THE SPECIFIC RELIEF ACT, 1963

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The Specific Relief Act, 1963 was came into force on 1st March 1964. The Parliament enacted the Act by repealing the Specific Relief Act, 1877. The Act is based on the principle of equity and is used for granting specific relief for enforcing civil rights. It has no application in enforcing penal laws. The Specific Relief Act, 1877 contained the principles of equity, justice and good conscience. The need for a new statute suited for the new requirements lead to the enactment of the Act of 1963. The Bill of the new Act was drafted on the basis of the 9th Report of the Law Commission of India. From the preamble of the Act, it is clear that the Act was not an exhaustive one. It only deals with certain kinds of specific reliefs and there are other reliefs about which the Act was silent and are used by the courts.

The Act is a procedural law and provides a network of reliefs. The plaintiff, under the Act gets his relief in specific. The reliefs contained in the Act include,

  1. Recovery of Possession of Property,
  2. Specific Performance of Contracts,
  3. Rectification of Instruments,
  4. Rescission of Contracts,
  5. Cancellation of Instruments,
  6. Declarative Relief, and
  7. Preventive Reliefs ( Injunctions).

Sections 5 to 7 of the Act contained provisions regarding recovery of possession of property. It include both immovable property (Section 5) and movable property (Section 7). Any person having right of possession of the property can recover it by the application of provisions of Code of Civil Procedure. Section 6 prevents a person from possessing immovable property of another without his consent otherwise than by due process of law, without considering the question of title. A suit for recovery of such property under S.6 cannot be filed against the Government.

Chapter II of the Act deals with the specific performance of contracts. This is an equitable relief granted by the court to perform the contract when there is a breach of the same. Court’s jurisdiction to grant specific performance is only discretionary and Section 14 of the Act enumerated certain circumstances under which the suit for specific performance will be rejected.

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The provisions regarding rectification and cancellation of instruments and the rescission of contract were incorporated in Chapter III, IV and V respectively. The Act enable the parties to rectify the documents which are mistakenly executed. The instruments in writing and written contracts can be rectified on the ground of fraud and mutual mistake. Unilateral mistake is not a reason to seek rectification. The Act prescribed no time limit for a suit for rectification. Sections 27 to 30 deals with rescission of voidable and terminable contracts. This is opposite to the relief of specific performance since it discharged a party from the obligations by avoiding the contract. The relief is available to any interested person to the contract. The remedy is available if the contract is voidable or terminable at the instance of the plaintiff. Under section 31 of the Act, a person can sue for the cancellation of the document when he had an apprehension of serious injury from it.

Declaratory reliefs are available through the decrees of the court. Sections 34 and 35 provided this relief under which a person can approach the court for declaring his right or status over some property. The object of this relief is to prevent future litigation. This remedy can be requested when there were doubts regarding right over property. It can be sought against any person who denied or tried to deny the right of the plaintiff.

Another relief provided by the Act is preventive in nature. Preventive reliefs are granted by the courts by way of issuing injunctions. Injunctions under Part III of the Act (Chapter VII to end) prevents a person to do or not to do something. Granting of such reliefs are within the discretion of the court. By virtue of Section 36 of the Act, there are temporary or interlocutory injunctions and perpetual injunctions. Perpetual injunctions can be granted only after hearing both sides and considering the merits of the case. Under Section 39, court can grant mandatory injunctions to compel a person to do an act. It is issued to prevent the breach of an obligation. A plaintiff can claim damages in the suit for both mandatory and perpetual injunctions.

The Specific Relief Act, 1963 was amended twice by the Act No. 52 of 1964 and Act No. 56 of 1974. The later repealed two of the provisions of the Act viz, Sections 43 and 44.

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