DALAM MAHKAMAH RAYUAN MALAYSIA (BIDANG KUASA SIVIL)
RAYUAN SIVIL NO. P-02-412-2004
SIK HONG PHOTO SDN BHD … PERAYU
CH’NG BENG CHOO
(mendakwa bagi dan pihak Harta Pusaka
Ng Hua, si mati) … RESPONDEN
(DALAM MAHKAMAH TINGGI MALAYA DI PULAU PINANG GUAMAN SIVIL NO. 22-251-1989
Ch’ng Beng Choo
(mendakwa bagi dan pihak Harta Pusaka
Ng Hua, si mati) … Plaintiff
Sik Hong Photo Sdn Bhd
LOW HOP BING, JCA KANG HWEE GEE, JCA AZHAR BIN HAJI MA’AH, JCA
LOW HOP BING, JCA
(DELIVERING THE JUDGMENT OF THE COURT)
 After a full trial, the learned judicial commissioner gave judgment for the respondent (“the plaintiff”), declaring that the sale and purchase agreement (“the SPA”) executed between the plaintiff and the appellant, a company incorporated under the Companies Act 1965 (“the defendant”) on 31 October 1980 was null and void. There were also consequential orders for the return of property to the plaintiff and an account for rentals commencing 31 December 1980.
 On appeal, the High Court judgment was affirmed by us.
 We now provide our grounds.
 In essence, the defendant’s amended defence is that:
(1) Madam Ng Hua (Madam Ng) had consented to and/or, by acquiescence, agreed that the transfer of fully paid 430 shares (“the shares”) to her was to be deferred to an unspecified date;
(2) The defendant was ready to perform its obligations under the SPA; and
(3) In 1987, the defendant had prepared the transfer forms to transfer the shares to Madam Ng.
III. UNDISPUTED FACTS
 The plaintiff and one Ch’ng Beng Leong, the managing director of the defendant, are the lawful daughter and son respectively of Madam Ng (dec’d) and her husband Ch’ng Gim Chuan (dec’d). The defendant is a family concern, of which Ch’ng Gim Chuan (dec’d) was the chairman.
 During her lifetime, the late Madam Ng entered into “the SPA” with the defendant to sell the land together with the premises erected thereon at No. 56, Kinta Lane, Penang, (“the property”) to the defendant at a consideration of RM43,000.00, which was to be settled by a transfer to Madam Ng of the shares in the defendant at RM100 per share (“the consideration”) on or before 31 December 1980 (“the completion date”).
 Although the defendant had not transferred the consideration to Madam Ng, the defendant had already taken vacant possession of the property before the completion date.
 The defendant’s chairman died on 17 January 1986 and the defendant passed two resolutions for the purpose of transferring the shares to Madam Ng. The defendant prepared and executed the transfer forms, but they were never sent to Madam Ng for execution.
As there had never been any transfer of the shares, Madam Ng complained that the defendant had breached the SPA and demanded that vacant possession of the property be re-delivered to her, with an account for rentals.
 Upon the demise of Madam Ng (who had initiated the action herein), her daughter Ch’ng Beng Choo was substituted as the plaintiff.
IV. TIME OF THE ESSENCE
 Defendant’s learned counsel Mr Hardeep Singh (assisted by Mr Richard Huang) argued, inter alia, that time was not of the essence of the SPA.
 Ms Daphne Choy submitted for the plaintiff that time was of the essence as the parties have expressly agreed on the completion date in the SPA.
 The learned judicial commissioner had sustained the plaintiff’s submission.
 In the instant appeal, the question for determination under this head revolves around the true construction of the SPA in order to determine whether time was of the essence thereof.
 On this issue, it is useful for us to set out the relevant principles as follows:
(1) The expression “time is of the essence” means that a breach of the condition as to the time for performance will entitle the innocent party to consider the breach as a repudiation of the contract: Halsbury’s Laws of England, Vol. 4, para 1179.
(2) S. 56(1) of the Contracts Act 1950 provides that “When a party to a contract promises to do a certain thing at or before a certain time or certain things at or before specified times, and fails to do any such thing at or before the specified time, the contract, or so much of it as has not been performed, becomes voidable at the option of the promisee, if the intention of the parties was that time should be of the essence of the contract.” In other words, a stipulation as to time is of the essence of the contract if the parties so agree: Chia See Yin v Yeoh Kooi Imm (1997) 5 CLJ 111, 120 HC, per Abdul Malik Ishak J (now JCA) who referred to Steedman v Drinkle (1916) 1 AC 275; Brickies v Snell (1916) 2 AC 599; Mussen v Van Diemen’s Land Co. (1938) Ch 253 and Harold Wood Brick Co. Ltd v Ferris (1935) 2 KB 198. See also Sim Chio Huat v Wong Ted Fui (1983) CLJ (Rep) 363, 366 FC; and United Scientific v Burnley Council (1978) AC 904 at 940 & 944. (A reference hereinafter to a section is a reference to that section in the Contracts Act 1950, unless otherwise stated).
(3) Where time was not incorporated as the essence of the contract but in due course it has been made part and parcel of the contract by one party giving a notice to the other, after the party has been guilty of unreasonable delay and it follows, as the night the day, that the time mentioned in the notice must be reasonable: per Abdul Malik Ishak J (now JCA) in Chin See Yin, supra; Green v Sevin (1879) 13 Ch D 589; Compton v Bagley (1892) 1 Ch 313; Stickney v Keeble (1915) AC 386; Smith v Hamilton (1951) Ch 174 and Re Barr’s Contract (1956) Ch 551. What is reasonable is a question of fact, and six days may be said to be reasonable: Ajit v Sammy (1967) 1 AC 255; and
(4) Where, from the nature of the contract, time may be said to be the essence thereof, for example –
(a) mercantile contracts (Reuter v Sala (1879) 4 CPD 239 at 249);
(b) contracts for the sale of leaseholds (Hudson v Temple (1860) 29 Beav 536 at 534);
(c) an option to buy shares which fluctuate in value (Hare v Nicoll (1966) 2 QB 130);
(d) a colliery business (Macbryde v Weekes (1956) 22 Beav 533); and
(e) a public house as a going concern (Lock v Bell (1931) 1 Ch 35).
(See also Chin See Yin, supra, per Abdul Malik Ishak J (now JCA)).
 Bearing in mind the above principles, we note that in the instant appeal, the consideration for the property was to be fulfilled by the transfer of the shares, and cl. 3 of the SPA expressly provides that “The sale and purchase shall be completed on or before 31st day of December 1980”. It is abundantly clear to us that under cl. 3, the parties have expressly stipulated and agreed on the date of completion. That stipulation was couched in peremptory language, and required the mandatory completion of the sale and purchase on or before 31 December 1980. The intention of the parties was to complete the sale and purchase of the property on or before 31 December 1980. Hence, we hold that pursuant to cl. 3, the parties have agreed that time was of the essence thereof.
V. ACQUIESCENCE AND WAIVER
 The next point put forward for the defendant was that the plaintiff’s conduct had shown acquiescence and, consequently, the
plaintiff had waived the stipulation that time was the essence of the SPA.
 It was stressed for the plaintiff that there was neither acquiescence nor waiver by the plaintiff in relation to the time.
 In our view, this issue of acquiescence and waiver is to be determined by reference to the evidence adduced at the trial. The finding of facts by the High Court revealed that in relation to the defendant’s failure to transfer the shares to Madam Ng on or before the completion date, Ch’ng Beng Leong (SD1) has given several contradictory versions viz:
(1) that during his lifetime, the late Ch’ng Gim Chuan had refused to transfer the shares to Madam Ng;
(2) that the late Ch’ng Gim Chuan had paid RM43,000 to Madam Ng;
(3) that the company’s secretary, one Mr Kong Sin Heng, had not carried out his duties to effect the transfer at the material time; and
(4) that SD1 was waiting for the grant of letters of administration for the estate of Ch’ng Gim Chuan (dec’d).
 To extricate himself from the melee of these contradictory versions, SD1 had created what he considered was the “correct reason” i.e the company secretary’s dereliction of duties. As SD1 was obviously a witness who had a purpose of his own to serve, his contradictory versions had not been viewed favourably by the trial Court.
 On the other hand, the letter dated 13 October 1987 issued to the defendant by Messrs Tan Bak Lee & Co., the (then) solicitors for Madam Ng, had notified the defendant that:
(1) the defendant was obliged to transfer the shares to Madam Ng on or before 31 December 1980;
(2) the defendant’s failure to transfer the shares to the plaintiff has resulted in the breach of the SPA by the defendant; and
(3) the defendant was required to give an account for rentals of the property and to re-surrender vacant possession of the same to the plaintiff.
 Given the above scenario, we agree with the finding of the Court below that no acquiescence and waiver could be attributed to Madam Ng.
 On the facts, the validity of the SPA could be impugned on grounds of failure of consideration and fundamental breach, in addition to uncertainty of contract. These grounds deserve a more detailed discussion below.
VI. FAILURE OF CONSIDERATION AND FUNDAMENTAL BREACH
 The defendant’s failure to transfer the consideration (the shares) to Madam Ng constitutes a total failure of consideration on the part of the defendant, in so far as the SPA is concerned. The defendant had never parted with the consideration for the property, and so the contract expressed in the SPA attracts the application of the first limb of s.40 (but not the exception thereto). S.40 merits reproduction in extenso as follows:
“40. Effect of refusal of party to perform promise wholly
When a party to a contract has refused to perform, or disabled himself from performing, his promise in its entirety, the promise may put an end to the contract, unless he has signified, by words or conduct, his acquiescence in its continuance.”
 The defendant’s failure or refusal to transfer the shares to Madam Ng on or before the completion date came squarely within the first limb of s.40. Madam Ng has received nothing that she has bargained for in the SPA. There was total non-performance by the defendant of the obligation i.e the promise relating to the transfer of the shares to Madam Ng under the SPA. Madam Ng, being the
promisee, may put an end to the SPA, and the defendant should not be unjustly enriched under the SPA by retaining the property.
 An illustration of a total failure of consideration is to be found in Mistaria Sdn Bhd v Evergreen Furniture Industries Sdn Bhd (1999) 4 MLJ 99 HC, where not a single sen has been paid towards the purchase consideration for the sale and purchase agreement of a business and the shareholders agreement.
 The essence of time in the SPA comes under s.56(1) and the
failure of consideration is within the ambit of s.40. S.40 must be
read conjunctively with s.56(1) when determining whether the defendant as a promisor has committed a breach of such a nature that goes to the root of the contract i.e a fundamental breach: Berjaya Times Square Sdn Bhd v M-Concept Sdn Bhd (2010) 1 CLJ 269, per Zulkefli Makinudin FCJ at p.277 D; and per Gopal Sri Ram FCJ at p.286 H. The words “his promise in its entirety” in s.40 are singularly significant, as the non-defaulter’s right to repudiate a contract accrues when the defaulter has refused to perform or has disabled himself or herself from performing the whole of the promise: per Gopal Sri Ram FCJ in Berjaya Times Square, supra, at p.286A-B.
 Under the SPA, the defendant has the contractual obligation to perform i.e to transfer the shares to Madam Ng on or before 31 December 1980. The defendant’s non-performance of that obligation struck at the very root, foundation or substratum of the SPA. The
transfer of the consideration is a ‘fundamental term’, a breach of which constitutes a fundamental breach. i.e the failure by one party (the defendant) to perform a primary obligation which has the effect of depriving the other party (Madam Ng) of substantially the whole benefit which it was the intention of the parties that she should obtain from the SPA: See Photo Production Ltd v Securicor Transport Ltd (1980) 2 WLR 283, 294 HL per Lord Diplock. The defendant’s fundamental breach had deprived Madam Ng of the fundamental benefits under the SPA. That fundamental breach entitled the innocent party (Madam Ng) to rescind the contract and to have the parties restored to a position where they will stand as if the contract (the SPA) had never been made i.e the return of the property by way of restitutio in integrum to Madam Ng: (See Berjaya Times Square Sdn Bhd, supra, at p.281 B per Gopal Sri Ram FCJ), and, upon her death, to her estate.
 There is at common law a right to rescind a contract in very limited circumstances. In essence, it is the quasi-contractual remedy of restitution in cases where there has been a total failure of consideration: Berjaya Times Square Sdn Bhd, supra, 282 I FC per Gopal Sri Ram FCJ, applying Fibrosa Spolka Akcyjna v Fairbairn Lawson Combe Barbour (1943) AC 32, 48 HL per Viscount Simon LC.
 The common law right to rescind and the quasi-contractual remedy of restitution have been applied in:
(1) Chye Fook & Anor v Teh Teng Seng Realty Sdn Bhd (1988) 1 LNS 213: A house purchaser had entered into an agreement with the developer who was to complete the house within 24 months but at the material time the developer had not constructed the building. The developer had not done any of the things it had promised to do within the time specified in the contract. The High Court granted the equitable remedy of rescission in favour of the purchaser.
(2) Tan Yang Loong & Anor v Newacres Sdn Bhd (1992) 1
CLJ 211 HC: Several purchasers had, pursuant to an agreement to purchase a house with vacant possession within 36 months from the date of the agreement, made payments to the developer. The developer had never constructed the house at all, and had failed or refused to perform his promise in its entirety within the 36 months, even until the date of the trial of the purchasers’ action. Shankar J (as he then was) followed Chye Fook & Anor, supra, and held that there was a total failure of consideration, and granted the purchasers’ claim for a declaration that they were no longer bound by the agreement, with a consequential order, inter alia, for a refund of the sums paid by them.
(3) Law Ngei Ung v Tamansuri Sdn Bhd (1989) 2 CLJ 181
HC: There was an abandonment of the project by the
developer due to the developer’s failure to complete the complex in which the purchaser had purchased a shop lot. The High Court granted rescission by reason of total failure of consideration and directed a restitutio in integrum by way of a refund of the monies the purchaser had paid the developer.
VII. UNCERTAINTY IN CONTRACT
 The defendant’s contention, that Madam Ng had, by acquiescence, agreed that the transfer of the shares to her was to be deferred to an unspecified date, clearly militates against its own case. That contention unequivocally leads to the result that the date of the transfer was to be kept at large or postponed ad infinitum. The words “to be deferred to an unspecified date” create an element of uncertainty in the contract, and so s.30 is to be invoked. This section reads as follows:
“30 Agreements void for uncertainty
Agreements, the meaning of which is not certain, or capable of being made certain, are void.”
 Illustrations of agreements which have been rendered void on grounds of uncertainty include:
(1) King’s Motors (Oxford) Ltd v Lax (1969) 3 ALL ER 665,
where Burgess V-C held that an option clause in a lease
for a further term “at such rental as may be agreed upon between the parties”, in the absence a relevant arbitration clause, and in the absence of agreement between the parties, was void for uncertainty. (See also: Smith v Morgan (1971) 2 All ER 1500, 1504 per Brightman J).
(2) Zainal Abidin v Century Hotel Sdn Bhd (1987) 1 MLJ
236 SC: A similar option clause appeared in a tenancy agreement. Seah SCJ (as then was), speaking for the (then) Supreme Court, held that the option clause did not give rise to any legal obligation on the part of either party unless and until the lessee gives notice in writing to the lessor, within the stipulated period, of his intention to extend the lease and the parties have mutually agreed to the new rent. Until these two conditions are satisfied, the option clause could not be legally enforced against the lessor.
(3) Wisma Sime Darby Sdn Bhd v Wilson Parking (M) Sdn Bhd (1996) 2 MLJ 81 CA: The focal point there revolves around a similar option clause in the written three-year tenancy agreement for a car park. The tenant gave notice in writing within the stipulated period of the intention to exercise the option to renew the tenancy but made no mention of the rental for the proposed new term. Eventually, in response to the landlord’s invitation to make an offer in respect of the rental in competition with
others who had been invited to tender for the tenancy, the tenant made an offer. The tenant’s tender was not accepted and the existing lease was extended for two months to enable the tenant to wind up the car park operations. The landlord then issued a writ seeking a declaration that the tenancy had been lawfully determined, vacant possession and damages. The High Court dismissed the landlord’s action. In allowing the landlord’s appeal, VC George JCA (as he then was) speaking for this Court followed King’s Motors (Oxford) Ltd, supra, and Zainal Abidin, supra, and held, inter alia, that the option clause for a further term at ‘a rent to be agreed’ was void for uncertainty as the agreement provided no machinery or formula which the courts can utilize to ascertain what is otherwise unascertainable without the parties coming to an agreement.
 In the instant appeal, our finding that the SPA is void would brings into focus s.66 which provides for the obligation of the defendant, as the person who has received advantage under the SPA, as follows:
“66. Obligation of person who has received advantage under void agreement, or contract that becomes void
When an agreement is discovered to be void, or when a contract becomes void, any person who has received any advantage under
the agreement or contract is bound to restore it, or to make compensation for it, to the person from whom he received it.”
 S .66 specifies the remedy of restitution or compensation in favour of Madam Ng. The defendant having taken possession of the property and having been in occupation thereof is legally bound to restore it, or to make compensation for it, to Madam Ng from whom the defendant had received the property.
 By reason of the above, this appeal was devoid of merits and dismissed with costs of RM5,000 to the plaintiff. The decision of the learned judicial commissioner was affirmed. Deposit to the plaintiff on account of the fixed costs.
DATUK WIRA LOW HOP BING
Court of Appeal Malaysia PUTRAJAYA
Dated this 3rd day of February 2010
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT:
Mr Hardeep Singh (assisted by Mr Richard Huang)
Tetuan Peter Huang & Richard
368-3-1 & 2, Bellisa Row
10350 Pulau Pinang
COUNSEL FOR RESPONDENT:
Ms Daphne Choy Tetuan Choy & Associates Tingkat 3, Wisma Penang Garden No. 42, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah 10050 Pulau Pinang
Chia See Yin v Yeoh Kooi Imm (1997) 5 CLJ 111, 120 HC
Steedman v Drinkle (1916) 1 AC 275
Brickies v Snell (1916) 2 AC 599
Mussen v Van Diemen’s Land Co. (1938) Ch 253
Harold Wood Brick Co. Ltd v Ferris (1935) 2 KB 198
Sim Chio Huat v Wong Ted Fui (1983) CLJ (Rep) 363, 366 FC
United Scientific v Burnley Council (1978) AC 904 at 940 & 944
Green v Sevin (1879) 13 Ch D 589 Compton v Bagley (1892) 1 Ch 313 Stickney v Keeble (1915) AC 386
Smith v Hamilton (1951) Ch 174 and Re Barr’s Contract (1956) Ch 551
Ajit v Sammy (1967) 1 AC 255
Reuter v Sala (1879) 4 CPD 239 at 249
Hudson v Temple (1860) 29 Beav 536 at 534
Hare v Nicoll (1966) 2 QB 130
Macbryde v Weekes (1956) 22 Beav 533
Lock v Bell (1931) 1 Ch 35
Mistaria Sdn Bhd v Evergreen Furniture Industries Sdn Bhd (1999) 4 MLJ 99 HC
Berjaya Times Square Sdn Bhd v M-Concept Sdn Bhd (2010) 1 CLJ 269, 282 I FC
Fibrosa Spolka Akcyjna v Fairbairn Lawson Combe Barbour (1943) AC 32, 48
Tan Yang Loong & Anor v Newacres Sdn Bhd (1992) 1 CLJ 211 HC
Chye Fook & Anor v Teh Teng Seng Realty Sdn Bhd (1988) 1 LNS 213
Law Ngei Ung v Tamansuri Sdn Bhd (1989) 2 CLJ 181 HC
Photo Production Ltd v Securicor Transport Ltd (1980) 2 WLR 283, 294 HL
King’s Motors (Oxford) Ltd v Lax (1969) 3 ALL ER 665
Smith v Morgan (1971) 2 All ER 1500, 1504
Zainal Abidin v Century Hotel Sdn Bhd (1987) 1 MLJ 236
Wisma Sime Darby Sdn Bhd v Wilson Parking (M) Sdn Bhd (1996) 2 MLJ 81 CA