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Transfer of ownership in case of sale of specific goods

Specific goods are the goods identified and agreed upon at the time of making the contract. The general rule in case of specific goods is that the ownership of the goods is transferred from the seller to the buyer at the time of making the contract.
The ownership is transferred at the time of making the contract only if all the following conditions are fulfilled:
  • The sale must be of specific goods
  • The goods must be in a deliverable state
  • The contract of sale must be unconditional
The rules regarding the transfer of property in specific goods are contained in Sec 20 to 22 of this act.

When the goods are in a deliverable state (Sec. 20)

‘Deliverable state’ means such a state where a buyer would, under the contract, be bound to take the delivery of goods. In this case, the property in the goods passes to the buyer when the contract is made. It is immaterial whether the time of payment of the price or the time of delivery of goods or both are postponed.



John buys certain jewellery from Joy. Jewellery is to be delivered to John in the following week and John is to pay the price on delivery. Joy asks his servant to keep the jewellery separate from other jewellery. Meanwhile, the jewellery is destroyed by fire. In this case, since the jewellery was in a deliverable state, the ownership in jewellery will be deemed to have transferred to John at the time of forming the contract of sale, irrespective of the date of payment. Hence, the loss of jewellery due to fire shall be borne by John.


Sec 21 & Sec 22 takes care of situations when one or the other conditions are not fulfilled at the time of making the contract. Thus the transfer of ownership in specific goods would be delayed. The provisions of these sections are as follows:

When goods are not in a deliverable state (Sec. 21)

When there is a contract of sale of specific goods and the seller is bound to do something for the purpose of putting them in a deliverable state, the property does not pass to the buyer until following conditions are satisfied:
  • The goods is put in the deliverable state, and
  • The buyer has notice thereof

Madan sold some quantity of oil to Mohan. As per the terms of the contract, Madan was required to fill the oil in drums and then, the drums were to be taken away by Mohan. Madan filled up some of the drums and informed Mohan to take the delivery. In the meantime, a fire destroyed the entire quantity of oil. Held, Mohan will bear the loss of the oil which was filled in the drums and Madan must bear the loss of the balance, since it was not in a deliverable state.

When the price of the goods are to be ascertained by weighing etc

Sec 22 states, when there is a contract for sale of specific goods in deliverable state, but the seller is bound to weigh, measure, test or do some other act with reference to the goods for the purpose of ascertaining the price; the property in the goods is not transferred to the buyer until such act is performed and the buyer has the notice of the same.
In this case, the property in goods will pass only when:
  • Such act or thing is done and
  • The buyer has notice thereof
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Note: When the contract is for the sale of entire goods and nothing remains to be done to the goods by the seller to ascertain the price, the ownership in them passes to the buyer even if they have not been weighed by the buyer. In such a case, the weighing is to be done for the satisfaction of the buyer, but not as a part of the contract.


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