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Siddhivinayak Realties Pvt. Ltd. Vs. V. Hotels Limited and Others - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberArbitration Petition Nos. 629 of 2011 & 667 of 2011
Judge
AppellantSiddhivinayak Realties Pvt. Ltd.
RespondentV. Hotels Limited and Others
Excerpt:
constitution of india – article 133(i)(c), arbitration and conciliation act 1996 – sections 9, 11, 34 and 34(2)(b) (ii), income tax act - section 281, indian contract act 1872 - sections 32 to 35, 37, 39 and 56, specific relief act 1963 – sections 16(c), 20 and 20(2), madhya bharat land revenue and tenancy act 66 of 1950 - section 70(4), madhya pradesh land revenue code 1959, transfer of property act - section 4, indian contract act 1872, specific relief act 1877 - section 27(b), defence of india rules - section 79 - petition (667 of 2011) filed under section 34 of arbitration and conciliation act, 1996 - to challenge impugned award passed by arbitrator - holding that agreement entered into between petitioners and respondents stood terminated by repudiation on the part of.....oral judgment: by this petition (667 of 2011) filed under section 34 of the arbitration and conciliation act, 1996, the petitioners seek to challenge the impugned award dated 13th july, 2011 passed by the learned arbitrator holding that the agreement entered into between the petitioners and the respondents stood terminated by repudiation on the part of the petitioners and on acceptance thereof by the respondents and directing the respondents to refund of rs.73,00,51,960/- to the petitioners within a period of 90 days of the said award. the learned arbitrator also awarded arbitration cost in favour of the respondents herein in the sum of rs.33,00,000/-. the petitioners to this petition were respondents in the arbitration proceedings. by petition (629 of 2011) the petitioners seek interim.....
Judgment:

Oral Judgment:

By this petition (667 of 2011) filed under section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, the petitioners seek to challenge the impugned award dated 13th July, 2011 passed by the learned arbitrator holding that the agreement entered into between the petitioners and the respondents stood terminated by repudiation on the part of the petitioners and on acceptance thereof by the respondents and directing the respondents to refund of Rs.73,00,51,960/- to the petitioners within a period of 90 days of the said award. The learned arbitrator also awarded arbitration cost in favour of the respondents herein in the sum of Rs.33,00,000/-. The petitioners to this petition were respondents in the arbitration proceedings. By petition (629 of 2011) the petitioners seek interim measures. The respondents herein were claimants in the arbitration proceedings. Some of the relevant facts for the purpose of deciding this petition are set out hereinunder:-

2. By a Deed of Transfer of business executed on 31st May, 2002 duly registered the 1st respondent purchased and acquired from the Hotel Corporation of India the business of Hotel Centaur – Juhu on “a going concern” basis for the consideration and on the terms and conditions contained therein. By an Indenture of Conveyance dated 31st May, 2002 the 1st respondent purchased and acquired from the Hotel Corporation of India the said hotel property together with the moveable property for the consideration and on the terms and conditions contained therein. By separate 11 sale deeds, all dated 31st May, 2002 duly registered, the 1st respondent purchased and acquired from the Hotel Corporation of India, 11 flats forming part of the said immoveable property.

3. On 8th March, 2005, the petitioners entered into an agreement in the form of Term Sheet with the respondents for the sale and transfer of the 100% equity shares and 100% preference shares of the 1st respondent company by respondent nos. 2 and 3 in favour of the petitioners for the consideration of Rs.387.50 crores on the terms and conditions contained therein.

4. Pursuant to the said Term Sheet, escrow documents executed by the parties were deposited with Mr.Suresh Talwar, Advocate and Mr.Anand S.Bhatt, Advocate as joint escrow agents.

5. On 31st March, 2005, the petitioners and the respondents executed the Master Asset Purchase Agreement (hereinafter referred as the said ‘MAPA) by which the petitioners exercised its option to enter into the said MAPA in respect of the said Hotel Corporation together with the benefits with the additional FSI, the said 11 flats and the said moveable property including plant and machinery at or for the aggregate consideration and on the terms and conditions contained therein.

6. It was recited in the said MAPA that the respondents had availed of the various loans/credit facilities from certain banks, against the security of the hotel property, the 11 flats and the moveable properties. The details of such loan were described in the said MAPA. It was also recited that the respondents had entered into several agreements with Nirmal Lifestyle Limited by which the said company and the respondent had agreed to jointly construct a shopping mall and a supermarket on the portion of the said hotel property. The details in respect of the said transaction between the said Nirmal Lifestyle Transaction and the respondents are described in the said MAPA.

7. The respondents acknowledged that on the execution of the Term Sheet, part of the consideration of Rs. 38 crores had already been paid by the petitioners to the respondents. The respondents had agreed to ensure that 570 employees who had opted for voluntary retirement scheme would be relieved/discharged from their employment with the respondents on or before the notice of closure. It is recorded that though the said obligation had not been complied with by the respondents, at the request of the respondents, the petitioners had agreed to execute the said MAPA on the said undertaking and assurance of the respondents. The respondents issued share certificates in lieu of the allotment letters in respect of 21,99,800 shares of the respondents held by Tulip Star Hotels Limited and deposited the same in escrow with the joint escrow agents. Clause 5.3 of the said MAPA provided that the said agreement had been entered into subject to Nirmal Lifestyle transaction. Clause 6.1 provided that the respondents shall sell the said property to the petitioners on various conditions to be complied with by the respondents on or before the closing date at its own cost and expenses. It was agreed that the respondents shall make out the clear and marketable title to the said properties save and except the transaction in respect of Nirmal Lifestyle. The respondents had agreed that their title to the said properties shall be free from all litigations, injunction orders, undertakings or pending proceedings which may create impediments in the transfer of title in favour of the petitioners or use, possession and enjoyment of the said properties save and except any claims made by Nirmal Lifestyle in respect of the said transaction between Nirmal Lifestyle and the respondents. The respondents agreed to procure all requisite sanctions, permissions, no objections from all concerned authorities at its own cost, for effective transfer of the said properties in favour of the petitioners. The consideration agreed to be paid by the petitioners to the respondents was at Rs.3,49,06,00,000/- payable in installments on compliance with various conditions. In addition to the said consideration of Rs.349.06 crores, the petitioners had also agreed to make additional payment of Rs.7.84 crores to the respondents in favour of the concerned authorities as balance premium. The respondents confirmed to the petitioners under the MAPA that the vendors were absolutely entitled to enter into said agreement and there was no restraint against the petitioners from a court, tribunal, statutory authority, quasi judicial or any other authority from entering into and executing this agreement and from transferring the said properties in favour of the petitioners save and except any claims made by Nirmal Lifestyle. The respondents represented and confirmed that the title of the respondents to the said properties was clear and marketable and free from any charge, mortgage, encumbrance, claim or demand save and except as a charge created in respect of the properties in favour of the consortium bank and the second charge created in favour of Canara Bank.

8. Under clause 10.1 of the said MAPA it was agreed that closing date shall mean 15th day after the respondents had complied with or carried out all its obligations as set out in clause 6 read with clause 13 save and except one obligation to repay the consortium loan and the cash credit facility and documentary proof of such compliance is produced to the satisfaction of the advocates of the petitioners i.e. Wadia Ghandy and Co. The respondents agreed to produce to the said advocates of the petitioners the documentary proof referred to in clause 10.1 showing compliance of all obligations set out in clause 6 read with clause 13 on or before 15th May, 2005. It was agreed that closing date therefore shall be 1st June, 2005 or any other subsequent date. Under clause 10.3 it was recorded that in the event of the petitioners inability to arrange for payment of the balance consideration by the closing date, the closing date shall be extended by a further period of 45 days from the closing date in which event the petitioners shall be liable to make payment of the balance consideration togetherwith interest at the rate of 12% per annum thereon from the closing date upto the date of payment.

9. Under clause 11.3 of the said MAPA, it was agreed that within a period of seven days from the date of receipt of the notice of closure, M/s. Wadia Ghandy and Co. shall forward to M/s.Crawford Bayley and CO. drafts of various documents which were to be executed on the closing date including indenture of conveyance.

10. Under clause 12.1, it was agreed that on the extended closing date, the lending bank of the petitioners would issue pay orders in favour of the consortium banks and/or Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Canara Bank in full and final settlement of the ECB, consortium loan and the cash credit facility together with interest, penalty, if any payable thereon. The respondents agreed to execute a separate indenture of conveyance in respect of the hotel property and the said 11 flats in favour of the petitioners and lodge and admit execution thereof before the Sub Registrar of Assurances. The respondents agree to handover quiet, vacant and peaceful possession of the said immoveable properties free from all encumbrances to the petitioners.

11. Under clause 13.2 of the said MAPA, the respondents agreed to make out clear and marketable title, free from all encumbrances in respect of the said properties save and except in relation to the Nirmal Lifestyle Transaction. Under clause 13.3, the respondents agreed to obtain a title certificate from M/s.Crawford Bayley and Co. as at closing, certifying the title of the respondents to the said properties as clear, marketable and free from all encumbrances save and except in relation to the Nirmal Lifestyle Transaction. Under clause 13.7, the petitioners were given option to waive any of the obligations of the respondents under the said agreement. Under clause 15.1 of the said MAPA, it was agreed that in case of a default by the petitioners in making payment of the installments of the consideration on the due dates in terms of Clause 7.2, the respondents shall forfeit 10% from and out of the amounts paid by the petitioners towards consideration and shall refund the balance 90% of the amounts paid by the petitioners within a maximum period of 90 days from the date of such default and with interest at the rate of 12% per annum. Clause 15.2 provided that against refund of the balance 90% of the amounts paid by the petitioners towards consideration as setout above, togetherwith interest, if any which refundable amount shall be handed over to the escrow agents, the said MAPA shall stand terminated on both the escrow agents agreeing that title amount has been paid in full and simultaneously, the escrow documents shall be handed over by the escrow agents to the respondents. Clause 15.3 provided that in the event of the respondents committing default in making repayment, the petitioners shall have option to continue with the contemplated transaction under the said MAPA or to become 50% shareholder of the 1st respondent in which case the provisions as setout in clause 15.3.2 would be triggered.

12. Clauses 15.3.1 and 15.3.2 of the said MAPA provide for default consequences. Clause-19 provides for resolution of dispute by arbitration.

13. Under clause 16A (III) of the MAPA it was provided that, if the respondents commits any default in complying with its obligations, the petitioner was given an option at its sole discretion to continue with the transaction for acquisition of the said immoveable and moveable properties, to carry out the obligations of the vendors under MAPA and was also permitted to deduct all the costs and amounts paid towards carrying out all or any such obligations as more particularly set out in clauses 6 and 13 from consideration payable to vendor. The option was also given to the petitioners to cancel the said MAPA.

FACTUAL MATRIX

14. The petitioners through their Advocate's letter dated 19th April 2005 to the Advocates representing the respondents referred to the newspaper reports which indicated that a splinter union of the employees of the respondents was planning to approach this Court to stop the sale and transfer of the Juhu Beach Tulip Star Hotel. In the said notice, it was also recorded that a public notice was issued by Vijaya Bank stating that the respondents had defaulted in payment of interest, principal amount in the sum of Rs.20 crores and that the said loan had become NPA in the books of Vijaya Bank and no person should deal with the respondents in respect of the said property. In the said letter, it was also recorded that a meeting was held between the parties and it was decided to make/deposit further consideration of Rs.7.50 crores in the account maintained by the respondents with IDBI Bank although the said amount was not due and payable since the respondent had not complied with its earlier obligation and without following the procedure of depositing the same in the Joint Escrow Account which amount was required to make VRS payment to 208 employees of the respondents. It was recorded that the said payment was being deposited at the specific request of the respondent and Dr Kelkar. The petitioners also recorded that respondents would sign and execute a declaration/undertaking in favour of the petitioners in relation to utilization of the said amount of Rs.7.50 crore. Petitioners also recorded that the petitioners directly credited the account maintained by the respondents with IDBI Bank with the sum of Rs.7.50 crores. The petitioners also placed on record that the next payment under the MAPA was due on 5th May 2005 subject to the respondents complying with certain obligations as set out in Escrow Letter and the End Use requirements. The petitioners called upon the respondents to provide all the necessary information and supporting documents to enable the petitioners to make payment of sum of Rs.7.50 crore in the Joint Escrow Account on 5th May 2005.

15. On 13th May 2005, the Debt Recovery Tribunal-I, Mumbai passed an order restraining the respondents from transferring, alienating, encumbering, disposing off, selling and parting with possession of or in any manner dealing with the hotel property in proceedings (Lodging No.86 of 2005) filed by Indian Bank against the respondents for recovery of term loan. On 13th May 2005, the Debt Recovery Tribunal-II, Mumbai passed an order granting interim relief in favour of Vijaya Bank by granting injunction restraining the respondents from alienating, transferring, creating third party rights in respect of various properties including the hotel property in O.A.No.114 of 2005.

16. On 20th May, 2005, M/s Crawford Bayley and Co. has alleged to have issued a title certificate in respect of the said property confirming that there was no lien or encumbrance created on the suit property and that title of the said property was clear, marketable and stands in the name of Tulip Hospitality Services Ltd. The petitioners have disputed the said Certificate alleged to have been issued on 20th May 2005. By a letter dated 25th May 2005, the Advocates of the petitioners invited the attention of the Advocates of the respondents to the declaration/undertaking executed by the respondent and Dr Ajit Kerkar in favour of the petitioners by which the respondents had undertaken to provide bank statement on daily basis in respect of the bank account in the name of respondents maintained with IDBI bank and placed on record that no such bank statement had been received from the respondents by the petitioners. The petitioners requested to ensure the compliance of the said application and the undertaking and to furnish copies of the bank statement in respect of the account maintained by the respondents with IDBI bank. On 27th May 2005, there was a meeting held between the petitioners and respondents in relation to MAPA.

17. On 6th May 2005, this Court passed an order in arbitration petition No.100 of 2005 filed by Nirmal Life Style against the respondents exparte. The respondents were absent though served. No affidavit in reply was filed. By the said ad interim order, this Court granted injunction restraining the respondents, their agents, servants from any manner negotiating, disposing off, alienating, encumbering, transferring or creating any right, title or interest in favour of any third party in respect of or inducting anyone into the whole or any part of basement, ground and first floor of the Tulip Hotel aggregating to 2,50,000 sq. ft. municipal built up area or in any manner changing the facade of the said hotel. On 21st June 2005, the respondents addressed a letter to the Advocate of the petitioners recording that pursuant to the discussion held with the petitioners and based on their request, the respondents had temporarily withdrawn the application made in the High Court on the matter pertaining to Nirmal Lifestyle and reserved their right to move the application if deemed necessary. The respondents also recorded that all the parties knew that neither the petitioners nor their Advocates nor the respondents were aware that Nirmal Lifestyle had taken up the matter for argument and obtained an injunction through office of the petitioners' Advocate M/s Wadia Gandhy and Co., in absence of the respondents in spite of dissuading the respondents from contesting the matter.

18. By letter dated 25th June 2005 addressed by Mr Anand Bhatt as Escrow Agent on behalf of the petitioners to Mr Suresh Talwar of Crawford Bayley and Co. an Escrow Agent on behalf of the respondents placed on record that the said Escrow Agent of the petitioners did not have any objection to release the amounts set out in the letter addressed by the respondents out of the Joint Escrow Account on the respondents complying with various conditions regarding disbursement of various amounts from the said Escrow Account for addressed clearing of various liabilities of the respondents referred therein.

19. On 30th June 2005, the union of Centaur-Tulip employees filed a complaint being No.(ULP) 338 of 2005 in the Industrial Court against the respondents for an order and direction against the respondents to give entry, regular work and wages to the employees/complainants and to pay back wages with interest and interim relief in terms of attachment of movable/immovable properties including hotel property and injunction thereof. On 5th July 2005, Industrial Court issued a notice to respondents to show cause in the said complaint (ULP) 338 of 2005. By an order dated 20th July 2005, Industrial Court passed an order of status quo between the parties in the said complaint (338/05).

20. By a letter dated 21st July 2005 of the Advocates of the petitioner to the Advocates of the respondents, petitioners referred to a newspaper article appeared on the front page of Times of India on 21st July 2005 titled as “Centre refer city Centaur deals to CBI” and enclosed a copy thereof with the said letter. In the said letter it was stated that in the light of the said article in the newspaper, title of the Centaur property would be under cloud until the CBI completes its probe in respect of the Centaur property and gives a clean chit to the transaction under which Hotel Corporation disinvested the Centaur Property in favour of Dr Ajit Kerkar/Tulip Hospitality Services Ltd. By the said letter, the petitioners through their Advocate informed that the petitioners would be in a position to complete the transaction as contemplated in the MAPA only after the probe of CBI was completed and CBI would confirm that the purchase of the Centaur Property from Hotel Corporation of India was not irregular or does not pass any adverse ruling that would affect title to be acquired by the petitioners in respect of the Centaur Property.

21. By letter dated 4th August 2005, the petitioners' Advocate addressed a letter to the Advocates of the respondents inviting attention of the respondents to Clauses 6 and 13 of MAPA and stated that the notice of closure was to be given by the respondents on or about 15th May 2005 and the closing date was to be on or about 1st June 2005. The petitioners stated that the respondents had not yet complied with their obligations as set out in the MAPA although more than 75 days had been passed from the date on which the notice of closure was expected to be given by the respondents. The petitioners stated that the petitioners were ready and willing to make payment of the balance consideration on the closing date in accordance with the terms of the MAPA and requested the Advocates of the respondents to obtain instructions from the respondents and to inform the petitioners the approximate date on which the notice of closure as contemplated in the MAPA would be given to the petitioners.

22. On 8th August 2005, the Income Tax Department issued a Certificate under Section 281 of the Income Tax Act. It is the case of the petitioners that the petitioners came to know about the said Certificate only when oral evidence was led by the respondents before the learned arbitrator. By letter dated 10th August 2005 addressed to the Joint Escrow Agent, respondents sought the deposit of Rs.122.10 lakhs (within Rs.75 cores), which according to the respondents was due and payable to the respondents as per the provisions of the said MAPA and requested the Joint Escrow Agent to release the amount of Rs.122.10 lakhs immediately and pay the respondents the balance amount for their payment of the salaries and other dues of the company.

23. There was a meeting held between the parties regarding performance of the MAPA on 11th August 2005. By letter dated 19th August 2005 addressed to Joint Escrow Agent, the respondents stated that the balance amount of Rs.2 crores was lying to the credit of the Escrow out of the last tranche of Rs.7.50 crores payable by the petitioners to complete the amount of Rs.75 crores initial amount payable as per the MAPA. The respondents requested the Joint Escrow Agent to release the said balance amount of Rs. 2 crores at the earliest which could be utilized towards the deposit with this Court in the Tremac matter and for other employee related payments.

24. On 29th August 2005, respondent No.4 issued a letter to the Joint Escrow Agent of the respondents by which he has alleged to have recorded the minutes of meeting held on 11th August 2005. On 27th September 2005, Arbitration Petition No.100 of 2005 filed by Nirmal Lifestyle against the respondents herein appeared on board. The respondents also through their Advocate appeared on 27th September 2005. Petitioners appeared through their learned counsel in the said proceedings. By consent of parties this court appointed Mr Justice A.V.Savant (Retd) as Arbitrator for deciding the dispute between the parties in accordance with law. By the said order, ad interim order dated 6th July 2005 was directed to be continued to operate until further orders. Both the parties were granted liberty to approach the learned arbitrator for appropriate interim reliefs including an order either for modification or for cancellation of the ad interim order passed by this Court which was continued by the said order dated 6th June 2005. This Court also recorded statement of the learned counsel appearing for the petitioners herein who was not a party to the said proceedings that the petitioners intended to file a chamber summons in that petition. By the said order, the said petition was disposed of. None of the parties have challenged the said order passed by this Court including the respondents.

25. According to the respondents, as claimed in affidavit of evidence filed on behalf of the witness of the respondents, there was a meeting held on 27th September 2005 between Mr Ajit Kerkar, respondent No.4 with Mr Oberoi representing the petitioners and Mr Jaikumar, representative of respondent No.1 at which respondent No.4 has alleged to have told Mr Oberoi of the petitioners to lift the injunction obtained by Nirmal Lifestyle as promised so that transaction could be completed. This statement is made by Mr Ajit Kerkar in affidavit dated 26th June 2007 in paragraphs 24 and 25 filed before the learned arbitrator. By letter dated 6th October 2005, the respondents' Advocate addressed to the petitioners, the respondents invoked arbitration clause and suggested the name of Mr Justice A.V.Savant (Retd.) as sole arbitrator and called upon the petitioners to concur upon his appointment within seven days. In the said notice, the respondents alleged that Nirmal Lifestyle was a member of the Purchaser joint venture company under the said MAPA. The said company filed an arbitration petition against the respondents and obtained injunction against the respondents on the sale of the property. It was also alleged that the petitioners had requested the respondents not to contest the arbitration petition under which the said injunction had been obtained by Nirmal Lifestyle Ltd. It is alleged that the same Nirmal Lifestyle had acted in a manner that had rendered it impossible for the respondents to proceed with the performance of their obligations under the MAPA and as a result of said act of Nirmal Lifestyle Ltd., the respondents were entitled to treat themselves as discharged under the MAPA. It was stated that without prejudice to the stand taken by the respondents that the petitioners had requested the respondents not to contest the arbitration petition under which injunction was obtained by Nirmal Lifestyle Ltd, for all effective purposes, the MAPA stands frustrated as the conditions that existed at the time of entering into the contract, no longer exists. It is also submitted that unforeseeable delay that would be caused as a result of such injunction, also serves as a ground for frustration of MAPA. The respondents stated that due to petitioners refusal to perform their obligations under the MAPA as a result of such CBI inquiry, the MAPA could not be completed as contemplated by the parties and has been frustrated due to a change in circumstances which could cause an unforeseen delay in its performance and as a natural consequence of frustration of the contract, the respondents stood discharged from performing their obligations under the MAPA. The respondents also contended that in view of the failure of the petitioners to make the payment as scheduled, it was a breach of material term of MAPA and as a result thereof, the respondents were entitled to retain 10% of the amount paid up to date and to return the balance 90% to the petitioners. The respondents stated that they were willing to refund the petitioners the amount due to the petitioner within a reasonable time. The respondents did not have any other resources to return the amount to the petitioners without raising the funds from other sources. In the said letter, there was no reference letter dated 21st July 2005 addressed by the petitioners' Advocates to the Advocates of the respondents.

26. The petitioners through their Advocate's letter dated 14th October 2005 to the Advocate of the respondents, informed that they were obtaining instructions from the petitioners and would revert back to the letter dated 6th October 2005 from the respondents' Advocate and stated that in the meanwhile nothing contained in the letter dated 6th October 2005 was deemed to be admitted or accepted either by the petitioners or their Advocates. By letter dated 24th October 2005 addressed to the Advocate of the respondents, the petitioners invoked the escrow mechanism under the MAPA and did not deal with the letter dated 6th October 2005 addressed by the respondents' Advocate and reserved their rights to do so at appropriate time. It is contended by the petitioners that the said MAPA was valid and subsisting and binding on the respondents. The petitioners did not concur with the name of the arbitrator suggested by the respondents. It was contended that under the said MAPA, in the event of default being triggered either by the purchaser or by the vendor, the same shall be decided jointly by solicitors of the vendor and the purchaser.

27. The respondents by their Advocate's letter dated 27th October 2005 to the Advocate of the petitioners invited their attention to Clause 14 of the MAPA and emphasised that since there was only one Escrow Agent, Clause 14 of the MAPA could not be invoked for the resolution any dispute. The respondents did not give consent to Mr Anand Bhatt, Advocate being reinstated as Escrow Agent. The respondents reiterated that due to refusal of the petitioners to perform their obligation under the MAPA as a result of such CBI inquiry, the MAPA could not be competed as contemplated by the parties and reiterated that the MAPA has been frustrated/rendered impossible due to a change in circumstances not contemplated by the parties at the time of contract. It is contended that in any event, no Escrow Agent could resolve that issue. The respondents appointed Mr Justice Arvind Sav (Retd.) as their arbitrator and called upon the petitioners to communicate to the respondents the name of their nominee arbitrator within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of the said letter.

28. By letter dated 25th November 2005, the petitioners through their Advocate addressed to the Advocate of the respondents in reply to the letter dated 24th October 2005 and denied that Mr Anand Bhatt has resigned from his position as an Escrow Agent. The petitioners contended that the MAPA had not been worked out and the transaction had not been completed in the manner provided in the MAPA as the respondents had not complied with their obligation as set out in Clause-13 read with Clause 6 of MAPA and had not delivered the notice of closure as set out in Clause 11 of the MAPA to the petitioners. It is stated that the respondents could not claim that MAPA had been frustrated and could not take advantage of obligations under the MAPA. The petitioners informed that the petitioners were always ready and willing to comply with their obligation under the MAPA and to complete the transaction on receipt of the notice of closure as contemplated under Clause-16 of the MAPA. The petitioners invited attention of the respondents to Clause-16 of the MAPA which provided that in case of default by the Vendor, it was prerogative of the petitioners to decide whether to continue with the transaction or whether to cancel the MAPA. The petitioners objected to the stand of the respondents that the contract was frustrated or that the respondents took discharge from performing their obligation under the MAPA or that the Escrow Agent could not resolve the said issue. The petitioners contended that a meeting would be required to be fixed of the two Escrow Agents and thus, respondents could not invoke the arbitration clause prematurely. The petitioners denied the allegations of the respondents that petitioners had refused to perform their obligation under the MAPA. The petitioners contended that the respondents have failed to comply with their obligation set out in Clause-13 read with Clause-6 of the MAPA. The petitioners by their letter dated 12th December 2005 addressed to the Joint Escrow Agent invoked Clause-14 of the MAPA and called upon the respondents to implement the terms of the MAPA and fixed a meeting with Escrow Agent to enable them to perform their duties as contemplated under the MAPA.

29. By letter dated 14th December 2005 addressed by the respondents' Advocate to Joint Escrow Agent, the respondents informed that the respondents had already filed an application under Section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 (255/05) for appointment of an arbitrator and requested them not to take any action under Clause-14 of the MAPA. Mr Anand Bhatt, Advocate addressed a letter to the Advocate of the petitioners informing that in view of the correspondence between the petitioners and the objection raised by the respondents through their Advocate, he would be unable to call a meeting or to take any action under clause-14 of the MAPA.

30. By an order dated 23rd December 2005 in arbitration petition (434/05) filed by the petitioners under Section 9 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act against the respondents herein, this Court passed an ad interim order directing the parties to maintain status-quo in relation to the subject matter of arbitration. By an order dated 24th January 2006, this Court admitted the said arbitration petition (434/05) and passed an ad interim order in terms of prayer clause (a) directing the respondents not to create any impediment or obstruction in the way of the Escrow Agents from acting in accordance with the terms of the said MAPA 31st March 2005. This Court further directed the Escrow Agent to grant an opportunity of being heard to both the parties before deciding the question as contemplated in Section 14 of the MAPA. Parties were directed to maintain status-quo until further orders.

31. On 8th March 2006, petitioners filed a claim before the Escrow Agents contending that CBI probe created impediment for transfer by the first respondent and the same was also a cloud on the title of the first respondent. The first respondent was obliged to get proper clearances from CBI proceedings before completion of the transaction. The petitioners were ready and willing to complete upon the first respondent producing certificate of clear and marketable title from Crawford Bayley and Co. and also obtaining necessary No Objections and clearances from the concerned authorities as contemplated under the MAPA. The petitioners prayed that Escrow Agents shall hold that an event of default was triggered by the respondents and default provisions having come into effect, the petitioner would elect under Clause16-B of the MAPA to become 50% share holder of the first respondent.

32. By an order dated 8th March 2006, by consent of parties, this Court disposed of the said arbitration petition (434/05) and continued the order dated 24th January 2006 with liberty to both the parties to apply before the learned arbitrator either for cancellation or modification of the said order. Parties were also granted liberty to make appropriate application for ad interim relief before the learned arbitrator. On 27th April 2006, the learned arbitrator appointed by this Court passed an order on application filed by the respondents for modification of the interim order to restrain the Escrow Agents from acting and held that the application for modification or cancellation of the order passed by this Court could be filed only if there was a change in circumstances.

33. By an order dated 16th June 2006 passed by the arbitral tribunal, status-quo order passed by this Court on 8th March 2006 was continued. The arbitral tribunal restrained the petitioners from proceeding before the Escrow Agents and directed that the arbitration proceedings were expedited.

34. On 11th August 2006, respondents filed statement of claim before the learned arbitrator. . In the said statement of claim, the respondents applied for a declaration that the parties were no longer bound by continuing the MAPA and the same stood terminated pursuant to the repudiatory breach committed by the petitioners herein and the direction to the petitioners to pay damages to the respondents in the sum of Rs.180 crores or in the alternative sought a declaration that the parties were no longer bound by the MAPA as it had become void under Sections 32 to 35 and/or Section 56 of the Contract Act and the respondents were not liable to refund any amounts or in the alternative for a declaration that that the petitioners herein were in default of payment of sale consideration and consequently respondents were entitled to exercise their right under Clause 15.1 of the MAPA and time period of refund of 90% consideration free of interest shall start from the date of award. In the alternative, the respondents also prayed that as the petitioners were not ready and willing to perform the contract, the petitioners would not entitled to specific performance of Clause16-B or Clause 15.3.2. The respondents also prayed that damages in the sum of Rs.20 crores towards breach of contract in relation to newspaper disclosures and further sum of Rs.2 crores as damages for breach in relation to non-disbursal of monies for discharge of liabilities in relation to Tremac. The respondents in the alternative also applied for a declaration that the respondents had properly exercised its option under Clause 15.1 and sought a direction to the petitioners herein to accept the payments made therein and after such payment was been made, the MAPA stood terminated with neither party having any right or claim against the other of whatsoever nature. The respondents sought a declaration that the petitioners were liable to indemnify the respondents herein against all losses and expenses of all kinds incurred in relation to the Nirmal Lifestyle transaction. The respondents also sought a direction against the parties to take necessary steps for getting the Joint Escrow Agents to dispose of the documents and monies held by them in trust in accordance with the final determination of that controversy by the arbitral tribunal. The respondents prayed for interest @ 18% per annum with effect from 25th July 2005 till the date of actual payment and also prayed for arbitration costs in favour of the respondents.

35. The petitioners filed written statement on 30th September 2006 and denied the claims made by the respondents. The petitioners also filed counterclaim in the said proceedings and prayed for declaration that the MAPA was valid and subsisting and binding upon the respondents herein. The petitioners prayed for specific performance of the MAPA for damages. The petitioners also made various alternative prayers before the arbitral tribunal.

36. On 15th March 2007, the Supreme Court passed an order in SLP (Civil) No.20126/06 filed by the petitioners against the order dated 4th September 2006 of this Court refusing to interfere with the order passed by the arbitral tribunal on the ground that since Mr Anand Bhatt had written a letter dated 21st July 2005 regarding the CBI investigation, he would be a witness of the petitioners herein and could not be called upon to decide the dispute in which he himself become a party. The Supreme Court, however made it clear that if the arbitral tribunal finds that there has been a default in working out the MAPA by either of the parties to the agreement, the parties would be entitled to enforce the consequences arising out of the Escrow arrangement irrespective of the award of the arbitral tribunal on all other aspects of the disputes between the parties.

37. On 15th October 2007, the petitioners through their Advocate addressed a letter to the Advocates of the respondents informing that the petitioners thereby elected to enforce its option to continue with the transaction in terms of Clauses 15.3.1 of the MAPA and tendered the balance consideration by way of cheque made out in favour of respondent No.1 in the sum of Rs.274,06,00,000/-. By the said letter, the petitioners called upon the respondents to accept the said payment. The petitioners conveyed that the petitioners thereby expressly waived any objection to marketability of the title of the immovable and movable properties on the ground of pending CBI inquiry and was ready and willing to complete the transaction notwithstanding the pendency of such inquiry.

38. By letter dated 20th December 2007 addressed Advocate to the petitioners' Advocate, the respondents denied the option as sought to be exercised by the petitioners in their Advocates' letter dated 15th October 2007. The respondents contended that for the first time the petitioners had admitted that the petitioners had objected to marketability of the title and were not ready and willing to complete the transaction in 2005 and had therefore been in default. In the said letter, the respondents enclosed cheques for Rs.73,00,51,960/- and  Rs.19.34,53,770/- respectively both dated 20th December 2007 with a request to encash the said cheques totalling to Rs.92,35,05,730/- and the sum of Rs.2,00,00,000/- along with accumulated interest to the extent the Escrow Agents had accumulated on the same, only at the end of two working days from the date on which written undertaking was furnished by the petitioners to the effect that on realization of the said cheques, the MAPA would stand terminated/cancelled and that the petitioners would have no further claims of whatsoever under the MAPA and/or on any of the shares lying with the Escrow Agents. By letter dated 21st December 2007, the petitioners returned the cheques to the respondents' Advocate.

39. Both the parties came to know subsequently that CBI enquiry was over on 27th February 2008.

40. Before the learned arbitrator, both the parties led documentary as well as oral evidence. The Arbitral Tribunal framed 28 issues. The respondents examined five witnesses. The petitioners examined two witnesses. On 13th July 2011, the arbitral tribunal, by its final award interalia declared that the MAPA stood terminated by repudiation on the part of the petitioners and acceptance thereof by the respondents. The arbitral tribunal directed the respondents to refund Rs.73,00,51,960/- to the petitioners within a period of 90 days of the award and in case the amount was not accepted by the petitioners, the respondents to deposit the same in Nationalized bank and keep the same invested subject to further orders of the Court. The arbitral tribunal also held that the petitioners were not ready and willing at all times to complete the MAPA due to CBI inquiry and therefore not entitled to specific performance and accordingly dismissed the counterclaim of the petitioners with costs.

41. The petitioners therefore filed this petition under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act challenging the said award dated 13th July 2011 on 28th July 2011. The petitioners have filed a separate petition under Section 9 of the Arbitration Act on 16th July 2011 against the respondents which was heard along with this petition. On 5th August 2011, the respondents through their Advocates furnished a Pay Order for Rs.73,00,51,960/- as directed in the arbitral award to the petitioners. The petitioners returned the said Pay Orders to the respondents on the same day.

42. The main question which were discussed by the arbitral tribunal in the impugned award have been set out in paragraph 6 of the impugned award which reads as under:

“6. The main questions are (a) Whether there has been frustration and/or repudiation (b) Whether MAPA has become impossible to perform and if so whether either party is to blamed for the situation (c ) Whether there was a misrepresentation by the Respondents re: Nirmal (d) Whether the claimants were ready and willing to complete and in a position to do do. (e) Whether the Respondents were ready and willing to complete transaction. This would cover whether respondents had, at the relevant time, financial capacity to complete the transaction (f) Whether the Respondents are entitled to specific performance and/or damages. The answer to these questions will determine which party is entitled to reliefs and what reliefs.”

SUBMISSIONS ON SCOPE OF SECTION 34 OF THE ARBITRATION AND CONCILIATION ACT, 1996:-

43. Mr. Sundaram, the learned senior counsel submits that whether the petitioners were ready and willing to perform their part of the obligation all throughout or not and whether CBI enquiry was cloud on title in respect of the suit property or not is a question of fact. It is submitted that whether discretionary relief of specific performance ought to have been granted by the Arbitral Tribunal or not is also a question of fact. It is submitted that the Arbitral Tribunal having rendered finding of facts on these question of facts and those findings being not perverse, this court cannot interfere with such finding of fact under limited scope under section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. The Arbitral Tribunal has interpreted the terms of the contract and the evidence laid by the parties. Even if there is any error of law or error in interpretation on the terms of the contract, the same cannot be interfered with under section 34. It is submitted that view taken by the Arbitral Tribunal is a possible view or in any event a plausible view and thus no interference is warranted.

44. Mr. Sundaram, the learned senior counsel submits that only in the affidavit in rejoinder, the petitioners have pleaded that the award ought to have set aside as it is in conflict with public policy of India. It is submitted that in no circumstances, the impugned award made by the Arbitral Tribunal would fall under any of the grounds under section 34 of the Arbitration Act. It is submitted that it is trite law that the jurisdiction conferred by the court under section 34 is not an appellate jurisdiction. The Arbitral Tribunal has considered all the documents and evidence on record and come to the conclusion that the petitioners was not ready and willing to perform the contract. The learned senior counsel in support of the aforesaid plea, placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of State of Rajasthan vs. Nav Bharat Construction Co. reported in (2002) 1 SCC 659 and in particular paragraph 7 thereof reads thus:-

“7. Lastly, in the present case the award passed by the arbitrator is reasoned one. The contention raised by the learned counsel for the appellant that under Clause 23 of the Agreement between the parties contractor was not entitled to recover any interest on delayed payment was neither raised before the arbitrator the District Court or before the High Court. This question depends upon the evidence which may be led by the parties as well as interpretation of Clause 23 by the parties and the arbitrator. The parties have understood that there is no bar on granting interest on delayed payments. It appears that no such contention was raised on behalf of the State of Rajasthan. In this view of the matter, it cannot be held that arbitrator has committed any error apparent on the face of the record or has misconducted himself in passing the impugned award. It is settled law that scope for setting aside the award is limited to the grounds available under the Arbitration Act which have been well defined by long line of decided cases. In this view of the matter. It is not necessary for us to consider the contention of the contractor that similar clause is interpreted by this Court in Harish Chandra and Company case (supra) and it is held that there is no bar on granting interest. In our view as the contention was not raised before the arbitrator or at any stage thereafter, it is not necessary for us to deal with decide the same in this appeal.”

45. The learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of VeerayeeAmman vs. Seeni Ammal reported in (2002) 1 SCC 134 and in particular para 10 thereof reads thus:-

“10. The question of law formulated as substantial question of law in the instant case cannot, in any way, be termed to be a question of law less as substantial question of law. The question formulated in fact is a question of fact. Merely because of appreciation of evidence another view is also possible would not clothe High Court to assume the jurisdiction by terming the question as substantial question of law. In this case Issue No. 1, as framed by the Trial Court, was, admittedly, an issue of fact which was concurrently held in favour of the appellant-plaintiff and did not justify the High Court to disturb the same by substituting its own finding for the findings of the courts below, arrived at on appreciation of evidence.”

46. The learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of Steel Authority of India vs. Gupta Brothers Steel Tubes Ltd. reported in 2009 (10) SCC 63 and in particular para 18 thereof reads thus:-

“18. It is not necessary to multiply the references. Suffice it to say that the legal position that emerges from the decisions of this Court can be summarised thus:

(i) In a case where an arbitrator travels beyond the contract, the award would be without jurisdiction and would amount to legal misconduct and because of which the award would become amenable for being set aside by a Court.

(ii) An error relatable to interpretation of the contract by an arbitrator is an error within his jurisdiction and such error is not amenable to correction by Courts as such error is not an error on the face of the award.

(iii) If a specific question of law is submitted to the arbitrator and he answers it, the fact that the answer involves an erroneous decision in point of law does not make the award bad on its face.

(iv) An award contrary to substantive provision of law or against the terms of contract would be patently illegal.

(v) Where the parties have deliberately specified the amount of compensation in express terms, the party who has suffered by such breach can only claim the sum specified in the contract and not in excess thereof. In other words, no award of compensation in case of breach of contract, if named or specified in the contract, could be awarded in excess thereof.

(vi) If the conclusion of the arbitrator is based on a possible view of the matter, the court should not interfere with the award.

(vii) It is not permissible to a court to examine the correctness of the findings of the arbitrator, as if it were sitting in appeal over his findings.”

47. The learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of RashtriyaIspat Nigam Limited vs. Dewan Chand Ram Saran reported in 2012 (5) SCC 306 and in particular paragraphs 29 and 43 in support of his plea that the scope of section 34 is limited and even if there is error of law, no interference is warranted under section 34 of the Act. Paragraphs 29 and 43 thereof read thus:-

“29. It was submitted by the Respondent that this Hon'ble Court very succinctly summarised the legal principles for setting aside an award in Sail v. Gupta Brother Steel Tubes Limited (by one of us Lodha J.) reported in MANU/SC/1624/2009 : 2009 (10) SCC 63 in paragraph 18 wherefrom principles (i) and (iv) would be attracted. As against that, the Appellant stressed sub-paras (ii) and (vi) of the same paragraph 18. We may therefore quote the entire paragraph which reads as follows:

...18. It is not necessary to multiply the references. Suffice it to say that the legal position that emerges from the decisions o this Court can be summarized thus:

(i) In a case where an arbitrator travels beyond the contract, the award would be without jurisdiction and would amount to legal misconduct and because of which the award would become amenable for being set aside by a court.

(ii) An error relatable to interpretation of the contract by an arbitrator is an error within his jurisdiction and such error is not amenable to correction by courts as such error is not an error on the face of the award.

(iii) If a specific question of law is submitted to the arbitrator and he answers it, the fact that the answer involves an erroneous decision in point of law does not make the award bad on its face.

(iv) An award contrary to substantive provision of law or against the terms of contract would be patently illegal.

(v) Where the parties have deliberately specified the amount of compensation in express terms, the party who has suffered by such breach can only claim the sum specified in the contract and not in excess thereof. In other words, no award of compensation in case of breach of contract, if named or specified in the contract, could be awarded in excess thereof.

(vi) If the conclusion of the arbitrator is based on a possible view of the matter, the court should not interfere with the award.

43. In any case, assuming that Clause 9.3 was capable of two interpretations, the view taken by the arbitrator was clearly a possible if not a plausible one. It is not possible to say that the arbitrator had travelled outside his jurisdiction, or that the view taken by him was against the terms of contract. That being the position, the High Court had no reason to interfere with the award and substitute its view in place of the interpretation accepted by the arbitrator.”

48. The learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of McDermott International vs. Burn Standard Company Limited reported in 2006 (11) SCC 181 and in particular paragraphs 112 and 113 thereof read thus:-

“112. It is trite that the terms of the contract can be express or implied. The conduct of the parties would also be a relevant factor in the matter of construction of a contract. The construction of the contract agreement, is within the jurisdiction of the arbitrators having regard to the wide nature, scope and ambit of the arbitration agreement and they cannot, be said to have misdirected themselves in passing the award by taking into consideration the conduct of the parties. It is also trite that correspondences exchanged by the parties are required to be taken into consideration for the purpose of construction of a contract. Interpretation of a contract is a matter for the arbitrator to determine, even if it gives rise to determination of a question of law. [See Pure Helium India (P) Ltd. v. Oil and Natural Gas Commission MANU/SC/0803/2003: AIR2003SC4519 and D.D. Sharma v. Union of India MANU/SC/0419/2004 : (2004)5SCC325].

113. Once, thus, it is held that the arbitrator had the jurisdiction, no further question shall be raised and the court will not exercise its jurisdiction unless it is found that there exists any bar on the face of the award.”

49. The learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of Saw Pipe vs. ONGC Ltd. which has been followed by Supreme Court subsequently in several judgments.

50. Mr.Chagla, the learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners submits that the impugned award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal is against the terms of the contract and is patently illegal. It is submitted that the Arbitral Tribunal has decided contrary to sections 39 and 56 of the Contract Act and the award is thus in conflict with the public policy. It is submitted that the interpretation of the Arbitral Tribunal of the provisions of MAPA is not a possible or plausible interpretation but is contrary to the provisions of the contract and also contrary to sections 39 and 56 of the Contract Act. It is submitted that the conclusion of the Arbitral Tribunal is perverse and thus this court can interfere with such award under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. The learned senior counsel submits that the Supreme Court has held in Catena of decisions that if the Arbitral Tribunal has put an interpretation on the clause of the agreement, which is wholly contrary to law, then in that case there is no prohibition in the court to sit things right. The learned senior counsel submits that the award is totally unfair and unreasonable and is de hors the terms of MAPA. The impugned award is also contrary to well settled principles of law laid down by the Supreme Court on interpretation of sections 39 and 56 of the Contract Act. The learned senior counsel submits that the petitioners have raised various such grounds in arbitration petition filed by the petitioners to demonstrate that the award is contrary to public policy and is patently illegal. The learned senior counsel submits that the Supreme Court has also held that if any perverse order is passed by the Arbitral Tribunal, then the courts are not powerless to interfere with the matter. It is submitted that if the conclusions drawn by the Arbitral Tribunal are perverse and conditions of very basis on the award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal is wrong, there is no proposition that the court should be slow to interfere with such arbitration award. The learned senior counsel submits that the impugned award shows patent contradiction and inconsistency and shows the patent illegalities on the face of the award which warrants interference of this court under section 34 of the Act. Mr. Chagla, the learned senior counsel distinguishes various judgments cited by Mr.Sundaram, the learned counsel appearing for the respondents.

51. Section 39 and 56 of the Indian Contract Act which are relevant for the purpose of deciding this issue are extracted as under:

“39. Effect of refusal of party to perform promise wholly - When as party to a contract has refused to perform, or disabled himself from performing, his promise in its entirety, the promisee may put an end to the contract, unless he has signified, by words or conduct, his acquiescence in its continuance.

56. Agreement to do impossible act.- An agreement to do an act impossible in itself is void.

Contract to do act afterwards becoming impossible or unlawful – A contract to do an act which, after the contract is made, becomes impossible, or by reason of some event which the promisor could not prevent, unlawful, becomes void when the act becomes impossible or unlawful.

Compensation for loss through nonperformance of act known to be impossible or unlawful – Where one person has promised to do something which he knew, or, with reasonable diligence, might have known, and which the promisee did not know, to be impossible or unlawful, such promisor must make compensation to such promisee for any loss which such promisee sustains through the non-performance of the promise.

SUBMISSIONS ON the ISSUES:

(i) Whether there has been frustration and /or repudiation?

(ii) Whether MAPA has become impossible to perform and whether either party has to be blamed for situation?.”

52. Mr Chagla, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner submits that the learned arbitrator in the impugned award has held that the letter dated 21st July 2005 addressed by the petitioners constituted a refusal to perform MAPA and that such repudiation had been accepted by the respondents vide their letter dated 6th October 2010. It is submitted that the letter dated 21st July 2005 addressed by the petitioner did not constitute an intention to abandon MAPA or a refusal on the part of the petitioners to pay the balance consideration upon issuance of a notice of closure after compliance by the respondents of their obligations including, in particular, with regard to the title of the hotel property. It is submitted that the said letter was only the evidence of the insistence by the petitioners of their entitlement to a clear and marketable title free from all pending proceedings that might create an impediment in the transfer of title in favour of the petitioners and the use of the property by the petitioners. It is submitted that by the said letter dated 4th August 2005, the petitioners had shown their readiness and willingness to complete MAPA by paying the balance consideration on the closing date and had called upon the respondents to intimate the approximate date on which the notice of closure would be issued. The learned senior counsel submits that the respondents were not in a position to issue a notice of closure as required by MAPA and thus there was no question of the petitioners committing any default. It is submitted that repudiation cannot be inferred but has to be clear. The learned senior counsel submits that making enquiry by the petitioners' Advocates about title of the respondents in view of CBI enquiry cannot constitute repudiation of MAPA by the petitioners. Time was not essence of the contract under MAPA. No notice of closure could be issued by the respondents unless all other obligations set out in MAPA on their part were first completed. Agreement was kept alive by both the parties. It is submitted that obligation of the petitioners to pay the entire consideration did not arise in this case in view of the respondents not having competed their obligations and did not issue any notice of closure as contemplated under MAPA. It is submitted that respondents kept on demanding balance amount from Escrow Agents even after notice dated 21st July 2005 and 4th August 2005 and even after addressing letter dated 6th October 2005 by the respondents to the petitioners. Both the parties were holding meetings for discussion about compliance of obligations under MAPA. The learned senior counsel submits that on the contrary by the said letter dated 21st July 2005 followed by letter dated 4th August 2005, the petitioners had clearly stated that the petitioners were willing to complete the transaction but the same was postponed till clean chit was issued by CBI. It was submitted that there was thus no repudiation of the contract but was affirmation of the contract by the petitioners.

53. The learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the Judgment of Supreme Court in case of Claude-Lila Parulekar (Smt). vs. Sakal Papers (P) Ltd. And ors. reported in (2005) 11 Supreme Court Cases 73 and in particular paragraphs 50, 52, 53 and 54 in support of his plea that to constitute an act as repudiation of contract, such an act shall indicate an intention to refuse to perform the contract on the part of the party repudiating the contract and to set other party free from performing his part. Paragraphs 50, 52, 53 and 54 of the said Judgment read as under:

“50. We are of the view that there was also no repudiation of the contract by the appellants as contended by the respondents on account of the appellants alleged failure to pay the price within the time fixed by the respondent Nos. 2, 3 and 4 by their notices dated 21.2.1985.

52. As there was no time fixed either under Article 57A or in the offer letters, the question of time being of the essence did not at all arise. As was held in S.C.GomathinayagamPillai v. Palaniswami Nadar 1967 AIR 1967 SC 868 "the stipulation must show that the intention was to make the rights of the parties depend on the observation of the time limits prescribed in a fashion which is unmistakable." If there is no stipulation as to time, it is not open to a party to unilaterally stipulate a time and then cancel the contract because of an alleged failure of the other party to act within the time stipulated. [See: National Co-operative Sugar Mills Ltd., Alanganallur v. M/s. Albert and Co. AIR 1981 MAD 172 (D.B.) IV.3.3. Of course if time is fixed by the contract but it is not originally of the essence, a party could by notice served upon the other call upon him to complete the transaction within the time fixed and intimate that in default of compliance with the requisition the contract will be treated as cancelled (ibid p.872). But where no time is fixed for completion, it is not open to either the vendor or purchaser to serve notice limiting a time at the expiration of which he will treat the contract as at an end. In the circumstances, the contract for sale of the shares to the appellants could not be avoided by reason of any alleged failure on the part of the appellants to pay the price fixed by the Auditor.

53. Furthermore for an act to constitute a repudiation of a contract it must be " such an act as indicated an intention to refuse to perform the contract and to set the other party free from performing his part. an act by which the party renounced all intention to perform his part of the contract, and thereby set free the other party” or an intimation that it was no use for you to go on, because I tell you that I do not mean to keep to the contract" . [See: Freeth v. Burr (Lord Coleridge, CJ (1874-80) All ER.753]. The question to be asked is "is the act to be relied on as rescission, an act which on the part of the person doing it amounts to an abandonment, or refusal by him to perform his part of the contract?" (ibid at pg.754)IV.4.I Repudiation of a contract is "a serious matter, not to be lightly found or inferred ".

54. From the facts as narrated earlier, it is clear that there was no such repudiation on the part of the appellants. The letters exchanged, the suits filed do not show that the appellants were renouncing the contract nor that they were absolutely refusing to perform the contract. The question is not whether the valuation by the company's auditors was correct. The Division Bench held that it could not be said to be incorrect. But the question which should have been asked was, was the challenge permissible in law and if so was it made bonafide? The Division Bench did not answer this question in the negative. There was in fact no refusal to perform the contract, but a questioning of the mode of performance. It may be that they were mistaken in their challenge to the Auditors' certificate, but that is a long way from saying that they were unwilling to pay. As was said in Sweet and Maxwell Ltd. vs. Universal News Services Ltd. 1964 QBD 699 (CA) 179 "their view might have been a wrong one, but that does not justify it being treated as a repudiation of the contract".

"If A and B, parties to a contract, form different views as to the construction and effect of their contract, and A demands performance by B of some act which B denies he is obliged to perform upon the true interpretation of the contract, then, if B says "I am ready and willing to "perform the contract according to its true tenor, but I contend that what you, A, require of me is not obligatory upon me "according to the true construction of the contract," and if in so saying he is acting in good faith, he does not manifest the intention to refuse to perform the contract. On the contrary, he affirms his readiness to perform the contract, but merely puts in issue the true effect of the contract."(ibid pg.737) IV.4.2 There would have been no point in the appellant challenging the valuation of the shares by the auditors if they were not interested in completing the transaction. There would have been also no point in their offering to deposit Rs.20 lakhs as proof of their continued interest in purchasing the shares. The filing of the suit in Pune is not conduct in keeping with an intention of not performing the contract. If the offers were in terms of Article 58, as is now contended by the respondents, then, as we have said, the acceptance of that offer must also be understood to be under Article 58. In that case it was for the parties to negotiate the price for the shares and not for the auditors to determine. The challenge to the certification may be taken as a method of negotiating a fair value under Article 58. Be that as it may, the appellants in fact accepted the price as certified by the auditors on 1st October, 1985.

54. The learned counsel also placed reliance upon the Judgment of Supreme Court in case of Sweet and Maxwell Ltd. v. Universal News Services Ltd., reported in 1964 (3) ALL ER 30 and submits that statement of law laid down in the said Judgment has been duly approved by the Supreme Court in the Judgment of Claude-Lila (supra).”

55. In support of the plea that the purchaser is entitled to a good and marketable title of the Vendor, the learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the Judgment of Madras High Court in case of Madurai Chetty v. Babu Saheb reported in AIR 1920 Madras 859 and in particular portion on page 860 of the said Judgment which reads as under:

“In this case the purchasers sued for specific performance and the vendors for the rescission of the contract. Both suits were decided in favour of the purchasers and the vendors for the rescission of the contract. Both suits were decided in favour of the purchasers, and the vendors appeal. The house in question stood in the name of Ellammal who, on 10th March 1916, executed in faofur of her daughter's son Balasundara Chetti an unregistered document Ex.1, reciting that she had promised to give his mother the house as a dowry and that the mother had paid Rs.2,000/- and providing that he was to have the house after her (Ellammal's) death. Then on 17th November 1916 she and her husband Madurai Chetty contracted in Ex.B to sell the house to Melu T. C. Mohamad Osman Sait and Co., the contract taking the form of a receipt for Rs.500 which contained the stipulation that :

“the sale is subject to good title, if the title is found not in order this earnest of Rs.500 is to be refunded, and they are to return the title-deeds.” The vendor's vakil replied in Ex.H dated 13th March 1917 that the purchasers were not entitled to this and that his clients had directed him to give notice cancelling the contract because the purchasers were insisting on their bringing an unnecessary suit against the grandson who was a pauper and could not be made to pay costs. They gave the purchasers time until the 20th to pay the purchase-money and execute the sale deed and stated that in the event of their failure to do so, the contract must be regarded as rescinded.

The purchasers' vakil in Ex. J, dated 15th March 1917, replied that the purchasers were entitled to have time to make inquiries into the encumbrances created by Balasundara Chetty and could not accept the mere statements of the vendors and conclude the sale. They followed this up by a letter Ex. K, dated 20th March 1917, enclosing a form of declaration which they required to vendors to sign before a Magistrate and repeated that the vendors were bound to see to the discharge of the mortgages. The declaration was one which Ellammal could not truly made owing to her having executed Ex. 1. the vendors' vakil relied on 26th March 1917 that the contract was rescinded owing to the purchasers' failure to complete the contract and their insistence on the discharge of the encumbrances and the declaration, and this is the rescission on which they now rely. In their reply Ex.M, also dated 26th March 1917, the purchasers' vakil again insisted on the contract being specifically performed, the mortgage discharged, and the declaration asked for given and intimated that they would sue for specific performance of the contract.

In my opinion they were entitled to do so. A purchaser is entitled to a good and a marketable title. If the title is found to be doubtful so as to require investigation he cannot be compelled either to rescind the contract or to accept without investigation the doubtful title. He may, it is well settled in England, sue for specific performance of the contract and ask for an inquiry into the title by the result of which he will be bound.

In the present case before the agreement to sell the property had been mortgaged by the vendors, grandson; and one of the vendors by executing Ex.1 had created evidence that it had been purchased in her name benami for her daughter, the mother of the mortgagor. Her conduct in executing Ex.1 shortly before entering into the agreement ot sell has not been explained; for the story told by her husband in the box that she signed Ex.1 to convert her grandson to a virtuous life is as unworthy of acceptance as his other story that his unwillingness to complete the contract was due to his wife having fallen out of a carriage. Whatever the motives with which Ex.1 was signed it might have been used by the mortgagee and his assignee as evidence in support of the grandson's right to execute the mortgage on the suit property and the validity of that mortgage would not have been affected by his subsequent endorsement on Ex. 1 renouncing his claims even if that endorsement had been registered, as it was not.

In these circumstances the vendors were not entitled to call upon the purchasers to complete the contract within a stated time without further investigation and to rescind the contract for their failure to do so. On the other hand the purchasers were entitled to sue for specific performance and an inquiry into title. The evidence in this case established the title to their satisfaction, and in these circumstances they were entitled to ask for the specific performance which the learned Judge has decreed. Reliance was placed on the decision of the Privy Council in Bindeshri Prasad v. Mahant Jairam. In that case however the whole trouble arose because the purchaser who sued for specific performance had insisted both before suit and in his plaint on the insertion of a covenant in the sale-deed to which he was not entitled. In this case the vendors were entitled to sue for specific performance with a view of clearing up the question of title and the case is therefore distinguishable. The learned Judge was right in his conclusion and the appeals are dismissed with costs.

56. Mr Chagla, the learned senior counsel invited my attention to the reply given by witness Mr Anantharaman examined by the respondents in cross examination and in particular to question Nos.133 to 135 by which, the said witness had admitted that the respondents were not in a position to issue notice of closure as required by MAPA and accordingly the question of the petitioners being in default could not and did not arise. It is submitted that under Section 39 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, there must be not only categorical refusal to perform by the promisor of his promise in entering but there has to be an acceptance of such repudiation by promisee to put an end to the contract. It is submitted that even if it is assumed that letter dated 21st July 2005 constitutes a repudiation of MAPA by the petitioners, the same was not accepted by the respondents as provided under Section 39 of the Contract Act putting an end to MAPA but on the contrary, the respondents repeatedly signified their unequivocal acquiescence in its continuance. The learned senior counsel submits that the petitioners also vide their letter dated 4th August 2005 had expressed their readiness and willingness to complete MAPA. It is submitted that even if the said letter dated 21st July 2005 was to be constituted as letter of repudiation of MAPA, the petitioners vide letter dated 4th August 2005 had withdrawn the said letter dated 21st July 2005 and thus, respondents at no stage accepted the said alleged repudiation. It is submitted that there was no reference to the letter of 21st July 2005 in the letter addressed by the respondents on 6th October 2005 much less acceptance of alleged repudiation.

57. In support of the plea that there has to be acceptance of repudiation under Section 39 of the Indian Contract Act and in absence thereof, alleged letter of repudiation would be redundant and ineffective, the learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the Judgment of Privy Counsel in case of Burn and Co. Vs. Sree Lukhdhriji reported in AIR 1925 PC 188 and in particular paragraph at page 193 and also the Judgment of House of Lords in case of FercometalSARL Vs. Mediterranean Shipping Co. reported in 1988 2 ALL ER 742 and particularly paragraphs at pages 745, 747, 748, 751 and 752. The relevant paragraphs on page 193 of the Judgment of Burn and Co. (supra) read thus:

“The defendants, however, for some reason known to themselves, did not treat it as of the essence of the contract.

“They actually delivered 8 wagons in February, 1917, although the second instalment, which had been demanded in October, 1917 (1916), had not been paid, and although as far as could be seen in February 1917, there was no immediate prospect of the second instalment being paid.”

The Chief Justice and Mr Justice Richardson agreeing that the defendant company broke the contract on the 18th July, 1917, the appeal was by their decree dismissed. From that decree this appeal has been brought.

Their Lordships, having regard to the times when the three instalments of the contract price were according to the contract to become payable, and to the fact that the manufacture of the 50 wagons would involve considerable expenditure by the defendant company in providing materials for their construction, and in the payment of men who would necessarily be employed in constructing them, and to the fact that it might be difficult to enforce in a British Court or in a Court of the State of Morvi payment by His Highness of Morvi of the contract price, are of opinion that it must have been the intention of the parties when the contract was made that time should be of the essence of the contract as to the times when the three instalments of the contract price should be paid. When His Highness of Morvi had, after he had notice that the underframes of the wagons had been wheeled, made default in payment of the second instalment of the contract, which was, in effect, a refusal by him to perform the contract in its entirety, the defendant company was entitled to treat the contract as void and to rescind it, but the defendant company did not rescind it; on the contrary, the defendant company, by delivering 8 of the wagons in February 1917, to the Morvi State Railway treated the contract as a subsisting contract. The defendant company was not on that delivery of the 8 wagons entitled to insist on a then payment for them. The contract price was not payable until the 50 wagons had been delivered.

In the view of the facts of his case which their Lordships take, and of the law which they consider is to be applied to those facts, they find that the defendant company finally broke the contract in July, 1917. The 18th of that month may be taken as the date when defendant company finally broke the contract.

Their Lordships are of opinion that this appeal should be dismissed with costs, and they will humbly advise His Majesty accordingly. Appeal dismissed.

58. The relevant paragraphs in Judgment of FercometalSARL (supra) on pages 747, 748, 751 and 752 read thus:

The innocent party's option

When one party wrongly refuses to perform obligations, this will not automatically bring the contract to an end. The innocent party has an option. He may either accept the wrongful repudiation as determining the contract and sue for damages or he may ignore or reject the attempt to determine the contract and affirm its continued existence. Cockburn CJ in Frost v Knight (1872) LR Ex Ch I I I at 112-113 (1861-73) ALL ER Rep 221 at 223-224 put the matter thus :

The law with reference to a contract to be performed at a future time, where the party bound to performance announces prior to the time his intention not to perform it, as established by the cases of Hochster v. De la Tour (1853) 2 E and B 678, (1843-60) ALL ER Rep 12) and The Danube and Black Sea Co. Vs Xemos (1863) 3 CBNS S25, 143 ER 325) on the one hand and Avery and Bowden (1855) % E and B 714, 119 ER 647, Reid v. Hoskins (1856) 6 E and B 953, 1119) and Barwick v. Buba (1857) 2 CBNS 563, 140 ER 536) on the other, may be thus stated. The promisee, if he pleases, may treat the notice of intention as inoperative, and await the time when the contract is to be executed, and then hold the other party responsible for the consequences of non-performance: but in that case he keeps the contract alive for the benefit of the other party as well as his own; he remains subject to all his own obligations and liabilities under it, and enables the other party not only to complete the contract, if so advised, notwithstanding his previous repudiation of it, but also to take advantage of any supervening circumstance which would justify him in declining to complete it. On the other hand, the promisee may, if he thinks proper, treat the repudiation of the other party as a wrongful putting an end to the contract, and may at once bring his action as on a breach of it; and in such action he will be entitled to such damages as would have arisen from the non-performance of the contract at the appointed time, subject, however, to abatement in respect of any circumstances which may have afforded him the means of mitigating his loss.

If an unaccepted repudiation has no legal effect ('a thing writ in water and of no value to anybody': per Asquith LJ in Howard v Pickford Tool C Ltd (1951) I KB 417 at 421), how can the unaccepted acts of repudiation by the charterers in this case provide the owners with any cause of action? It was accepted in the Court of Appeal by counsel then appearing for the owners that it was an inevitable inference from the findings made by the arbitrators that the Simona was not ready to load the charterers' steel at any time prior to the charterers notice of cancellation on 12 July. Counsel who has appeared before your Lordships for the owners has not been able to depart from this concession. Applying the well-established principles set out above, the anticipatory breaches by the charterers not having been accepted by the owners as terminating the contract, the charter party survived intact with the right of cancellation unaffected. The vessel was not ready to load by close of business on the cancelling date viz. 9 July, and the charterers were therefore entitled to and did give what on the face of it was an effective notice of cancellation.

I therefore conclude that the decision in Braithwaite v Foreign Hardwood Co (1905) 2 KB 543 is not an authority for the proposition advanced by the owners, or alternatively, if it is, then it is wrong. When A wrongfully repudiates his contractual obligations in anticipation of the time for their performance, he presents the innocent party, B, with two choices. He may either affirm the contract by treating it as still in force or he may treat is as finally and conclusively discharged. There is no third choice, as a sort of via media, to affirm the contract and yet be absolved from tendering further performance unless and until A gives reasonable notice that he is once again able and willing to perform. Such a choice would negate the contract being kept alive for the benefit of both parties and would deny the party who unsuccessfully sought to rescind the right to take advantage of any supervening circumstance which would justify him in declining to complete.

59. Mr.Chagla, the learned senior counsel submits that in the impugned award, the learned arbitrator has not considered the effect of letter dated 4th August 2005 on earlier letter dated 21st July 2005 addressed by the petitioners to the respondents. It is submitted that the view taken by the learned arbitrator that the letter dated 21st July 2005 was a letter of repudiation of contract by the petitioner and it was accepted by the respondents by letter dated 6th October 2005 is totally contrary to and in teeth of Section 39 of the Contract Act and is thus in conflict with public policy. The learned senior counsel submits that the impugned award suffers from further contradictions by further direction of the learned arbitrator ordering of restitution of the sum paid by the petitioners to the respondents which direction is contrary to the finding that the petitioners were guilty of repudiating MAPA.

60. On the issue as to whether MAPA was repudiated by the petitioners, Mr Sundaram, the learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents on the other hand submits that repudiation is an intimation of an intention to abandon and altogether a refusal to perform the contract. It is however not necessary that the party alleged to have repudiated should have an actual intention not to fulfil the contract. Insistence to fulfil the contract in a manner substantially inconsistent with the obligations will also amount to repudiation. The petitioners' insistence that the transaction can be completed only after CBI gives a clean chit to the disinvestment of the hotel indefinitely postponed the performance of the contract. The petitioners by their letter dated 21st July 2005 made clear its intention to abandon the contract and refused to perform the same for an indefinite period. The contract therefore stood repudiated. In the alternative, it is submitted that the contract stood repudiated for the reasons that the petitioners insisted on performing in a manner substantially inconsistent with MAPA.

61. The learned senior counsel then submits that contention of the petitioners that by letter dated 4th August 2005, the repudiation if any, by letter dated 21st July 2005 was withdrawn, is totally incorrect and contrary to the contentions of the said letter. It is submitted that by the said letter, it was not stated by the petitioners whether the petitioners were ready and willing to complete their obligations under MAPA inspite of the pending CBI enquiry. The letter did not state that the petitioners were giving up their contention that there was a cloud on title till CBI completes its enquiry and there was no adverse finding. The learned senior counsel submits that even in the meeting specifically held on 27th September 2005, the petitioners continued to insist for clean chit from CBI which would indicate that the petitioners were not inclined to comply with the original terms. It is submitted that the petitioner never withdrew that condition until arbitration commenced on 6th April 2006 and for the first time sought their willingness to give up that condition much belatedly in their letter dated 15th October 2007. It is submitted that insistence was continued by the petitioners even by written statement before the learned arbitrator. It is submitted that such new condition introduced by the petitioners of CBI clearance went to the root of the contract on 21st July 2005. The learned senior counsel submits that such insistence by the petitioners was unjustified and a departure from the terms of the contract, in which case it would amount to a repudiatory breach, as per Section 39 of the Contract Act or it would amount to a justified fear in the petitioners of completing the contract on its terms, in which case, the petitioners could at best be said to have justifiably expressed its inability to perform the contract as per its terms, in which case, it would amount to frustration by virtue of Section 56 of the Contract Act. In either case, the respondents could accept the contract as having come to an end and in fact, the contract itself could be terminated. The clear legal position is that whether under Sections 39 and 56 of the Contract Act, the repudiation in the former and the frustration in the latter would arise if the contract would not or could not be performed as per its terms.

62. Mr.Sundaram, the learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners then submit that the respondent could have accepted the repudiation of contract any time between 21st July, 2005 and 15th October, 2007. It is submitted that though the respondents had not accepted repudiation initially, the same was however accepted by the respondents ultimately. The learned senior counsel invited my attention to the findings rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal in para 66 of the impugned award in which it has been held that if the respondents have not proceeded with, claim of the damages against the petitioners by treating it as breach on the part of the petitioners, it is at the option of the respondents to put an end to the contract. However, the respondents instead of proceeding with claim of damages against the petitioners had chosen to put an end to the contract. The learned senior counsel submits that the approach of the Arbitral Tribunal was very reasonable and equitable. The respondents could have forfeited Rs. 75 crores paid by the petitioners. The Arbitral Tribunal however took an equitable view in the matter and granted equitable reliefs. Such equitable reliefs granted by the Arbitral Tribunal is not in conflict with public policy. The Arbitral Tribunal has given a finding on the first plea raised by the respondents and held that the contract was frustrated and thus ordered restitution by directing the respondents to pay the amount paid by the petitioners. It is submitted that the Arbitral Tribunal was right in holding that as the petitioners were not willing to perform their part of the obligation and were thus not entitled to specific performance.

63. It is for this reason that the learned arbitrator holds that the repudiatory breach and/or event of frustration continued and whileso, the respondents' letter dated 6th October 2005, accepting the contract as terminated, would complete the repudiation and/or acceptance of frustration.

64. On the issue whether MAPA was frustrated, Mr.Chagla, the learned senior counsel appearing for the petitioner submits as under:-

Time was not essence in MAPA for the following reasons:

i) Although MAPA mentioned 1st June, 2005 as being the date for completion, the same was expressly made dependent upon a notice of closure being issued by the Respondents and the transactions to be completed within 15 days from the date of such notice.

ii) MAPA expressly provided that in the event the Petitioners were not in a position to make payment of the balance consideration by the closure date, the payment of the same could be deferred upon the Petitioners making payment of interest at 12% p.a. from the closure date up to the date of payment.

65. It is submitted that the respondents were not in a position to issue notice of closure even on 6th October, 2005 and thus in this situation, the learned Arbitrator ought to have held that the orders of Injunction, attachment and or admission of the Company Petition were not permanent disabilities but were matters which could be overcome by payment in terms of money to raise the injunction, attachment and orders of admission. The liabilities of the respondents were known to them before executing MAPA and were expressly made their sole responsibility. The learned senior counsel also invited my attention to the cross examination of the witness Mr. Jayakumar examined by the respondent and in particular his answer to question No. 49 in which he had stated that the initial payment of Rs.75 Crores under clause 7.2(a) to (d) ought to have been sufficient for the respondent to discharge their obligations which were conditions precedent to the issuance of the notice of closure. The learned senior counsel also invited my attention to the answer of the witness Mr. Ananthraman examined by the respondents and in particular to question No. 174 in which he admitted that the obligation to pay the bank or discharge any other liability which might impede transaction “is a function of payment of money”. It is thus submitted that various injunction orders, attachment and admission of company petition were result of the failure on the part of the respondent to make necessary payment to the parties to obtain such orders. It is submitted that in so far as injunction obtained by Nirmal Life Style is concerned, the same was due to failure on the part of the respondent to abide by their contractual obligations. The learned senior counsel submits that these orders thus can not be relied on by the respondents to claim that MAPA was frustrated. It is submitted that frustration if any would be entirely induced by the respondents and in these circumstances, provisions of section 56 of the Contract Act would not apply.

66. The learned senior counsel submits that the reasons which have been considered by the arbitral tribunal to arrive at the finding of frustration of MAPA, did not satisfy the test under section 56 of the Contract Act. The Petitioner had already paid sum of Rs. 75 Crores to the respondent through Escrow agent for clearing the existing liabilities so as to transfer the clear title to the petitioners by the respondents. It is submitted that it was obligation on the part of the respondents to clear all the outstanding liabilities and to issue notice of closure which the respondent had failed. The Petitioner was liable to pay balance amount within 15 days from the date of receipt of notice of closure to the respondent or in any event within 45 days on payment of interest. It is submitted that CBI enquiry came to an end during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings. It is submitted that the CBI enquiry was concluded without having any adverse impact on MAPA. Neither the petitioners nor the respondents were called by the CBI for any investigation. It is submitted that the CBI enquiry was temporary and could not make the contract impossible. The learned senior counsel submits that there is fundamental error committed by the arbitral tribunal which shows patent illegality in the award. The learned senior counsel invited my attention to clause 6.1(a), (b) and (d) of MAPA and submits that the petitioner had already complied with their part of the obligation. The Petitioners had also offered to deposit the amount in the account of IDBI. It is matter of record that the petitioner had made payment with a view to see that the liabilities of respondents were met with and discharged. The Petitioners had thus fulfilled their obligations. The balance was payable only within 15 days of the closure notice. The learned senior counsel submits that the petitioner was willing to await till the conclusion of the CBI enquiry. The learned senior counsel submits that it was the case of the respondents that the CBI enquiry did not impact the validity of the respondent's title over the suit property. The respondents themselves through their witnesses in cross examination admitted that the CBI enquiry did not constitute a cloud on title and hence, did not render the performance of MAPA impossible. In support of the plea that the CBI enquiry which was a supervening event, would not frustrate the contract under section 56 of the Contract Act, the learned counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of SatyabrataV. Mugneeram, AIR 1954 SC 44 and in particular paragraphs, 3, 9, 10, 15, 16, 20 and 23 which read thus:

“3. On 30th November, 1941, the plaintiff appellant was made a nominee by the purchaser for purposes of the contract and although he brought the present suit in the character of a nominee, it has been held by the trial judge as well as by the lower appellate court, that he was really an assignee of Bejoy Krishna Roy in respect to the latter's rights under the contract. Some time before this date, there was an order passed by the Collector, 24-Parganas, on 12th of November, 1941 under section 79 of the Defence of India Rules, on the strength of which a portion of the land covered by the scheme was requisitioned for military purposes. Another part of the land was requisitioned by the Government on 20th of December, 1941. while a third order of requisition, which related to the balance of the land comprised in the scheme, was passed sometime later. In November, 1943, the company addressed a letter to Bejoy Krishna Roy informing him of the requisitioning of the lands by the Government and stating inter alia that a considerable portion of the land-appertaining to the scheme was taken possession of by the Government and there was no knowing how long the Government would retain possession of the same. The constructs of the proposed roads and drains, therefore, could not be taken up during the continuance of the war and possibly for many years after its termination. In these circumstances,, the company decided to treat the agreement for sale with the addressee as cancelled and give him the option of taking back the earnest money within one month from the receipt of the letter. There was offer made in the alternative that in case the purchaser refused to treat the contract as cancelled, he could, if he liked, complete the conveyance within one month from the receipt of the letter by paying the balance of the consideration money and take the land in the condition in which it existed at that time, the company undertaking to construct the roads and the drains, as circumstances might permit, after the termination of the war. The letter ended by saying that in the event of the addressee not accepting either of the two alternatives, the agreement would be deemed to be cancelled and the earnest money would stand forfeited. This letter was handed over by Bejoy Krishna to his nominee, the plaintiff, and there was some correspondence after that, between the plaintiff on the one hand and the company on the other through their respective lawyers into the details of which it is not necessary to enter. It is enough to state that the plaintiff refused to accept either of the two alternatives offered by the company and stated categorically that the latter was bound by the terms of the agreement from which it could not, in law, resile. On 18th of January, 1946, the suit, out of which this appeal arises, was commenced by the plaintiff against the defendant company, to which Bejoy Krishna Roy was made a party defendant and the prayers in the plaint were for a two-fold declaration, namely, (1) that the contract dated the 5th of August, 1940, between the first and the second defendant, or rather his nominee, the plaintiff, was still subsisting; and (2) that the plaintiff was entitled to get a conveyance executed and registered by the defendant on payment of the consideration money mentioned in the agreement and in the manner and under the conditions specified therein.

5. The trial judge by his judgment dated 10th October, 1947, overruled all the pleas taken by the defendant and decreed the plaintiff's suit. An appeal taken by the defendant to the Court of the District Judge of 24-Parganas was dismissed on the 25th February, 1949, and the judgment of the trial court was affirmed. The defendant company thereupon preferred a second appeal to the High Court which was heard by a Division Bench consisting 'of Das Gupta and Lahiri JJ. The only question canvassed before the High Court was, whether the contract of sale was frustrated by reason of the requisition orders issued by the Government? The learned Judges answered this question in the affirmative in favour of the defendant and on that ground alone dismissed the plaintiff's suit. The plaintiff has now come before us on the strength of a certificate granted by the High Court under article 133(I)(c) of the Constitution of India.

The first argument advanced by the learned Attorney-General raises a somewhat debatable point regarding the true scope and effect of section 56 of the Indian Contract Act and to what extent, if any, it incorporates the English rule of frustration of contracts. Section 56 occurs in Chapter IV of the Indian Contract Act which relates to performance of contracts and it purports to deal with one circumstances under which performance of a, contract is excused or dispensed with on the ground of the contract being-void. The section stands as follows: "An agreement to do an act impossible in itself is void. A contract to do an act which after the contract is made, becomes impossible, or, by reason of some event which the promiser could not prevent, unlawful, becomes void when the act becomes impossible or unlawful.

Where one person has promised to do something which he knew, or, with reasonable diligence, might have known, and which the promisee did not know to be impossible or unlawful, such promisor must make compensation to such promisee for any loss which such promise sustains through the non-performance of the promise".

9. The first-paragraph of the section lays down the law in the same way as in England. It speaks of something which is impossible inherently or by its very nature, and no one can obviously be directed to an act. The second paragraph enunciates the law relating to discharge of contract by reason of supervening impossibility or illegality of the act agreed to be done. The wording of this paragraph is quite general, and though the illustrations attached to it are not at all happy, they cannot-derogate from the general words used in the enactment. This much is clear that the word "impossible" has not been used here in the sense of physical or literal impossibility. The performance of an act may not be literally impossible but it may be impracticbale and useless from the point of view of the object and purpose which the parties had in view and if an untoward event or change of circumstances totally upset the very foundation upon which the parties rested their bargain, it can very well be said that the promisor found it impossible to do the act which he promised to do. Although various theories have been propounded by the Judges and jurists in England regarding the juridical basis of the doctrine of frustration, yet the essential idea upon which the doctrine is based is that of impossibility of performance of the contract: in fact impossibility and frustration are often used as interchangeable expressions. The changed circumstances, it is said, make the performance of the contract impossible and the parties are absolved from the further performance of it as they did not promise to perform an impossibility The parties shall be excused, as Lord Loreburn says - See Tamplin Steamship Co. Ltd. v. Anglo-Mexican Petroleum Products Co. Ltd.[1916] 2 A.C. 397, 403).

"if substantially the whole contract becomes impossible of performance or in other words impracticable by some cause for which neither was responsible,."

In Joseph Constantine Steamship Line Limited v. Imperial Smelting Corporation Ltd. [1942] A.C. 154 at 168), Viscount Maugham observed that the "doctrine of frustration is only a special case of the discharge of contract by an impossibility of performance arising after the contract was made." Lord Porter agreed with this view and rested the doctrine on the same basis. The question was considered and discussed by a Division Bench of the Nagpur High Court in Kesari Chand v. Governor-General in Council (I.L.R. 1949 Nag. 718) and it was held that the doctrine of frustration comes into play when a contract becomes impossible of performance, after it is made, on account of circumstances beyond the control of the parties. The doctrine is a special case of impossibility and as such comes under section 56 of the Indian Contract Act. We are in entire agreement with this view which is fortified by a recent pronouncement of this court in GangaSaran v. Ram Charan [1952] S.C.R. 36 at 52], where Fazl Ali J., in speaking about frustration, observed in his judgment as follows:

"It seems necessary for us to emphasise that so far as the courts in this country are concerned, they must loot primarily to the law as embodied in sections 32 and 56 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872."

We hold, therefore, that the doctrine of frustration is really an aspect or part of the law of discharge of contract by reason of supervening impossibility or illegality of the act agreed to be done and hence comes within the purview of section 56 of the Indian Contract Act. It would be incorrect to say that section 56 of the Contract Act applies only to cases of physical impossibility and that where this section is not applicable, recourse can be had to the principles of English law on the subject of frustration. It must be held also that to the extent that the Indian Contract Act deals with a particular subject, it is exhaustive upon the same and it is not permissible to import the principles of English law dehors these statutory provisions. The decisions of the English courts possess only a persuasive value and may be helpful in showing how the courts in England have decided cases under circumstances similar to those which have come before our courts.

15. These differences in the way of formulating legal theories really do not concern us so long as we have a statutory provision in the Indian Contract Act. In deciding cases in India the only doctrine that we have to go by is that of supervening impossibility or illegality as laid down in section 56 of the Contract Act taking the word "Impossible" in its practical and not literal sense. It must be borne in mind, however, that section 56 lays down a rule of positive law and does not leave the matter to be determined according to the intention of the parties.

25. Mr. Gupta, who appeared for the respondent company. put forward an alternative argument that even if the performance of the contract was not made impossible. It certainly became illegal as a result of the requisition order and consequently the contract became void under section 56 of the Indian Contract Act as soon as the requisition order was made. In support of his contention the learned counsel placed reliance upon certain provisions of the Defence of India Rules and also upon illustration (d) to section 56 of the Contract Act. All that the Defence Regulations show is that the violation of a requisition order could be punished as a criminal offence. But no matter in whichever way the requisition order could be enforced, in substance it did nothing else but impose a prohibition on the use of the land during the period that it remained in force. The effect of such prohibition on the performance of the contract, we have discussed above, and we do not think that the mere fact that the requisition order was capable of being enforced by a criminal sanction made any difference in this respect. In any view this question was not raised in any of the courts below and has not been indicated even in the respondent's statement of the case. We do not think that it would be proper to allow this question to be raised for the first time before us, as it requires consideration of the different provisions of the Defence of India Act and also of the implication of illustration (d) appended to section 56 of the Contract Act. In our opinion, the events which have happened here cannot be said to have made the performance of the contract impossible and the contract has not been frustrated at all. The result is that the appeal is allowed, the judgment and decree of the High Court of Calcutta are set aside and those of the courts below restored. The plaintiff will have his costs in all the courts.”

67. By relying upon the said judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Satyabrata (supra), it is submitted that at most CBI enquiry would have delayed the completion of transaction under the MAPA but would not have made it impossible. It is submitted that CBI enquiry as well as injunction orders were of temporary character. It is submitted that the CBI enquiry was completed much before the impugned award came to be delivered. In support of the plea that in case of self induced frustration, section 56 of the Contract Act would not apply, the learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of BoothalingaAgencies V. V. T.C. Poriaswami AIR 1969 SC 110 and more particularly paragraphs 13 and 14 which read thus:

“13. In English Law therefore the question of frustration of contract has been treated by courts as a question of construction depending upon the true intention of the parties. In contrast, the statutory provisions contained in S. 56 of the Indian Contract Act lay down a positive rule of law and English authorities cannot therefore be of direct assistance, though they have persuasive value in showing how English courts have approached and decided cases under similar circumstances.

14. Counsel on behalf of the respondent, however, contended that the contract was not impossible of performance and the appellant cannot take recourse to the provisions of s. 56 of the Indian Contract Act. It was contended that under cl. 1 of the Import Trade Control Order No. 2-ITC/48, dated March 6, 1948 it was open to the appellant to apply for a written permission of the licensing authority to sell the chicory. It is not shown by the appellant that he applied for such permission and the licensing authority had refused such permission. It was therefore maintained on behalf of the respondent that the contract was not impossible of performance. We, do not think there is any substance in this argument. It is true that the licensing authority could have given written permission for disposal of the chicory under, cl. 1 of Order No. 2-ITC/48, dated March 6, 1948 but the condition imposed in Ex. B9 in the present case is a special condition imposed under cl. (v) of paragraph (a) of Order No. 2-ITC/48, dated March 6, 1948 and there was no option given under this clause for the licensing authority to modify the condition of licence that "the goods will be utilised only for consumption as raw material or accessories in the licence holder's factory and that no portion thereof will be sold to any party". It was further argued on behalf of the respondent that, in any event, the appellant could have purchased chicory from the open market and supplied it to the respondent in terms of the contract. There is no substance in this argument also. Under the contract the quality of chicory to be sold was chicory of specific description "Egberts Chicory, packed in 495 wooden cases, each case containing 2 tins of 56 1b. nett". The delivery of the chicory was to be given by "S. S. Alwaki" in December, 1955. It is manifest that the contract, Ex. A1 was for sale of certain specific goods as described therein and it was not open to the appellant to supply chicory of any other description. Reference was made on behalf of the respondent to the decision in Maritime National Fish, Limited v. Ocean Trawlers, Limited(1). In that case, the respondents chartered to the appellants a steam trawler fitted with an otter trawl. Both parties knew at the time of the contract that it was illegal to use an otter trawl without a licence from the, Canadian government. Some months later the appellants applied for licences for five trawlers which they were operating, including (1) the respondents' trawler. They were informed that only three licences would be granted, and were requested to state for which of the three trawlers they desired to have licences. They named three trawlers other than the respondents', and then claimed that they were no longer bound by the charter-party as its object had been frustrated. It was held by the Judicial Committee that the failure of the contract was the result of the appellants' own election, and that there was therefore no frustration of the contract. 'We think the principle of this case applies to the Indian law and the provisions of s. 56 of the Indian Contract Act cannot apply to a case of "self-induced frustration". In other words, the doctrine of frustration of contract cannot apply where the event which is alleged to have frustrated the contract arises from the act or election of a party. But for the reasons already given, we hold that this principle cannot be applied to the present case for there was no choice or election left to the appellant to supply chicory other than under the terms of the contract. On the other hand, there was a positive prohibition imposed by the licence upon the appellant not to sell the imported chicory to any other party but he was permitted to utilise it only for consumption as raw material in his own factory. We, are accordingly of the opinion that Counsel for the respondent has been unable to make good his argument on this aspect of the case.”

68. Relying upon these judgments the learned senior counsel submits that though 75 Crores were paid by the petitioner, the respondent did not clear all its liabilities and obligations. Inspite of withdrawing 73 Crores out of the said amount, it was respondent who was solely responsible for continuation of said injunction orders. Such situation was induced by the respondents themselves and thus section 56 of the Contract Act was not applicable. It is submitted that the finding of the arbitral tribunal that MAPA was frustrated is contrary to section 56 of the Contract Act and is thus in conflict with the public policy.

69. Mr. C.A. Sundaram, the learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents on the other hand submits that CBI inquiry was an event not contemplated by either of the parties. Even according to the Petitioner's witness, the CBI inquiry made it impossible for the Petitioner to raise finances. Under S. 56 of the Contract Act, where an event which could not reasonably have been in the contemplation of the parties when the contract was made renders performance impossible or unlawful, the contract is rendered void, and the parties are excused from performance of their respective obligations. Therefore, where performance is rendered by intervention of law invalid, or the subject matter assumed by the parties to continue to exist is destroyed or a state of thing assumed to be the foundation of the contract fails, or does not happen, or where the performance is to be rendered personally and the person dies or is disabled, the contract stands discharged. Consideration to be paid under the contract was the very foundation of the contract and since the requisite finances were not available, the contract stood frustrated. In the alternative, even if it is assumed that the lack of finances did not frustrate the contract, the said lack of finance made it a fit case for the Arbitral Tribunal to refuse a discretionary relief like specific performance. more so, since financial capability being an element of “ready and wiling to perform”, is a sine qua non for a claim of specific performance to be allowed.”

70. Mr. Sundaram, the learned senior counsel submits that on one hand the petitioners continued to insist that the respondents shall obtain clearance from CBI till 15th October, 2007 and at the same time it sought specific performance. It is submitted that this could not fall under clause 13.3 of MAPA. The petitioners wanted to insist new condition which would be novation of MAPA for which the respondents did not give consent. No novation to the terms and conditions of MAPA could be done without consent of both parties. It is submitted that the stand taken by the petitioners in the month of July 2005 has not withdrawn till 15th October, 2007. The learned senior counsel submits that CBI enquiry was not relating to the title but was regarding public investment. It is submitted that even if there being no fault on the part of either party and the supervening event was beyond the control of either party, the best equitable solution would be restitution that was what ordered by the Arbitral Tribunal.

71. In support of this plea the leaned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in AlopiPrasad and Sons Ltd. Versus Union of India (1960) 2 SCR 793 and in particular paragraphs 21 and 22. Relying upon the said judgment, the learned senior counsel submits that even if CBI enquiry was not contemplated by either of the parties, when MAPA was executed, do not absolve the party from its liability to perform its part of contract merely because of CBI enquiry started after execution of MAPA. Paragraph 21 and 22 of the said judgment read thus:

21. Section 56 of the Indian Contract Act provides that :

"A contract to do an act which, after the contract is made, becomes impossible, or, by reason of some event which the promisor could not prevent, unlawful, becomes void when the act becomes impossible or unlawful."

Performance of the contract had not become impossible or unlawful; the contract was in fact performed by the Agents, and they have received remuneration expressly stipulated to be paid therein. The Indian Contract Act does not enable a party to a contract to ignore the express covenants thereof, and to claim payment of consideration for performance of the contract at rates different from the stipulated rates, on some vague plea of equity.

"The parties to an executory contract are often faced, in the course of carrying it out, with a turn of events which they did not at all anticipate - a wholly abnormal rise or fall in prices, a sudden depreciation of currency, an unexpected obstacle to execution, or the like. Yet this does not in itself affect the bargain they have made. If, on the other hand, a consideration of the terms of the contract, in the light of the circumstances existing when it was made, shows that they never agreed to be bound in a fundamentally different situation which has now unexpectedly emerged, the contract ceases to bind at that point - not because the court in its discretion thinks it just and reasonable to qualify the terms of the contract, but because on its true construction it does not apply in that situation. When it is said that in such circumstances the court reaches a conclusion which is 'just and reasonable' (Lord Wright in Constantine Steamship Line Ltd. v. Imperial Smelting Corporation Ltd., at p. 186) or one 'which justice demands' (Lord Sumner in Hirji Mulji v. Cheong Yue Steamship Co. Ltd., this result is arrived at by putting a just construction upon the contract in accordance with an 'implication ............. from the presumed common intention of the parties' - speech of Lord Simon in British Movietonews Ltd. v. London and District Cinemas Ltd.

22. There is no general liberty reserved to the courts to absolve a party from liability to perform his part of the contract, merely because on account of an uncontemplated turn of events, the performance of the contract may become onerous. That is the law both in India and in England, and there is, in our opinion, no general rule to which recourse may be had, as contended by Mr. Chatterjee, relying upon which a party may ignore the express covenants on account of an uncontemplated turn of events since the date of contract. Mr. Chatterjee strenuously contended that in England, a rule has in recent years been evolved which did not attach to contracts the same sanctity which the earlier decisions had attached, and in support of his contention, he relied upon the observations made in British Movietonews Ltd. v. London and District Cinemas Ltd., at p. 201. In that case, Denning, L.J., is reported to have observed:

"............. no matter that a contract is framed in words which taken literally or absolutely, cover what has happened, nevertheless, if the ensuing turn of events was so completely outside the contemplation of the parties that the court is satisfied that the parties, as reasonable people, cannot have intended that the contract should apply to the new situation, then the court will read the words of the contract in a qualified sense; it will restrict them to the circumstances contemplated by the parties; it will not apply them to the uncontemplated turn of events, but will do therein what is just and reasonable."

But the observations made by Denning, L.J., upon which reliance has been placed, proceeded substantially upon misapprehension of what was decided in Parkinson and Co. Ld. v. Commissioners of Works on which the learned Lord Justice placed considerable reliance. The view taken by him, was negatived in appeal to the House of Lords in the British Movietonew's case - - already referred to. In India, in the codified law of contracts, there is nothing which justifies the view that a change of circumstances, "completely outside the contemplation of parties" at the time when the contract was entered into, will justify a court, while holding the parties bound by the contract, in departing from the express terms thereof. was a case in which on the true interpretation of a contract, it was held, though it was not so expressly provided, that the profits of a private contractor, who had entered into a contract with the Commissioners of Works to make certain building constructions and such other additional constructions as may be demanded by the latter, were restricted to a fixed amount only if the additional quantity of work did not substantially exceed in value a specified sum. The Court in that case held that a term must be implied in the contract that the Commissioners should not be entitled to require work materially in excess of the specified sum. In that case, the Court did not proceed upon any such general principle as was assumed by Denning, L.J., in the British Movietonews Ld. v. London and District Cinemas Ld.

72. The learned senior counsel for the respondent also placed reliance upon unreported judgment of the Division Bench of this court delivered on 11th May, 2012 in Appeal No. 513 of 2011 and in particular paragraphs 47 to 50 which read thus:

“47. The last submission of Mr.Kumbhakoni is that in any view of the matter, this Court should not pass a discretionary order directing the State Government to perform as per agreement dated 10 May 2001. By now there are several super speciality hospitals available in the same locality in which the building in question is situate, such as Bombay Hospital, J.J. Group of Hospitals etc.. The appellant also owns and manages a super speciality hospital in the City of Mumbai. Moreover, it would not be in public interest to direct specific performance of an agreement under which even after entire building with built up area of 2,53,645 sq.ft. having been constructed by the State Government without contribution of a single rupee by the appellant (wherein building and land both are presently worth hundreds of crores of rupees and were valued at Rs.45.00 crores at the relevant time) and even after contribution of 49% of the equity share capital in JVC from the State Government, the only benefit that the public at large would get under the agreement in question would be a mere 10% beds for poor patients.

48. Mr.Kumbhakonialso relied on the following decisions in support of the submission that power to grant specific performance is a discretionary power. It can be denied when the defendant will be put to undue hardship by granting decree of specific performance. In A.C.Arulappan v/s. Ahalya Naik(smt.), the Supreme Court observed as under:-

“7. The jurisdiction to decree specific relief is discretionary and the court can consider various circumstances to decide whether such relief is to be granted. Merely because it is lawful to grant specific relief, the court need not grant the order for specific relief; but this discretion shall not be exercised in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner. Certain circumstances have been mentioned in Section 20(2) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 as to under what circumstances the court shall exercise such discretion. If under the terms of the contract the plaintiff gets an unfair advantage over the defendant, the court may not exercise its discretion in favour of the plaintiff. So also, specific relief may not be granted if the defendant would be put to undue hardship which he did not foresee at the time of agreement. If it is inequitable to grant specific, then also the court would desist from granting a decree to the plaintiff. 9. In Parakunnan Veetill Josph's Son mathew v. Nedumbara Kuruvila's Son, this Court cautioned and observed as under: (SCC p. 345, para 14)

“14. Section 20 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 preserves judicial discretion to courts as to decreeing specific performance. The court should meticulously consider all facts and circumstances of the case. The court is not bound to grant specific performance merely because it is lawful to do so. The motive behind the litigation should also enter into the judicial verdict. The court should take care to see that it is not used as an instrument of oppression to have an unfair advantage to the plaintiff.”

11. In Gobind Ram v. Gian Chand 2212, it was observed in para 7 of the judgment that grant of a decree for specific performance of contract is not automatic and is one of the discretions of the court and the court has to consider whether it would be fair, just and equitable. The court is guided by the principles of justice, equity and good conscience.”(emphasis supplied)

49. In response to the above submissions made on behalf of the State, Mr. Iqbal Chagla, learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the State Government wanted to resile from the agreement as was indicated in the oral evidence of Mr. G.S. Gill, Principal Secretary, Department of Transport and Excise, Government of Mahrashtra (para 16) which reads as under:-

“16. I say that the Standing committee of the Maharashtra Legislature attached to the Public Health and Medical Education Department in its report submitted to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly had criticized this project and called for reconsideration. I say that since the shareholders agreement dated 10.5.2001 was not made effective, the Government reconsidered the pros and cons of going ahead with the said project. Accordingly, the meetings of all the Government Directors was called by me to arrive at a decision on the project. Upon deliberation, the Respondent found these and other weaker points in the project viz.

(i) The land and the building was valued at Rs.45 crores. Despite this, the Government was required to pay Rs.31 crores by way of equity contribution towards joint venture company. In return, the Government was to get only Rs.1 crore per annum with an agreed increase of only 8% and that too at the interval of every five long years;

(ii) Despite contribution of land and building (Rs.45 crores) and equity contribution (Rs.31 crores) totaling Rs.76 crores, majority shareholding was to be of Wockhardt which was to contribute only Rs.32 crores approximately. The Chairman of J.V.C. Was also the nominee of Wockhardt. Moreover, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer was also to be determined by the Claimants;

(iii) Even with 49% equity and additional contribution of land and building, Government was to get only 10% of the beds. Cost of the operation even in a super-speciality hospital at the relevant time was not more than Rs.1000/- per day per bed. Considering that there will be 30 beds available to the Government (in the form of 10%) the benefit in financial terms was only Rs.30,000/- per day which works out to Rs.1.09 crore per annum. This was not commensurate with the investments made by the Government.

(iv) Most importantly, Wockhardt had already indicated that refurbishment cost was to go up to Rs.32 crores (preliminary estimate) and the extra burden was to be borne by the Respondent to the extent of 49%. The Respondent was to get the entire const of refurbishment from the World bank and this amount was identified and agreed upon by the World bank. Therefore any thing in excess of this identified and predetermined amount would have been required to be paid by the Respondent from its own funds, which was not possible. In any event this excess amount has remained unascertained till this date, as aforesaid. From the conduct of the Claimant therefore, it was evident that costs of the Project will further go up and the Government will be called upon to contribute 49% of these costs. A note to this effect has been prepared under my signature. I say that since the project did not take of as contemplated under the Shareholders Agreement dated 10.5.2001, the Respondent eventually thought it fit to terminate the said agreement. The Claimants are therefore not entitled to any specific performance of the said Share-holders Agreement and/or for damages of any amount as claimed or otherwise. The claims of the Claimants are denied and disputed by the Respondent and the same may be rejected.

50. Having heard the learned counsel for the parties, we are of the view that even if the appellant had made out a case in law for grant of specific performance of the agreement dated 10 May 2001, the State Government has made out a strong case for not granting the appellant the discretionary relief of specific performance of the said agreement. It would be inequitable to grant specific performance of an agreement under which the State Government, after having provided for land and building with built-up area of 2,53,645 sq.ft., then valued at Rs.45.00 crores was required to pay further Rs.31 crores by way of 49% equity contribution towards the joint venture company and in return the Government was to get only Rs.1 crore per annum by way of annual rental and only 10% of the beds, that is about 30 beds, for poor patients, while the remaining 90% beds would be under the appellant which was to contribute only Rs.33.07 crores as 51% share capital.”

73. The learned counsel also placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court reported in 2012 (12) SCC 18 and in particular paragraphs 28, 37, 38, 40 to 43 in support of his aforesaid plea which read thus:

“28. The intention to make time stipulated for payment of balance consideration will be considered to be essence of the contract where such intention is evident from the express terms or the circumstances necessitating the sale, set out in the agreement. If for example, the vendor discloses in the agreement of sale, the reason for the sale and the reason for stipulating that time prescribed for payment to be the essence of the contract, that is, say, need to repay a particular loan before a particular date, or to meet an urgent time bound need (say medical or educational expenses of a family member) time stipulated for payment will be considered to be the essence. Even if the urgent need for the money within the specified time is not set out, if the words used clearly show an intention of the parties to make time the essence of the contract, with reference to payment, time will be held to be the essence of the contract.

37. The reality arising from this economic change cannot continue to be ignored in deciding cases relating to specific performance. The steep increase in prices is a circumstance which makes it inequitable to grant the relief of specific performance where the purchaser does not take steps to complete the sale within the agreed period, and the vendor has not been responsible for any delay or non-performance. A purchaser can no longer take shelter under the principle that time is not of essence in performance of contracts relating to immovable property, to cover his delays, laches, breaches and 'non-readiness'. The precedents from an era, when high inflation was unknown, holding that time is not of the essence of the contract in regard to immovable properties, may no longer apply, not because the principle laid down therein is unsound or erroneous, but the circumstances that existed when the said principle was evolved, no longer exist. In these days of galloping increases in prices of immovable properties, to hold that a vendor who took an earnest money of say about 10% of the sale price and agreed for three months or four months as the period for performance, did not intend that time should be the essence, will be a cruel joke on him, and will result in injustice. Adding to the misery is the delay in disposal of cases relating to specific performance, as suits and appeals therefrom routinely take two to three decades to attain finality. As a result, an owner agreeing to sell a property for Rs. One lakh and received Rs. Ten Thousand as advance may be required to execute a sale deed a quarter century later by receiving the remaining Rs. Ninety Thousand, when the property value has risen to a crore of rupees.

38. It is now well settled that laws, which may be reasonable and valid when made, can, with passage of time and consequential change in circumstances, become arbitrary and unreasonable.

26.1) In Rattan Arya v. State of Tamil Nadu `, this Court held:

We must also observe here that whatever justification there may have been in 1973 when Section 30(ii) was amended by imposing a ceiling of Rs. 400 on rent payable by tenants of residential buildings to entitle them to seek the protection of the Act, the passage of time has made the ceiling utterly unreal. We are entitled to take judicial notice of the enormous multifold increase of rents throughout the country, particularly in urban areas. It is common knowledge today that the accommodation which one could have possible got for Rs. 400 per month in 1973 will today cost at least five times more. In these days of universal day to day escalation of rentals any ceiling such as that imposed by Section 30(ii) in 1973 can only be considered to be totally artificial and irrelevant today. As held by this Court in Motor General Traders v. State of A.P. MANU/SC/0293/1983 : (1984) 1 SCC 222, a provision which was perfectly valid at the commencement of the Act could be challenged later on the ground of unconstitutionality and struck down on that basis. What was once a perfectly valid legislation, may in course of time, become discriminatory and liable to challenge on the ground of its being violative of Article 14.

(Emphasis supplied)

40. The principle underlying the said decisions with reference to statutes, would on the same logic, apply to decisions of courts also.

41. A correct perspective relating to the question whether time is not of the essence of the contract in contracts relating to immovable property, is given by this Court in K.S. Vidyanadam and Ors. v. VairavanMANU/SC/0404/1997 : (1997) 3 SCC 1 (by Jeevan Reddy J. who incidentally was a member of the Constitution Bench in Chand Rani). This Court observed:

It has been consistently held by the courts in India, following certain early English decisions, that in the case of agreement of sale relating to immovable property, time is not of the essence of the contract unless specifically provided to that effect.

In the case of urban properties in India, it is well-known that their prices have been going up sharply over the last few decades particularly after 1973. ....We cannot be oblivious to the reality and the reality is constant and continuous rise in the values of urban properties fuelled by large scale migration of people from rural areas to urban centres and by inflation.

Indeed, we are inclined to think that the rigor of the rule evolved by courts that time is not of the essence of the contract in the case of immovable properties evolved in times when prices and values were stable and inflation was unknown requires to be relaxed, if not modified, particularly in the case of urban immovable properties. It is high time, we do so.

(Emphasis supplied)

42. Therefore there is an urgent need to revisit the principle that time is not of the essence in contracts relating to immovable properties and also explain the current position of law with regard to contracts relating to immovable property made after 1975, in view of the changed circumstances arising from inflation and steep increase in prices. We do not propose to undertake that exercise in this case, nor referring the matter to larger bench as we have held on facts in this case that time is the essence of the contract, even with reference to the principles in Chand Rani and other cases. Be that as it may.

43. Till the issue is considered in an appropriate case, we can only reiterate what has been suggested in K.S. Vidyanadam (supra):

(i) Courts, while exercising discretion in suits for specific performance, should bear in mind that when the parties prescribe a time/period, for taking certain steps or for completion of the transaction, that must have some significance and therefore time/period prescribed cannot be ignored.

(ii) Courts will apply greater scrutiny and strictness when considering whether the purchaser was 'ready and willing' to perform his part of the contract.

(iii) Every suit for specific performance need not be decreed merely because it is filed within the period of limitation by ignoring the time-limits stipulated in the agreement. Courts will also 'frown' upon suits which are not filed immediately after the breach/refusal. The fact that limitation is three years does not mean a purchaser can wait for 1 or 2 years to file a suit and obtain specific performance. The three year period is intended to assist purchasers in special cases, as for example, where the major part of the consideration has been paid to the vendor and possession has been delivered in part performance, where equity shifts in favour of the purchaser.”

Whether Arbitral Tribunal has rightly rejected plea of specific performance and whether petitioners or respondents were ready and willing to comply with their part of obligations?:-

74.  Mr. Chagla, the learned senior counsel submits that the learned Arbitrator ought not to have held that the Petitioners were not ready and willing to perform their part of the contract without considering the evidence and arguments placed before him. It is submitted that in para 65 of the award, the learned Arbitrator held “….it is immaterial and not necessary to consider whether or not the Respondents could have raised finance. I have already held that the Respondents vide their letter dated 21st July 2005 (Exhibit C-7) repudiated the contract. Why they did so is irrelevant …. even though this Tribunal is not giving a categorical finding, prima facie at least it does appear that the repudiation was because the Respondents had found it difficult to raise finances due to the CBI enquiry.”

It is submitted that despite the aforesaid observations, the learned Arbitrator has held in paragraph 78/ page 633 as follows:

“It is further held that the Respondents were not ready and willing, at all times, to complete MAPA and are therefore not entitled to specific performance. The Respondents having repudiated are not entitled to claim any damages. Thus, their case on damages need not be considered or dealt with. Accordingly, the Counter Claim will stand dismissed with no Order as to costs.”

It is submitted that the alleged inability to raise finances was the Arbitrators “prima facie” observation and not a categorical finding. The observations of the learned Arbitrator that “the Respondents had found it difficult to raise finances due to CBI enquiry” were entirely speculative and conjectural. The learned Arbitrator himself has clearly stated that he had held that the Petitioners had vide their letter dated 21st July 2005 repudiated the contract, it was immaterial and not necessary to consider whether or not the Petitioners could raise finance. Further the learned Arbitrator himself held that in normal circumstances, the Petitioners could raise finance at short notice but held without any basis or evidence that due to the CBI enquiry, the Petitioners found it difficult to raise finance. It is further submitted that MAPA consisted of reciprocal obligations and payment by the Petitioners of the balance consideration was entirely conditional upon the Respondents complying with their obligations including, in particular, the notice of closure after which the Petitioners were entitled to 15 days to complete the transaction or such further time as they wished provided they paid interest at 12% p.a. It is submitted that the Respondents were at no time in a position to issue the notice of closure including on 6th October, 2005 and accordingly the question of testing the Petitioners ability to raise the necessary finance did not at all arise. The Petitioners relies upon the following judgments:

i) P.DSouza Vs.Shondrilo Naidu [(2004) 6 SCC 649 at paragraphs 19 to 23 which read thus:-

19. 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 fact and circumstance of each case. No strait-jacket formula can be laid down in this behalf.

20. The High Court upon consideration of the materials on records had arrived at a finding of fact that the plaintiffs had all along been ready and willing to perform their part of contract. The said findings are binding upon this Court as it had not been shown that while arriving at the said finding the High Court had taken into consideration any irrelevant fact or failed to take into consideration any relevant fact.

21. It is not a case where the plaintiff had not made the requisite averments in the plaint. 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. The plaintiff was a tenant of the defendant.

22. It is not disputed that the defendant by a letter dated 29th November, 1980 requested the plaintiff to enhance the rent from Rs. 440/- to Rs. 500/-. Therein she further assumed that the sale deed would be executed and registered by 31st December, 1981 which earlier could not be done for unavoidable reasons. The fact that the plaintiff had paid different amounts to the defendant from time to time which were accepted by him stands admitted.

23. It appears from the records that the defendant herself did not produce the original documents nor redeemed the mortgage. If the mortgage was not redeemed and the original documents were not produced, the sale deed could not have been executed and in that view of the matter, the question of plaintiff's readiness and willingness to perform his part of contract would not arise.

ii) Nathulal V.Phoolchand [(1969) 3 SCC 120 at paragraphs 9 to 13 which read thus:-

9. The conditions necessary for making out the defence of part performance to an action in ejectment by the owner are:-

(1) that the transferor has contracted to transfer for consideration any Immovable property by writing signed by him or on his behalf from which the terms necessary to constitute the transfer can be ascertained with reasonable certainty;

(2) that the transferee has, in part performance of the contract, taken possession of the property or any part thereof, or the transferee, being already in possession continues in possession in part performance of the contract;

(3) that the transferee has done some act in furtherance of the contract; and

(4) that the transferee has performed or is willing to perform his part of the contract.

If these conditions are fulfilled then notwithstanding that the contract, though required to be registered, has not been registered, or, where there is an instrument of transfer, that the transfer has not been completed in the manner prescribed therefore by the law for the time being in force, the transferor or any person claiming under him is debarred from enforcing against the" transferee any right in respect of the property of which the transferee has taken or continued in possession, other than a right expressly provided by the terms of the contract.

10. There is in this case a contract to transfer for consideration Immovable property by writing signed by Nathulal from which the terms necessary to constitute the transfer can be ascertained with reasonable certainty. In part performance of the contract, Phoolchand has taken possession of the property and he had in pursuance thereof paid an amount of Rs. 22,011/-. The argument raised by counsel for Nathulal that the act done in pursuance of the contract must be independent of the terms of the contract cannot be accepted. The first three conditions for the defence of part performance to be effectively set up by Phoolchand exist. Mr. Shroff for Nathulal however contends that Phoolchand was not willing to perform his part of the contract.

11. Nathulal had expressly undertaken to have the revenue records rectified by securing the deletion of Chittarmal's name, and it was an implied condition of the contract that Nathulal will secure the sanction of the Collector to the transfer under Section 70(4) of the Madhya Bharat Land Revenue and Tenancy Act 66 of 1950. The first condition was not fulfilled till October 6, 1952 and the second condition was never fulfilled. We are unable to agree with Mr. Shroff that the repeal of the Madhya Bharat Act 66 of 1950 by the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code, 1959, has retrospective operation.

12. In considering whether a person is willing to perform his part of the contract the sequence in which the obligations under a contract are to be performed must be taken into account. The argument raised by Mr. Shroff that Nathulal was bound to perform the two conditions only after the amount of Rs. 21,000 was paid is plainly contrary to the terms of the agreement. By virtue of Section 4 of the Transfer of Property Act the chapters and sections of the Transfer of Property Act which relate to contracts are to be taken as part of the Indian Contract Act, 1872. If, therefore, under the terms, of the contract the obligations of the parties have to be performed in a certain sequence, one of the parties to the contract cannot require compliance with the obligations by the other party without in the first instance performing his own part of the contract which in the sequence of obligations is performable by him earlier.

13. In view of the arrangement made by Phoolchand it was clear that he had at all relevant times made necessary arrangements for paying the amount due, but so long as Nathulal did not carry out his part of the contract, Phoolchand could not be called upon to pay the balance of the price. It must, therefore, be held, that Phoolchand was at all relevant times willing to carry out his part of the contract.

iii) Indira Kaur Vs. Sheo Lai Kapoor [(1988) 2 SCC 488 at paragraphs 10 to 13 which read thus:-

10. The second serious error which has crept into the judgment of the Courts below is shutting their eyes to the question whether the defendant was ready and willing to perform his part of the contract and whether he had remained present at the Sub-Registrar's office on the appointed day. On the other hand the Courts have been obsessed by the issue as regards the income of the plaintiff and the question as to whether and how the plaintiff could have effected a saving as stated by him on oath. Not one question was put in order to elicit this information from the plaintiff. Even so the trial court came to the conclusion that the plaintiff could not have saved the amount as he was selling earthen pots and his income was of the order of Rs. 100/- to Rs. 150/- per month. It was overlooked that a sum of Rs. 7000/- was obtained by the plaintiff when he entered into the transaction with the defendant in 1967 and the son for whose treatment the said amount ' had been raised by recourse to this transaction had died. No question was put to him whether the entire amount had been spent for the treatment and in payment of other debts etc. No question was put to him about the extent of the income of his children from labour work. No question was put to him as to the amount of his expenses. Notwithstanding these salient circumstances, the trial court came to the conclusion that the plaintiff could not have saved the amount. The Lower Appellate Court and the High Court also mechanically confirmed the finding. The real test as to whether or not the plaintiff was ready and willing to perform his part of the contract was for the defendant to call his bluff, in case it was a bluff, by remaining present at the Sub-Registrar's office on the appointed day that is to say on August 16, 1977 as he was bound to do if he on his part was ready and willing to execute the sale deed. In fact the lower Courts ought to have considered whether the defendant himself was willing and ready to perform his part of the contract by executing the sale deed in favour of the plaintiff in discharge of the obligation undertaken under the agreement of sale executed in 1967 in favour of the plaintiff. The plaintiff had sent a notice through his Advocate on 11th August, 1967. He had also sent a local telegraphic notice on 11th August, 1967 requiring the defendant to remain present at the Sub-Registrar's office on the 16th August, 1977. The defendant was a resident of the same place namely Ramnagar. In fact he was a neighbour of the plaintiff. The defendant did not specifically deny the receipt of this notice. All that he mustered the courage to say in his written statement was that it was not admitted that the notice was received within time. In his written statement he did not even say on what date he received the notice. In his examination-in-chief, he stated that till 16.8.77 he did not receive any telegram or notice from the plaintiff. The registered notice sent through the Advocate and the local telegraphic notice sent to the defendant in the same Town five days earlier on 11th August, 1977 must have been received by him in due course in any case before 16th August, 1977. He was placed in a tight corner when he was cross examined in the context of the fact that according to him he had gone to the Sub-Registrar's Office on 16th August, 1977 but that the plaintiff was not present at the Sub-Registrar's office. Why did he go to the Sub-Registrar's office on 16th August, 1977 if he had not received the local telegraphic notice dated llth August, 1977 requiring him to remain present on the 16th August, 1977 The defendant has not cared to explain why and how he remained present on the 16th as stated by him in his telegram dated 17.8.77 sent to the plaintiff wherein he had asserted that the defendant himself had been present but the plaintiff had not remained present. In his deposition dated May 16, 1979 the defendant stated that he remained present at the Sub-Registrar's office. If he had not received any notice, then there was no question of the defendant remaining present at the Sub-Registrar's office Even so in his cross-examination he made bold to say that he had not received the notice from the plaintiff till the limitation period expired that is to say till the expiry of 16 8.77. He did not mention as to on what date he received the notice. His oral evidence betrays complete disregard for truth. The conclusion is therefore inevitable that the defendant was not ready and willing to perform his part of the contract and had deliberately abstained from remaining present at the Sub-Registrar's office on the last day for performance though he was called upon to do so by the plaintiff within the stipulated time. Regarding receipt or non-receipt of notice, the defendant says:

...I received the notice after the limitation expired. I do not remember when I received it at the moment. That notice was brought to me by the postman after the limitation expired. I did not give the plaintiff any reply to that notice. I do not remember whether the notice was of 11.8.77 or not. Ram Nagar is 18 miles away from Kashipur. From Kashipur to Ram Nagar or from Ram Nagar to Kashipur it takes about 3, 4, 5 days to get the registry delivered. I do not know whether the telegram is delivered the same day or not. I did not receive the telegram of the plaintiff. I do not remember whether I had specifically stated this in mv written statement or not as to whether I had received the telegram of the plaintiff...when I received the notice of the plaintiff I was not ready to get the sale deed executed because the limitation had expired.

(emphasis added)

11. The underlined portion read in the context of the earlier discussion makes it impossible to believe the defendant's evidence.

12. What emerges from this evidence is that he had in fact received the notice, but he had not replied to the notice. It also emerges that according to him the notice was not received before the stipulated date namely 16.8.77 and he was not prepared to execute the sale deed because he had not been called upon to perform his part of the contract before 16.8.77, the deadline.

He found himself in an inconvenient position when he was asked questions as regards the telegram sent by him that he had remained present in the Sub-Registrar's office which was inconsistent with his earlier stand that he had never received any intimation requiring him to remain present on 16th August, 1977. This is what he had to sav in his evidence:

...On 17.8.77 I gave the plaintiff a telegram that on 16.8.77 I had gone there but you did not come there.

And he stated that :

I had given intimation to the plaintiff that I shall be present in the office of the Sub-Registrar on 16.8.77 and had gone there to get the sale deed executed. I had given this information orally. I had on 11.8.77 given information that I shall go to the office of the Sub-Registrar on 16.8.77. I again said that the plaintiff had said that he would go there on that day. The plaintiff had said that he was arranging for the money and he would bring money with him for getting the registration done. On 16.8.77 I did not see the plaintiff there.

This part of his evidence makes it clear that his stand in the written statement that he had not received the notice was false. So also his stand in the written statement that plaintiff had never contacted him and requested him to remain present at the Sub-Registry on 16.8.77 was also false. He had in terms now had to say that the plaintiff had orally told him that he would remain present, at the Sub-Registry on 16.8.77 with the money. His evidence is entirely incredible and manifestly false. When this aspect is viewed in the context that in his examination-in-chief he did not say one word about attending the Sub-Registra's office and in his written statement also he had taken a false stand, there is no manner of doubt that the defendant was never willing to perform his part of the contract, that he had not gone to the Sub-Registry at all, and that he merely wanted to defeat the claim of the plaintiff by refusing to remain present at the Registry on the day on which deadline for conveying the property was to expire, that is to say on 16th August, 1977. The trial court has shut its eyes to this dimension of the matter. Surely the plaintiff cannot be expected to do more than what he did. Admittedly he had orally contacted the defendant and by two notices conveyed to him that he would attend the Sub-Registry with the money and that the defendant should remain present at the Sub-registry. It is established that the plaintiff had gone to the Sub-registry and remained present there. He had also made an application to make record about his presence in respect of which documentary evidence in the shape of receipt issued by the Sub-Registrar's office has been placed on record. This part of the plaintiff's evidence has not been disbelieved by the trial court or by the Lower Appellate Court. Apparently therefore, the plaintiff had done everything in his power to perform his part of the contract by requiring the defendant to remain present at the Sub-Registry and by himself remaining present in the Sub-Registry. The defendant did not remain present at the Registry as is evident from an appreciation of his evidence in the light of averments contained in the written statement and his own statement to the effect that he had never received any information to remain present on the 16th. This crucial aspect has been entirely overlooked by the trial court, the Lower Appellate Court, and the High Court. If the defendant was not willing to perform his part of the contract what more could the plaintiff have done? The Courts below have therefore failed to apply themselves to this crucial aspect of the matter and have been carried away by the confusion created in the context of the extent of income of the plaintiff and his failure to produce the passbook. On an appreciation of the evidence on record, no other view is possible. The finding recorded by the trial court is contrary to the record and is based on an entirely wrong view of law in disregard of the law declared by this Court, in respect of the circumstances in which the adverse inference can be drawn. The finding is rendered also in total disregard of the circumstance that the defendant was never willing to perform his part of the contract and had not cared to remain at the Sub-Registrar's office, notwithstanding the intimation given through the Advocate by Registered Post and by a local telegram. The only conclusion which can be reasonably drawn is that the defendant wanted to defeat the claim of the plaintiff and wanted to wriggle out of the obligation undertaken by him. Under the circumstances finding recorded by the Courts below must be unhesitatingly set aside.

13. In the result the plaintiff must succeed. The decree passed by the trial court as confirmed by the Lower Appellate Court and the High Court is set aside and the suit of the plaintiff is decreed as prayed for. The plaintiff has already deposited a sum of Rs. 10,000/- in this Court in accordance with the direction of this Court issued at the time of granting special leave. This amount will be transmitted to the trial court. From out of this amount the trial court will pay the sum of Rs. 7000/- to the defendant and will permit the plaintiff to withdraw the remaining amount in order to purchase the stamp papers etc. and to prepare a draft of the sale deed to be executed. The defendant shall execute the sale deed in favour of the plaintiff on receiving the aforesaid sum of Rs. 7000/- from out of the amount deposited in this Court by the plaintiff, within six months from today. On his failure to do so the trial court will appoint an official of the court to execute the sale deed in favour of the plaintiff. The trial court will be at liberty to grant reasonable time to the plaintiff if and when necessary in order to make further deposit or to comply with the directions of this Court if necessity arises in this behalf.

iv) Bank of India Ltd. Vs. Jamsetji AH Chinoy [AIR 1950 PC 90 at paragraph 21 which reads thus :-

21 (4) Was the first plaintiff entitled to relief by way of specific performance as ordered by the Appellate Court? The matters raised by this question have narrowed considerably during the course of proceedings. Specific performance was sought against the additional appellants under Section 27 (b) of the Specific Relief Act, 1877. As it was admitted that they took their transfers of the shares in question with notice of the contract sued upon, the applicability of this enactment is not in doubt. It is also the opinion of the Board that, having regard to the nature of the company and the limited market for its shares, damages would not be an adequate remedy. This leaves as the matter for decision under this head whether the first plaintiff was ready and willing to perform his obligations under the contract. On this aspect of the case the defendants, up to a point, followed two lines of attack. In the first place, they said that Jamsetji had taken no step to procure the permission of the Reserve Bank to payment under Rule 92a (2.) or to acquisition under Rule 93 (2.) and was thus never in a position to implement the contract, and secondly, they urged that on his own showing he was financially incapable of finding the price. The first of these contentions no longer raises a live issue. The learned trial judge found, and at their Lordships' Bar counsel for the parties agreed, that if the contract was made a reasonable period for its completion would be two months. That would have made the date for completion September 9, 1942. But the Dinshaws had repudiated long before that and the course of events thereafter produced a situation which enabled the parties consenting to the order of October 9, 1947, to take the steps directed thereby without reference to the Reserve Bank. The second contention, however, remains to be considered. The learned trial judge upheld it. His views thereon were obiter, for he had already found that Jamsetji had not agreed to purchase; and for the same reason and on account of the theory of conspiracy which he had formed he would obviously have experienced difficulty in holding otherwise. The Appellate Court found on the evidence that Jamsetji was ready and willing to fulfil his financial obligations under the sale. Their Lordships agree with this conclusion and the grounds on which it was based. It is true that the first plaintiff stated that he was buying for himself, that he had not sufficient ready money to meet the price and that no definite arrangements had been made for finding it at the lime of repudiation. But to prove himself ready and willing a purchaser has not necessarily to produce the money or to vouch a concluded scheme for financing the transaction. The question is one of fact, and in the present case the Appellate Court had ample material on which to found the view it reached. Their Lordships would only add in this connexion that they fully concur with Chagla A.C.J. when he says:

"In my opinion, on the evidence already on record it was sufficient for the court to come to the conclusion ' that the first plaintiff was ready and willing to perform his part of the contract. It was not necessary for him to ' work out actual figures and satisfy the court what specific' amount a bank would have advanced on the mortgage ' of his property and the pledge of these shares. I do not think that any jury--if the matter was left to the jury in " England--would have come to the conclusion that a man, " in the position in which the plaintiff was, was not ready " and willing to pay the purchase price of the shares which " he had bought from defendants Nos. 1 and 2."

For the foregoing reasons their Lordships answer question (4.) in the affirmative.

75. Mr. Sundaram, the learned senior counsel for respondents on the other hand submits that the specific performance being a discretionary relief can be refused on the basis of the extraneous circumstances. It is submitted that in the facts of this case, the specific performance could not have been granted because of the pending (i) an injunction dated 13th May, 2005 passed by the Debt Recovery Tribunal – I in a proceedings filed by Indian Bank, (ii) order dated 13th May, 2005 by Debt Recovery Tribunal II in a proceedings filed by Vijaya Bank, (iii) order dated 6th June, 2006 in arbitration petition filed by Nirmal Lifestyle under section 9 of the Act, (iv) order dated 13th January, 2006 passed by Industrial Court in ULP No. 338 of 2005, (v) order dated 18th February, 2005 passed by the High Court in winding up petition filed by TREMAC.

76. Mr. Sundaram, the learned senior counsel submits that the injunction obtained by Nirmal Lifestyle against the respondents was at the behest of the petitioners who wanted to delay the performance of MAPA. It is submitted that the petitioners had colluded with Nirmal Lifestyle in obtaining the injunction on 6th June, 2005. One of the promoters of Nirmal Lifestyle was a director of the petitioners company. It is submitted that M/s. Wadia Ghandy and Co who was representing the petitioners had also represented M/s.Nirmal Lifestyle in the said proceedings filed under section 9 by M/s.Nirmal Lifestyle. It is submitted that though the petitioners had intervened in the said proceedings through their counsel on 27th September, 2005 filed by Nirmal Lifestyle but consented to the injunction order being continued. Though the petitioners counsel had agreed to file chamber summons in the said proceedings, no chamber summons was ever filed. It is submitted that one of the promoters of Nirmal Lifestyle was a director of the petitioner company and by filing such petition by Nirmal Lifestyle for obtaining injunction against respondents amounted to repudiatory breach of MAPA and thus the Arbitral Tribunal was right in considering this fact and rendered a finding of fact that the MAPA had frustrated and refused to grant specific performance.

77. The learned senior counsel submits that in view of such injunction, the learned Arbitral Tribunal was right in holding that it would not be possible for the Arbitral Tribunal to direct the specific performance of the MAPA even if Tribunal has been inclined to grant specific performance. It is submitted that the respondents accepted that if the petitioners was insisting for clearance of title and CBI enquiry was cloud on title, the respondents agreed to put an end to the contract and thus the petitioners could not ask for specific performance. The learned senior counsel submits that the petitioners were not ready and willing to comply with their part of the obligation and in accordance with the terms and conditions of MAPA which ought to have been all throughout. It is submitted that the respondents tried to convince the petitioners not to insist the conditions of CBI enquiry which shows the willingness and readiness on the part of the respondents to comply with their part of the obligation. The learned senior counsel submits that for the first time, on 15th October, 2007, the petitioners showed readiness and willingness after filing claim before the escrow agent and after filing written statement before the Arbitral Tribunal by continuously insisting for removal of cloud. It is submitted that there should be continuous readiness and willingness from the date of agreement till the date of hearing to perform agreement unconditionally and in accordance with condition of MAPA. The learned senior counsel submits that as a matter of fact, the petitioners did not have the requisite finance in place and the financial resources are sine qua non to state the readiness and willingness to perform the contract. The learned counsel placed reliance on the cross examination of the witness examined by the petitioners and in particular question 80 in support of his plea that it was an admitted position that the petitioners did not have requisite finance in place.

78. It is submitted that the Arbitral Tribunal has exercised discretion and has refused to grant claim of specific performance made by the petitioners and thus this court cannot be interfere with the discretion exercised by the Arbitral Tribunal refusing to grant specific performance in favour of the petitioners. The learned senior counsel submits that the onus was on the petitioners to prove that the petitioners were ready and willing all throughout to comply with their part of the obligation. In support of this plea, the learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the Man Kaur vs. Hartar Singh Sangha 2010 (10) SCC 512 and in particular para 17 which reads as under:-

“17. To succeed in a suit for specific performance, the plaintiff has to prove: (a) that a valid agreement of sale was entered by the defendant in his favour and the terms thereof; (b) that the defendant committed breach of the contract; and (c) that he was always ready and willing to perform his part of the obligations in terms of the contract. If a plaintiff has to prove that he was always ready and willing to perform his part of the contract, that is, to perform his obligations in terms of the contract, necessarily he should step into the witness box and give evidence that he has all along been ready and willing to perform his part of the contract and subject himself to cross examination on that issue. A plaintiff cannot obviously examine in his place, his attorney holder who did not have personal knowledge either of the transaction or of his readiness and willingness. Readiness and willingness refer to the state of mind and conduct of the purchaser, as also his capacity and preparedness on the other. One without the other is not sufficient. Therefore a third party who has no personal knowledge cannot give evidence about such readiness and willingness, even if he is an attorney holder of the person concerned.”

79. The learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of J.P.Buildersand another vs. A.Ramadas Rao and another (2011) 1 SCC 429 and in particular paragraphs 22 and 23 in support of the plea that there has to be continuous willingness and readiness on the part of the plaintiffs which is a condition precedent to get relief of specific performance. Paragraphs 22 and 23 of the said judgment reads thus:-

“22. 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.

23. In N.P. Thirugnanam v. Dr. R. Jagan Mohan Rao and Ors. MANU/SC/0025/1996 :(1995) 5 SCC 115 at para 5, this Court held:

“5. ....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.”

80. In support of his plea that the specific performance can be granted only in the event the plaintiffs not only makes necessary pleadings but also establishes that he had all along been ready and willing to perform his part of the contract which shall be not only to the stage of filing of the plaint but also at the subsequent stage, the learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of InderchandJain vs. Motilal reported in (2009)14 SCC 663) and in particular paragraphs 14 to 16 thereof which reads thus:-

“14. Before the learned Trial Judge, both the parties adduced their respective evidences. The plaintiff respondent in cross-examination was asked the following question:

“Whether or not you are prepared to purchase the house, even if Sardarmalji and Inderchandji could not settle the dispute of Rathiji, as has been mentioned by you in your paper?”

In answer thereto, he stated as under:

“If the defendant Inderchandji is prepared and ready to set off Rs. 30,000/- against the cost of the house, then I am prepared to purchase the house.”

The readiness and willingness on the part of the plaintiff in view of his categorical admission, therefore, was a conditional one. It was not absolute. Probably keeping in view the effect of such conditional offer made by him, he deposited the entire balance amount of consideration in the court on 25.09.1975.

15. Section 16(c) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 mandates that the discretionary relief of specific performance of the contract can be granted only in the event the plaintiff not only makes necessary pleadings but also establishes that he had all along been ready and willing to perform his part of contract. Such readiness and willingness on the part of the plaintiff is not confined only to the stage of filing of the plaint but also at the subsequent stage, viz., at the hearing. It has been so held in Umabai and Anr. v. NilkanthDhondiba Chavan (Dead) By LRs. and Anr . MANU/SC/0285/2005 : (2005)6SCC243 in the following terms:

“30. It is now well settled that the conduct of the parties, with a view to arrive at a finding as to whether the plaintiff-respondents were all along and still are ready and willing to perform their part of contract as is mandatorily required under Section 16(c) of the Specific Relief Act must be determined having regard to the entire attending circumstances. A bare averment in the plaint or a statement made in the examination-in-chief would not suffice. The conduct of the plaintiff-respondents must be judged having regard to the entirety of the pleadings as also the evidences brought on records.

31. In terms of Forms 47 and 48 appended to Appendix A of the Code of Civil Procedure, the plaintiff must plead that "he has been and still is ready and willing specifically to perform the agreement on his part of which the defendant has had notice" or "the plaintiff is still ready and willing to pay the purchase money of the said property to the defendant". The offer of the plaintiff in the instant case is a conditional one and, thus, does not fulfil the requirements of law.”

16. Yet again in Sita Ram and Ors. v. RadheyShyam MANU/SC/7988/2007 : AIR2008SC143, while referring to Ardeshir H. Mam v. Flora Sassoon MANU/MH/0116/1928 :AIR 1928PC 208 this Court opined as under:

“5. ... ‘ 8. ... the Privy Council observed that where the injured party sued at law for a breach, going to the root of the contract, he thereby elected to treat the contract as at an end himself and as discharged from the obligations. No further performance by him was either contemplated or had to be tendered. In a suit for specific performance on the other hand, he treated and was required by the Court to treat the contract as still subsisting. He had in that suit to allege, and if the fact was traversed, he was required to prove a continuous readiness and willingness from the date of the contract to the time of the hearing, to perform the contract on his part. ”

81. The learned senior counsel submits in support of the plea that while refused to exercise their jurisdiction of the court, the court has not precluded from taking into consideration the subsequent events, the learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of M.Meenakshiand others vs. Metadin Agarwal and others reported in (2006) 7 SCC 470. Para 39 of the said judgment reads thus:-

“39. Furthermore, Section 20 of the Specific Relief Act confers a discretionary jurisdiction upon the courts. Undoubtedly such a jurisdiction cannot be refused to be exercised on whims and caprice; but when with passage of time, contract becomes frustrated or in some cases increase in the price of land takes place, the same being relevant factors can be taken into consideration for the said purpose. While refusing to exercise its jurisdiction, the courts are not precluded from taking into consideration the subsequent events. Only because the Plaintiff-Respondents are ready and willing to perform their part of contract and even assuming that the Defendant was not entirely vigilant in protecting their rights in the proceedings before the competent authority under the 1976 Act, the same by itself would not mean that a decree for specific performance of contract would automatically be granted. While considering the question as to whether the discretionary jurisdiction should be exercised or not, the orders of a competent authority must also be taken into consideration. While the court upon passing a decree for specific performance of contract is entitled to direct that the same shall be subject to the grant of sanction by the concerned authority, as was the case in Mrs. Chandnee Vidya Vati Madden v. Dr. C.L. Katial and Ors. MANU/SC/0257/1963 : [1964]2SCR495 and Nirmal Anand v. Advent Corporation (P) Ltd. and Ors. MANU/SC/0455/2002 : AIR2002SC2290 ; the ratio laid down thereincannot be extended to a case where prayer for such sanction had been prayed for and expressly rejected. On the face of such order, which, as noticed hereinbefore, is required to be set aside by a court in accordance with law, a decree for specific performance of contract could not have been granted.

82. In support of the plea that the court is not bound to grant specific performance merely because it is lawful to do so and the discretion exclusive vest with the court under section 20 of the Specific Relief Act, the learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of ParakunnanVeetill Josephs Son Mathew vs. Nedumbara Kuruvilas Son and Others reported in 1987 (Supp) SCC 340 and in particular paragraph 14 of the said judgment which reads thus:-

“14. Section 20 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 preserves judicial discretion to Courts as to decreeing specific performance. The Court should meticulously consider all facts and circumstances of the case. The Court is not bound to grant specific performance merely because it is lawful to do so. The motive behind the litigation should also enter into the judicial verdict. The Court should take care to see that it is not used as an instrument of oppression to have an unfair advantage to the plaintiff The High Court has failed to consider the motive with which Varghese instituted the suit. It was instituted because Kuruvila could not get the estate and Mathew was not prepared to part with it. The sheet anchor of the suit by Varghese is the agreement for sale Ex A1. Since Chettiar had waived his rights thereunder, Varghese as an assignee could not get a better right to enforce that agreement. He is, therefore, not entitled to a decree for specific performance.”

83. In support of the plea that the court may not exercise its discretion in favour of the petitioners if under the terms of the contract, the plaintiffs get an unfair advantage over the defendants and if the defendants would be put to undue hardship, which he did not foresee at the time of agreement. The learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of A.C.Arulappanvs. Ahalya Naik reported in (2001) 6 SCC 600 and in paragraph 7 which reads thus:-

“7. The jurisdiction to decree specific relief is discretionary and the court can consider various circumstances to decide whether such relief is to be granted. Merely because it is lawful to grant specific relief, the court need not grant the order for specific relief; but this discretion shall not be exercised in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner. Certain circumstances have been mentioned in Section 20(2) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 as to under what circumstances the court shall exercise such discretion. If under the terms of the contract the plaintiff gets an unfair advantage over the defendant, the court may not exercise its discretion in favour of the plaintiff. So also specific relief may not be granted if the defendant would be put to undue hardship which he did not foresee at the time of agreement. If it is inequitable to grant specific relief, then also the court would desist from granting a decree to the plaintiff.”

84. The learned senior counsel then submits that in view of the steep increase in prices prevailing now and the prices of the suit property prevailing at the time of date of the execution of MAPA, the grant of specific performance would have been inequitable to the respondents, the learned senior counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in case of SaradamaniKandappan vs. S.Rajalakshmi and others reported in (2011) 12 SCC 18 and in particular paragraphs 37 and 43 thereof which reads thus:-

“37. The reality arising from this economic change cannot continue to be ignored in deciding cases relating to specific performance. The steep increase in prices is a circumstance which makes it inequitable to grant the relief of specific performance where the purchaser does not take steps to complete the sale within the agreed period, and the vendor has not been responsible for any delay or nonperformance. A purchaser can no longer take shelter under the principle that time is not of essence in performance of contracts relating to immovable property, to cover his delays, laches, breaches and 'non-readiness'. The precedents from an era, when high inflation was unknown, holding that time is not of the essence of the contract in regard to immovable properties, may no longer apply, not because the principle laid down therein is unsound or erroneous, but the circumstances that existed when the said principle was evolved, no longer exist. In these days of galloping increases in prices of immovable properties, to hold that a vendor who took an earnest money of say about 10% of the sale price and agreed for three months or four months as the period for performance, did not intend that time should be the essence, will be a cruel joke on him, and will result in injustice. Adding to the misery is the delay in disposal of cases relating to specific performance, as suits and appeals therefrom routinely take two to three decades to attain finality. As a result, an owner agreeing to sell a property for Rs. One lakh and received Rs. Ten Thousand as advance may be required to execute a sale deed a quarter century later by receiving the remaining Rs. Ninety Thousand, when the property value has risen to a crore of rupees.

43. Till the issue is considered in an appropriate case, we can only reiterate what has been suggested in K.S. Vidyanadam (supra):

(i) The courts, while exercising discretion in suits for specific performance, should bear in mind that when the parties prescribe a time/period, for taking certain steps or for completion of the transaction, that must have some significance and therefore time/period prescribed cannot be ignored.

(ii) The courts will apply greater scrutiny and strictness when considering whether the purchaser was 'ready and willing' to perform his part of the contract.

(iii) Every suit for specific performance need not be decreed merely because it is filed within the period of limitation by ignoring the time-limits stipulated in the agreement. Courts will also 'frown' upon suits which are not filed immediately after the breach/refusal. The fact that limitation is three years does not mean a purchaser can wait for 1 or 2 years to file a suit and obtain specific performance. The three year period is intended to assist purchasers in special cases, as for example, where the major part of the consideration has been paid to the vendor and possession has been delivered in part performance, where equity shifts in favour of the purchaser.”

85. In rejoinder, Mr. Chagla, the learned senior counsel appearing for the petitioner submits that the arbitral tribunal has rendered finding that time was not essence of the contract. It is submitted that time for performance would not arise until the notice of closure was issued by the respondents. The witnesses of the respondents had admitted during the cross examination that the respondents were not in a position to issue notice of closure till 6th October, 2005. It is submitted that the arbitral tribunal has acted contrary to section 39 and 56 of the Contract Act and has decided contrary to the provisions of the MAPA and thus the award is in conflict with the public policy. It is submitted that by letter dated 24th July, 2005, MAPA was not repudiated by the petitioner, but it was affirmed. It is submitted that the petitioners had already deposited Rs. 75 Crores with escrow agent which was sufficient to satisfy and clear all the liabilities of the respondents so that the respondent could issue notice of closure to enable the petitioners to pay the balance amount. It is submitted that respondents were in default in not issuing closure notice inspite of petitioner depositing Rs.75 Crores and the respondents withdrawing Rs. 73 Crores out of the said amount. It is submitted that the query raised by the petitioners about satisfaction of the title in view of pending CBI enquiry would not amount to repudiation of the contract. The respondents themselves acted in furtherance of MAPA after the said letter dated 21st July, 2005 addressed by the petitioner to the escrow agent. It is submitted that the letter dated 6th October, 2005 did not refer to the letter dated 21st July, 2005. The respondents did not record that the petitioners had repudiated MAPA by letter dated 21st July, 2005 or that the same was accepted by the respondents by the said letter dated 6th October, 2005 or even thereafter. The learned senior counsel submits that on one hand, the arbiral tribunal has held that the respondents continued to act under MAPA even after receipt of letter dated 21st July, 2005 and after 6th October, 2005 and on the other hand has held that by the said letter dated 6th October, 2005, the respondents had accepted repudiation of MAPA done by the petitioners vide letter dated 21st July, 2005. It is submitted that the award shows inconsistency and contradiction in the findings rendered by the arbitral tribunal which shows error apparent on the face of the award and patent illegality.

86. The learned senior counsel submits that repudiation of the contract is voluntary act of one party whereas frustration due to supervening events may be in which none of the party would be responsible. Both are mutually exclusive. It is submitted that the arbitral tribunal could not have rendered finding accepting repudiation and at the same time accepting the plea of frustration raised by the respondent. According to learned senior counsel this part of the award shows patent illegality on the face of the award and is in violation of section 39 read with section 56 of the Contract Act. Both the pleas could not have been accepted by the arbitral tribunal.

87. Mr. Chagla, then submits that in so far as injunction granted by Debt Recovery Tribunal in the proceedings filed by the bank are concerned, the respondents were fully aware of the said proceedings and those creditors ought to have been paid by the respondents and ought to have got injunction vacated. In so far as injunction obtained by Nirmal Life Style is concerned, it is submitted that MAPA clearly provided that such agreement shall be subject to claim of Nirmal Life Style. On the issue of exercise of discretion by the arbitral tribunal in refusing to grant specific performance, raised by the respondents, it is submitted by Mr. Chagla that since the learned arbitral tribunal had otherwise rejected the claim of specific performance, the question of exercising any discretion did not arise. It is submitted that the discretion can be exercised only when it is held that specific performance can be granted but for specific reasons at the discretion of arbitral tribunal, such discretion should not be exercised in the facts of that case. It is submitted that thus the judgments of the Supreme Court relied upon by the respondents on this issue are not relevant.

88. The learned senior counsel submits that on the one hand the arbitral tribunal has held that in view of the acceptance of the repudiation of MAPA and the arbitral tribunal having accepted the said plea raised by the respondents, all other arguments advanced by the parties would loose significance and on the other hand contrary to that the arbitral tribunal has discussed those other issues also. On the issue of restitution ordered by the arbitral tribunal and in reply to the submissions made by Mr. Sundaram that the order of the arbitral tribunal was equitable and though the arbitral tribunal could have refused to consider refund of the amounts paid by the petitioner, having taken view that the repudiation was accepted by the respondents, it is submitted by Mr. Chagla that the said direction was not by way of any equitable relief but was passed on concession made by the respondent through their learned counsel which statement was recorded by the arbitral tribunal in the impugned award.

89. The learned senior counsel then submits that injunction would not frustrate the transaction but would be temporary impediment. The respondents could have cleared injunction on making payment to the said creditors. The Petitioner was willing to take properties subject to all injunctions. It is submitted that the arbitral tribunal could have ordered specific performance subject to all such injunctions with a direction to the petitioner to clear such liabilities out of the consideration payable by the petitioners to the respondents. It is submitted that such eventuality was contemplated under the provisions of the MAPA which the arbitral tribunal did not address while rejecting the claim of specific performance made by the petitioners.

90. The learned senior counsel appearing for the petitioners placed reliance upon clause 12.1(b) of MAPA in support of his plea that on the date of issuance of closure notice, the obligation of the petitioner was to pay Rs.75 Crores which obligation was fully complied with by the petitioners. The learned senior counsel submits that the balance amount was payable by the petitioners only on receipt of the closure notice which was to be issued by the respondents on clearing all other liabilities, which the respondents had failed. The Petitioner was thus always ready and willing to comply with their part of obligation and had in fact complied with the same.

91. On the issue of repudiation of MAPA, the arbitral tribunal in the impugned award held that if there was repudiation by the party and the other side has option, it may accept repudiation terminating the contract and claim damages or alternatively other side may choose to continue the contract and wait till the time for performance provided in the contract. In such cases, the contract is kept open for both the parties and the party who had initially repudiated the contract can even take advantage of the fact that the contract is kept open and retract his repudiation or may even take advantage of any supervening event which would justify non-performance. It is observed that if the repudiating party continues in its repudiatory conduct and there have been no supervening events, then the other side may at a latter stage treat the continued repudiation as a fresh breach and terminate the contract. It is held that in law the repudiation can take place if there is indication of refusal to perform the contract.

92. The arbitral tribunal has held that when the petitioner herein stated that they would be in a position to complete only after the CBI probe and only after CBI gives a clean chit, the petitioners herein who were in effect saying that they would not perform until the probe by CBI was complete and CBI had given a clean chit. The arbtiral tribunal held that the conditions imposed by the petitioners were contrary to the terms of MAPA and inconsistent therewith. The arbitral tribunal rejected the submissions made by the petitioners that the petitioners were only seeking clear and marketable title and that the title certificate issued by Crowford Bayley and Co. would have been sufficient. The arbitral tribunal also considered oral evidence on this issue and particularly answers to the queries raised by the arbitral tribunal as to whether the witness was suggesting that according to him CBI enquiry was cloud on the clear and marketable title, the reply was in the negative. The witness also replied that the petitioners were assured that CBI enquiry had nothing to do with giving clear and marketable title and that clear and marketable title would be given. On the basis of this evidence, the arbitral tribunal held that according to petitioners CBI enquiry was not cloud on clear and marketable title and therefore, the petitioners would not have still persistent in the said requisition in their application before Escrow agent as well as before the arbitral tribunal. The arbitral tribunal accordingly held that the petitioners were in fact committing repudiation of the contract by refusing to perform in accordance with MAPA and by laying down conditions which were inconsistent with the MAPA. The Petitioner had raised excuse of CBI enquiry in order to delay or avoid performance as per MAPA. The arbtiral tribunal held that instances of the petitioners in performing their obligations only on such conditions was insistence of performance in the manner inconsistent with the purpose as provided in the MAPA which only provided for giving title certificate by Croford Bayley and Co. The arbitral tribunal held that the respondents by letter dated 6th October, 2005 have accepted repudiation of MAPA. It is held in the impugned award that at this stage, the arbitrator was not going into the reasons for such repudiation.

93. In Para 33 of the impugned award the arbitral tribunal held that it has accepted the plea of the petitioners that there was no immediate acceptance of the repudiation. It is held that statement of claim as well as evidence of the respondent's witnesses show that attempts were made to go forward with the contract. It is held that initially the respondents herein had kept the contract alive. The Petitioner could have got benefited from this by withdrawing their repudiation or taken advantage of some intervening circumstance which justified their non performance. There had been no intervening circumstances till the respondents addressed letter dated 6th October, 2005. It is held that the respondents herein could thus treat this continuing breach as repudiation and terminate the contract. It is further held that the respondents in their letter dated 6th October, 2005, did not mention repudiation but they have clearly stated that the contract is at an end by reason of frustration of contract. It was thus made clear that the contract had come to and end. It is held that respondents could justify their termination even on grounds not stated in the notice so long as those were valid grounds and there was no circumstances which enables the respondents to claim that the respondents were not entitled to so terminate.

94. On the issue of frustration of MAPA, the arbitral tribunal has held that it was not necessary for the tribunal to go into the question as to who was at fault for various injunction orders passed by various Courts. It is held that by virtue of those orders, it would not be possible to perform MAPA even if the tribunal had been inclined to grant specific performance. The arbitral tribunal rejected the submission made by the petitioners that specific performance could be granted subject to interim injunctions being vacated. It is observed that order of specific performance would be unenforceable unless the petitioners herein were willing to take the workers as their employees. In so far as injunction obtained by Nirmal Lifestyle is concerned, the arbitral tribunal held that the petitioners herein were not parties to Nirmal arbitration and if specific performance of the entire property was granted in favour of the petitioners, the respondents would be at mercy of the petitioners to then deliver back to Nirmal. It is held that till the Nirmal matter was decided, one would not know whether specific performance would be granted in respect of the whole property and if so on what conditions. The arbitral tribunal accepted the statements made by the respondents herein that all the injunction orders of the Court would make performance of MAPA impossible and if at all the petitioners were entitled to any relief, it would only be damages. The arbitral tribunal rejected the submission of the respondents herein that the decision not to release the Tremac amount was of the Escrow Agent appointed by the petitioners. It is held that Escrow Agent appointed by the respondents had not objected to the decisions taken by the Escrow Agent appointed by the respondents. After considering the oral evidence led by the Escrow Agent of the respondents, the arbitral tribunal held that the decision not to release the Tremac amount was of the Escrow Agents and neither party can be blamed for that.

95. On issue No.7 as to “whether the initiation of inquiry by CBI, resulted in MAPA becoming impossible to perform and if so whether the respondents were entitled to declaration that MAPA is void in accordance with Section 56 of the Indian Contract Act, the arbitral tribunal held that MAPA had come to an end by repudiation otherwise CBI enquiry would frustrate MAPA. On the issue as to whether filing of arbitration petition by Nirmal Lifestyle Ltd., would frustrate MAPA, the arbitral tribunal answered the said issue in negative but held that filing of such petition made grant of specific performance impossible.

96. On the issue as to whether the petitioners have committed any default in making payment of Rs.7.84 crores and as to whether the petitioners had committed repudiatory breach of MAPA by paying less than 25% of the sales consideration and refusing to pay the balance till CBI inquiry was completed favourably, the arbitral tribunal answered the said issue by holding that the petitioners had committed default in depositing Rs.7.84 crores but the same did not amount to repudiatory breach of MAPA. Rs.7.5 crores were deposited with Escrow Agent and question of payment of balance did not raise because of repudiation. It is also held that the petitioners committed repudiatory breach by refusing to pay the balance till CBI enquiry was completed favourably.

97. On the issue of readiness and willingness, the arbitral tribunal in paragraph 65 of the impugned award had recorded that he had not set out in detail of submissions of the learned counsel appearing for parties nor the documents relied upon by them as in his view, it was not material and not necessary to consider whether or not the petitioners herein could have raised finance. It is recorded that the arbitral tribunal has already held that the petitioners vide their letter dated 21st July 2005 repudiated the contract and why did they do so. It is held that if the reason was not financial difficulty, no other reason had given by the petitioners. While recording such observation, the arbitral tribunal held that under normal circumstances, the petitioners could raise such finances at short notice however, after the CAG report on 5th May 2005, a CBI inquiry was looming large and ultimately, CBI inquiry was instituted and it was believable that in respect of the property, for which a CBI inquiry was taking place, financial institutions were reluctant to sanction finance. It is observed that only Mr Vikas Oberoi entered the witness box on behalf of the petitioners and has given the evidence that the transaction could have been financed from personal finances. The other two directors did not come forward to say whether they would have financed the transaction from their personal finances. It is observed that even though it was not necessary to decide whether the petitioners could not raise the finance because of CBI, the arbitral tribunal found substance in the submissions made by the respondents herein that against the evidence given by so many witnesses examined by the respondents, the petitioner had led evidence only of Mr Vikas Oberoi to contradict the said evidence. It is observed that it was difficult to discount or disbelieve the respondents' case that the petitioners had found difficult to raise finances because of CBI inquiry. In paragraph 65 of the impugned award, the arbitral tribunal held that even though the arbitral tribunal was not giving a categorical finding, prima facie at least it appeared that the repudiation was because the petitioners had found it difficult to raise finances due to CBI inquiry. It is held that by letter dated 21st July 2005, the petitioners committed a repudiatory breach of contract and their repudiatory conduct continued till the filing of the written statement before the arbitral tribunal. The respondents vide their letter dated 6th October 2005 terminated the contract. It is held that even though in the letter dated 6th October 2005, the respondents had not set out that the petitioners had repudiated the contract, it was clearly mentioned that the contract stands frustrated and come to an end. The arbitral tribunal held that the said letter dated 6th October 2005, therefore in effect amounted to an acceptance of repudiation during the period that the repudiatory conduct continued and the MAPA had thus come to an end. The arbitral tribunal rejected the submissions made by the petitioners that the respondents ought to have refunded the entire amount received from the petitioners within a maximum period of 135 days from 21st July 2005. It is held that the words “from the date of such default” must necessarily mean that from the date it was decided that there was such a default. The arbitral tribunal held that merely because the Escrow Agent took more than 135 days, it could not be said that the respondents had lost right to make the refund under Clause 15.1. The arbitral tribunal held that the period of 135 days would run from the date of the award as the tribunal was fully deciding that question in the award. The arbitral tribunal held that on a repudiation of the contract, clauses 14,15 and 16 of MAPA did not apply and those provisions which were default provisions were not triggered by a repudiation of the contract. The arbitral tribunal observed that as the contract was repudiated and the repudiation was accepted by the respondents, MAPA and all its terms except the arbitration clause have come to an end, however, as the respondents through their learned counsel admitted that there must be restitution by the respondents, the respondents were directed to refund to the petitioners the sum of RS.73,00,51,960/- which had been received by the respondents prior to execution of MAPA.

98. In paragraph 75 of the impugned award, the arbitral tribunal held that the liability towards workers and for the Tremac petition remained liability of the respondents and even under MAPA, the payments for those liabilities was coming out of the consideration amount. The arbitral tribunal held that the respondents herein did not prove that they have suffered any damages.

99. On issue No.3 as to whether the respondents were ready and willing to perform their obligations under MAPA, the arbitral tribunal answered the said issue by holding that said issue did not arise in view of repudiation by the petitioners herein.

100. I have heard the learned counsel for the parties at length and have given my anxious consideration to the rival submissions made by the learned counsel.

REASONS AND CONCLUSION:

(1) Whether there is frustration or repudiation?

(2) Whether MAPA has become impossible to perform?

(3) Whether either party has to be blamed for the situation?

101. On perusal of the MAPA, it is clear that when the said agreement was entered into between the parties, the respondent had borrowed substantial amounts from various banks against security of hotel property, 11 flats and movable properties. The respondent also had its liability towards payment in respect of the employees of the respondents. In the said MAPA it was provided that the public notice was issued by Vijaya Bank stating that the respondents had defaulted in payment in the sum of Rs. 20 Crores and the said loan has become NPA in the books of Vijaya Bank. The respondent also had to pay substantial amount to IDBI Bank. The respondent had also entered into several agreements with Nirmal Life Style Limited with whom the respondent had agreed to jointly construct shopping Mall and super market in the portion of the said hotel property. 570 employees of the respondents had opted for voluntary retirement scheme who were to be discharged/relieved from their employment with the respondents. The respondents had also agreed to make out clear and marketable title to the suit properties save and except the transactions in respect of Nirmal Life Style. It was agreed that the title of the respondents in respect of the said properties shall be free from all litigations, injunction orders, undertakings or pending proceedings which may create impediments in the transfer of title in favour of the petitioners save and except the claims made by Nirmal Life Style. The respondent has confirmed in the said MAPA that the title of the respondent was clear and marketable and free from any charge, mortgage, encumbrance, claim or demand save and except as a charge created in respect of the properties in favour of the consortium bank and the second charge created in favour of Canara Bank.

102. It was agreed that the closing date shall be 1st June, 2005 or any other subsequent date. It was further provided that in the event of the petitioner's inability to arrange for payment of the balance consideration by the closing date, the closing date shall be extended by a further period of 45 days from the closing date, in which event the petitioners shall be liable to make payment of the balance consideration together with interest at the rate of 12% per annum thereon from the closing date upto the date of payment. As per clause 15.3 of MAPA petitioners were given option in the event of respondents committing default in making repayment, the petitioners shall have option to continue with the contemplated transaction under said MAPA or to become 50% shareholder of the first respondent. Petitioner was also given option in case of such default on the part of the respondents to continue with the transaction, to carry out obligations of the respondents herein under the MAPA and to deduct all the costs and amount carrying out all or any such obligations as more particularly set out in clauses 6 and 13 from consideration payable to the vendor.

103. It is not in dispute that on 15th May, 2005, or on 24th July, 2005 or 6th October, 2005, the respondent had not issued notice of closure. The respondents had also not settled with the employees and/or discharged the employees who had opted for voluntary retirement scheme and were required to be relieved on or before notice of closure. It is also not in dispute that the respondents did not settle the claims of Nirmal Lifestyle Limited. Various Bank liabilities of the respondents were also not cleared. Various steps were to be taken by the respondents particularly set out in clause 6 read with clause 13 so as to clear their liabilities before issuance of the notice of closure. It is not in dispute that the petitioners had already deposited sum of Rs. 75 Croers with Escrow agents appointed by the parties. It is also not in dispute that out of the said amount of Rs. 75 Crores, respondents had ready withdrawn Rs.73 Croers. In view of the respondents not making payment to 208 employees under V.R.S., the employees union filed proceedings against the respondents and obtained interim order against the respondents on 30th June, 2005 in the Complaint being (ULP 338 of 2005) from the Industrial Court. By the said order, the Industrial Court granted status quo between the parties thereto in the said complaint. The respondent did not pay those workers and as a result thereof, said status quo was continued.

104. The Debt Recovery Tribunal also passed order on 13th May, 2005 in the proceedings filed by the Indian Bank restraining the respondents from transferring, alienating, encumbering, disposing of the same and parting with the possession or in any manner dealing with the hotel property. Debt Recovery Tribunal II passed similar injunction order in favour of Vijaya Bank and against the respondents. It is not in dispute that the respondent did not settle with these banks and the said injunction continued. On 6th May, 2005, Nirmal Lifestyle filed an arbitration Petition and obtained exparte injunction against the respondent. It is thus clear that before issuance of notice dated 21st July, 2005 by the petitioners inviting attention of the respondents to the newspaper article in respect of initiation of CBI enquiry in respect of Centaur property, respondents had not complied with their various obligations and had not issued notice of disclosure. It is not in dispute that the said notice of disclosure was never issued by the respondents as contemplated under the provisions of MAPA.

105. The learned arbitrator in the impugned award has held that the condition imposed by the petitioners that the petitioner would be in a position to complete the transaction only after CBI gives clean chit, was contrary to the term of MAPA and inconsistent therewith. The learned arbitrator did not accept the submissions of the petitioner that they were only seeking clear and marketable title. The learned arbitrator considered the answer given by the witnesses examined by the petitioner on the issue as to whether according to witness CBI enquiry was cloud on the clear and marketable title and his reply was in the negative. The learned arbitrator held that the petitioner had committed repudiation of the contract by refusing to perform in accordance with MAPA and by laying down the conditions which were inconsistent with MAPA., It is held that the petitioner raised excuse of CBI enquiry in order to delay or avoid performance as per MAPA. Though the learned arbitrator accepted the plea of the petitioner that there was no immediate response on repudiation by the respondents, it is held that initially the respondents had kept the contract alive and there had been no intervening circumstances till the respondents addressed letter dated 6th October, 2005 by which the respondent accepted the repudiation. It is held that the respondents in the said letter did not mention repudiation but had clearly stated that the contract is at an end by the reasons of frustration of contract.

106. The question that arises is whether the petitioner had repudiated MAPA by letter dated 21st July, 2005 and if so whether the said repudiation of MAPA by the petitioner was accepted by the respondents by letter dated 6th October, 2005 in accordance with section 39 of the Contract Act.

107. It is the case of the petitioners that under clause 12.1(b) of MAPA, the obligation of the petitioner was to pay Rs.75 Crores which obligation was fully complied with by the petitioners. It was the respondents who was to clear the liabilities before issuance of closure notice. The petitioners were liable to pay balance amount within the time prescribed in the said MAPA only on receipt of such notice of closure from the respondents.

108. On perusal of the letter dated 21st July, 2005 addressed by the petitioners through their advocates to the escrow agent of the respondents, it is clear that by the said letter, the petitioners has not repudiated the MAPA but had only brought to the notice of the escrow agent the newspaper article which indicated that the centre had referred deals to CBI and in that context conveyed that the petitioners would be in a position to complete the transaction as contemplated in MAPA only after the probe by the CBI was complete and the CBI confirms that the purchase of the Centaur property from Hotel Corporation of India was not irregular or does not pass any adverse ruling that would affect title to be acquired by the purchaser in respect of the said property. It is not in dispute that under the said provisions of MAPA, the respondents had agreed to transfer the said property with clear title. On perusal of the letter dated 4th August, 2005 addressed by the petitioners to the escrow agent appointed by the respondents, it is clear that the stand of the petitioners was that though notice of closure which was to be given on or before 15th May, 2005 and the closing date was to be on or before 1st June, 2005, the respondents had not complied with their obligations as setout in MAPA although more than 75 days have passed from the date of which the notice was expected to be given by the respondents. The petitioners showed their readiness and willingness to make payment of the balance consideration on the closing date in accordance with the terms of MAPA. By the said letter, the petitioners had requested the escrow agent to obtain instructions from his client and to inform the petitioners the approximate date on which the notice of closure as contemplated in MAPA would be given to the petitioners. Perusal of the letter dated 10th August, 2005 from the respondents to the escrow agent which refers to the letter dated 4th August, 2005 addressed by the petitioners to the escrow agent of the respondents and after referring to the provisions of MAPA, it is clear that by the said letter, the respondents had referred to the provisions of MAPA and sought deposit of Rs.122.10 lacs immediately and also called upon the petitioner to pay the balance amount for their payment of salaries and other dues of the company. The respondents sought to clarify that the said amount was demanded by the respondents as per provisions of MAPA well within Rs.75 crores. By letter dated 19th August, 2005 from the respondents to the escrow agent, it was recorded that a meeting was held on 11th August, 2005 alongwith the petitioners and the escrow agent in which it was decided that the revised no claim letter incorporating the proviso for swapping of the equity shares of the respondent company with that of those held by Tulip Star Hotels Ltd., however respondents have not received any communication from the advocates of the petitioners. By the said letter, the respondents called upon the escrow agent to release the said balance amount of Rs. 2 crores at the earliest which could be utilised for depositing in this Court in the Tremac matter and for other employee related payments. It is thus clear that even on 19th August, 2005, the respondents were insisting for compliance of the provisions of MAPA by the petitioners and also the escrow agent. On perusal of the letter dated 6th October, 2005 from the advocates of the respondents to the petitioners, it is contended by the respondents that MAPA had been frustrated due to change in circumstances which could cause an unforeseen delay in its performance and thus they took discharge from performing their obligations under MAPA. It is also contended by the respondents that an injunction was obtained by Nirmal Lifestyle Limited against the respondents on the sale of the property on 6th June, 2005 and the said Nirmal Lifestyle Limited was a member of the purchaser joint venture company under the said MAPA. It is contended that by the said action, Nirmal Lifestyle Limited had acted in a manner that had rendered it impossible for the respondents to proceed with the performance of their obligation under MAPA and as a result thereof, the respondents were entitled to treat themselves as discharged under MAPA. It is contended that MAPA stood frustrated as the conditions that existed at the time of entering into the contract, no longer exist and unforeseeable delay that would be caused as a result of such injunction, also serves as a ground for frustration of MAPA. Perusal of the said letter indicates that there is no reference to the letter dated 21st July, 2005 addressed by the petitioners to the escrow agent nor there was any reference to the letter dated 4th August, 2005 which was addressed by the petitioners through their solicitors to the escrow agent by which the petiti


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