Competition or unlawful contractual interference

In a recent decision, the Delhi High Court dealt with the tort of unlawful interference in contractual relationships and inter alia held that the said tort has no place in India in view of Section 27 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 (“Contract Act”).[1]

Background

The developer of a certain property at Amritsar agreed to lease the said property to the Plaintiff for fifteen years, by way of a term sheet. The Plaintiff paid a security deposit to the developer as per the term sheet and proceeded to draw up the main transaction document.

Upon learning that the Defendant (a competitor of the Plaintiff) had been pursuing the developer for the purpose of entering into an agreement with respect to the same property, the Plaintiff informed the Defendant about the term sheet executed by the developer with the Plaintiff and requested the Defendant to desist from pursuing the developer. However, the Plaintiff learnt that the developer had entered into an agreement with the Defendant with respect to the said property. Soon thereafter, the Plaintiff was informed by the developer that the term sheet stood terminated on account of the Plaintiff’s failure to execute the main transaction document within the stipulated time. The developer refunded the security deposit, which was accepted by the Plaintiff without protest. The Plaintiff alleged that (a) the Defendant induced the developer to terminate the term sheet with the Plaintiff; and (b) the Defendant had similarly attempted to interfere with transactions between the Plaintiff and developers of other properties in different cities.

The Plaintiff filed a suit against the Defendant inter alia seeking a permanent injunction to restrain the Defendant from inducing a breach of any agreement between the Plaintiff and third parties in respect of non-functional properties of the Plaintiff across India.
Continue Reading Competition or unlawful contractual interference: The line continues to remain blurred

unfettered right to exclude or limit their liability for breach of contract Part 2

In Part I of this post, we had discussed the concept of exclusion or limitation of liability clauses and the position in India. In this part, we will examine the position of such clauses in England and provide our views on such clauses. 

Position in England 

The application of clauses excluding or limiting liability in England is more consistent. When faced with standard form contracts or contracts where there is inequality of bargaining power, English courts apply the test of fairness or reasonableness of clauses in such contracts and refuse to enforce provisions of contracts that are unconscionable or exploitative.[1]
Continue Reading Do parties have an unfettered right to exclude or limit their liability for breach of contract? – Part II

Do parties have an unfettered right to exclude or limit their liability for breach of contract – Part 1

Introduction

The law of damages in India is codified in Sections 73 and 74 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 (“Contract Act”). Section 73 of the Contract Act provides that a party that suffers breach of contract is entitled to receive from the party that has broken the contract, compensation for any loss or damage caused to him thereby, which naturally arose in the usual course of things from such breach or which the parties knew, when they made the contract, to be likely to result from a breach. Section 73 of the Contract Act bars the grant of compensation for remote and indirect loss or damage sustained on account of breach of contract.

This bifurcation between damages towards losses, which naturally arise in the usual course of things (first limb) and losses that the parties knew, when they made the contract, to be likely to result from a breach of the contract (second limb), appears to be borrowed from the principle laid down in the celebrated English decision of Hadley v. Baxendale.[1] The first limb is popularly referred to as general damages, whilst the second limb is referred to as special damages i.e. additional loss caused by a breach on account of special circumstances, outside the ordinary course of things, which was in the contemplation of the parties.
Continue Reading Do parties have an unfettered right to exclude or limit their liability for breach of contract? – Part I

Determinable contracts under the Specific Relief Act,1963 – Part II

In  Part I of this post, we discussed the concept of determinable contracts under the Specific Relief Act, 1963 (the “Act”) and analysed two decisions of the Supreme Court in this regard. In this post, we will examine the decisions of various High Courts which caused some confusion as to what would qualify as a determinable contract under the Act.

Delhi

As far back as 1999, the Delhi High Court found a joint venture agreement which provided for termination by either party in the event that certain government approvals were not obtained by a specified date, to be determinable in nature.[1] Conspicuously, the court did not refer to the decision of the Supreme Court in Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. v. Amritsar Gas Service & Ors.[2]

The most notable result of the lack of clarity in Amritsar Gas (supra) came by way of a decision of the Delhi High Court (Division Bench) in Rajasthan Breweries Ltd. v. The Stroh Brewery Company.[3] The agreements in this case specified certain events which would entitle each party to terminate. Observing that the facts of the case before it were identical to those in Amritsar Gas (supra), the court held that the agreements in this case were determinable and, therefore, not capable of specific performance. The court went so far as to hold that even in the absence of a specific clause enabling either party to terminate the agreement on the happening of specified events, the very nature of the agreement (being a private commercial transaction) made it liable to termination without assigning any reason by serving a reasonable notice. In the event such termination is held to be wrongful or bad in law, the only remedy available to the aggrieved party is to seek compensation for wrongful termination and not specific performance. The decision in Rajasthan Breweries (supra) was applied by the Delhi High Court in subsequent decisions.[4]
Continue Reading Determinable Contracts Under the Specific Relief Act, 1963 – Part II

Determinable contracts under the Specific Relief Act, 1963 – Part I

Introduction

The remedies most resorted to for breach of contract are damages, specific performance, and injunctions. The remedy of damages is governed by the Indian Contract Act, 1872, whilst specific performance and injunctions are governed by the Specific Relief Act, 1963 (the “Act”).

Prior to the amendment of the Act in 2018, the grant of specific performance was not available as a matter of course but was based on the discretion of the court. Section 10 of the un-amended Act laid down cases in which the court could exercise this discretion viz. when no standard exists for ascertaining the actual damage caused by non-performance of the act agreed to be done or when the act agreed to be done is such that compensation in money for its non-performance would not afford adequate relief. The Specific Relief (Amendment) Act, 2018 substituted Section 10 of the Act, which now provides that specific performance of a contract shall be enforced by the court, subject to Sections 11(2), 14 and 16 of the Act.[1] Section 20 of the un-amended Act, which set out the contours of the court’s discretion and enumerated cases under which the court may exercise discretion not to grant specific performance, was substituted in its entirety with a provision relating to substituted performance. The grant of specific performance of a contract is, therefore, no longer a matter of discretion and must be granted subject to the exceptions set out in the Act.
Continue Reading Determinable contracts under the Specific Relief Act, 1963 – Part I

FORCE MAJEURE IN THE TIMES OF COVID -19

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in India has proven not only to be a humanitarian crisis, but also an economic crisis of an unprecedented scale. Specifically, restrictions on movement of persons and goods, save for those involved in essential services, have raised serious doubts on the ability of parties to perform their obligations under contracts when these are not ordinarily classified as ‘essential services’. Uncertainty as to the performance of contracts has led to parties envisaging breaches of contract and assessing their rights and remedies in relation to the same.
Continue Reading FORCE MAJEURE IN THE TIMES OF COVID -19

FRUSTRATION (OF CONTRACT) IN THE TIME OF SARS-CoV-2

Overview

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus disease a pandemic. On the same day, the Government of India imposed visa and other travel restrictions. Soon thereafter, many states in India declared a ‘lockdown’, an emergency measure [under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (“Disaster Management Act”)] to prevent and contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and also issued prohibitory order(s) under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. A stricter lockdown was then imposed by the Central Government, which will presently remain in effect till May 3, 2020. During the lockdown, whilst certain commercial activities have been classified as essential and are permitted to continue operations, subject to following preventive measures (including social distancing), several others remain stalled and suspended.
Continue Reading FRUSTRATION (OF CONTRACT) IN THE TIME OF SARS-CoV-2

Contract Manufacturing - Press Note 4

The question of whether contract manufacturing constitutes “manufacture” from a foreign investment perspective is an oft debated topic in the manufacturing fraternity and many businesses have struggled with this issue for years.

“Contract manufacturing” refers to manufacturing undertaken through a third party and has a range of benefits for the principal manufacturer, including economic efficiency, scale, operational efficiencies and flexibility. For instance, if a specialised set of equipment or skills is required to manufacture a certain product, the principal manufacturer can use the facilities already available with a third party to manufacture these products, instead of investing its capital in creating these facilities for itself. Contract manufacturing also enables a principal manufacturer to utilise a contract manufacturer’s existing supply chains, linkages and labour force. If a principal manufacture has a cyclical manufacturing business, using the facilities of a third party may be more beneficial than making capital investments that may lie idle for large parts of the year. In light of these benefits, contract manufacturing as a business model is one that is preferred by many entities in the manufacturing business.
Continue Reading The Contract Manufacturing Conundrum – Press Note 4 to the Rescue?

Contract Enforcement Laws

The Ease of Doing Business rankings released annually by the World Bank currently ranks India at 163 in Enforcing Contracts.[1] The importance placed by the Modi Government on these, and India’s overall dismal performance has forced the government to take several measures, especially in the field of enforcement of contracts.

The Indian Contract Act, 1872 (Contract Act) and the Specific Relief Act, 1963 (Act) are the two primary legislations governing the enforcement of contracts between parties. While the Contract Act lays down the general principles governing contracts and levy of damages for breach thereof, it also provides for an exception of awarding specific relief in the form of specific performance of contracts.
Continue Reading Contract Enforcement – Ushering In an Era of Performance