|Justice VN Khare|
The Supreme Court in Shrimant Shamrao Suryavanshi vs Pralhad Bhairoba Suryavanshi has discussed the law relating to Part Performance under S. 53 A of the Transfer of Property Act and whether such a defence could be taken by a person to protect his property, even though the limitation to bring an action for specific performance to enforce such contract has expired. The Supreme Court while examining the law in England has held as under;
A perusal of Section 53-A shows that it does not forbid a defendant transferee from taking a plea in his defence to protect his possession over the suit property obtained in part performance of a contract even though the period of limitation for bringing a suit for specific performance has expired. It also does not expressly provide that a defendant transferee is not entitled to protect his possession over the suit property taken in part performance of the contract if the period of limitation to bring a suit for specific performance has expired. In absence of such a provision, we have to interpret the provisions of Section 53-A in a scientific manner. It means to look into the legislative history and structure of the provisions of Section 53- A of the Act.
Earlier, the assistance of historical facts or any document preceding the legislation was very much frowned upon for purposes of construction of statutes. At that time, there was some injunction against applying principle of looking into the historical facts or reports preceding the legislation in construing a statute. However, by passage of time, this embargo has been lifted.
In R.S. Nayak vs. A.R. Antulay - 1984 (2) SCC 183, it was held thus :
" Report of the Committee which preceded the enactment of a legislation reports of Joint Parliament Committee report of a commission set up for collecting information leading to the enactment are permissible external aid to construction. If the basic purpose underlying construction of legislation is to ascertain the real intention of the Parliament why should the aids which Parliament availed of such as report of a Special Committee preceding the enactment existing State of Law, the environment necessitating enactment of legislation and the object sought to be achieved be denied to Court whose function is primarily to give effect to the real intention of the Parliament in enactment of the legislation. Such denial would deprive the Court of a substantial and illuminating aid to constructions.
The modern approach has to a considerable extent eroded the exclusionary rule even in England."
Now the accepted view is that the document or report preceding the legislation can legitimately be taken into consideration while construing the provisions of an Act.
We, therefore, proceed to examine the question before us in the light of facts stated hereinafter.
In England, the provisions of the law of Property Act of the Statute of Fraud provided that no suit or action would be brought on agreement relating to a property which was not in writing signed by the parties. The aim and object of the statute was to protect a party against fraud. However, certain difficulties were experienced when it was found that under an oral agreement a party has performed his part of the contract, yet he was unable to bring any action or suit against other party viz., transferor for a specific performance of the agreement which was not in writing in view of the provisions contained in the Statute of Fraud. Under such situations, transferors managed to play fraud on innocent buyers who entered into an oral agreement and performed their part of the contract. In view of such prevailing circumstances in England, the Court of Equity intervened on the ground of equity and took action to enforce specific performance of a parole agreement. The view taken by the Court of Equity was that the object behind the Law of Property of the Statute of Fraud was to protect against a fraud, but the provisions of Law of Property of Statute of Fraud were being used as an instrument to help and protect fraud. Thus, the Court of Equity did not permit the Statute of Fraud to be used as an instrument to cover the fraud by the transferors where there was a part performance of a parole agreement.
When the Transfer of Property Act was enacted, Section 53-A did not find place in it. In the absence of Section 53-A, there arose difference of opinion between various courts in India as regards the application of English doctrine of part performance of contract as it was then prevailing in England. Since there was a difference of opinion on question of the application of English equitable doctrine of part performance in various courts of India, the Govt. of India resolved to set up a Special Committee for making recommendations amongst others whether the British equitable doctrine of part performance be extended in India also. The Special Committee was of the view that an illiterate or ignorant buyer who had partly performed his part of contract required statutory protection. The Committee was of the further view that where a transferee in good faith that lawful instrument i.e. a written contract would be executed by the transferor takes possession over the property, the equity demanded that the transferee should not be treated as trespasser by the transferor and subsequently evict him through process of law in the absence of lawful transfer instrument. The Special Committee also considered the question whether protection under the proposed Section 53-A to a transferee would also be available even if the period of limitation for bringing an action for specific performance of an agreement to sell has expired. On the said question, the Committee was of the view that even after expiry of period of limitation, the relationship between the transferor and transferee remains the same as it was within the period of limitation and, therefore, the possession over the property taken in part performance of an agreement is required to be protected even if the period of limitation for bringing an action for specific performance has expired.
The aforesaid recommendation of the Special Committee were accepted by the Govt. of India as the same is well reflected in the aims and objects of amending Act 1929 whereby Section 53-A was inserted in the Act.
The Special Committee's report which is reflected in the aims and objects of amending Act 1929 shows that one of the purposes of enacting Section 53-A was to provide protection to a transferee who in part performance of the contract had taken possession of the property even if the limitation to bring a suit for specific performance has expired. In that view of the matter, Section 53-A is required to be interpreted in the light of the recommendation of Special Committee's report and aims, objects contained in amending Act 1929 of the Act and specially when Section 53-A itself does not put any restriction to plea taken in defence by a transferee to protect his possession under Section 53-A even if the period of limitation to bring a suit for specific performance has expired.
But there are certain conditions which are required to be fulfilled if a transferee wants to defend or protect his possession under Section 53-A of the Act. The necessary conditions are
1) there must be a contract to transfer for consideration any immovable property;
2) the contract must be in writing, signed by the transferor, or by someone on his behalf;
3) the writing must be in such words from which the terms necessary to construe the transfer can be ascertained;
4) the transferee must in part performance of the contract take possession of the property, or of any part thereof;
5) the transferee must have done some act in furtherance of the contract; and
6) the transferee must have performed or be willing to perform his part of the contract.
We are, therefore, of the opinion that if the conditions enumerated above are complied with, the law of limitation does not come in the way of a defendant taking plea under Section 53-A of the Act to protect his possession of the suit property even though a suit for specific performance of a contract has barred by limitation.