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Section 54, Contract Act 1872: Effect Of Default As To Promise.. (Reciprocal Promises)

Section 54 under the Chapter IV (Of the performance of contracts, Contracts which must be performed) of the Contract Act, 1872 of India - 'Effect of default as to the promise which should be performed, in contract consisting of reciprocal promises', is reproduced hereunder:—

“When a contract consists of reciprocal promises, such that one of them cannot be performed, or that its performance cannot be claimed till the other has been performed, and the promisor of the promise last mentioned fails to perform it, such promisor cannot claim the performance of the reciprocal promise, and must make compensation to the other party to the contract for any loss which such other party may sustain by the non-performance of the contract.


(a) A hires B's ship to take in and convey, from Calcutta to Mauritius, a cargo to be provided by A, B receiving a certain freight for its conveyance. A does not provide any cargo for the ship. A cannot claim the performance of B's promise, and must take compensation to B for the loss which B sustains by the non-performance of the contract.

(b) A contracts with B to execute certain builder's work for a fixed price, B supplying the scaffolding and timber necessary for the work. B refuses to furnish any scaffolding or timber, and the work cannot be executed. A need not execute the work, and B is bound to make compensation to A for any loss caused to him by non-performance of the contract.

(c) A contracts with B to deliver to him, at a specified price, certain merchandise on board a ship which cannot arrive for a month, and B engages to pay for the merchandise within a week from the date of the contract. B does not pay within the week. A's promise to deliver need not be performed, and B must make compensation.

(d) A promises B to sell him one hundred bales of merchandise, to be delivered next day, and B promises A to pay for them within a month. A does not deliver according to his promise. B's promises to pay need not be performed, and A must make compensation.”

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