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Exceptions to impossibility of performance

Impossibility of performance is, as a rule, not an excuse from performance. It means that when a person has promised to do something, he must perform his promise unless the performance becomes absolutely impossible. A contract is not discharged by the supervening impossibility in the following cases:

Difficulty of performance

 A contract is not discharged simply on the ground that its performance has become difficult. Difficulty is not impossibility. A party is bound to perform it even though with more effort or hardship.



Pradeep agreed to supply coal within a specified time to Rajesh. He failed to supply on time because of the Government’s restriction on the transport of coal from collieries. Here, Pradeep will not be discharged because the coal was available in the open market from where Pradeep could have obtained it.


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Commercial impossibility

A person may find that because of some unexpected events, his contract with another person, if performed, would cause losses to him. A contract is not discharged simply on the ground of commercial impossibility, i.e. when the contract becomes commercially unviable or unprofitable.



Mahesh, a furniture manufacturer agreed to supply certain furniture to Bhupati at an agreed rate. Later on, there was a sharp increase in the rates of timber and rates of wages. Since, it was no longer profitable to supply at the agreed rate, Mahesh did not supply. He will not be discharged on the ground of commercial impossibility.

Default of a third party

If a promisor could not perform the promise because of default of a third party, he cannot make an excuse and claim that it is impossible to perform the promise. The third party’s fault or conduct has nothing to do with the contract. The contract is not discharged because of a third party’s default.



Kishore, a cycle distributor enters into a contract with Ravi to supply 100 bicycles. The bicycle manufacturer, Kumar did not manufacture bicycles due to which kishore is unable to procure the bicycle and therefore couldn’t honor his obligation to the contract. Kishore is liable to pay the damages caused to Ravi because of non-performance of the contract.

Strikes, lockouts and civil disturbances

 A contract is not discharged on the grounds of strikes, lockouts and civil disturbance unless otherwise agreed by the parties to the contract.
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Failure of one of the objects of the contract

Sometimes the parties enter into a contract intending to fulfill more than one object. The failure of one of the objects does not discharge the entire contract as one of the objects can still be fulfilled. But, if all the objects of the contract fail, the contract becomes discharged.
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Self induced impossibility

If the performance of the contract becomes impossible due to the act of omission of a party, it is called as self induced impossibility. In such cases, the contract is not discharged.



A promisor is not discharged from his liability if he is arrested or prosecuted.

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