Civil justice in India provides two kinds of remedies. (1) Those by which the suitor obtains the very thing which he is entitled. (2) Those by which the suitor does not obtain the very thing but compensation for the loss of it. The first is ‘Specific Relief’ and the second is ‘compensatory relief’.
The law of Specific Relief is a part of the law of procedure, for Specific Relief is a form of judicial redress. It is called ‘specific’ because under its procedure, the suitor gets his relief ‘in specie’ (in kind) i.e. the very thing which the other party was bound to perform or to forbear.
The act is not exhaustive enough to contain the whole law on the subject. The act is not restricted to specific performance of contract as the statute governs the court’s powers in granting Specific Reliefs in a variety of fields. Even so, the Act does not cover all Specific Relief conceivable. (Ashok k. Srivastava v National Insurance Company Limited (1998) 4 SCC 361)
Specific Relief Act is primarily based on the principle of the equity has been borrow from the courts of equity in England. However, in India there is no separate court for administering equity. The major part with respect to the equity has been codified and wherever any space remains the principle of equity justice and good conscience comes into.
Equity has come not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. The defects and rigidity in the common law led to the evolution of equity i.e. inadequacy of remedy and absence of relief under certain circumstances led to fill that vacuum. Equity does not destroy the law nor create it, but assist it. Equity is rather collection of additional rules and not a separate system. The equitable remedies like specific performance or injunction do not destroy the common remedy of damages, but were either additional or alternative.
The whole exercise of this branch of equity jurisprudence is not a matter of right in either party but is a matter of discretion in the court granting of a specific performance of a contract is a discretionary remedy
The discretion of the court, however, is not arbitrary, but should be sound and reasonable. Granting of specific performance is an equitable relief, though the same is now governed by the statutory provisions of the Specific Relief Act. These equitable principles are incorporated in section 20 of the Act. (A.C. Arulappan v Ahalya Naik (2001) 6 SCC 600)
Where time is of the essence of the contract delay will bar decree for specific performance. in the contract for the sale or purchase of immovable property, equity does not regard time as the essence of the contract. Equity tends normally to regard the insertion of a time limit in a contract as formal and not essential unless from the surrounding circumstances of the case and nature of the contract the parties really contemplated and intended that it shall be so.