastructure projects (S 20B of the SRA 1963),
  4. Early disposal of all suits under ‘this Act’ (S 20C of the SRA 1963)
  5. The Schedule giving a list of infrastructure projects or sub-sectors (The Schedule to the SRA 1963)