Specific Performance of Contracts

The idea of ‘specific performance of contracts’ is a fundamental principle in contract law, providing a legal solution that goes beyond just financial compensation. This remedy involves the court’s intervention to enforce the exact terms of a contract’s performance when monetary damages are inadequate. It delves into the realm of ensuring that parties fulfil their obligations as initially agreed, bringing a unique dimension to contractual enforcement.

This article explains the nuances of specific performance, its essentials, applications, and the legal considerations surrounding this distinct aspect of contract law.

Bare Act PDFs

What Is the Specific Performance of Contracts?

Specific performance of contracts is a legal remedy that aims to enforce the exact terms of a contract’s performance rather than awarding monetary compensation. It is sought when monetary damages are inadequate to remedy the breach fairly. In specific performance, the court compels the defaulting party to fulfil their obligations outlined in the contract.

For example, let’s consider a scenario where Party A agrees to sell a rare and valuable painting to Party B. Party A later refuses to sell the painting despite Party B’s readiness to pay the agreed price. In such a case, Party B can seek specific performance by asking the court to compel Party A to sell the painting as per the contract’s terms. Since the painting is unique and irreplaceable, monetary compensation wouldn’t adequately address the breach.

Another example involves a real estate transaction. If Party A agrees to sell a piece of land to Party B and later changes its mind, Party B can seek specific performance to force Party A to complete the sale and transfer the property as per the contract. This is especially relevant if the land has special features that distinguish it from others in the market.

Types of Contracts That Can Be Specifically Enforced

According to section 10 of the Indian Contract Act, certain types of contracts can be specifically enforced by a court of law. These contracts fall under specific scenarios where the court can compel parties to perform their contractual obligations. Section 10 states that the following contracts can be specifically enforced:

1. Contracts for the Sale or Lease of Immovable Property

Contracts involving the sale or lease of immovable property, such as land or buildings, can be specifically enforced. Such properties are often unique and cannot be easily substituted.

Bare Act PDFs

2. Contracts for Determination of Compensation

Contracts that establish the terms for determining compensation in case of a breach can be specifically enforced. The court may enforce these contracts if the compensation can be ascertained based on agreed-upon terms.

3. Contracts for Personal Services

Personal services cannot be specifically enforced. However, contracts imposing restrictions on certain types of personal services can be enforced if they are reasonable.

4. Contracts Relating to Trust

Contracts that involve a trustee or executor acting in a fiduciary capacity can be specifically enforced. These contracts require the utmost trust and personal judgment.

5. Contracts that Create an Obligation that is not Determined by Reference to a Fixed Standard

Contracts that involve an obligation not determined by a fixed standard can be specifically enforced. The court may need to determine the standard or criterion for enforcement.

6. Contracts That Require Continuous Supervision

Contracts that need continuous supervision or court interference for their enforcement cannot be specifically enforced. For instance, contracts of employment fall under this category.

7. Contracts for the Non-Performance of Which Compensation in Money Is Adequate

Contracts that a payment of money can compensate as damages can be specifically enforced if the aggrieved party agrees.

Types of Contracts That Cannot Be Specifically Enforced

Section 14 of the Indian Contract Act outlines certain contracts that cannot be specifically enforced. These contracts fall under specific scenarios where the court will not compel parties to perform their contractual obligations. The following types of contracts are generally considered unenforceable by way of specific performance:

1. Personal Service Contracts

Contracts involving an individual’s personal skills, abilities, or services cannot be specifically enforced. This is because the court cannot ensure the quality or specific performance of personal services.

2. Determination of Compensation

When the compensation for breach of contract is difficult to ascertain and quantify, the court may not order specific performance. This is because specific performance requires clear and defined terms.

3. Continuous Supervision

Contracts that require continuous supervision or constant court interference for enforcement, such as employment contracts, are generally not enforced specifically.

4. Contracts Involving Trust

Contracts that require the party to act in a fiduciary capacity, such as contracts involving the trustee or executor of a will, are not specifically enforced. These contracts demand a high level of trust and personal judgment.

5. Contracts of Family Settlement

Family arrangements or compromise agreements often involve emotional and personal considerations. Such contracts may not be specifically enforced due to the inherent complexity of family dynamics.

6. Contracts for Sale of Future Goods

Contracts that involve the sale of goods that are not yet in existence or are to be manufactured in the future are usually not specifically enforced.

Landmark Judgements

Several landmark cases related to the specific performance of contracts in India have significantly shaped the legal principles surrounding this remedy. Here are a few notable cases:

Ram Coomar Coondoo vs Chunder Canto Mookerjee (1876): In this case, the Privy Council held that specific performance could be granted for contracts that involved personal service as long as the service was of a unique and special nature.

Panchanan Ghosh vs Umesh Chandra (1938): The Calcutta High Court ruled that specific performance could not be granted for a contract that was not properly stamped. This case emphasized the importance of adhering to legal formalities.

Lachmi Narain vs Balmakund (1953): The Supreme Court clarified that specific performance could be granted even if monetary compensation was available as an alternative remedy. The court’s discretion depended on various factors, including the nature of the contract and the party’s conduct.

Renusagar Power Co. Ltd. vs General Electric Co. (1984): The Supreme Court held that specific performance could be granted in contracts to sell goods, even if the goods were not unique or of special value.

Dhanrajmal Gobindram vs Shamji Kalidas & Co. (1961): The Supreme Court emphasized that specific performance could be granted for contracts relating to the sale of immovable property as long as the terms were clear and certain.


The concept of specific performance of contracts is pivotal in contract law. It is a potent remedy ensuring parties adhere to their contractual commitments when mere monetary compensation falls short. While it provides a means to enforce the exact terms of an agreement, certain limitations and considerations must be considered.

The court’s discretion, practical feasibility, equitable principles, and the nature of the contract play a significant role in determining whether specific performance is an appropriate remedy. The law aims to strike a balance between safeguarding the aggrieved party’s rights and ensuring fairness to both parties involved.

As contracts form the backbone of business transactions and legal agreements, the remedy of specific performance contributes to maintaining the sanctity and reliability of contractual relationships within the legal framework.

Suhani Dhariwal
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