The Supreme Court has held that mere extension of time for deposit of balance sale consideration will not absolve the plaintiff of obligation to prove readiness and willingness to perform his part in an agreement for sale.
The grant of extension of time cannot ipso facto be construed as otherwise demonstrating readiness and willingness on part of the plaintiff, observed the bench comprising Justices Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee.
In this case Ravi Setia vs Madan Lal and others, the bench was dealing with an appeal by a plaintiff against the judgment of the High Court setting aside the concurrent findings of courts below which decreed the suit for for specific performance of sale agreement.
The HC noted that plaintiff had not deposited the balance sale consideration within the prescribed time. Extension of time for deposit was sought by the plaintiff on frivolous grounds. On these factors, the HC deduced that the plaintiff had not proved his "readiness and willingness" as per Section 16(c) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963.
Under Section 16 (1)(c), the plaintiff has to demonstrate readiness and willingness throughout to perform his obligations under the contract for getting a decree of specific performance of contract.
In the appeal, the Supreme Court noted that the trial court and the first appellate court found "readiness and willingness" on the part of plaintiff from his singular plea that he was present at the Sub Registrar's Office on the date specified in the agreement for execution of deed. No other evidence was adduced to prove this fact.
After expiry of the time granted for deposit, the plaintiff filed an application before the Trial Court that in view of the pendency of the First Appeal preferred by defendants, the time for deposit may be extended as otherwise the amount would lie in the bank without interest. This was found to be a frivolous reason by the Supreme Court for seeking extension.
The plaintiff preferred to wait and abide by the gamble of a favourable decision in the first appeal, observed the SC in this regard.
"Undoubtedly, the time for deposit could be extended under Section 28 of the Act. But the mere extension of time for deposit does not absolve the plaintiff of his obligation to demonstrate readiness and willingness coupled with special circumstances beyond his control to seek such extension.
The grant of extension of time cannot ipso facto be construed as otherwise demonstrating readiness and willingness on part of the plaintiff. The plaintiff was required to plead sufficient, substantial and cogent grounds to seek extension of time for deposit because otherwise it becomes a question of his conduct along with all other attendant surrounding circumstances in the facts of the case."
"the failure of the plaintiff to offer any explanation why the balance consideration was not deposited within the time granted, the filing of the application for extension of time after expiry of the prescribed period coupled with the frivolousness of the grounds taken in the application for extension that the money would lie in the bank without earning interest, are all but evidence of incapacity on part of the plaintiff to perform his obligations under the agreement and reflective of lack of readiness and willingness"
The Court also took note of the fact that the defendants had sold the property to other persons at a lesser price after due to personal necessity. This was taken as a factor for comparing personal hardship before ordering the discretionary remedy of specific performance.
"The fact that the defendants nos.1 and 2 subsequently sold the land on 16.01.1991 to defendants nos.4 to 7 at a lesser price, due to personal necessity, also mitigates against the plea of the plaintiff that he was ready and willing to perform his part of the obligations under the contract."
On these findings, the apex court dismissed the appeal.
Click here to download judgment