What is the Specific Relief Act about?
The Specific Relief Act, 1963 is related to contractual transactions. In case of a contractual transaction between two parties, their mutual rights and liabilities arise. When one of the parties breaches the terms and conditions of the contract, the other party has two types of remedies available.
It has the option to claim monetary compensation for the losses incurred from the other party. But if the party feels that the compensation will not provide it adequate relief, then
It can file a lawsuit and claim for the specific performance of the act which was specifically mentioned in the contract. The court can then order the violating party to perform the specific act. This is termed as Specific Relief.
In other words, it can be said that Specific Relief is a remedy which aims at the exact fulfilment of an obligation or the Specific performance of the contract.
Can it be applied to both Civil rights and Penal laws?
Section 4 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 clearly mentions that Specific Relief can be ordered only for the purpose of enforcing civil rights and not for penal laws. But there is an exception to this. A court can also grant Specific Relief when a penal law is indirectly associated with a civil right.
Why does the government want to change this law?
The central government in the last week of January, 2016 formed an expert committee chaired by Anand Desai to examine the act.
There is a provision in the act which says that there will be no specific performance of those contracts where monetary compensation is sufficient, or the contract involves the performance of a continuous duty which the court cannot supervise.
Also, the court has a discretionary power to decide whether specific performance should be given to a party asking for it.This gives rise to uncertainty in contracts.
The centre wants to limit the compensation and relief that courts can grant in cases relating to execution of infrastructure and development projects.
The government wants to enhance the “ease of doing business”. The law puts heavy burden of compensation and penalties on land acquirers and industry. It feels that some of the provisions of the act are an impediment for investors, as they fear a long drawn litigation process.
Recommendations made by the committee
- The panel suggested that the intervention of courts in the projects should be minimal. This suggestion is significant as it comes at a time when the Supreme Court and a number of High Courts are hearing petitions against the developers of these projects for damaging the environment.
- It has provided for guidelines for reducing the discretion granted to courts and tribunals while granting performance and injunctive relief.
- The committee has asked for specific performance to be made the rule and not an exception. This would mean that even if contractual obligations cannot be met, the court could ask the parties to fulfil terms of the contract. Monetary compensation will be an alternative when contracts cannot be fulfilled.
The recommendations are aimed at ensuring that public works contracts are executed without unnecessary delays