Intellectual Property Rights: Practice and Drafting by Adv Gautam Matani. Register Now!
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Key Takeaways

  • The Code of Civil Procedure provides guidelines for fair civil proceedings and allows alternative dispute resolution methods. Section 53A of the CPC protects parties who fulfil their obligations under an oral agreement for immovable property, even without a written contract, based on the principle of part performance.
  • The doctrine of part-performance, developed under English law, allows enforcement of partially performed contracts. In India, prior to 1929, its application was inconsistent, leading to the enactment of Section 53A in the Transfer of Property (Amendment) Act 1929 to bring uniformity and certainty.
  • It distinguishes itself from other sections by focusing on possession protection based on partial performance of an oral agreement, preventing re-examination of a matter already decided by a competent court, and providing a defence against eviction or disturbance of possession based on partial performance.
  • The code does not apply in certain circumstances, such as non-compliance with statutory requirements, lack of possession, and contractual obligations not met.
  • Legislative action is needed to modernise and clarify Section 53A's provisions due to the dynamic nature of property laws and shifting societal needs.


The Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) lays out guidelines and practises to guarantee the impartiality, effectiveness, and orderly conduct of civil proceedings. To settle civil disputes outside of the formal court system, it also permits the use of alternative dispute resolution procedures like mediation and arbitration.

Section 53A of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) protects the rights of parties who have performed their obligations under an oral agreement for the transfer of immovable property, even if it is not in writing. It recognizes the principle of part performance, which means that if one party has performed their obligations under the agreement, they may have certain protection even if the agreement is not in writing.

This provision further offers legal options for defending rights and retaining ownership of the property. To use this provision correctly and effectively, jurisdiction-specific variations are required.

History and Evolution of Section 53A

The doctrine of part-performance is an equitable principle developed under English law to address situations where contracts, though not in writing, have been partially performed. A key case illustrating this is Maddison v. Alderson (1883), where the court enforced a land sale contract despite its lack of written form. The court found that the plaintiff's partial performance and the defendant's acceptance of its benefits warranted the application of the doctrine, leading to the contract's enforcement based on part-performance.  

This doctrine was applied inconsistently and with uncertainty in India prior to 1929. For instance, the Privy Council ruled in Mohammad Musa v. Aghore Kumar Ganguli that Indian cases could be subject to the equity of part-performance. But in the case of Mian Pir Bux v. Sardar Mohammad Tahir, the Privy Council refused to apply the doctrine, citing things like oral agreements and breaking statutory laws as justifications.

Despite being rendered prior to Section 53A's passage, these judgements were grounded in Indian laws that existed before 1929. Section 53A was added to the Transfer of Property (Amendment) Act 1929 to address the lack of uniformity and certainty. According to this section, the transferor is legally prohibited from contacting the transferee who is currently in possession to demand possession of the property. The theory of part performance was created to avoid fraud and defend the transferee who has taken possession and made changes. A documented contract, the transferee taking possession in line with the contract, and the transferee fulfilling or being willing to perform their portion of the contract are necessary for Section 53A to apply.

Scope And Application

Parties who have complied with their obligations under an oral agreement for the transfer of real property are given some protection by Section 53A. Even if the agreement is not in writing, it gives the party in possession the right to fend off any attempts to interfere with their possession. Individuals can defend their ownership of the property and assert their rights by understanding this provision.

Part performance principle also aids individuals to better navigate situations where written agreements are absent or insufficient by understanding this principle.

Using Section 53A as a legal defence against eviction or disturbance of possession is possible. Individuals can create efficient legal plans to defend their interests and keep possession of the property by comprehending the conditions and requirements listed in this provision.

Section 53A does not confer ownership rights and is not a substitute for valid written agreements or for the registration of property transfers.

Comparative analysis with other Relevant sections

 The following points contrast Section 53A with other CPC sections:

Section 10: The CPC's Section 10 addresses the concept of res judicata, which forbids the same parties from litigating the same dispute again. In contrast to Section 10's emphasis on the finality and conclusiveness of judgements, Section 53A protects possession based on partial performance of an oral agreement.

Section 11: It addresses the doctrine of res judicata, which prohibits re-examining a matter that has already been decided by a competent court. Section 53A, on the other hand, deals with possession protection based on partial performance of an oral agreement. These sections cover various aspects of civil litigation and have different applications.

 Section 114: Gives the court the authority to review its own judgements or orders. While Section 53A is not directly linked with Section 114, it does provide a defence to eviction or disturbance of possession based on partial performance of an oral agreement that may be obtained in court.

Section 47: Deals with issues that arise between the parties to a suit during the execution stage. While Section 53A primarily addresses ownership protection, Section 47 addresses a broader range of issues that may arise during execution procedures, such as title, control, and property delivery.

While other sections of the CPC may cover similar or overlapping topics, their scopes and applications differ from those of Section 53A.

Exceptions to the Provision

The protection offered by Section 53A of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) does not apply in certain circumstances. Precise exceptions may change depending on the law and the relevant jurisdiction:

Non-compliance with statutory requirements: Section 53A may not apply if the oral agreement for the transfer of real estate is in violation of statutory requirements, such as those relating to registration or writing. Statutory rules governing the structure and performance of contracts could take precedence over the security provided.

Lack of possession: The protection of Section 53A might not be available if the transferee has not obtained timely possession of the property.

Contractual obligations not met: When the transferee has met or agrees to meet its obligations under the agreement, Section 53A is applicable. It's possible that the transferee won't be able to rely on protection if they breach their contractual commitment.

In the case of - N. Panchapakesa Ayyar v. P. Somasundaram Pillai [AIR 1968 Mad 276]

The Madras High Court stated that Section 53A does not apply if the transferee is merely a licensee or a tenant. Only a transferee who has fulfilled his obligations under the agreement for the transfer of immovable property is eligible for the protection of possession under Section 53A.

Drawbacks and Limitations

The fundamental prerequisites for Section 53A's application, such as the requirement of a written agreement, possession by the transferee, and readiness to perform, have given rise to ambiguities and divergent interpretations. When the transferor claims that the transferee engaged in fraud or collusion, these issues may arise.

Lack of Statutory Recognition: Section 53A is not a statutory provision but rather a judicially recognised doctrine. The lack of a specific legislative provision for part-performance raises questions and leaves it open to judicial discretion, which leads to inconsistent application.

Need for Legislative Clarity: There have been calls for legislative action to modernise and clarify Section 53A's provisions due to the dynamic nature of property laws and shifting societal needs. Providing explicit statutory recognition, establishing more precise guidelines, and addressing the ambiguities and difficulties encountered in its interpretation are some suggestions.


The strict requirements for written and registered agreements under property laws are protected by Section 53A of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC). It avoids unfairness by allowing the transferee to keep possession based on partial performance, even if the agreement is not in writing or registered. There are some drawbacks, though, and some areas that could use improvement, like the ambiguity of the legislation and the inconsistent ways that different courts have interpreted it. Legislative action is required to strengthen Section 53A so that it has more clarity, uniformity, and modernization. This will ensure that the provision is applied fairly and prevent any future controversies

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