- The Specific Relief Act, 1963 is the outcome of the acceptance by the Central Government on the recommendations made by the Law Commission of India.
- The Act came into force on 1st March 1964. It replaced earlier Specific Relief Act of 1877.
- It extends to the whole of India, except the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
- The Specific Relief Act provides for specific reliefs. Specific relief means certain relief which is an exact or particular, a named, fixed or determined. It is a relief of a specific kind rather than a general relief or damages or compensation. It is a remedy which aims at the exact fulfillment of an obligation or specific performance of the contract.
- To understand the concept, let us take an example that ‘Y’ unlawfully dispossesses ‘X’ of his property. The general relief, in this case, ‘X’ may be requiring the defendant (Y) to pay compensation equivalent to the loss suffered by X due to dispossession. Now the specific relief may enable X to have the possession of the same property over again by requiring the defendant to restore possession of his property.
- Specific performance is generally granted when there exists no standard for ascertaining actual damages. For instance, the object of the sale is a sculpture by the dead famous artist, or where compensation in money will not provide adequate relief to the plaintiff, then specific relief comes into play.
- The Specific Relief Act, 1963 deals only with certain kinds of equitable reliefs and these are now:
- Recovery of possession of the property
- Specific Performance of contracts
- Rectification of Instruments
- Rescission of Contracts
- Cancellation of instruments
- Declaratory decrees
- Note: The other forms of Specific relief mentioned in the Code of Civil Procedure and in statutes such as Transfer of Property Act, Trust Act, and Partnership Act are different in origin and nature and are not included in this Act. The cases of Contract are governed by the statutory provisions contained in the Indian Contract Act, 1872 and the provisions of the Specific Relief Act do not apply to such cases
Definitions Under the Specific Relief Act, 1963 (S. 2):
- “obligation” includes every duty enforceable by law.
- It is a right of any person against another in respect of the property. Under S. 2 of the term “obligation” covers only those duties which are enforceable by law. Thus moral, social and religious obligations which are not enforceable by law are excluded.
- Under this Act, the term “obligation” assume one of the following five forms:
- The obligation arising out of tort;
- The obligation arising out of contract;
- The obligation arising out of a quasi-contract;
- The obligation arising under a law of a statute; and
- The obligation arising out of a trust.
- “settlement” means an instrument (other than a will or codicil as defined by the Indian Succession Act, 1925 (39 of 1925), whereby the destination or devolution of successive interests in movable or immovable property is disposed of or is agreed to be disposed of.
- A “trust” has the same meaning as in section 3 of the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 (2 of 1882), and includes an obligation in the nature of a trust within the meaning of Chapter IX of that Act;
- According to Indian Trust Act, trust means an obligation annexed to the ownership of property, & arising out of a confidence reposed in & accepted by the owner for the benefit of another or for another and owner.
- The person who declares the confidence is called the author of the trust.
- The person who accepts the confidence is called trustee.
- The subject matter of the trust is called trust property or trust monetary.
- The written document through which trust is created is called an instrument of trust.
- The person whose benefit the confidence is accepted is called beneficiary.
- Thus, a trust is an acceptance of an obligation by a person in against of some property or funds to use it or hold it for the benefit for the person whom the trust is created.
- “trustee” includes every person holding property in trust;
Savings (S. 3):
- Except as otherwise provided herein, nothing in this Act shall be deemed— (a) to deprive any person of any right to relief, other than specific performance, which he may have under any contract; or (b) to affect the operation of the Indian Registration Act, 1908 (16 of 1908), on documents.
- Explanation: The S. 3 says that the provisions of this Act neither deprives any person of any right to relief, other than specific performance, which he may have under any contract; nor the operation of the Indian Registration Act, 1908 (16 of 1908), on documents.
- This section states that the specific relief can be granted only for the purpose of enforcing individual civil rights and not for the mere purpose of enforcing a penal law.
- The use of word ‘mere’ is important. It means the specific relief is not available when the sole object is to enforce criminal law. If the plaintiff asked for specific relief in respect of individual right, such relief will not be denied.
- In Commissioner v. A.K. Mustafi, (AIR 1979, NOC 87 Cal.) case the high court held that since under local Act demolition of structure does not attract penal provision, S. 4 of the Act does not bar to a suit for the demolition of unauthorized construction.
- In Commissioner v. A.K. Mustafi, (83 Cal. WN, 888) case court held that the suit by a Municipal Committee for mandatory injunction for demolishing an illegal construction is maintainable under the Specific Relief Act and is not hit by S. 4.