Tuesday 1 March 2022

Whether the court can grant specific performance of a contract to the plaintiff if the development authority has leased the land to the defendant to construct his house?

 In the facts of this case, the question would, therefore, be, as to whether the enforcement of the agreement to sell dated 17.11.1982, expressly or impliedly, lead to palpably defeat the law in question, which is contained in the Statutory Rules or is prohibited by the same. {Para 73}

74. A contract may expressly or impliedly, be prohibited by provisions of a law. The intentions of the parties do not salvage such a contract. [See AIR 1968 SCC 1328 (supra)]. What is involved in this case, may not be a mere case of a conditional decree for specific performance being granted as was the case in the line of decisions commencing with Motilal (supra) and ending with Ferrodous Estates (supra). The Rules contemplate a definite scheme. Land, which is acquired by the Public Authority, is meant to be utilised for the particular purpose. The object of the law is to invite applications from eligible persons, who are to be selected by a Committee and the sites are allotted to those eligible persons, so that the chosen ones are enabled to put up structures, which are meant to be residential houses. It is implicit in the Rules, and what is more, in the lease-cum-sale agreement, that the allottee, who is treated as a lessee under Rule 7, will remain in possession and, what is more, proceed to fulfil his obligation under the lease-cum-sale agreement and the Rules. The obligations of the allottee/lessee are unambiguous. He has held himself out to be in dire need of a plot of land for the purpose of constructing a residential building. He has to disclose his annual income and any other means indicating his capacity, not only to purchase the site applied for but also to construct the house. He has to respond to the query as to whether any member of the family, of which he is a member, owns or has been allotted a site or a house by the Board or any other Authority, within the area under jurisdiction of the Board. The applicant must, furthermore, disclose whether he already owns a house or house site in the city or outside the city. Whether the applicant’s wife, husband or minor child owns a house or house site, is another matter, he must disclose. Incorrect information in any of these matters, would entitle the Board to resume the site. Rule 11 specifically announces among the principles as relevant for selecting an applicant for allotment, the income of the applicant to build the house on the site for his residence. No doubt, it is not applicable to certain classes, which include the other backward classes. Rule 11(3) declares further that the number of years, the applicant has been waiting for allotment of a site, inter alia, as a relevant principle.

75. It may be true that as contended by Shri R. Basant, learned senior counsel for the respondent that despite the fact no building was put up by the allottee, the BDA has not deemed it fit to cancel the allotment. We gather the impression that the BDA has been lax in the pursuit of the lofty goals of the law. We do not pursue the matter further as BDA is not a party.

76. If the agreement between plaintiff and the first defendant is taken as it is and it is enforced, the following would be the consequences. The allotment to the first defendant was made on 04.04.1979. In fact, the first defendant was obliged, in law, to construct a residential building within two years under Rule 17(6). No doubt, the time could be extended thereunder. But, at the time, the agreement dated 17.11.1982 was entered into, the first defendant was already in breach. The result, however, of the agreement dated 17.11.1982, is as follows:
The first defendant would be liable to convey the right in the site to the plaintiff. The price would be Rs.50,000/- for the site, proceeding on the basis of the concurrent findings by the Court. This is on the supposition that the parties contemplated that the site would be conveyed after the period of ten years from the date of allotment upon the expiry of which alone, the allottee, viz., the first defendant would be entitled to the conveyance under Rule 17(7) of the Rules. It must be noticed that in fact, under the lease-cum-sale agreement and the Rules, what is contemplated is that on events leading up to the stage where the elements of Rule 17(7) are satisfied alone, a right or duty would accrue to the allottee/ lie upon the party. However, what is more important in the context of the facts of this case is the following facet.
Under the agreement, the parties contemplated and have expressly provided that the plaintiff was to be put in possession of the site on the date of the agreement, i.e., on 17.11.1982. Did the parties contemplate the construction of the building residential in nature, for the purpose of which, the site was allotted to the first defendant? Is it not a clear case where enforcing the agreement, as it is, would necessarily result in the first defendant not acting in accordance with lease-cumsale agreement, which, she entered into with the BDA and, what is even more crucially important, against the mandate of the law, as contained in the Rules, which contemplated that the allotment was made for the construction of a residential building by the allottee and the construction was to be completed within the period of two years or an extended period? The agreement between the parties contemplated giving a short shrift to the mandate of the law. This is clear from the fact that under the agreement, the first defendant was obliged to sell the site as it is. Construction of the building became a practical impossibility. The price, which was agreed upon, was qua the site alone. The consideration and the other terms of the agreement, in other words, ruled out the possibility of a residential building being constructed by the first defendant, who as the allottee, was, under the law, obliged to construct the building. Assuming for a moment that the construction was put up, which assumption must be premised on possession not being handed over to the plaintiff and which is contrary, not only to the terms of the agreement, but also pleading of the plaintiff and the consistent stand in the evidence adduced on behalf of the plaintiff and even proceeding, however, on the basis that as found by the Trial Court, that the plaintiff has failed to establish that possession was handed over to him on the date of agreement and that the possession continued with the first defendant, the terms of the agreement, which included, the price being fixed for conveying the right for the site, necessarily, would have the effect of freezing the first respondent in even attempting to put up a construction.

77. We, therefore, reject the contention of the plaintiff that there was nothing, which could have prevented putting up a building. The argument of plaintiff involves rewriting of the contract. This is different from a situation where an allottee, without being trammelled by an agreement, is unable to put up a building even for the whole of ten years and action is not taken under Rule 17(6) and yet conveyance is made in his favour under Rule 17(7). The direct impact of the agreement is that it compelled the party to abstain from performing its obligation in law apart from breaching the agreement with BDA. In other words, taking the agreement as it is, it necessarily would be in the teeth of the obligation in law of the first respondent to put up the construction. The agreement to sell involved clearly terms which are impliedly prohibited by law in that the first defendant was thereunder to deliver title to the site and prevented from acting upon the clear obligation under law. This is a clear case at any rate wherein enforcing the agreement unambiguously results in defeating the dictate of the law. The ‘sublime’ object of the law, the very soul of it stood sacrificed at the altar of the bargain which appears to be a real estate transaction. It would, in other words, in allowing the agreement to fructify, even at the end of ten-year period of non-alienation, be a case of an agreement, which completely defeats the law for the reasons already mentioned.

78. Going by the recital in the agreement entered into between the plaintiff and the first defendant, possession is handed over by the first defendant to the plaintiff. The original Possession Certificate is also said to be handed over to the plaintiff. The agreement, even according to the plaintiff, contemplated that within three months of conveyance of the site in favour of the first defendant, the first defendant was to convey her rights in the site to the plaintiff. It is quite clear that the parties contemplated a state of affairs which is completely inconsistent with and in clear collision with the mandate of the law. On its term, it stands out as an affront to the mandate of the law.

79. The illegality goes to the root of the matter. It is quite clear that the plaintiff must rely upon the illegal transaction and indeed relied upon the same in filing the suit for specific performance. The illegality is not trivial or venial. The illegality cannot be skirted nor got around. The plaintiff is confronted with it and he must face its consequences. The matter is clear. We do not require to rely upon any parliamentary debate or search for the purpose beyond the plain meaning of the law. The object of the law is set out in unambiguous term. If every allottee chosen after a process of selection under the rules with reference to certain objective criteria were to enter into bargains of this nature, it will undoubtedly make the law a hanging stock.

Supreme Court




18th January 2022

Author: K. M. JOSEPH, J.

Citation: 2022 ALL SCR (ONLINE) 53

Read full Judgment here: Click here

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