The Courts can declare a contract vague, unenforceable and hence void even if it was beyond pleadings: High Court of Himachal Pradesh

Vague and unspecific agreements will not be legally enforceable since there is no consensus ad idem. Consequently, if the courts provide relief under Section 9 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 by dismissing the suit even if it was beyond what was pleaded, such relief is a discretionary and equitable relief, thus is legally sustainable. This auspicious judgment was passed by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh in the matter of RAM LAL V. OM PARKASH & ANR. [REGULAR SECOND APPEAL NO. 87 OF 2009] by Honourable Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua.

The suit was filed by the plaintiff for possession through the specific performance of an agreement by way of execution of sale deed. The parties to the suit had executed an agreement to sell, the consideration of sale was partly paid by the plaintiff yet the defendants did not execute the sale deed. Consequently, the plaintiff filed for recovery.

The defendants admitted their joint ownership and possession over the suit land but denied execution of the agreement in question on grounds of it being a forged document not bearing their signatures. Additionally, they argued that the plaintiff provided money as a part of a Committee which was duly paid back as a result of which Learned Courts held that, “The agreement was vague document and incapable of enforcement since the plaintiff could not prove the execution of this agreement in accordance with the law.” Hence, the aggrieved plaintiff took his third chance by way of an instant regular second appeal.

The High Court observed that the document was in Punjabi and ordered for it to be translated into either Hindi/English since it was a material document around which the entire case revolved. The Court then deliberated upon the questions of law as to whether specific relief can be granted under Section 9 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963.

The Court relied on the case Pawan Kumar Dutt and Another Vs. Shakuntala Devi and Others (2010) 15 SCC 601 to state that, “suit for specific performance could not be decreed for want of certainty as to the description of the suit property.” As per the material on record, it was observed that “the agreement was indeed vague since neither the land in question nor the house involved has been identified in the agreement.”. Additionally, the parties had no consensus ad idem as to the area of land being sold.

The Court held that “All material aspects which needed to be reflected with certainty have been left in the realms of speculation. Neither the agreement gives out a clear identity of the land nor it spells out the boundaries. Even the area of the house-subject matter of the agreement is not correctly recorded therein. No ascertainable or determinative intention can be deciphered from this agreement. Such an agreement to sell is not capable of enforcement. Its specific performance cannot be granted.

Additionally, the court in response to the plaintiff’s argument of unlawful dismissal of the suit by the lower court since grounds of dismissal was beyond pleading, relied on the Apex Courts judgement in Keshav Lal Lallubhai Patel Vs. Lalbhai Tribumlal Mills AIR 1958 SC 512 to state that, “plea raised is a plea of law based solely upon the construction of the letter which is the basis of the case for the extension of time for the performance of the contract and so it was competent to the appeal court to allow such a plea to be raised under Order 41 Rule 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure. If, on fair construction, the condition mentioned in the document is held to be vague or uncertain, no evidence can be admitted to remove the said vagueness or uncertainty.”

Also, grounds for granting specific relief are discretionary and equitable relief as iterated by the SC in 2019 (3) SCC 704 titled Kamal Kumar Vs. Premlata Joshi & Others, hence, “when it is unclear whether the agreement was executed in respect to the land or was in regarding sale of the house and also the terms of the agreement were unclear to one party due to language barrier the court will not evaluate the  validity of signature by seeking expert opinion since the plaintiff miserably failed to prove due execution of the agreement.”

Therefore, the High Court held that the appeal is dismissed since “The agreement dated 6.11.1992 is vague & void, therefore, not capable of being enforced. Plaintiff even otherwise has failed to prove its execution by the defendants in accordance with the law. No interference in concurrent dismissal of plaintiff’s suit by the learned Courts below is called for.”

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