Specific Relief Act, 1963

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The Specific Relief Act, 1963 was passed by the Parliament following the recommendations of the Law Commission of India which repealed the earlier “Specific Relief Act” of 1877. Under the 1963 act, most equitable concepts were codified and made statutory rights, thereby ending the discretionary role of the courts to grant equitable reliefs. Though the act widens the sphere of the civil court, it is not exhaustive of all kinds of specific reliefs. The Act is not restricted to specific performance of contracts as the statute governs powers of the court in granting specific reliefs in a variety of fields. The Law of Specific Relief belongs to the category of those laws which define remedies. The law of contract provides the remedy of damages for breach of contract. Substantive laws can never afford to be exhaustive in terms of their remedies and reliefs. The network of Reliefs allowed by the Act falls under the following outlines:

1. Recovery of possession of the property- Though the Specific Relief Act is concerned only with the enforcement of civil rights and not only penal laws, even civil law has to take care of certain rights, the violation of which is capable of creating serious clashes and these are rights to possession of the property. The very first chapter provides relief to those who have been disposed of their property.

2. Specific performance of contracts- One of the most vital aspects of civil rights is the fulfillment of expectations created by a contract voluntarily made by the parties. Contracts must be enforced but the only way the law of contract can enforce is by awarding compensation to the injured person. In many cases however the compensation fails to serve the economic purpose of the contract. There was a need for a remedy that would compel a defaulting contractor to actually perform his contract. This important function is covered under the second chapter of the Specific Relief Act.

3. Rectification and cancellation of instruments and rescission of contracts- A written transaction is an instrument. An instrument is the result of negotiations. Sometimes, the instrument that emerges fails to express the intention of the parties. Its rectification may become necessary. Chapter three of the Specific Relief Act helps the parties who want to have their mistakenly executed documents to be rectified. Closely related to it is the category of documents that are afterward discovered to be void or which becomes void. They are ought to be canceled. Chapter five provides relief from such kinds of documents.

4.Preventive relief- There are cases where the nature of the contract does not define the specific performance nor damages are likely to serve any purpose. For example, a person contracts to sing at a particular place and undertakes not to sing elsewhere during the same period. He threatens breach. The court cannot force him to sing. The positive argument is not enforceable. But the negative undertaking not to sing elsewhere can be enforced. By restraining him from performing elsewhere. This type of remedy is known as preventive relief. It is granted by issuing an order known as an injunction upon the party concerned directing him not to do a particular act or asking him to perform a particular duty known as a mandatory injunction. Such relief is granted under the provisions of part III of the Act running from Chapter VII to the end.

5.Declaratory relief- It may happen that a person is entitled to some status or character or has a right in some property but there are persons who are denying him the enjoyment of his right. He is allowed by Chapter VI of the Act to proceed against any person who is denying or interested in denying him his right and the court may issue a general declaration as to his entitlement to such rights.

The Act contains three parts and eight chapters, with 40 sections.

CHAPTER I

•Under this chapter, the person can recover the movable and immovable property. Section 5 says that a person is entitled to the possession of the specific immovable property that may recover in the manner prescribed by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Section 6 of the Act talks about the recovery of specific immovable property. The essence of the section is that whoever proves a better entitlement is a person entitled to possession. The title may be on the basis of ownership or possession. It is a principle in law that a person who has been in long continuous possession of the immovable property can protect the same by seeking an injunction against any person in the world other than the true owner. The suit for possession of the immovable property must be filed within six months from the dispossession. Section 6 is applicable only when the plaintiff proves- [1] Prem Sharma v Nishi Sharma, AIR 2003 HP 45, and [2]Narbada Devi Gupta v. Birendra Kumar Jaiswal, (2003) 8 SCC 745, and that the dispossession took place within 6 months from the date of the suit. Section 7-8 provides methods for the recovery of such possession of some specific movable property.

CHAPTER II

•This is an important chapter and can be subdivided as:

1. Contracts can be especially enforced.

2.Contracts that cannot be specifically enforced.

3.Persons for or against whom contracts may be specifically enforced.

4.Discretion and powers of the courts.

Section 9 defines the defenses respecting suits for relief based on a contract. All the defenses open under the law of contracts shall be open to a defendant where any relief is claimed under this chapter. It has been held that a Government contract which is concluded without fulfilling the requirements prescribed under Article 229 of the Constitution cannot be enforced.

Contracts which can be specifically enforced –

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

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

3. In the case of immovable property, the court would presume that the breach cannot be compensated by money.

4. In the case of movable property, the Court would presume that breach could be adequately compensated by money.

Contracts which cannot be specifically enforced-

1.When non-performance can be compensated by money.

2. Which runs into a minute or numerous details

3.Which is dependent on the personal qualification or violation of the parties

4.Which is in nature determinable

5.Which involves the performance of continuous duty which court cannot supervise

6.Contract to refer present or future differences to which court cannot supervise.

CHAPTER III

When through fraud or mutual mistake of the parties a contract does not express their real intention then- either party or his representative in interest may institute a suit to have the instrument rectified or in any suit pray for rectification of instrument or a defendant may ask for rectification. The court may in its discretion directly rectify the instrument.


CHAPTER IV

Any person interested in a contract may sue to rescind the contract and the court may grant such a recession if-

1. A contract is voidable or terminable by the plaintiff.

2. A contract is unlawful for causes not apparent on its face and the defendant is more to blame than the plaintiff.

But the court may refuse to rescind the contract-

1.Where the plaintiff has expressly or impliedly ratified the contract; or

2. Where owing to change of circumstances the parties cannot be substantially restored to the position in which they stood when the contract was made; or

3. Where third parties have acquired rights in good faith without notice and for value;


CHAPTER V

Any person against whom a written instrument is void or voidable and who has a reasonable apprehension that such instrument if left outstanding may cause him serious injury may sue to have it adjudged void or voidable and the court may in its discretion so adjudge it and order it to be delivered up and canceled. If the instrument has been registered the court shall also send a copy of its decree to the registration office.

CHAPTER VI

Any person entitled to any legal character or to any right as to any property may institute a suit against any person denying his title or right. The court in its discretion makes such declaration and is binding on parties.

CHAPTER VII

Preventive relief is granted at the discretion of the court by injunction, temporary or perpetual. Court by injunction, temporary or perpetual. Temporary injunctions are for a specific time.

CHAPTER VIII

Perpetual injunctions may be granted to prevent the breach of an obligation existing in his favor; or when the defendant invades or threatens to invade the right of the plaintiff and where there exists no standard for ascertaining the actual damage caused; when the invasion is such that compensation in money would not afford adequate relief.

  1. that he was in judicial possession of the immovable property
  2. that he had been disposed of without his consent and otherwise in due course of law