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Performance of Contract

A contract places a legal obligation upon the contracting parties to perform their mutual promises, and it carries on until the discharge or termination of the contract. The most natural and usual mode of discharging a contract is to perform it. A person who performs a contract in accordance with its terms is discharged from any further obligations. As a rule, such performance entitles him to receive the other party’s performance.

Exact and complete performance by both the parties puts an end to the contract. In expecting exact performance, the courts mean that, performance must match contractual obligations. In requiring a contract to be complete, the law is merely saying that any work undertaken must be carried out to the end of the obligations.

A contract should be performed at the time specified and at the place agreed upon. When this has been accomplished, the parties are discharged automatically and the contract is discharged eventually. There are, however, many other ways in which a discharge may be brought about. For example, it may result from an excuse for non-performance. In certain cases attempted performance may also operate as a substitute for actual performance, and can result in complete discharge of the contract.

Performance of Contract?

The term Performance of contract” means that both, the promisor, and the promisee have fulfilled their respective obligations, which the contract placed upon them. For instance, A visits a stationery shop to buy a calculator. The shopkeeper delivers the calculator and A pays the price. The contract is said to have been discharged by mutual performance.

Section 27 of Indian contract Act says that

The parties to a contract must either perform, or offer to perform, their respective promises, unless such performance is dispensed with or excused under the provisions of this Act, or any other law.

Promises bind the representatives of the promisor in case of the death of the latter before performance, unless a contrary intention appears in the contract.

Thus, it is the primary duty of each contracting party to either perform or offer to perform its promise. For performance to be effective, the courts expect it to be exact and complete, i.e., the same must match the contractual obligations. However, where under the provisions of the Contract Act or any other law, the performance can be dispensed with or excused, a party is absolved from such a responsibility.

Example

A promises to deliver goods to B on a certain day on payment of Rs 1,000. Aexpires before the contracted date. A‘s representatives are bound to deliver the goods to B, and B is bound to pay Rs 1,000 to A‘s representatives.

Types of Performance

Performance, as an action of the performing may be actual or attempted.

Actual Performance

When a promisor to a contract has fulfilled his obligation in accordance with the terms of the contract, the promise is said to have been actually performed. Actual performance gives a discharge to the contract and the liability of the promisor ceases to exist. For example, A agrees to deliver10 bags of cement at B’s factory and B promises to pay the price on delivery. A delivers the cement on the due date and B makes the payment. This is actual performance.

Actual performance can further be subdivided into substantial performance, and partial Performance

Substantial Performance

This is where the work agreed upon is almost finished. The court then orders that the money must be paid, but deducts the amount needed to correct minor existing defect. Substantial performance is applicable only if the contract is not an entire contract and is severable. The rationale behind creating the doctrine of substantial performance is to avoid the possibility of one party evading his liabilities by claiming that the contract has not been completely performed. However, what is deemed to be substantial performance is a question of fact to be decided in both the case. It will largely depend on what remains undone and its value in comparison to the contract as a whole.

Partial Performance

This is where one of the parties has performed the contract, but not completely, and the other side has shown willingness to accept the part performed. Partial performance may occur where there is shortfall on delivery of goods or where a service is not fully carried out.

There is a thin line of difference between substantial and partial performance. The two following points would help in distinguishing the two types of performance.

Partial performance must be accepted by the other party. In other words, the party who is at the receiving end of the partial performance has a genuine choice whether to accept or reject. Substantial performance, on the other hand, is legally enforceable against the other party.

Payment is made on a different basis from that for substantial performance. It is made on quantum meruit, which literally means as much as is deserved. So, for example, if half of the work has been completed, half of the negotiated money would be payable. In case of substantial performance, the party that has performed can recover the amount appropriate to what has been done under the contract, provided that the contract is not an entire contract. The price is thus, often payable in such circumstances, and the sum deducted represents the cost of repairing defective workmanship.

Attempted Performance

When the performance has become due, it is sometimes sufficient if the promisor offers to perform his obligation under the contract. This offer is known as attempted performance or more commonly as tender. Thus, tender is an offer of performance, which of course, complies with the terms of the contract. If goods are tendered by the seller but refused by the buyer, the seller is discharged from further liability, given that the goods are in accordance with the contract as to quantity and quality, and he may sue the buyer for.breach of contract if he so desires. The rationale being that when a person offers to perform, he is ready, willing and capable to perform. Accordingly, a tender of performance may operate as a substitute for actual performance, and can effect a complete discharge.

In this regard, Section 38 of Indian Contract Act says:

‘Where a promisor has made an offer of performance to the promisee, and the offer has not been accepted, the promisor is not responsible for non-performance, nor does he thereby lose his rights under the contract. For example, A contracts to deliver to B, 100 tons of basmati rice at his warehouse, on 6 December 2015. Atakes the goods to B‘s place on the due date during business hours, but B, without assigning any good reason, refuses to take the delivery. Here, A has performed what he was required to perform under the contract. It is a case of attempted performance and A is not responsible for non-performance of B, nor does he thereby lose his rights under the contract.’

Definition of Delivery

According to Section 2 (2) of the Sale of Goods Act, 1930, delivery means voluntary transfer of possession of goods from one person to another. Hence, if a person takes possession of goods by unfair means, then there is no delivery of goods. Having understood delivery, let’s look at the law on sales

Law on Sales

1) The Duty of the Buyer and Seller (Section 31)

It is the duty of the seller to deliver the goods and the buyer to pay for them and accept them, as per the terms of the contract and the law on sales.

2) Concurrency of Payment and Delivery (Section 32)

The delivery of goods and payment of the price are concurrent conditions as per the law on sales unless the parties agree otherwise. So, the seller has to be willing to give possession of the goods to the buyer in exchange for the price. On the other hand, the buyer has to be ready to pay the price in exchange for possession of the goods.

Rules Pertaining to the Delivery of Goods

The Sale of Goods Act, 1930 prescribes the following rules regarding delivery of goods:

a. Delivery (Section 33)

The delivery of goods can be made either by putting the goods in the possession of the buyer or any person authorized by him to hold them on his behalf or by doing anything else that the parties agree to.

b. Effect of part-delivery (Section 34)

If a part-delivery of the goods is made in progress of the delivery of the whole, then it has the same effect for the purpose of passing the property in such goods as the delivery of the whole. However, a part-delivery with an intention of severing it from the whole does not operate as a delivery of the remainder.

c. Buyer to apply for delivery (Section 35)

A seller is not bound to deliver the goods until the buyer applies for delivery unless the parties have agreed to other terms in the contract.

d. Place of delivery [Section 36 (1)]

When a sale contract is made, the parties might agree to certain terms for delivery, express or implied. Depending on the agreement, the buyer might take possession of the goods from the seller or the seller might send them to the buyer.

If no such terms are specified in the contract, then as per law on sales

  • The goods sold are delivered at the place at which they are at the time of the sale
  • The goods to be sold are delivered at the place at which they are at the time of the agreement to sell. However, if the goods are not in existence at such time, then they are delivered to the place where they are manufactured or produced.

e. Time of Delivery [Section 36 (2)]

Consider a contract of sale where the seller agrees to send the goods to the buyer, but not time of delivery is specified. In such cases, the seller is expected to deliver the goods within a reasonable time.

f. Goods in possession of a third party [Section 36 (3)]

If at the time of sale, the goods are in possession of a third party. Then there is no delivery unless the third party acknowledges to the buyer that the goods are being held on his behalf. It is important to note that nothing in this section shall affect the operation of the issue or transfer of any document of title to the goods.

g. Time for tender of delivery [Section 36 (4)]

It is important that the demand or tender of delivery is made at a reasonable hour. If not, then it is rendered ineffectual. The reasonable hour will depend on the case.

h. Expenses for delivery [Section 36 (5)]

The seller will bear all expenses pertaining to putting the goods in a deliverable state unless the parties agree to some other terms in the contract.

i. Delivery of wrong quantity (Section 37)

  • Sub-section 1 – If the seller delivers a lesser quantity of goods as compared to the contracted quantity, then the buyer may reject the delivery. If he accepts it, then he shall pay for them at the contracted rate.
  • Sub-section 2 – If the seller delivers a larger quantity of goods as compared to the contracted quantity, then the buyer may accept the quantity included in the contract and reject the rest. The buyer can also reject the entire delivery. If he wants to accept the increased quantity, then he needs to pay at the contract rate.
  • Sub-section 3 – If the seller delivers a mix of goods where some part of the goods are mentioned in the contract and some are not, then the buyer may accept the goods which are in accordance with the contract and reject the rest. He may also reject the entire delivery.
  • Sub-section 4 – The provisions of this section are subject to any usage of trade, special agreement or course of dealing between the parties.

j. Installment deliveries (Section 38)

The buyer does not have to accept delivery in installments unless he has agreed to do so in the contract. If such an agreement exists, then the parties are required to determine the rights and liabilities and payments themselves.

k. Delivery to carrier [Section 36 (1)]

The delivery of goods to the carrier for transmission to the buyer is prima facie deemed to be ‘delivery to the buyer’ unless contrary terms exist in the contract.

l. Deterioration during transit (Section 40)

If the goods are to be delivered at a distant place, then the liability of deterioration incidental to the course of the transit lies with the buyer even though the seller agrees to deliver at his own risk.

m. Buyers right to examine the goods (Section 41)

If the buyer did not get a chance to examine the goods, then he is entitled to a reasonable opportunity of examining them. The buyer has the right to ascertain that the goods delivered to him are in conformity with the contract. The seller is bound to honor the buyer’s request for a reasonable opportunity of examining the goods unless the contrary is specified in the contract.

Acceptance of Delivery of Goods (Section 42)

A buyer is deemed to have accepted the delivery of goods when:

  • He informs the seller that he has accepted the goods; or
  • Does something to the goods which is inconsistent with the ownership of the seller; or
  • Retains the goods beyond a reasonable time, without informing the seller that he has rejected them.

Return of Rejected Goods (Section 43)

If a buyer, within his right, refuses to accept the delivery of goods, then he is not bound to return the rejected goods to the seller. He needs to inform the seller of his refusal though. This is true unless the parties agree to other terms in the contract.

Refusing Delivery of Goods (Section 44)

If the seller is willing to deliver the goods and requests the buyer to take delivery, but the buyer fails to do so within a reasonable time after receiving the request, then he is liable to the seller for any loss occasioned by his refusal to take delivery. He is also liable to pay a reasonable charge for the care and custody of goods.

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