Section 17

17. Contract to sell or let property by one who has no title, not specifically enforceable.-

(1) A contract to sell or let any immovable property cannot be specifically enforced in favour of a vendor or lessor.

(a) Who, knowing himself not to have any title to the property, has contracted to sell or let the property;

(b) Who, though he entered into the contract believing that he had a good title to the property, cannot at the time fixed by the parties or by the court for the completion of the sale or letting, give the purchaser or lessee a title free from reasonable doubt.

(2) The provisions of sub-section (1) shall also apply, as far as may be, to contracts for the sale or hire of movable property.

Contract of sale or lease of IMP [Section 17(1)]-

It is important to mention that Section 17 mentions the contract where the vendor or lessor of IMP cannot claim specific performance. It pro­vides that where a contract to sell or let immovable property is made by a person who has no title or his title is doubtful, then the contract cannot be specif­ically enforceable in favour of the vendor or lessor. Significantly, Section 17(1) talks about the immov­able property whereas Section 17(2) talks about the movable property. 

Vendor or lessor has knowledge that he has no title [Section 17(1) (a)]-

Where a contract to sell or let immovable property is made by a person who has no title and he has knowledge that he has no title then he cannot claim specific performance. It means he is not in­nocent and he knows that he has no title still enters into contract to sell or let his immovable property.

Example 1- A, without C’s authority, contracts to sell to B an estate which A knows to belong to C. A cannot enforce specific performance of this con­tract, even though C is willing to confirm it.

Vendor or lessor’s title is doubtful [Section 17(1) (b)]-

Where vendor or lessor’s title is doubtful at the time of entering into contract but he believes that he had a good title to the property and he can­not at the time fixed by the parties or by the court for the completion of the sale or letting, give the purchaser or lessee a title free from reasonable doubt, then he cannot claim specific performance.

Example- A, being in possession of certain land, contracts to sell it to Z. On inquiry it turns out that A claims the land as heir of B, who left the coun­try several years before, and is generally believed to be dead. But there is no sufficient proof of his death. A cannot compel Z specifically to perform the contract.

Contract of sale or hire of moveable property [Section 17(2)]-

Where a contract for sale or hire the move­able property is made by a person who has no title or his title is doubtful, then the contract cannot be specifically enforceable in favour of the vendor. No Title [Section 17(2) (a)]- In a contract to sell or give on hire any mov­able property cannot be specifically enforced in fa­vour of a vendor who, knowing himself not to have any title to the property, has contracted to sell or hire the property.

Example- A agreed to sell the painting of a dead painter to B. Subsequently, B realized that neither A is owner of that property nor has authority to sell but it is a stolen property. B makes breach of the contract. A cannot claim specific relief.

 

Doubtful Title [Section 17(2) (b)}-

In a contract to sell or give on hire any mov­able property cannot be specifically enforced in fa­vour of a vendor who, though he entered into the contract believing that he had a good title to the property, but cannot give the purchaser or hirer a title free from reasonable doubt at the time fixed by the parties or by the court for the completion of the sale or letting Example- A agreed to sell the painting of a dead painter to B. Subsequently, B realized that A is not owner of that property but it belonged to his father who left the country several years before, and is generally believed to be dead. But there is no sufficient perform the contract.

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