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Suit for Specific Performance within limitation can not be dismissed merely due to delay or laches



The Supreme Court has observed that a suit for specific performance filed within limitation cannot be dismissed on the sole ground of delay or laches.


The bench comprising Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Navin Sinha observed, once a suit for specific performance has been filed, any delay as a result of the court process cannot be put against the plaintiff as a matter of law in decreeing specific performance.


In this case, while denying specific performance, the High Court observed that the court process has taken 27 years to decide the specific performance suit, specific performance being a discretionary relief ought not to be granted.


The Supreme Court, in the present appeal, said that as per Section 20 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963, as it stood before the 2018 amendment, the Court has discretionary power to decree specific performance. This discretion however, is not arbitrary and must be exercised soundly and reasonably, guided by judicial principles, and capable of correction by a court of appeal.


The bench took note of the decision given by the Supreme Court in Mademsetty Satyanarayana v. G. Yelloji Rao, (1965) 2 SCR 221 wherein it was held that mere delay by itself, without more, cannot be the sole factor to deny specific performance.


The Bench stated that,


The resultant position in law is that a suit for specific performance filed within limitation cannot be dismissed on the sole ground of delay or laches. However, an exception to this rule is where immovable property is to be sold within a certain period, time being of the essence, and it is found that owing to some default on the part of the plaintiff, the sale could not take place within the stipulated time. Once a suit for specific performance has been filed, any delay as a result of the court process cannot be put against the plaintiff as a matter of law in decreeing specific performance. However, it is within the discretion of the Court, regard being had to the facts of each case, as to whether some additional amount ought or ought not to be paid by the plaintiff once a decree of specific performance is passed in its favour, even at the appellate stage.


The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that it is the settled law that mere delay by itself, without more, cannot be the sole factor to deny specific performance.





#SpecificPerformance

#Contract

#SRA1963

#DiscretionOfCourt

#HighCourt

#SCI

#Section20SRA

#Delay&laches

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