Delay To File Suit For Specific Performance Not A Ground To Deny Relief If It Was Filed Within Limitation Period: SC [Read Judgment]

Delay To File Suit For Specific Performance Not A Ground To Deny Relief If It Was Filed Within Limitation Period: SC [Read Judgment]

"The rule of equity that exists in England, does not apply, and so long as a Suit for specific performance is filed within the period of limitation, delay cannot be put against the plaintiff."

The Supreme Court has observed that the delay in filing suit for specific performance cannot be a ground to deny relief to the plaintiff, as long as it is filed within the period of limitation.

In this case [R. Lakshmikantham vs. Devaraji], the date of the agreement i.e. 22.09.2002 and suit was filed on 11.02.2005. While dismissing the suit, the Madras High Court had observed thus:

"It has not been explained by the plaintiff as to why she should wait till 11.02.2005 to lay the suit for specific performance, after coming to know that the defendant had not responded to the notice sent by her marked as Ex.A7. This would only go to show that inasmuch as the plaintiff had not been ready and willing to perform her part of the contract, it could be seen that the plaintiff had not evinced interest to lay the suit immediately even after the receipt of Ex.A8 acknowledgment card from the defendant. On the other hand, nearly two years thereafter, she had laid the suit seeking the relief of specific performance. For the said period of two years, there is nil material on the part of the plaintiff to show that she had been ready and willing to perform her part of the contract."

Disapproving this approach, the bench comprising of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Surya Kant observed that the High Court was incorrect in putting a short delay in filing the Suit against the plaintiff to state that he was not ready and willing. It said:

"In India, it is well settled that the rule of equity that exists in England, does not apply, and so long as a Suit for specific performance is filed within the period of limitation, delay cannot be put against the plaintiff."

The bench referred to an old Supreme Court judgment in Mademsetty Satyanarayana v. G. Yelloji Rao which had explained the fundamental difference between the two systems-English and Indian-qua the relief of specific performance. It had said:

In England the relief of specific performance pertains to the domain of equity; in India, to that of statutory law. In England there is no period of limitation for instituting a suit for the said relief and, therefore, mere delay – the time lag depending upon circumstances – may itself be sufficient to refuse the relief; but, in India mere delay cannot be a ground for refusing the said relief, for the statute prescribes the period of limitation. If the suit is in time, delay is sanctioned by law; if it is beyond time, the suit will be dismissed as barred by time; in either case, no question of equity arises."

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