Sale and Contract for Work and Labor

A Contract of sale of goods has to be distinguished from a contract for work and labor, involving the exercise of skill or labor on some material.  The dividing line between the two is very minute.  The distinction essentially rests on whether the rendering of the service and exercise of skill is the essence of the contract or the delivery of the goods is the essence of the contract, although some labor on the part of the seller might also have been out. 

In case of the former, it is a contract of work while in the later case it will be a contract of sale of goods. The distinction between the two may be understood by referring to the case of Robinson V. Graves.  In this case A engaged an artist to paint a portrait.  Canvas, paint and other necessary articles were to be supplied by A to the painter. 

Applying the above-mentioned test that whether application of skill and labor in the production of the portrait is the substance of the contract, it was held that it is a contract for work and labor and not a contract of sale. 

On the other hand, a contract for providing and fixing four different types of windows of certain size according to specifications, designs, drawings and instructions set out in the contract and a contract for making and supplying of wagons or coaches on the under frame supplied by Railways have been held by the Supreme Court to be contracts for work and labor and not a contract of sale.

From the above it should become clear to you that in a contract of sale ownership and possession of goods are transferred, while in a contract for work and labour through there may be delivery of goods, yet the emphasis is on the exercise of skill and labor upon the goods.

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By Hassham

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