8) Section 16(c) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 provides for personal bars to relief. This provision states that specific performance of a contract cannot be enforced in favour of a person,
a) who would not be entitled to recover compensation for its breach; orb) who has become incapable of performing, or violates any essential term of, the contract that on his part remains to be performed, or acts in fraud of the contract, or wilfully acts at variance with, or in subversion of, the relation intended to be established by the contract; orc) who fails to aver and prove that he has performed or has always been ready and willing to perform the essential terms of the contract which are to be performed by him, other than terms the performance of which has been prevented or waived by the defendant.
Explanation.- For the purposes of clause (c),-(i) where a contract involves the payment of money, it is not essential for the plaintiff to actually tender to the defendant or to deposit in court any money except when so directed by the court; (ii) the plaintiff must aver performance of, or readiness and willingness to perform, the contract according to its true construction.”
Among the three sub-sections, we are more concerned about sub-section(c). “Readiness and willingness” is enshrined in clause (c) which was not present in the old Act of 1877. However, it was later inserted with the recommendations of the 9th Law Commission’s report. This clause provides that the person seeking specific performance must prove that he has performed or has been ready and willing to perform the essential terms of the contract which are to be performed by him.
9) The words “ready” and “willing” imply that the person was prepared to carry out the terms of the contact. The distinction between “readiness” and “willingness” is that the former refers to financial capacity and the latter to the conduct of the plaintiff wanting performance. Generally, readiness is backed by willingness.
10) In N.P. Thirugnanam vs. Dr. R. Jagan Mohan Rao & Ors., (1995) 5 SCC 115 at para 5, this Court held:
“…..Section 16(c) of the Act envisages that plaintiff must plead and prove that he had performed or has always been ready and willing to perform the essential terms of the contract which are to be performed by him, other than those terms the performance of which has been prevented or waived by the defendant. The continuous readiness and willingness on the part of the plaintiff is a condition precedent to grant the relief of specific performance. This circumstance is material and relevant and is required to be considered by the court while granting or refusing to grant the relief. If the plaintiff fails to either aver or prove the same, he must fail. To adjudge whether the plaintiff is ready and willing to perform his part of the contract, the court must take into consideration the conduct of the plaintiff prior and subsequent to the filing of the suit alongwith other attending circumstances. The amount of consideration which he has to pay to the defendant must of necessity be proved to be available. Right from the date of the execution till date of the decree he must prove that he is ready and has always been willing to perform his part of the contract. As stated, the factum of his readiness and willingness to perform his part of the contract is to be adjudged with reference to the conduct of the party and the attending circumstances. The court may infer from the facts and circumstances whether the plaintiff was always ready and willing to perform his part of the contract.”
11) In P.D’Souza vs. Shondrilo Naidu, (2004) 6 SCC 649 paras 19 and 21, this Court observed:
“It is indisputable that in a suit for specific performance of contract the plaintiff must establish his readiness and willingness to perform his part of contract. The question as to whether the onus was discharged by the plaintiff or not will depend upon the facts and circumstance of each case. No strait-jacket formula can be laid down in this behalf…. The readiness and willingness on the part of the plaintiff to perform his part of contract would also depend upon the question as to whether the defendant did everything which was required of him to be done in terms of the agreement for sale.”
12) Section 16(c) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 mandates “readiness and willingness” on the part of the plaintiff and it is a condition precedent for obtaining relief of grant of specific performance. It is also clear that in a suit for specific performance, the plaintiff must allege and prove a continuous “readiness and willingness” to perform the contract on his part from the date of the contract. The onus is on the plaintiff. It has been rightly considered by this Court in R.C. Chandiok & Anr. vs. Chuni Lal Sabharwal & Ors., (1970) 3 SCC 140 that “readiness and willingness” cannot be treated as a straight jacket formula. This has to be determined from the entirety of the facts and circumstances relevant to the intention and conduct of the party concerned. It is settled law that even in the absence of specific plea by the opposite party, it is the mandate of the statute that plaintiff has to comply with Section 16(c) of the Specific Relief Act and when there is noncompliance with this statutory mandate, the Court is not bound to grant specific performance and is left with no other alternative but to dismiss the suit. It is also clear that readiness to perform must be established throughout the relevant points of time. “Readiness and willingness” to perform the part of the contract has to be determined/ascertained from the conduct of the parties.