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Critical Analysis Of The Changes Incorporated In The Specific Relief (Amendment) Act 2018

Specific Relief Act came into force in 1963 as a Procedural law which is civil and a supplement to the existing Civil Procedure Code of 1908 and the Indian Contract Act of 1872. But the question is what the need for such laws is in the first place when there already exists a system of compensation and damages in both existing laws. Our Indian Judiciary is based on the principle of 'Ubi jes ibi remedium' which means that where there is a right there exists a remedy but the same is not possible every time because there are some things which cannot be compensated in monetary terms or say that money is not an adequate remedy for such things.

For this and numerous other similar reasons, the Specific Relief Act was seen as a viable option for the people. With the advent of time, it was felt that changes needed to be incorporated in the act and with this view a specialized committee of 6 members were formed by the government to recommend changes.

Major Changes Incorporated In The New Act
  • The scope of Section 6 which deals with the recovery of immovable property is now widened and a new clause is inserted in this section. Now not only the person who has disposed of the property illegally or any person claiming on his behalf can suit for the possession but also a person 'Through whom he has been in immediate possession' can file a case for relief under this section.[1] So now a landlord can also file a case specifically on behalf of his tenant because he/she is also the legal shareholder of the proper.
  • Specific performance of a contract is now made as a rule rather than an exception cause instead of the clauses like 'may' and 'Discretion of the court' clauses like 'contract shall be enforced by the court' are used in section 10 which points towards the legislative intent of the parliament.[2] Earlier the courts granted specific relief only when (1) there is no way to know the damage caused due to the frustration of the contract or (2) when no amount of money is appropriate for the breach[3] but now the whole act is changed and The courts shall now grant specific relief subject to the provisions contained in the Sub-Section (2) of Section 11, Section 14 and Section 16.[4]

Section 14 is amended and many provisions are deleted which were earlier present in the said act. Earlier Sub-section 2 of this act bars specific performance of arbitration clauses in the contracts subject to the condition of the Arbitration Act 1940. Subsection 3 which talks about the enforcement of partnership deeds, mortgages and other company matters was altogether removed.[5]

A new power to engage experts about the execution of specific performances is given to the courts subject to the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code 1908. Not only that the court can even direct the experts to provide essential documents and if the court considers they can be cross-examined by the parties to the suit.[6]

In section 15 a new clause is inserted and now specific performance can be demanded by a newly formed limited liability partnership which formed due to amalgamation of 2 other LLPs.[7]

The word 'to aver and prove' is replaced with ' who fails to prove' in section 16 which means that the plaintiff now just needs to prove their willingness that they were ready to enforce the contract before seeking for the specific performance.[8] Earlier they had to assert their readiness and willingness in the courts and merely proving the same was not sufficient.[9]

Section 20 now gives the power to the plaintiff to have substituted performance of contract through a third party or his agency and recover the expense from the party at fault subject to certain conditions.[10] Earlier section 20 deals with the discretionary power of the court and provides conditions under which Specific relief may be denied.[11] The amendment further introduced sub-sections under section 20 which says that no civil court can grant an injunction to infrastructure projects which affect their timely completion. The provision further says that some special courts should be set up for the timely completion of the infrastructural projects and all these matters should be disposed of within 12 months.

The clause 'either in addition or in substitution' is replaced with 'in addition' in sub-section 1 of section 21.[12]

Pros Of The New Act
The rank of India in the Ease of Doing Business published by World Bank 2018 is reported to be 100 which is better than the previous year.[13] India has always been seen as an Anti Business regime where it takes years and years for the enforcement of corporate contracts and deeds. According to the National Judicial data grid report, it would take about 1445 Days to enforce a contract.[14] All of these keep the investors and Businesses in the back seat fearing losing money and time.

Another problem is injunction in matters of infrastructures and contracts. According to the Economic Survey Report 2018, the frequent injunction of projects costs India around 52,081 crores.[15] Before the amendment corporations have to go through a lengthy process for the specific performance of contractual deeds to satisfy the conditions which depend upon the discretion of the court but after the amendment specific performance is more of a rule than an exception. Infrastructural Injunctions which hinder progress are also rectified. The establishment of fast-track courts for the disposal of matters will surely play a big role in boosting investment in the future. All of these will surely help to change this negative stigma of anti-business in the upcoming future.

All this being said this amendment is not at all perfect and certainly has some flaws.1st thing is that specific relief cannot be recourse for all disputes and many countries such as the UK and the US still follow the law of specific performance just as an exception and not as a rule.[16] The amendment also put the defendant in a vulnerable position cause earlier section 20 of the act talks about situations where a defendant was coerced or enforcing such deeds would be unjust for the defendant to be removed.

Earlier the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff to seek specific performance but now it lies with the defendant to prove why specific performance should not be given. Further, the act barred the injunction of infrastructural projects which induce fear in the minds of people whose rights will be affected in this whole construction.[17] The newly amended section 20 which provides for the substitution performance of the contract has no provision for the supervision of the same which the plaintiff may wrongly use by exhorting more money from the defendant.[18]

In section 21 now people cannot file for compensation if the court refuses to grant specific performance which was not the case earlier.[19] There is no clear provision on whether the new act will be enforced retrospectively or prospectively. Finally, there are many loose ends in the amendment which will be filled through case laws of the apex court in the upcoming future which will lay the ground for uncertainty and vagueness affecting the performance of the corporate deeds which ultimately nullifies the objective of the act

  1. Specific Relief (Amendment) Act 2018, Sec 6
  2. Ibid Sec 10
  3. Specific Relief Act 1963, Sec 10
  4. SRA 2018, Sec 10
  5. SRA 1963, Sec 14
  6. SRA 2018, Sec 14
  7. Ibid Sec 15
  8. Ibid Sec 16
  9. SRA 1963, Sec 16
  10. SRA 2018, Sec 20
  11. SRA 1963, Sec 20
  12. SRA 2018, Sec 21
  13. Saharshrarchi Uma Pandey, ' The Specific Relief (Amendment) Act, 2018' (2018) 1(5) International Journal of Law Management and Humanities,, accessed 27th
  14. Ibid
  15. Ibid
  16. Nilima Bhadbhade, ' The Specific Relief (Amendment) Act 2018: a Hurried Legislation' (Bar and Bench, 9 Oct 2018),, accessed 27 July 2023
  17. Ibid
  18. Ibid
  19. Ibid

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Shivam Tah
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