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Any action u/s31 of Specific Relief Act is considered to be ‘in personam’

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Deccan Paper Mills Co Ltd. V. Regency Mahavir Properties & Ors. [ Civil Appeal No. 5147 of 2016] while examining the question of application of Section 31 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 with relation to the arbitrable nature of the concerned dispute, took a systematic approach to explain the interpretation and subsequent applicability of Section 31.

The Hon’ble Court noted that Section 31 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 is ‘pari materia’ to Section 39 of the Specific Relief Act, 1877 and with the help of the principles laid out by the full bench in the case of ‘Muppudathi Pillai v. Krishnaswami Pillai, AIR 1960 Mad 1’, the extent of Section 39(31 in the present Act) was enunciated.

It was expounded by the Apex Court that “When it comes to cancellation of a deed by an executant to the document, such person can approach the Court under section 31, but when it comes to cancellation of a deed by a non-executant, the non-executant must approach the Court under section 34 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963. Cancellation of the very same deed, therefore, by a non-executant would be an action in personam since a suit has to be filed under section 34. However, cancellation of the same deed by an executant of the deed, being under section 31, would somehow convert the suit into a suit being in rem. All these anomalies only highlight the impossibility of holding that an action instituted under section 31 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 is an action in rem.”

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