The Supreme Court observed that after the Specific Relief (Amendment) Act, 2018, the relief of specific performance of contract is not discretionary.
In B. SANTOSHAMMA vs. D. SARALA (CIVIL APPEAL NO.3574 OF 2009), a Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice UU Lalit and Justice Indira Banarjee observed that the relief of specific performance is no longer discretionary.
Amended Section 10 of the Act states,
"The specific performance of a contract shall be enforced by the court subject to the provisions contained in sub-section (2) of section 11, section 14 and section 16."
The bench stated,
"After the amendment of Section 10 of the S.R.A., the words "specific performance of any contract may, in the discretion of the Court, be enforced" have been substituted with the words "specific performance of a contract shall be enforced subject to ...". The Court is, now obliged to enforce the specific performance of a contract, subject to the provisions of sub-section (2) of Section 11, Section 14 and Section 16 of the S.R.A. Relief of specific performance of a contract is no longer discretionary, after the amendment."
However, the bench further observed that Section 12 of the Act which provides for specific performance of part of contract, provides exceptions where the Court may direct specific performance of part of contract.
The bench stated,
"Where a party to the contract is unable to perform the whole of his part of the contract, the Court may, in the circumstances mentioned in Section 12 of the S.R.A., direct the specific performance of so much of the contract, as can be performed, particularly where the value of the part of the contract left unperformed would be small in proportion to the total value of the contract and admits of compensation.. The Court may, under Section 12 of the S.R.A. direct the party in default to perform specifically, so much of his part of the contract, as he can perform, provided the other party pays or has paid the consideration for the whole of the contract, reduced by the consideration for the part which must be left unperformed.”
The court observed that Section 12 of Specific Relief Act ,must be interpreted in a purposive and meaningful manner in order to empower the court to order the defaulting party to perform so much of the contract as can be performed.
"To hold otherwise would permit a party to a contract for sale of land, to deliberately frustrate the entire contract by transferring a part of the suit property and creating third party interests over the same. Section 12 has to be construed in a liberal, purposive manner that is fair and promotes justice. A contractee who frustrates a contract deliberately by his own wrongful acts cannot be permitted to escape scot free."