The Specific Relief Act was originally introduced and enacted in the year 1877
while India was under the British, which was replaced in the year 1963. The
Specific Relief Act, 1963 is an Act of the Parliament of India, that provides
for remedies to such0 persons whose contractual rights have been violated by
breach or non-performance.
Performance of a contract can be of 2 kinds, either primary performance or
secondary performance. In a contract, each party has to perform its promise.
Specific or primary performance means performing the respective duties of the
parties to the contract. When a breach is made by a party to the contract then
the court may direct the party in breach to perform his respective duty as
promised in the contract. This is known as the Specific or Primary performance
of the contract.
Further, Secondary performance means asking the party who has made a breach of
contract to give compensation to the other party. Generally, relief of secondary
performance is granted by the court when specific performance is not possible.
In crux, the purpose of the Specific Relief Act is to get the contracts
specifically enforced or provide some other sort of specific relief when
monetary compensation is not adequate or the actual damage caused due to the
breach of obligation cannot be evaluated in monetary terms.
The Amendment And Section 20
The amendment of 2018 bought significant changes in various sections including
section 10, section14, and section 20, along with introducing whole new
schedules under section 20, which talks about special provisions for the
performance of infrastructure projects.
Section 14 provides exceptions to the specific performance of contracts,
i.e., it provides those conditions and situations where the contracts are not
specifically enforceable, and the very first sub-section talks about those
contracts for which substituted performance has been opted for. This substituted
performance has been discussed in detail in section 20, which was bought in
light by the new amendment of 2018. The earlier title of Section 20 was
"discretion of the Court to grant specific performance".
Section 20 of the Specific Relief Act, 2018 can be elaborated as follows:
Sub-section 1 of this section provides that where the contract is broken due to
non-performance of promise by any party, the affected party shall have the
option of substituted performance through a third party or by his agency. Also,
such an affected party shall have the option to recover the expenses and other
costs incurred, spent, or suffered by him, from the party committing such
Illustration: A agrees to sell his mansion built at a particular location to B,
A fails to sell the house to B and after impending delay, B buys a similar
mansion in the same locality from C, Thus, B has got substituted performance of
the contract he had with A.
Sub-section 2 of this act says that the affected party cannot undertake
substituted performance of contract unless he gives a notice in writing to the
wrongdoer party who has made a breach of contract. The affected party must give
a minimum of 30 days' notice to the party in breach mentioning the time by which
the party in breach should perform his promise. Hence, after the breach, the
party in breach is again given a chance to perform within the time mentioned in
the notice and when the party still fails to perform then the affected party can
undertake a substituted performance. Therefore, where the affected party
undertakes the substituted performance without giving notice to the party in
breach, then he cannot claim expenses and other costs incurred, spent, or
suffered by him, from the wrongdoer.
Sub-section 3 specifies that where the party suffering breach of contract has
got the contract performed through a third party or by his agency after giving
notice he shall not be entitled to claim relief of specific performance against
the party in breach.
The very last sub-section talks about the situation where the aggrieved party,
who has obtained specific performance, can claim compensation and other damages
that were caused as a result of getting that substituted performance from the
party in breach. But the essential condition provided for this claim is that the
party must have given a minimum of 30 days' notice to the party in breach before
getting the substituted performance. Also, the damages can be claimed only after
the contract has been performed by the substituted party, and hence not before
the actual performance.
What is worth noting is the immunity provided to the specified infrastructural
projects by the new amendment of 2018, which has been bought into light through
Sections 20-A, 20-B, and 20-C of the Specific Relief Act, 2018.
New Schedules For Infrastructure Projects
According to Dr. V. K. R. V. Rao, "The link between infrastructure and
development is not a once for all affair. It is a continuous process and
progress in development has to be preceded, accompanied, and followed by
progress in infrastructure; if we are to fulfill our declared objectives of a
self-accelerating process of economic development".
Infrastructure has a significant role in the growth and development of a nation
whether it be economic, social, or cultural. Infrastructure helps in the
development of overall production and the GDP contribution of the nation. Hence,
an obstruction in the development of infrastructure would yield negative
consequences for the whole nation, leading to stagnancy in the economy and the
downfall of the nation's position in the global market.
For such reasons, the amendment bought in section 20 prevents injunctions bought
against the infrastructural projects mentioned in Schedule A of Section 20,
as such injunctions would cause an impediment to the completion and further
progress of such infrastructure projects.
This schedule mentions 5 categories of infrastructure projects, with various
projects under it, a few have been mentioned as follows:
- Road and Bridges
- Railway tracks, tunnels, bridges, stations
- Inland Waterways
Water And Sanitation
- Solid Waste Management
- Water Supply Pipelines
- Water Treatment Plants
- Sewage collection, treatment, and disposal
- Electricity generation
- Electricity transmission
- Electricity distribution
- Oil Pipelines
- Gas Pipelines
- Telecommunication Towers
- Telecom Services
Social And Commercial Infrastructure
- Education Institutions
- Sports Infrastructure
- Tourism Infrastructures
- Terminal Markets
- Special Economic Zones
The Government of India has entered into a contract relating to road
construction, as included under this schedule, with a company say "X". Work is
started by the X company and subsequently, the Government opted for a
substituted performance and gave that contract to another, say "Y" company. An
injunction suit is filed by X company. No injunction shall be granted by the
Court where the Court is satisfied that granting an injunction would cause
impediment or delay in the progress or completion of such infrastructure
Schedule A of this section also provides for the provision of amendment in the
categories or projects under it relating to infrastructural development by the
Central Government, as it is done through a notification in the Official Gazette
However, every notification issued under this Act by the Central
Government shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is issued, before each
House of Parliament, while it is in session, for a total period of thirty days
which may be comprised in one session or two or more successive sessions, and
if, before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or the
Both Houses may agree to any modification in the notification or may agree that
the notification should not be made. Accordingly, the notification shall affect
only in a modified form or be of no effect. However, any such modification or
annulment shall not affect the validity of anything previously done under that
Schedule B of Section 20 provides for Special Courts as they are conferred
with the power to decide upon the cases bought in for such substituted
performance against the government. This schedule provided that the State
Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court of that
state shall designate one or more Civil Courts of that state with the status of
Special Courts, as notified through the Official Gazette. These Special Courts
shall deal with the cases related to substituted performance and injunctions
regarding such infrastructural projects as per the Specific Relief Act
Sub-section C of Section 20 provided for the limitation period for disposal
of such cases filed under this section as dealt with by the Special Courts. The
suit filed under this section shall be disposed-off within 12 months of the date
on which summons have been provided to the defendant. But, this limitation
period can be extended for a maximum of 6 months in aggregate after stating in
writing a valid reason for this extension by the court.
These were the amendments bought in Section 20, which gave special immunity to
the infrastructure projects that are stated in the Official Gazette against the
injunctions in case they opt for getting substituted performance to prevent any
delay in the development of such infrastructural projects.
This amendment is often criticized for causing a lack of security to those who
have taken up the contracts of infrastructural development as offered by the
Government. But actually, this amendment has proved to be of great importance as
the contractors attempt to perform their part of the contract speedily to
prevent them from being substituted by some other party.
- Specific Relief Amendment Act,2018 s14.
- Specific Relief Amendment Act, 2018 s20.
- Samia Rekhi, 'Infrastructure Development in India' (Economics
accessed on 15 July, 2022.
- The Specific Relief Amendment Act, 2018, s20A.
- The Specific Relief Amendment Act, 2018, s20B.
- The Specific Relief Amendment Act, 2018, s20C.